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Vintage recipes can tell a tale

  • Squash soup

Several years ago, a reader sent me a recipe, a gem of a vintage soup that calls for 2 quarts of buttermilk and a bottle of Coca-Cola, along with beet juice, sour cream and French's mustard. To this foundation the author of the recipe, Mrs. W. Abbott Robertson Jr., suggests adding a quarter cup each of cooked and diced chicken, veal, beef, corned beef, tongue, ham, frankfurter, hard-cooked eggs, diced cucumbers, diced cooked beets, minced green onions and either chopped parsley or dill.

The soup is served chilled and is even better, we are told, the day after it is made than it is fresh.

The recipe is from 1958, when it was published in "Golden Gate Gourmet" (Norse Publishing Co., edited by Roxana D. Robertson). Most of the recipes come from "Bay Area hostesses," along with a handful from consulates and a few dozen from San Francisco restaurant chefs. The late, famed newspaper columnist Herb Caen wrote the introduction.

I came across this recipe as I meandered through my recipe archives, searching for a favorite soup. During such searches, I can easily be sidetracked as I love perusing vintage recipes and cookbooks. They tell such an intriguing story beyond their specific scope, tales that reveal how people lived, how women were treated, how they thought -#8212; or didn't think -#8212; about food and all manner of similar tell-tale details that almost always make me happy that I live now and not at some other time in history that we inevitably romanticize.

"Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey," for example, may be nearly addictively engaging, but that doesn't mean that we want to go back in time. Sometimes I do wish we all still dressed nicely when we went out into the commons and for dinner but, otherwise, I'm not nostalgic for the days when it was not unusual for Coca-Cola, Cheese Whiz and such to appear in the ingredient lists of even the most prestigious recipes.

For more winter soups from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit "Eat This Now" at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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I set out to make this soup in a slow cooker and then realized it would be much better made in a pressure cooker, which is what I use to prepare most of my winter soups. From start to finish, it took me under 30 minutes to have a ready-to-eat soup. The soup is elegant enough to serve at a dinner party but simple enough for a weeknight dinner, too.


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