The Way To A Man’s Heart Is Through His Stomach & Other Lessons In Vintage Cookbooks

This is the cover of The Way To His Heart “A Cookbook with a Personality”, 1941; note the figures on the cover.

the way to his heart vintage

The five female figures on the cover of this vintage cookbook depict the five cooks featured in the book itself. These five women are said to be three generations of one family. From the bottom left working our way to the top right are “Grandmother” Grace Toulouse Hunt, “Mother” Priscilla Wayne Sprague, “Newly Married Daughter” Dorothy Hunt Hales, “Collegiate Daughter” Jeanne Wayne Sprague, and “Teenage Daughter” Nancy Grace Sprague.

While I can admit to certain body changes in terms of aging, I find the rounding of age in proportion to hem length somewhat amusing… Not only is Grandma rather stout, but combined with her nearly floor-length dress she closely resembles a Russian nesting doll. And notice how only newly married Dorothy has curves in all the right places — illustrating her appropriate fertility status. (Heck, her proportions make me want to ask the new wife when she’s going to have a baby!) Perhaps even more amazing, this illustrated figure study of body image stereotypes is the artwork of one of these women; at least Dorothy “Dot” Hunt Hales is the artist credited. (More on that later.)

way to his heart author and artist credits

The story or “personality” behind this cookbook is that newlywed Dot writes home to her mother asking for some recipes. The occasion is the wonderful celebration of their 6 month wedding anniversary and the young bride has learned how important cooking and food is to her marriage:

I have discovered one important thing in the past six months — glamour and romance can be preserved in marriage if one’s husband is well-fed and comfortable.

Mother is, of course, no doubt delighted her daughter has seen the light and become a believer in the old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Not only is mom thrilled to help her wise and dutiful newly married daughter Dot, but mom enlists the help of Dot’s grandmother and sisters. These are their “letters” from the front of the vintage book:

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And then, the most amazing thing happens! “One of the top men of Jack Sprat Foods, Inc., heard about it” and they decided to publish the cookbook! Enter Western Grocer Company, owner of the food brand, as publisher; enter the advertisements for Jack Sprat brand foods.

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While the “homey, friendly” premise seems rather contrived to the jaded consumers of today (and the corporate ads themselves also draw into question Dot’s artwork), the book’s editor, Priscilla Wayne Sprague appears to be an actual author. But the proposed family relationships get a bit confusing…. My research continues and shall be reported soon. (Watch this space.)

I also have to share some information from the vintage cookbook’s section by college daughter Jeanne. Jeanne’s appearance certainly tones down any sex appeal, and we are likely to suppose any fears about daughters in college along with it. And even if such imagery might lend itself to jokes about college girl experimentation and stereotypical lesbian dress, the experimentation in the kitchen appears to have been limited — at least for sorority girls.

A College Girl (this one at least) doesn’t really cook at all — sororities provide cooks and sincerely hope they can keep the girls out of the kitchen. There are certain things, however, that the cook just isn’t in on, such as late Sunday sandwiches with you and your date — or rush teas and other occasions of state.

When the cook is out and the girls have free rein in the kitchen, here are some of the foods they can cook. All of these recipes are of the type that can be prepared quickly, cheaply and (for the benefit of the dates) charmingly.

Oh, how can poor Jeanne ever get her M.R.S. degree if she doesn’t cook?!

when a college girl cooks

This vintage book from 1941 has some of the racism you might expect from the 1930s and 40s. At the bottom of the page, Jeanne starts a story which continues on the next page:

One of the girls at the sorority house is Irish — shanty Irish — we call her, because she has simple tastes — fried potatoes, baked beans and such. But one time I tasted the baked concoction she used to make and believe me there was nothing “shanty” about it — it was pure Park Avenue — here it is:

vintage shanty irish baked beans

It is recipes like this one, based on canned goods, which certainly marks a change (if not decline) in cooking itself. This turning point in American history turns out to be a good thing for Jack Sprat Foods, Inc. and the Western Grocer Company. The grocery store addresses this issue in one of the advertisements for the Jack Sprat brand:

“Now, when I was a girl,” said Mom

“They used to joke about ‘cooks who were lost without can-openers.’ But it’s just a pleasant smile these days.”

“Why, Mom?” questioned Nancy, giving just the opening Mom wanted.

“Because now we get the very finest foods in cans — just take these Jack Sprat Peaches, for example.” Mom emphasized her point by holding a can at arm’s length.

“These are peaches at their very best — completely ripened on the tree, and canned quickly, to capture the fresh flavor and the precious vitamins all fresh fruits contain. No more sweating over a hot stove for me, when Jack Sprat will do the job for me so well!”

Of course Nancy agrees with Mom. What modern girl wouldn’t rather play tennis or swim on a summer afternoon, instead of helping can fruit in a sizzling kitchen?

Mom’s verdict applies not only to Jack Sprat Peaches, but to pears, apricots, pineapple, and an arm-long list of fine berries. You’ll find it pays to let Jack Sprat do your canning too.

jack sprat canned food cooking jokes

If the convenience of modern canned foods was the advent of more free time for girls and women, perhaps it can be linked not only to the decline in cooking skills but to the decline in the “way to a man’s heart” adage. Men such as Barry Popik say this approach works for dogs and not men; however ironic the dog reference may seem to me, Popik seems to be saying this food-as-lure lore doesn’t work. Also, men at AskMen no longer find cooking on their top list of skills necessary in a female partner. Enlightenment reaches us, maybe? Would that such enlightenment about female body images would change as well.

A Geriatric Problem: Vintage Advertising For Little Blue Pills

A vintage advertising blotter, likely from the 1930s — 1940s, which focuses on a male geriatric problem.

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The blotter reads as follows — and it should be noted that the print gets smaller as it goes along (which is cruel in many ways for an aging male, I say):

A GERIATRIC PROBLEM

One of the problems of middle age is loss of sexual power in men who are still capable of raising a family. In such cases and effective aphrodisiac may be indicated.

POTENT APHRODISIAC

XANTHINUX (Cole) stimulates masculine potency through the spinal cord, just as a strong cup of coffee stimulates the thinking centers of the brain. The result is a firmer, more vigorous erection and orgasm.

Reports from various physicians show that XANTHINUX not only boosts male potency but also has a euphoric action.

Because of its strong aphrodisiac action, XANTHINUX is not recommended in cases where sexual intercourse should be curtailed; elderly men with severe cardiac conditions or arteriosclerosis.

Samples & Professional Literature on Request.

From the Cole Chemical Co., St. Louis 8, MO. U.S.A.  [Printed in U.S.A. (form) 549.]

Further research shows that Xanthinux was a combination of strychnine (yikes!), caffeine, and theophylline. Big shocker here: in 1963, medical reports on Xanthinux state that there’s “no evidence that it acts as a sexual tonic.”

Plus there’s that whole strychnine-poison thing.

However, culturally speaking, I do find the reference to “men who are still capable of raising a family” a line that’s absolutely missing in today’s recreational & romantic messaging about ED. Which, naturally, speaks extra loudly in today’s world of restricted women’s rights.

See also this vintage pharmaceutical advertising blotter  for women.

Old Maids

In Reflections: The Life, Writings and History of Geneva Mae Thomas Bridgford (2012), compiled by her daughter, Bonnie Bridgford Good, there’s the story of 18 year old Geneva and her friend going to the big city to attend Miss Brown’s Training School in Milwaukee. The year was 1928, and the two young ladies stayed at the Methodist Boarding School House on 11th and State — under watchful eyes.

The spinster owners of the boarding school took their responsibility of chaperoning the young women quite seriously. The older women at work (ranging in age from 25 to 40) also felt a need to mother them, and warn them of the dangers in the city. As a vent to her frustration, Mother wrote the following poem:

Old Maids

Tell me not in mournful numbers
Of the habits of old maids.
Well I know their every weakness
How their beauty wanes and fades.
They are old, they are ugly
And their hearts though staunch may fail;
For they shake and they quiver at the coming of a male.
They surround me, jeopardize me
These old maids of whom I write.
At my home and at my office
They boss me with all their might.
I’m rebelling, I won’t stand it!
And I’m very sure of this,
If I can prevent it
My name won’t always start with Miss

Boil, Toil & Trouble: What You Don’t Know About Women’s Changing Bodies (A Halloween Special)

It occurs to me, as I sit awake, unable to sleep because I am a sweaty mess of hormones and hot flashes, that we have done women a(nother) great disservice.

You know how we start in grade school to educate girls about that special “womanhood” thing? We separate them from the boys, and tell them all about their changing bodies — even before those bodies are changing. I’m not saying it’s all aces in terms of such education; but there are far fewer girls running home crying thinking the blood in their panties means they are dying. So why don’t we pull young women aside in say high school, and them them all about the other changes their bodies will go through — namely menopause or perimenopause.

And when we teach it, we should teach all of it.

First of all, menopause isn’t “the change.” As a woman, we experience lots of changes. Menstruation, for example, is not the mere existence of blood in the crotch of our panties. It’s not even the evidence of the miracle of life in terms of the biological machinations. Yeah, egg released, womb is lined, womb is shed — but no one tells you about what that means for you and your changing body.

No one tells you that the hormones requires to start this perfectly natural cycle will make you feel like 900 pissed-off and pointy cats live inside of you. Their sharp teeth and claws may not exactly puncture you internally; but are like sandpaper on every last nerve.

No one tells you that the process for shedding the uterine lining means more than “cramps”; how the body resists and reacts to these cramps with everything from hot constipation and burning diarrhea (yes, often both) to increased breast and genital sensitivity and increased sexual desires (yes, often with both again). You may not want to know the details of my lovely cycle, but let’s just say it’s the frustrating crush of a fist holding everything, including my breath, tight and still — followed by a rush of “everything must get out.” That includes skin eruptions and bowels along with my uterine lining.And while everything is sensitive, those utero-contractions make me feel like I’m on the edge of something… Like a great big orgasm, so let’s get on with that and get it out too. (Which reminds me, ladies, if we had proper sex education, we’d be telling young women about this reality — and how great vibrators and sex toys can be. Heaven knows, if I’d had known about the joys of a Hitachi Magic Wand in my 20’s, I’d have skipped many a bad romance, and better coped with my periods too.)

You’re right; this isn’t “ladylike.” But it’s what happens to ladies, to women; so let’s stop denying it.

Now, when it comes to menopause, there’s a lot more to the ending of this monthly cycle — which, while often hellish, is our damn monthly cycle. We can hate it, but we’ve just spend decades getting used to it, and now what the hell?!

Thanks to women’s magazines and shows like Oprah, there’s been some talk about menopause. Frankly, I didn’t tune into them all; like the little girl I once was, I figured that change was so far ahead in my life, I didn’t need to worry my pretty little head about it. Which is why it was great that sitting down to hear it was a forced mandatory school thing. Hence my belief that the same should be done regarding teaching the realities of menopause to young women in high school.  But anyway, like many of my sisters who are ushering in the age of chronedome, I am amazed to discover there is lots that I don’t know about this specific change. Knowing that this particular biological trip is the end of creating life, that this agonizingly slow, back and forth of you have a period then months without it, then BAM! have a period of some sort again, isn’t all there is to the story.

You’ve likely heard of those hot flashes. Well, they are real.

And they are a real bitch.

If you didn’t already have insomnia, the hot flashes are enough to give it to you. You lay awake, sweating. You kick off the covers. You turn a fan on, even when just hours before, you were begging your husband to turn the heat up. And when you do pass out for a bit, you wake up frigid. (Not just temperature wise, but sexually too. Because you are sleep deprived and you are aware just how much you freakin’ stink from sweating, so the last thing you can imagine is having sex. But wait a while… Your hormones will demand otherwise soon enough. Just pray you haven’t alienated your partner too much. Or hit that vib for medicinal reasons — because there will be times that orgams will be the only way to knock yourself out well enough to sleep a few hours.)

And then too, the fan is awesome white-noise to help alleviate insomnia in general. Your partner may not dig this. At best, this adds stress to an already stressful time — leading to more insomnia for you. At worst, you find yourself yelling sarcastically, “Yes, please do turn the fan off. I am completely faking all this wretched sweating just to make you cold at night! It’s all about you — always!”

Like I said, it’s not pretty. Especially when there’s little understanding. And how can there be understanding when the bulk of knowledge about menopause if a joke about the little old ladies with fans?

One other ugly thing I am experiencing is boils. Big nasty, angry-ass boils.

No one wants to talk about these hideous things. Just the other day, I was swapping horrible night-sweat stories with a friend. You know, in that bitter misery-loves-company way involving bitter laughter — until you cry. But I didn’t dare bring up the boils. They are just too ugly. Normal, it turns out; but still ugly.

But the whole drive home, I kept kicking myself in the ass for not saying something — for not speaking the truth. What if she had them, but didn’t know they were normal? What if she blamed herself for some imaginary hygiene problem? What if she was too embarrassed to talk to her doctor? What if she did mention to her doctor, but that doctor was an ass about it, like mine was? It took me going through some basic boil info to realize that boils are often a part of perimenopause because boils are caused by ingrown hairs (something affected by hormonal changes) and plugged sweat glands or oil ducts (thanks again, hot flashes). So a-duh you can have boils at this time. But thanks, Dr. Ass-Hat, for making me spell it out for you. (Thankfully, you can also have a new doctor at this time too.)

For these reasons, I remain silent to longer.

“Hey, world, I am a suffering yet another painful change in my body and life! This one comes with mood swings, the loss of ‘beauty’ (i.e. clues to health and fertility) and societal value, hot flashes, sleep deprivation, and big ol’ boils! Arg!”

And when people don’t get it, when they call you insane or mock you with even the slightest of eyeball rolls for your hormone-ridden life — be it menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, you want to scream, “Hey, buddy, you can leave any time you friggin’ want — me, I’m f-ing stuck here with this situation!”

Now, maybe it’s sleep deprivation talking, but all of this reminds me of the depictions we have of witches…

Witches are usually old; with grey or white hair and long noses. Witches are typically depicted with what we call warts, often with a hair jetting out of them. Here I see boils. Boils, as mentioned, are often sprung from a hair follicle.

And witches are often shown sweating over a huge caldron of boiling something-or-other. Is that a reference to hot flashes?

Unlike the idea of wise crones, witches seem to be the ugliest, scariest, icons of menopause.

Perhaps the flying on brooms thing is about older women now being able to leave home and hearth; the scariest thing of all for a woman to do — other than be sexual, of course.

Turning The Tables On Fairy Tales With Red Hot Riding Hood

Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood (MGM, 1943) turns many tables — but not enough — on old stereotypes:

According to Wikipedia:

The most famous element is the musical scene where Red performs and “Wolfie”, as she calls him, reacts in highly lustful wild takes. Those reactions were considered so energetic that the censors at the time demanded cuts in this scene and others.

The film’s original conclusion had Grandma marrying the wolf at a shotgun wedding (with a caricature of Tex Avery as the Justice of the Peace who marries them), and having the unhappy couple and their half-human half-wolf children attend Red’s show[citation needed]. This ending, deleted for reasons of implied bestiality and how it made light of marriage (something that was considered taboo back in the days of the Hays Office Code), was replaced with one (that, ironically, has also been edited, but only on television) where The Wolf is back at the nightclub and tells the audience that he’s through with chasing women and if he ever even looks at a woman again, he’s going to kill himself. When Red soon appears onstage to perform again, the Wolf takes out two pistols and blasts himself in the head. The Wolf then drops dead, but his ghost appears and begins to howl and whistle at Red same as before.

Prints with the original ending (where the Wolf is forced to marry the lusty Grandma) and the Wolf’s racier reactions to Red are rumored to have been shown to military audiences overseas during World War II, though it is not known if this print still exists.

‘Cuz suicide is funny. Or at least suicide, like most violence, is preferable to sex.

And in on of the weirdest decisions regarding bestiality ever, it’s only offensive if the woman is older — and lusty.

Barbiturates Like Candy

I’ve been listing a lot on eBay, so be prepared for observations and odd thoughts on what I find — like this gem: a vintage medical advertising blotter for triple-barbiturate capsules by Wyeth called Ethobral.

“for all patients who cannot sleep…”
“nearest to the ideal hypnotic…”

What strikes me most about this promotional piece is the sexist ageism. First, note that illustration: A little old lady, complete with her hair in the “granny bun,” has what appears to be a box of open chocolates on her lap — and still she weeps.

Above that, in extra-fine print, “Sleep for the menopausal patient.”

We’ve all heard about the misogyny in medicine; we’ve all heard about the medicating of women for all sorts of “mysterious ailments” that men just don’t suffer from. And we all know about the giving away of barbiturates to women as if they were candy. But seeing this, seeing a “menopausal patient” — which can only be female — depicted as a crying grandmother trying to self-medicate, ineffectively and stupidly, with chocolate, as the only image on this advertising piece for medication “for all patients who cannot sleep” drives the point home like a railroad spike. To the chest.

Cowgirl Bandits My A**

A quick tip of my hat to Eliza at Bust Magazine‘s blog for pointing out what a hideous idea it is to make a a new younger version of the film classic Thelma and Louise. The train wreck, set to star Leighton Meester and Amber Heard, is titled Cowgirl Bandits — a title which certainly seems to sum up the producer’s ignorance of just what is truly at the core of this film.

Adding to the inappropriateness Eliza expressed, it is, in my estimation, not simply a bad idea due to the celebs involved (for I don’t view either as an actress anywhere near the likes of either Susan Sarandon or Geena Davis), nor is it a lament that classics ought to be left the hell alone (Did we learn nothing from the remake of The Women?!); no, the horror of this cinemacide goes far deeper.

What is sexy about this film (and I mean that in both the physical arousal definition of the word “sexy” and the intellectual turn-on implications of the colloquial usage) is the very thing they are undoing by attempting a “younger” version. A younger version of the film requires the characters be too young to believably have the character of the film characters.

At 20-ish, you don’t have years, decades, of boredom and abuse in a marriage — and if you even have to ask how a relationship can be both boring and abusive, then you are the “too young” I speak of — so how can you be courageous enough to walk out of it, Thelma? Courage, after all, is measured by the ability to confront a situation aware of the risks, pain, intimidation.  (And how young would Brad Pitt’s character have to be– 12?! Or in this hip young version, would she hook-up with an old dude, of say 40? A Brad Pitt role reprisal?)

At 20-ish, you don’t have years of hiding out, sheltering yourself as you live in the quiet silence of a pretense that keeps you at arm’s length from any respite, a deer perpetually in the headlights, exhausted from swallowing the injustice as you remain on guard for the next attack. So how then, can you react as you do, Louise? Without your years of suffering, how can there be a sympathetic policeman?

thelma-and-louiseWith this pitiful remake, there’s no significant backstory for these characters because — and I know this will offend you young pups — because 20-somethings haven’t lived long enough to have such a history, a history that they have both taken part in the creation of and struggled with for years.

Thelma & Louise wasn’t about some willy-nilly drive into the vague liberation of third-wave feminism partying and screwing the way to a poetic fireball of justice; it wasn’t a movie about women willing to die in the name of feminism. Thelma & Louise was far more complicated — sad and infuriating — because Thelma & Louise were fully developed characters with backstories. And they had to be older to do that.

The Zulu Lulu Barware Infection

Don’t hate me for wanting to get one of these Zulu Lulu swizzle stick sets — it’s just too horrific not to own if you’re into non-PC things, which I totally am. As a woman & a collector they leave such a bad taste in my mouth, I just had to own them.

I often shy away from the Black Americana (lest folks take my interest the wrong way), but sometimes, like the vintage postcards, they are literally attached to other things. These vintage swizzle sticks are not physically attached to something else, but are attached in ideology to things that make a feminist’s heart ache (or sing, if you’re into documenting such things). Along with racism, there’s sexism & ageism in these swizzle sticks.

Inside each woman’s abdomen (or uterus) is a number representing her age. As the number increases, her breasts droop, her ass grows, and her tummy bulges. She may be Nifty at 15, Spiffy at 20, Sizzling at 25, and even (despite the nipple pointing downwards) Perky at 30 — but she’s Declining at 35, Droopy at 40, and I guess women look so bad after 40 that there’s no sense in making a swizzle stick. (There are rumors that there’s another set of swizzle sticks with Zulu Lulus at 50 and 60 years of age; but I’ve never seen them.)

While the messages of these vintage barware pieces are more transparent than the brown plastic they are made from, the promotional holder is more pointed than those plastic swords used to skewer cherries, reminding everyone every woman just what men think of them:

Don’t pity Lulu – you’re not getting younger yourself…laugh with your guests when they find these hilarious swizzle sticks in their drinks. ZULU-LULU will be the most popular girl at your party!

There’s so much sexism, racism & ageism in these swizzle sticks that it had to ooze out into the drinks being served and from there, infect all those at the party. I guess that’s why your guests would “‘bust’ out laughing”.

Today, we’d bust out in tears; or just spontaneously combust.