Can Opener Casserole

| 10/16/2014 1:55:00 PM

Country CookingThis summer I ventured out of my usual antique-store shopping and hit two large “antique flea markets,” in Allegan, Michigan, and Elkhorn, Wisconsin. These had hundreds of dealers and each was an all-day-a-thon. Of course I looked for the usual: dishware, cookware and old cookbooks.

And of course I found them all, especially old cookbooks. These have great stories, fascinating recipes (though not always useful or complete), and serve as a good springboard for recipe development. I notice a distinct trend from decade to decade. Cookbooks in the 1910s and 1920s sometimes had a section about how to work with your maids or how to endure the work of hosting a dinner party if you don’t have them.

By the 1930s that’s gone, and indeed, there were fewer cookbooks published due to the Great Depression. The 1940s era started with recipes about conserving food (for the war effort, of course) and featured substitutes for sugar and other ingredients, since rationing was rampant. By this time, the thought of kitchen maids for most people was long gone. Cookbooks were also being purchased much more by the general public rather than the elite.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Populuxe era was in full swing, with baby boomer kids out on swing sets, husbands at work, and dutiful wives in the house, cleaning, ironing, doing laundry and, of course, cooking. The text often refers to the “perfect” housewife who “wants” the house to sparkle, the husband and children to be happy, and to be shining like a star when everyone rolls in for a hot, homemade dinner every single night. And of course she had to sparkle from time to time hosting friends at a weekend dinner party – without maids.

(We all know that wasn’t the perfect picture for some women, who by the 1970s were burning their bras, seeing “Maude” on TV, and hearing, “I Am Woman.” Reality finally hit.)

Can-Opener Casserole is one of the easiest things you can make