Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A New Year's Feast: the Soo Spokane-Portland


Menu, Dec. 1913. RHE
Let’s say it’s 97 years ago, Wednesday, December 31, 1913. I am catching the 11:00 PM train from Union Station in Portland, bound for Minneapolis via the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company’s express, grandly named the Soo Spokane-Portland Train de Luxe.


This train, for a few brief years (1909-1914), sped to the Twin Cities via Cranbrook (British Columbia), Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan), and Portal (North Dakota), mostly over the Canadian Pacific Railway lines and those of its subsidiary, the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway, better known as the Soo Line. 



January 1, 1914 menus. RHE

Dec. 1910 schedule. RHE
So if I left tonight, then on Thursday, January 1, 1914, New Yea’s Day, I would have been offered these menus in the dining car of the Soo Spokane-Portland. Breakfast (lamb chops with bacon) would have been served while heading up the Snake River, lunch as we were approaching Spokane (chicken pot pie), and dinner north of Bonners Ferry, Idaho (oysters on the half shell, then broiled filet of salmon). Friday we would cross Alberta and Saskatchewan and enter North Dakota; I would be in Minneapolis in time for dinner Saturday evening.
From a 1909 brochure.  CMRT
The heady days of the Soo Spokane-Portland came to an end early in 1914, when the train was cancelled due to the European war, a fiscal crisis, and the competition from three American railroads serving the same region. Terry and I toured a few of its once-elegant cars this fall at the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook. This is a desperate sort of museum, endeavoring to preserve and display dozens of aged, travel-weary railroad cars, and hard pressed to be able to afford to do anything really well. Two cars which were once part of the Soo Spokane-Portland were reclaimed (salvaged?) by the museum, after many decades of use as vacation cabins in the North Woods. 
In our present day world of industrialized travel, it was surprising to see conveyances that were framed in steel, but were also crafted in wood and glass. Inlaid marquetry work graced the walls of the sleeping car Omemee (it had a name, not a number, to identify it), and the aisle ends were capped by decorative half-dome ceil with more than 1,200 pieces of stained glass. 
Aboard the Omemee. Canadian Museum of Rail Travel
The schedules and the menus, the brochures and the photographs, don't convey all of the salient aspects of train travel in the Pacific Northwest a century ago: they can't demonstrate the erratic heating, piped back from the engine as steam; the not-always-savory smells of cooking in close quarters in the dining car; the aromas from the washroom, where men smoked and chewed, and the hopper deposited its contents onto the track; the coal smoke; the sounds of creaking wood and straining steel; the snores and whuffles in the sleeping cars, where draperies served as room dividers.

On the other hand, the Soo Spokane-Portland Train de Luxe will be more likely to arrive in Minneapolis on time in the winter of 1914, than will Amtrak's Empire Builder between Portland and Minneapolis in the winter of 2011. 





Monday, December 13, 2010

Pan-Euro-American food, Seattle, 1925

C. R. Cook came to Seattle about 1919, and with his wife Genevieve he soon opened Cook’s Tamale Grotto. Mr. Cook was born in Missiouri, and learned to cook in a chili parlor; later he traveled to Mexico. In the 1920s and 1930s his Seattle enterprise was a popular downtown lunch and dinner spot, with a menu that cheerfully ascribed Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and even French, Texan, and Aztec attributes to its dishes. Fusion dining has deep roots.
A bit of study establishes that a version of Mexican cuisine is the dominant note, with a menu that is characterized by tamales, enchiladas, frijoles, and tortillas. The Chinese menu appears to be an added bit of exotica, as perhaps the Italian menu is also; on the other hand, Italian and Spanish are similar, you know, Latinate. The term Spanish is used interchangeably with Mexican in most cases, but it is not clear just what to make of such terms as “boiled chicken Spanish" and "Aztec albondigas."  
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a small cookbook, “Cosmopolitan Seattle,” featuring the recipes of noted local chefs, in 1925 and again in 1935. It was authored by the newspaper’s corporate food maven, Prudence Penny (a part played by a number of staffers over many decades), and Prudence not only coaxed recipes from Seattle chefs and cooks, but also interviewed them about their training and hobbies. C. R. Cook, for example, liked to spend his days off at his chicken ranch near Black Diamond, where he could watch the chickens “grow up for tamales.”
AZTEC ALBONDIGAS
(Spanish meat Balls)
1 pound lean hamburger
2 tablespoons raw rice
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped green pepper
1 raw egg
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix well, form into balls the size of an egg, using ground cracker crumbs to prevent mixture from sticking to hands. Boil slowly one hour in Spanish sauce made as follows:
SAUCE: 1 can tomatoes with puree, 1 pint water or broth, 1 chopped green pepper, 2 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 4 whole cloves, 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve meat balls on large platter with spaghetti or noodles in center and sprinkle with grated Italian cheese.
-- From the 1935 edition of “Cosmopolitan Seattle”
Spokane, too, had its tamales. This menu is from the 1930s; the proprietors of the A. B. C. Chili and Tamale Parlors were H. R. Atkinson and Clay Bennett. 
Ephemera from author’s collection. Original of 1935 “Cosmopolitan Seattle” at Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sunnymead in Ashes

Richard "Dick" Engeman at his printing press
On the night of November 24, 2010, Sunnymead burned to the ground. My most memorable childhood home, it was also the historic farmhouse of Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair (1840-1926), Oregon's first woman medical doctor. Longtime owner and resident Dick Mattson and one of his two dogs escaped; the house is gone. The Daily Astorian published a story on December 8, by Deeda Schroeder, “A Historic Chapter Rises from the Ashes.”
Dr. Owens-Adair
I have a long and strange connection with that noted Oregonian of the past, Dr. Owens-Adair, who is featured on page 290 of The Oregon Companion. As a child, I lived on what had been her house on her Clatsop County farm, Sunnymead. Some forty years after her death, I attended a ceremony at Ocean View Cemetery when a tombstone was finally placed on her grave. My mother, Jerre Engeman, on the reference desk at the Astoria public library, helped novelist Janet Stevenson research the doctor’s life. Janet wrote a historical novel based on episodes of the doctor’s struggles while she lived at Sunnymead; three decades after the writing, I shepherded The Slope into print in 2009. It was Janet Stevenson’s last publication.
We -- my father and mother, Bud and Jerre Engeman, myself, and my younger sister Laural -- lived in Bethenia’s house from 1956 until 1963. I was 9 years old when we moved there from Portland. We rented the house from Hi Collins, who grazed black Angus on the land. It was convenient for my dad, who worked at the U. S. Weather Bureau office at the airport, about a mile away.
We moved again when Hi sold my parents another part of the Sunnymead property, 120 acres of forest and pasture including an old house that stood on a promontory facing Bethenia’s house. My sister recalls that Bethenia had built this house for her son George. Hi Collins sold Bethenia’s house and some land to Dick Mattson in 1969; a few years later Dick bought some additional acreage later from my father.
Laural and Fitzgerald the cat, Sunnymead, about 1962
Here are some photos from our years at the house. The photo of me shows me with my printing press and trays of rubber type; the Warrenton Lighthouse was issued from this Sunnymead office! The article in the Daily Astorian includes an account of the Columbus Day storm of 1962 and some photos of the fire damage. Other reminiscences of this wonderful place may yet appear!
Jerre and Bud, Sunnymead, 1957
Laural and Dick's Christmas tree, about 1962



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Rise and Fall of an Oregon Fowl

Amateurs carving, ca. 1940
'Tis the season of the turkey. For several decades, Oregon was a noted producer of turkeys for the table, and a notable place for the developing of meatier birds. At one point 30% of the West Coast's turkeys were grown in Oregon, and they were prized for their high quality. Large turkey farms and specialty turkey breeders were found in Yamhill County near Dayton and McMinnville (McMinnville began its Turkey Rama in 1938), in the Hood River Valley, and in Douglas County, where the first Northwest Turkey Show opened in Oakland in 1929.

World War II, when beef was rationed, raised the consumption of turkey, and roast turkey was a popular restaurant menu item through the 1950s. This 1947 Turkey Handbook from the National Turkey Federation helped promote the institutional use of turkeys. It included recipes to make good use of all parts of the bird; a 24-pound turkey could yield 20 cooked portions of 6 ounces each.

Restaurant menus from the mid-20th century rarely indicated the sources of their ingredients. The few exceptions were foods such as oysters, which varied in taste and texture according to their growing locale and their type. While local pride only occasionally elicited a descriptive phrase, a roast Oregon tom turkey was often to be found on West Coast restaurant menus of the 1930s through the 1950s. For example, Schapp's Restaurant in Portland's theater district boasted "Roast Oregon turkey with cranberry sauce" on its carte of July 3, 1940; otherwise, only the Louisiana shrimp was called out for its geographic origin (well, and the Columbia River salmon and Olympia oysters). This Multnomah Falls Lodge menu from the early 1950s features "Oregon tom turkey with dressing and cranberry sauce" as well as an "Oregon turkey sandwich."

But turkeys have changed in the past few decades. Turkey raising in Oregon has nearly disappeared. Turkey meat has become something of a protein filler, appearing as turkey pastrami, in turkey chili, as sliced bits in salads and sausages, but the grand Oregon tom roast turkey has disappeared from the family dining table and the restaurant menu -- except at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Postcard, ca. 1935
"RAISING TURKEYS IN SCENIC OREGON. Thanksgiving comes every day in the year in this land of big turkey flocks. These fan tailed birds spread out over a vast acreage, sometimes reaching out as far as the eye can see. This region, with its scenic splendors, is a land of superlatives."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Seaside: The Trails End City

Seaside brochure, ca. 1922
“Cool in Summer. Warm in Winter.” This brochure, issued about 1922, has a distinct California aura about it, with the faintly Cal-Mediterranean hostelry (the Moore Hotel looked somewhat similar to this) and the snow-capped mountain peaks. Orange, purple, green; parasols, bathing caps, blanket-covered knees. It’s a charming picture. It’s just not Seaside, Oregon.
Trails End City? Seaside was then in the throes of proclaiming itself the end of the trail of Lewis and Clark (because they boiled that seawater there to get salt, and they stayed a few nights), and also the end of the “famous Old Oregon Trail,” “reaching from Omaha to where is now Seaside. This migration continued for a period of eleven years, and won the Oregon Territory for the United States.” Boosting for business purposes has trumped history every time.
Seaside in 1922 had assets beyond faux history: it had “The cool, white inviting surf, the broad expanse of smooth clean beach, imposing Tillamook Head ..., the turbulent mountain streams and the broad expanse of a mighty river.” The Necanicum River might be viewed as a sort of mild-mannered mountain stream, but that broad and mighty river must be the Columbia, fifteen miles to the north. Seaside offered golf and tennis, surf bathing, aeroplaning, boating, swimming, hiking, fishing, dancing, “plain loafing,” clam digging, and crabbing.
Seaside, SP&S Ry. station, 1910
Today, Seaside is a jangling, jarring mishmash of highrise schlock motels, an outlet mall, a convention center, and a cold featureless beach littered with cigarette butts. You can still find some neat beach cottages in the pine trees on a few side streets and along The Prom, the beach walk built in the 1920s. Today there is still salt water taffy for sale, and bumper cars to ride, and a charming riverside golf course that floods every winter (but who’s golfing then, anyway?).
“In the evenings the beach is lighted by innumerable bonfires, built from the salty driftwood, about which are gathered jolly parties, toasting marshmallows and dancing to impromptu music.” 

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Plush Davenport

Restaurant and hotel, ca. 1925
When you were young, did you sit on a sofa in your family's living room, or did you call it a davenport, or a couch? Maybe the sofa was in a den, or a family room, or a conversation pit, where people sort of sprawled and talked? Surely you didn't have a davenport in the parlor; not even my grandmother had a parlor! But she had a room to sprawl and talk, and it had a (horrible! stiff! scratchy! bumpy!) leather-covered, horse-hair stuffed sofa. It was not a davenport. Davenports were comfortable.
My own childhood house had what we called a davenport, or more often "the daveno." The daveno could be unfolded into a double bed when the cousins visited. It was upholstered, and soft, and comfortable. (The Urban Dictionary, www.urbandictionary.com, notes that the term daveno was "widely used in the 50's and 60's, particularly in the Pacific Northwest." This matches my own experience.) 
The Davenport lobby, ca. 1915
In the Pacific Northwest, the most elegant and comfortable Davenport was the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington. I recently returned from the Pacific Northwest History Conference in Spokane, which was held at the Davenport, a hostelry that opened in 1914, closed in 1985, and was re-opened in 2002. It is a magnificent example of how renovating and revivifying a historic building can make a major contribution to the revival of an entire community, for the Davenport is once again a focal point of downtown Spokane's social and commercial life. And it came mighty, mighty close to utter demolition.

The Davenport restaurant, ca. 1910
Louis Davenport (ca. 1869-1951) began operating a restaurant in Spokane in 1889, and it soon grew into a place of exotic decor and cosmopolitan dining pleasures. Davenport's restaurant  building in the early 1900s was an eclectic structure, sort of California Moorish Venetian, if you can envision such an amalgam. In 1914, Davenport added the management of a large hotel to his enterprises, which then comprised a city block; the architect of the hotel was Spokane's noted Kirtland Cutter (he had also designed the restaurant; he was an exceedingly versatile designer).

Menu, Christmas 1909
I recently acquired a menu from Davenport's Restaurant, a special menu for Christmas of 1909: 101 years ago. The cover is a hand water color wash of poinsettia flowers, while the printed interior details the musical selections by Mr. Al. Thurston's orchestra, as well as the menu. Dinner begins, of course, with oysters: Toke Points raw on the half shell, in an oyster cocktail, or roasted (from Willapa Bay's north shore, probably raised from East Coast transplant seed), and the small, native Olympias, to be had raw, stewed, pan roasted, or fried (wild, from Puget Sound).

Aside from oysters, whose relatively local origin is duly noted, many of the delicacies on this menu are pointedly brought in from points far, far away. Game is prominent, but it is all noted as imported: from whence, we know not. However, under "Roast," we can see that the opossum is from Florida! Aren't railroads wonderful! Winter  holidays are perhaps not the best time to evaluate the extent and nature of local foodstuffs on a Spokane menu; those tomatoes, sweet sugar corn, and French peas were probably not available in any form other than canned, even to the redoubtable Louis Davenport. Christmas is a special time.

The 63rd annual Pacific Northwest History Conference was titled "Game Changers & History Makers: Women in Pacific Northwest History," inspired by the 2010 centennial of woman suffrage in Washington state. It was a celebratory event, and the Davenport was a distinctive place to hold it.

Menu, Christmas 1909





Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Creek Did Rise

It doesn’t look terribly dramatic. But it was a traumatic event. On May 12, 1917, a mixed* train of the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company tumbled from a bridge over flooded Willow Creek near Ione in Morrow County. Engineer Ulysses Hanson (or Hansen) and J. Wyman (or Haybelt -- accounts differ) , a maintenance foreman, were trapped in the wreckage and drowned. The Portland Oregonian reported on May 14 that “Hundreds of people from all over the county came to view the wreck yesterday.” A storm had raised water levels in creeks throughout the area, and the nearby Anderson farm was hit by a 30-foot wall of water that carried away an automobile, wrecked a windmill, and swept off construction materials for the building of a new bungalow. No doubt this raised recollections of the great Willow Creek flood of June 24, 1903, which demolished Heppner and took at least 247 human lives.

In 1917, the O-WR&N, part of the Union Pacific railroad system, ran a mixed train daily from Heppner through Lexington, Ione, and Cecil to Heppner Junction, a distance of 45 miles. The 9:00AM train from Heppner reached the junction at 11:10AM, just in time to meet a local train from Pendleton for Portland. Going back, it left the junction at 1:55PM, after meeting the Portland local, and reached Heppner, God willing and the creek don’t rise, at 4:45PM.

This post celebrates the Multnomah County Library's online, OCR-enabled access to the back files of the Portland Oregonian: hallelujah! The postcard noted on the back that the wreck had occurred near Horse Shoe Bend on May 19; the newspaper files corrected the date and added the story line. The postcard and the timetable are from my own collection.

* A “mixed” train, in railroad parlance, is one that includes both freight cars and passenger cars. These trains ran at freight-train speed (rather slowly), and were once common on minor branch lines where the traffic did not warrant separate trains for passenger travel.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oregon Historical Society Rediviva?

The Oregon Historical Society has a substantial, but temporary, new revenue source, thanks to the recent vote of Multnomah County voters. I voted for the levy, but I did so with many misgivings.
First: for the past decade, the Society has strenuously avoided telling its membership, and the state legislature, and the general public, just what it proposes to do with itself. Now, in extremis, it still has no vision, no plan, no articulated ambitions, no stated sense of its duties or obligations. If the Society doesn’t soon form some plans, and articulate some goals, it stands little chance of getting an extension on this extraordinary levy. This is a one-time opportunity.
Second: the Society has spent the past decade squandering its resources. It has made a number of dubious financial decisions. It has carelessly dismissed its intellectual capital, the expert staff that was its claim to respect. It has kept both its membership and the public at large in the dark as to its precarious position. It has overtly thwarted efforts to bring light to that situation, or to engage its membership in any discussion of its future. This closed and aloof behavior does not bode well for the Society’s continuance.
Third: despite the provisions of an oversight committee for the county levy, the management of the Society remains in the hands of a large, self-selected, often uninterested, and exceedingly unwieldy board, and of a caretaker director. While the board and the director deserve credit for devising and promoting this innovative levy, they must now prove that it was worth their efforts. Will the Society that evolves in the next five years be an organization that deserves continued support? Will the Society use this short-term levy as a platform from which to rebuild a tattered reputation?
When I consider how many times I have been disappointed by the Society’s actions, I wonder that I voted for this levy. So many good people have been thrown out the door, so many valuable programs -- folklife, oral history, the press, the public historian office, the Century Farm & Ranch program, outreach to local historical agencies, collection digitization, library partnerships with PSU -- have vanished in the past decade. Do you suppose that the Society will now ask the voters of Multnomah County to work with them to rebuild a useful and scintillating Oregon Historical Society? They should. They should ask their membership as well. They should also ask the state’s historians and archivists and librarians and genealogists and history buffs and historic preservationists and museum goers and educators and tribal leaders and urban planners and cultural tourism directors, and the professors of history and literature and art and museum studies and architecture and anthropology and sociology, and ...  
Will they do that?


Cornelius C. Beekman (1828-1915) was a small-town banker, express agent, stationer, and philanthropist. He lived in Jacksonville from about 1855 until his death. He was a reluctant Republican candidate for governor of Oregon in 1878; though he refused to campaign, he lost the election by a mere 47 votes. Beekman served for several years on the board of the Oregon Historical Society, and willed his private bank building and its contents to the Society. For many years, the Society awarded a Beekman Prize for the best article in the Oregon Historical Quarterly.  Benjamin B. Beekman, son of Cornelius, endowed a chair in history at the University of Oregon in his father's memory. Papers relating to Cornelius C. Beekman and his family, his business, and his charitable activities are in the collections of both the Oregon Historical Society research library, and the University of Oregon Libraries.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dining on the Redwood Highway


Grants Pass was optimistic in the 1920s. The creation of the Oregon Caves National Monument in 1909 gave an early boost to tourism, as did the completion of the Pacific Highway in the mid-1910s. In 1922 Grants Pass businessmen constituted themselves as the Cavemen to promote the city. 
The six-story Redwoods Hotel was opened in July 1926 by hotel operator Al J. Martineau. Designed by Frank K. Hummel of the Portland architectural firm of Tourtellotte and Hummel, it was joined to the three-story Josephine Hotel, built in 1893; the new complex was renamed the Redwoods Hotel. The name reflected the recent completion of the new Redwood Highway to Crescent City and San Francisco.

Its location on the major West Coast railroad line and these new highways made Grants Pass a cosmopolitan place, no matter that the census, in 1930, showed only 4,666 residents in the city. Take a look at the dining room, pictured shortly after the hotel’s opening: the Oregon Caves “caveman” theme is rendered as a swank nightclub.
The hotel provided “sample rooms” for the traveling salesmen. These fellows traveled from town to town, stopping to display samples of the wares they represented: ready-to-wear clothing, hardware, dry goods. They came by train, and by the 1920s they were coming by automobile and bus -- motor stage -- as well. 
A salesman traveling through Grants Pass in the spring of1937 can eat very well at the Redwoods. While the beef comes from the Swift’s packing plant people, fresh seafood is offered, and both Eastern and Olympia oysters are listed (yes, more about those oysters later!). There is a grand effort to cast some Frenchified terms onto the menu, which proves difficult to do with a manual typewriter.
The old Josephine portion of the hotel burned in 1975, but the 1926 structure remains, now used as an office building. Nothing in Grants Pass today (population: 31,740) quite matches up to the Caves Grotto Dining Room, and you’re unlikely to find a menu offering boiled salmon steak Norweigen or Olympia oyster stew. But the Cavemen are still there, and I’m sure they can direct you to the restaurant that offers a Sasquatch sampler plate and a lumberjack steak.


Friday, October 15, 2010

The Peerless Maritime Metropolis

This 34-page booklet was published about 1892, written by a prolific publicist of the West, one Patrick Donan. "The Peerless Maritime Metropolis of the Golden Northwest" was to be Astoria -- once Astoria got  a railroad. A brief and somewhat lurid account of the place of Astoria in western American history leads to a description of the place "as it is to-day," a "cosmopolitan" city where one will find every kind of person from "Piccadilly swells and Fifth Avenue dudes, to Norwegian loggers, Finlander boatmen, Chinese mandarins, Chinook princesses and Clatsop clam-diggers."

"A Venice of the Pacific"
The nineteen fish canneries, the "miles of wharves, docks and warehouses," the sawmills and ironworks, the electric lights and the electric streetcars, are portents of greater development. For Astoria "will be, it must be, where river, rail and ocean meet; on the ocean, and not inland. God and Nature have done everything to make Astoria the mighty commercial emporium that [John Jacob] Astor planned." Ah, there are the immense forests, "as yet untouched by axe or saw," and the "exhaustless quantities" of coal, all at Astoria's door. When the railroad comes, all this and more will be turned to industry, to commerce, to money.

The railroad finally came, in 1898. In the ensuing years, the forests were cut, the fish were canned. But Astoria never became the New York of the Pacific, never became the premier Pacific port, as Donan insisted was inevitable. And after all his insistence may have been paid for, by some of those who stood to gain if the city usurped San Francisco. The power of positive thinking has its limits.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oysters on the Snake

Ostensibly in pursuit of material to support my research on the foodways* of the Pacific Northwest, I collect old restaurant menus. One of my most treasured acquisitions is a tattered carte from the State Cafe of Huntington, Oregon. Huntington is located at the confluence of the Snake and Powder Rivers. It began its career as a city by being the joining point in 1884 of the Oregon Short Line Railroad and the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, creating what became the transcontinental route of the Union Pacific. Until the 1960s, Huntington was a railroad shop town, where workers were working 24/7. They were eating 24/7, too.


* foodways: "The eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period." Merriam-Webster Dictionary
At the State Cafe, they had a tremendously varied menu. Doubtless not everything listed was always instantly at hand, and canned and packaged goods no doubt were staples. Still, the array is remarkable for a cafe in a town with a population of no more than 1,500 people (there are about 560 residents today). A dozen or more salads, eleven potato preparations, seventeen omelette varieties, 27 beef dishes, and, “in season” (that is, fresh), twenty-two different ways of preparing oysters. These were virile, manly meals.
So when was the State Cafe dishing up these choice viands? The menu provides some good clues, and more of them than most menus will do. The first clue is the listing for a “liberty pancake.” During World War I, our recoil from things German turned sauerkraut into “liberty cabbage” in popular parlance; similarly, here the German pancake, an eggy breakfast treat often called a Dutch baby, was renamed a liberty pancake. The second clue is found under “sandwiches”: the Theda Bara. It’s unusual for a small-town cafe to put a fancy name on a sandwich, and this is the only  example in this menu. Theda was a silent screen actress, a vamp with soulful eyes, and she must have been popular in Huntington. But Theda’s popularity was short-lived: she burst forth in 1914 with The Stain, and aside from three brief film appearances in 1925 and 1926, her career ended in 1919. So we can be very comfortable with saying that the menu is from about 1918, when the Germans were anathema and Theda was starring in Salome and The Siren’s Song.
There is still the matter of all those oysters. Why are there both “Puget Sound oysters” and “Eastern oysters”? What’s with those “Olympia oysters”? How did oysters get to Huntington alive?
We’ll take up with the oysters later. Right now, think about sitting down at the State Cafe counter for a brace of English mutton chops, shoestring potatoes, some stewed tomatoes, and maybe a side of apple celery salad, and with big cup of coffee. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Story of Carnation Milk




"The Story of Carnation Milk" was published in Seattle in 1915, a 32-page illustrated booklet of recipes prefaced by a paean to milk in general and to "condensed" milk in particular. The publisher was the Pacific Coast Condensed Milk Company, operator of fifteen Carnation condensaries, all located "far from city soot and manufacturing impurities, all located in the hearts of splendid milk producing sections, ...literally 'among the hills.'” Well, perhaps some of them were.
The first plant of the Pacific Coast Condensed Milk was opened in Kent, Washington, in 1899 by Elbridge Stuart. However, the marketing heart of the company was the Carnation Stock Farm, "Home of Contented Cows." To the east of Lake Washington near the town of Tolt, Stuart established the farm in 1910 with a bull and 86 Holstein cows; in 1917, Tolt was renamed Carnation.
Pacific Coast also had a condensary near Forest Grove, Oregon; the railroad stop and post office there were also named Carnation. A photograph of the plant appears in The Oregon Companion on page 140.
A century ago, condensed milk had two major assets going for it. It did not need refrigeration, an important consideration in an era when even ice boxes were far from universal in homes. (This quality was handy, too, on the Chilkoot Trail while searching for Yukon gold; it weighed less than fresh milk, too!). And, in an era when tuberculosis and other diseases were too often transmitted through raw milk, condensed milk was pasteurized and “pure.” Recipe booklets like this promoted the use of a new form of an age-old ingredient, selling it with imagery of neatness and cleanliness, and of Pacific Northwest scenery in green, blue and white.
Carnation became a brand of Nestlé in 1985.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oregon Rediviva: Renewed, rebuilt, recycled, revivified

Photo by Laural Engeman
Oregon Rediviva is a new blog by Richard H. Engeman, author of The Oregon Companion and Eating It Up in Eden. It replaces two moribund blogs with those titles, with one sprightly blog that will be updated weekly. Oregon Rediviva will present short items of interest from my recent research in Pacific Northwest history, and will feature archival artifacts such as photographs and printed ephemera.