Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How To Be Worldly

In 1964, Contadina, a division of the Carnation Company, educated American families who wanted to remain 'stay-at-homes' in the art of international cuisine. How To Be Worldly (without leaving your kitchen) introduced all who sent away for the booklet to the miracle that is canned tomato product. The history of the tomato is fascinating and should be a college major in itself. Sure, we take Contadina's ancient, world-traveled canned tomatoes for granted, but did you know that 'in the 16th century, fierce Aztects plundering for silver and gold found it growing high in the Andes'? They learned, as will you, how canned tomatoes can be used to replicate the national dishes of four culinary regions!

Front cover - The earth, itself like a tomato ripe for plucking, is an amazing amalgamation of nations and people, all of who know the name of Contadina.

Italia is the natural starting point in our tour of pomodoro. Contadina cuts to the core of Italy's identity: Italy is 'the land of song and food.' Yet this elegant still life highlights the importance of art in Italian culture. And Polenta Rings. Here we see the chef gazing on his magnificent creations: Italian Stew with Polenta, Meatballs and Noodles 'Parmegano', and Galetto Marinara.

If Italy is food and music, then what is Mexico? Food and music! Well, maize and mariachi music, to be exact. Only one dish here actually contains maize (Maize con Carne Molida de Cazuela). Otherwise, we've got Green Beans Mexicali and Sopa de Albondigas!

More Mexican dishes, por favor! How about Spanish Eggs and Rice and various meats covered in tomato sauce?

The geneology of Creole cooking is broken down for us by Contadina (I should add that anything in quotes is exactly as it is written on the page. Any quoted typos aren't my typos.): 'It's "mere" was French; it's "padre" was Spanish,' the book explains. No amount of mood lighting can make that Creole Pot Roast look good, though!

Finally, in an American book intended to introduce Americans who only eat Americanized food to the (Americanized versions of) foods of different cultures, here's the page on American food! The America page is worth it just for the text, which can be seen in the larger version of the picture. 'Let's not forget U.S.A. ...the land of breeziness, bounce and the Bar-B-Que. We've been called breezy and boisterous, automated and always in a hurry. We have shiny push-button ranges, convenience foods and short-cuts. Some say we have no traditions in food! They say we're a land of hot dogs, hamburgers and soda pop. They're wrong in many ways, we're just as old-fashioned as home-made apple pie. We think new!' That's some pretty defensive text for a page that shows more hot dogs than any other sort of food! And there's soda pop! Still, there is that old-fashioned home-made apple pie, which is probably filled with that glop from the pot (Contadina Sauce For Back Yard Buns).

Contadina helps with those '36 woman-hours in a 24-hour day' by putting convenience in the kitchen. Convenience in the form of dishes like the Do-Ahead Beef Noodle Bake and Hasty Hash (incidentally, I misread that as 'Nasty Hash' at first).