If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
Last night we had lobster for dinner. Jeanette brought three of them home from a local market. They were great. Meaty and sweet … Maine lobster.
That got me thinking about how things have changed over the years. When I was young, growing up in Arizona and California, lobster was a luxury. We would hear about people having lobster but we never had it. In Arizona it was not to be found and in California it was available only in restaurants that were more expensive than my dad would entertain.
I did not have lobster until I was twenty-seven. At that time I had gone to work for Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company in Phoenix. It is now part of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. The company brought a group of us into the home office in Hartford, Connecticut for two weeks of training. We stayed in a downtown Hilton Hotel and were given a list of restaurants close by. One of them, I don’t recall the name now, was known for lobster. That became a must do place for me. Exotic lobster!
I still remember the restaurant: dark interior with little black and white checkered tiles on the floor
— straight out of the 30″s or 40″s.
The waiters, all men, dressed in black with white aprons. I remember them as older men. That was in a time when being a waiter was a profession.
The lobster was disappointing because they did not serve it steamed. I remember a number of casseroles and other presentations. No doubt they were good, but I was underwhelmed.
That, however, is not the point. Today lobster is pretty common place. Our local Publix and Winn-Dixie have tanks of them. If you are so inclined you can have then flown in daily. Times have changed.
Down the street was Francelli’s, an Italian restaurant, close to the Hilton and I found the menu had a list of eight or nine kinds of spaghetti .
Wow! I took a flyer and ordered Spaghetti Alla Caruso, named after the singer who loved this type of spaghetti. Out came a bowl of white spaghetti dressed in olive oil and slivers of garlic with a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. No meatballs. No red sauce (gravy I have come to know). What was this? What ever. It is my favorite to this day.
Musing about lobster and the change in availability got me thinking about other small changes that have probably been lost to most of us.
There was a time when margarine was new. In the early 50’s my mother used margarine as an economical alternative to butter. In those days it came as a white stick similar to lard.
To make it resemble butter, a person had to add the yellow coloring. It wasn’t until later that margarine came to the market yellow.
Peanut butter . . . That has changed too. The first peanut butter I remember would settle, the oil separating from the ground peanut paste. We would set the jar in the cooler upside down so the peanut paste would be on the top when the jar was opened.
Peanut butter is a relatively young food.
In 1890, an enterprising physician, Dr. John Kellogg (of corn flakes fame), created peanut butter as a healthy protein substitute that was easy to digest for patients with no teeth.
In 1922, peanut butter was commercially born when J. L. Rosefield of Rosefield Packing Company of Alameda, California perfected a process to keep the oil from separating in the peanut butter along with spoilage prevention methods. He marketed this commercial peanut butter under the name SkippyÂ® as “churned” peanut butter, which was a smoother, creamier version of the coarse-textured original. It took some time before this process made its way through the greater market. Change.
There were no pop top cans, no zip lock bags, no TV dinners or frozen dinners.
People ate at home and had home cooked meals.
We live in a time of accelerating change, with very little in our lives the same as it used to be. Most of us think of technology, computers, the internet, Facebook, search engines and demographics when we think of change. All of this is true. But the next time you go to the grocery store stop and look around. That too is a changed world.
More to come
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