Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween in the 1950's

Baynesville Elementary School
I grew up in a neighborhood called Baynesville in eastern Baltimore County.  This was a pretty large community of brick row houses that was part of the post-World War II expansion from Baltimore City into the suburbs.  My parents had a bit of the pioneer spirit, buying their house in 1950 when the whole area was still under construction.  This was a great place to grow up as a lot of it was still country with plenty of woods and some small farms with horses nearby.  The baby boom was alive and well in our community and in a few years there were four elementary schools within walking distance not including the parochial schools.

Halloween in elementary school was a wonderful day.  We would take our costumes to school and after lunch we would all get dressed and have a party in the classroom.  If the weather was nice the entire school would go outside for a parade on the playground.  Then when the school day ended we would go home and do a little light trick-or-treating until dinner.  After dinner the neighborhood would explode with trick-or-treaters, sometimes twenty or more deep at each house.  We got huge hauls of candy and even sometimes money.  No one worried about poison candy or bad people, everybody just had a great time.

Unless you live in a small town or neighborhood where everyone knows each other, these days most parents would not even consider letting their children go up to unfamiliar houses and take candy from strangers, and for good reason, just read the newspapers or listen to real horror stories on the nightly news.   Even though there are families who know each other where I live, no one comes to the door to trick-or-treat.  Halloween seems like just another day, not the crazy wonderful holiday of my childhood.

The world of the 1950's was not as idyllic for everyone as some of our politicians today would like us to believe.  And the civil rights movement, Vietnam war, Roe vs. Wade and womens' lib would soon change the world forever but for the little baby boomer kids of the 1950's in my neighborhood Halloween was a hugely BIG deal and just about as good as it gets.

Pressure Cooker Vegetable Soup

The prematurely cold weather this weekend on the east coast got me thinking about chilly weather comfort food.  My mom always made the best veggie soup when I was growing up.  One of my favorite childhood memories is mom making a big pot of hot soup for dinner on a cold evening.  You have to have a piece of crusty bread with soup but when I was a kid I always ate vegetable soup with buttered saltine crackers.  I would dip the cracker into the soup and then the butter would drip all over my hand....messy but so good.

My mom would cook her soup for hours on the stove, but being the modern woman, I use my electric Cook's Essentials pressure cooker from QVC.  Love shopping on QVC (but that's another post!).  This one is a 6 quart pressure cooker and it has changed my life!  The thing is wonderfully fast and I am learning to adapt my recipes so I don't have to spend hours slaving at the hot stove.  Soup is one of the easiest things to convert to pressure cooking and the best thing about it is that you don't have to keep opening the pot lid to stir.  Clean up is so much faster since there is no splatter all over your stove.

This recipe can also be converted to crab soup by adding a few steamed crab claws, crab meat and Old Bay seasoning to taste.

Pressure Cooker Vegetable Soup 

1 medium onion diced
1 lg baking potato diced
16 oz. bag mixed vegetables
1/2 cup barley
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 1/4 lbs. beef stew meat cubed
28 oz. can whole tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
2 T beef base (or 2  boullion cubes)
2 whole celery stalks
4 cups water

Cook the onion and beef cubes on the brown setting until the onions are tender.  Add the remaining ingredients and water to the fill line (in my cooker this is 4 cups).  Close the lid and cook for 10 minutes and wait for cooker to release pressure naturally.  Discard the celery stalks before serving. 

Prep Time:  10 mins.     Cook Time:  10 mins.    Difficulty:  Easy    Servings:  About 8 bowls