Back when this blog was over at WordPress, this picture was my first header image. It’s taken from the back of a 1954 cookbook called 641 Tested Recipes From the Sealtest Kitchens, and the uniformed ladies are helping the blonde Hyacinth Bucket (dressed for her kitchen work in pearls and print dress) make some of those 641 recipes.
How they hit on the magic number 641 will remain a mystery forever. But I suspect that it involves normal recipes that you throw Sealtest dairy products at. Then you see what happens, and give the final product a name like Lazy Day Salad Loaf (a terrible oblong involving cottage cheese, sour cream, ketchup and gelatin).
The test kitchens were “far more than a laboratory. They are actually a series of kitchen units duplicating conditions as found in the modern American home.” Yes, right down to the cabinet-topping murals of what look like carrots emerging from a badly-tilled vegetable patch. And who doesn’t get dressed up in a nurse’s uniform to cook up a few tricks in a tureen?
Several of the 641 Tested Recipes are in the sub-category known (only to Sealtest) as Tureen Tricks. These involve mixing cans of soup together with some Sealtest milk in a soup tureen and seeing what you get. The word “tureen” comes from the French “terrine,” an earthenware dish. It came to mean a large, deep serving dish with a lid, usually used for soups or stews. They could be quite decorative and were meant to sit on the table and look fancy.
And when (not if: when) you run out of milk, you can try something called Surprise Tomato Soup. To execute this culinary trick, you heat up tomato soup and then throw in a lot of Sealtest cottage cheese. You have to be careful or else it will curdle. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
The tureen in the photo belonged to the Duke of Wellington (picture from Life, Dec. 29, 1952). No tomato surprises in that tureen – the Duke of Wellington would not be pleased. At all.