|
Milford Beacon
  • Blue Plate Special: ‘Hey Cookie, make mine a heart attack in a fog’

    • email print
  • You might need to go back to your great-grandfather to hear stories about the plate of food that saved the nation.
    The Blue Plate Special is nearly long gone, as are the street-corner diners that slopped them by the millions. During the Great Depression, simple Blue Plates were the cheapest hot meals, costing a nickel to a dime. They fed the cash-starved nation, sold all day and into the late night. If you had the coin, you could eat heartily, as Blue Plates were healthy by today’s standards.
    Food historian Kevin Reed traces the name to a dish manufacturer who turned out cheap dinner plates with three segments, similar to a frozen-dinner tray. All were blue, as that was cheapest color. The three segments held the three elements of all Blue Plates: Meat, vegetables and potatoes.
    The plates made their way into nearly all of the nation’s 10,000 diners. Reed said the dish segments saved money on dish washing — no need for multiple plates.
    “By 1937, one million people were eating at least one meal a day in diners,” he said, and they ordered the most food for the money, Blue Plates.
    The name does not describe a specific recipe. Blue Plates changed daily, like today’s specials. They always were made from cheap foods, such as ground beef, potatoes, gravies and canned goods. Mixed vegetables (corn, carrots and peas) were a must. The recipes were designed for mass production, made ahead and taking only minutes to reheat, or they parked in cauldrons on the stove.
    Food-culture observers Jane and Michael Stern traced the modern versions in their 2001 “Blue Plate Specials and Blue Ribbon Chefs.” Their cross-country marathon stopping at every diner along the way revealed Blue Plates are alive in small, cozy eateries stuck in the 1930s.
    “They still are the heart and soul of America,” they concluded.
    Randy Garbin of Roadside Magazine welcomes the tenuous reprise of Blue Plate Specials.
    “We are nostalgic for this time because we realize that in our mad rush to the 21st century we have thrown away and paved over many of the good and simple things in life. For many, all that is left is some Disneyesque diner wannabe in a barren strip mall.”
    Just don’t expect to find the specials at McDonald’s, and the prices are more like $6.95 and up. Denny’s and Bob Evans still take a stab at them.
    You can recreate the classic Blues at home. The recipes were hoarded from the 1930s. They still are cheap, but you can hardly get the glass of water for a nickel. These below are the main courses. Be sure to add canned mixed vegetables in the alley (side dish) and perhaps a rack (biscuit) if you’re in the mood.
    Page 2 of 2 - HEART ATTACK IN A FOG
    1 pound ground meat, the heart attack, (beef, pork, turkey, chicken)
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    1 cup chopped onion
    2 cups brown gravy from mix
    5 cups mashed potatoes, the fog, fresh or dehydrated
    Brown meat and onions in oil. Drain. Mix brown gravy in the same pan. Add beef and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes with canned, mixed vegetables on the side.
    Serves 4.
    HOT FRIDAYS
    1 pound Fridays (fish fillets)
    1 can cream of mushroom splash (soup), diluted with milk
    1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
    3 teaspoons melted butter
    Brush fillets with butter, coat with bread crumbs. Carefully fry in butter until slightly brown. Add mushroom soup and cook uncovered until heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve over rice.
    TUNE HER DOWN
    3 cans tuner (tuna) in water
    1/4 cup celery, diced
    1 medium red onion, finely chopped
    1/2 cup mayonnaise or to taste
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    Brown mustard to taste
    1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
    Salt and pepper
    Drain and flake tuna. Add remaining ingredients. Serve as sandwiches or on lettuce with sliced tomatoes and carrots. Serves 4.
    Note: For a more filling salad, add 2 cups of cooked, chilled small-shell pasta.
      • calendar