In his blog, Russ Steele writes: “Ellen and I attended the Republican Women Federated’s 60th Birthday party last night with 150 of our like-minded friends. The Republican ladies really know how to throw a great party. This theme was the 1950s, with many of those attending dressed for the times, poodle skirts, T-shirts with cigarettes pack rolled up in the sleeve, leather jackets and Elvis wigs.”
He adds, “It was a great party, with food of the 50s, and thoughts for our political future.”
I got to thinking about “Food of the ’50s” and whipped out Mom’s Helen Corbett cookbook from our collection. (She was a lifelong Republican too):
Here’s the background from TexasCooking.com. We also have this cookbook in our collection: “The Best from Helen Corbett’s Kitchen.”
“It took a determined Yankee to teach Texans that they could eat – and enjoy – something besides their beloved barbecue or chicken-fried steak.
“Born in 1906 in upstate New York, Helen Corbitt graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in home economics. She thought about entering medical school, but the Depression sent her down a much different path. Following what Helen called “my hospital days” as a dietician in New Jersey and New York, the University of Texas came calling. In 1940, she accepted a position in Austin teaching catering and restaurant management.
“Two years later, Helen left for a job at the Houston Country Club. At first unsure about remaining in Texas, she finally decided to stay. In her first cookbook, Helen Corbitt’s Cookbook, she singled out this time as “the most happy days of my food career.”
“After a short stint at Joske’s of Houston, she returned to Austin in the early 1950s to manage the Driskill Hotel’s dining room and catering. Politicians who ate at the venerable hotel appreciated food that looked as good as it tasted. Helen’s recipes even appeared on White House menus during Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidency.
“Stanley Marcus brought her to Dallas in 1955 to direct Neiman Marcus’ food-services department. Businessmen and shoppers alike flocked to the flagship store’s Zodiac Room (now called The Zodiac) to enjoy lunch that started with Helen’s signature touch of chicken consommé in tiny cups. Some of her recipes remain on the menu to this day.
“Among her most famous food innovations were Texas Caviar (using black-eyed peas), Snowballs (frosted cake cubes rolled in coconut), Flowerpots (Baked Alaska in small clay pots), and Poppy-seed Dressing. Helen was credited with creating this tasty dressing, but denied the accolades, stating that she only popularized it.
“Helen Corbitt died on January 16, 1978. Stanley Marcus compared her to a famous fashion designer of the time, calling her “the Balenciaga of Food.” The Duke of Windsor, who had enjoyed Helen’s food and conversation at a luncheon in Houston, pronounced her dishes “fit for a king!”
“Responsible for spearheading a food revolution in her adopted state, Helen once said, “Life, and especially Texas, has been good to this Yankee girl.” Her influence changed Texans’ tastes forever.
One recipe is here.
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