Monday, November 21, 2016

Cooking with We Energies: Holiday meals made easier throughout the decades

Making a holiday meal was much more time intensive at the turn of the 20th century. Many ovens were wood- or coal-burning units without knobs to adjust the heat. Refrigeration was handled by an icebox. There were no microwaves. In fact, approximately nine out of 10 American homes didn’t yet have electricity.

But as more homes became wired, the early predecessor of We Energies – The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. – provided assistance with live electric cooking demonstrations at the Public Service Building in downtown Milwaukee. There, attendees could browse the latest in appliances at the company’s retail store while learning new and easier ways to prepare family favorites. It didn’t matter that the first electric “stoves” were nothing more than six-inch hot plates … they, along with electric toasters and percolators, gave families the flexibility – and novelty – of cooking at their dining room tables.

Mary Modern: In the 1950s, Mary Modern used the airwaves
to help local television viewers in “making home life better 
With the advent of television a few decades later, holiday hosts and hostesses had only to turn the dial to catch a live demonstration from Mary Modern, sponsored by We Energies predecessor Wisconsin Electric on local airwaves. For five minutes each weekday in the mid-1950s, “Electrical Living – with Mary Modern” aired, sharing cooking and entertainment tips “for making home life better electrically.”

“Lecture-demonstrations in cookery” were offered throughout many of those same early- and mid-1900s decades by the Home Services Department of Milwaukee Gas Light Co. (which later became a subsidiary of We Energies as the Wisconsin Gas Co.). In addition to gas cooking and canning demonstrations held each week, on-staff home economists helped plan “attractive party menus” while operators answered hotline calls on all things related to cooking and preserving food. Together, they provided ready resources long before Martha Stewart, Google and Food Network were available to help – and some of their advice holds true today:
  • Determine your menu ahead of time. A simple menu, well prepared and attractively served, is key.
  •  Select familiar recipes. Don’t experiment when you entertain.
  • Above all else (as the company’s “Book of Etiquette and Table Setting” declared), “The secret of success is in careful planning – the trick is in the organization and timing!”
Interested in recipes from decades past? Check out the We Energies Cookie Book archive, with nearly all previous editions of the book dating back to 1932.

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