No... not those 90s. The other ones. Before those...
I have in my collection strange little book, "Rector's Naughty '90s Cookbook". This fascinating book was published in 1949, yet the recipes are from the 1890s. They are recipes from father and son team Charles and George Rector. in 1899 Rector's Restaurant on Broadway in NYC was one of the finest, most opulent restaurants anywhere in the U.S. This article from 1908 notes that the building bought to 'upgrade' the restaurant cost upwards of $700,000! It was where anyone, who was anyone went. It was known for “loose” women, not so above-board gentlemen and all around hijinks. It's name was put to songs, plays and slang.
On the elder Rector's death, hundreds of recipes were found in his files. Those recipes are what make up this interesting little book, filled with long forgotten ingredients, headshots and biographies of leading women of the day and period (for the 1890s) advertisements.
The recipes themselves are a great collection of the 'novel' and 'elegant' from turn of the century America. There one I chose was for:
Stuffed Avocado a la Maxine Elliot
It's an old take on the shellfish stuffed avocado with “Russian” dressing. One of those, at one time was considered elegnt, now is considered cliché dishes. The recipe for the dressing included a few ingredients I had never heard of, “India Relish”? But it really was tasty. There's a reason recipes like this one stick around.
As for the recipe's namesake? This Maxine Elliot was one dapper woman. She was smart, beautiful and strong. She was an actress, lover of kings, robber barons and anyone else she fancied. Married several times, it was said she had better business sense than most men. I assume this dish was served at one of her sought after lavish and "fabulous dinner parties."
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbs chili sauce
2 tsp finely chopped green pepper
2 tsp India relish
2 tsp finely chopped pimento
Combine all ingredients and blend well.
After prohibition made running the restaurant difficult, George Rector (the son) and his wife toured the US and wrote food articles for the Saturday Evening Post. They issued a well received cookbook in 1928 and were considered culinary experts who appeared in national newspapers, on the radio and in newsreels offering culinary advice until 1947.
The book is a snapshot of what Americans were looking back at in the 40s. What were they nostalgic for? Apparently the freedom to be "loose," carefree and opulent. Sounds good to me!