Friday, January 18, 2013


 Above is the latest addition to the Nicholson Archive or Dubious Cookbooks.  This one is compiled by the Sandia Base Woman’s Club of Albuquerque, New Jersey, and it’s dated 1954. 

The foreword by Mrs. Perditta Long (who sounds like a Thomas Pynchon character to me) says the recipes have been put together by a “special investigating committee ... which penetrated the security barriers guarding treasured kitchen secrets of club members … at this atomic base,” which suggests to me that the girls maybe didn’t take Cold War rhetoric quite as seriously as their government might have liked.

Between 1946 and 1971 Sandia Base was the site of atomic weapons research, testing, fabrication, and storage.  The food recipes are as downhome and all-American as you might expect; Jello-Applesauce Salad, Georgia Dickinson’s Lobster Casserole Surprise, Ozark Pudding. 

It’s the small collection of cocktail recipes that goes really nuclear. The Percolator Punch consists of one cup of citrus fruits and pineapple, half a cup of honey, and a quart of bourbon.

But my favorite is the Champagne Punch.  No Moet et Chandon here.  There ingredients are:

Half a gallon of sauterne, 
1 pint sherry,
1 quart Branch (I had to look that up – as far as I can tell it means plain water,  preferably from a stream)
2 large bottles charged water (had to look that up too – it’s soda water)
2 Bottles of 7 Up
Then oranges, lemons and sugar to taste.

Well, that would certainly be a drink to get you through the nuclear summer, if not the nuclear winter, and I know the good folks in Champagne get very upset if you use the term “champagne” to describe a sparkling wine from anywhere else in the world, so Lord knows how they’d feel about that usage in Champagne Punch.

We do know that the past is another country when it comes to food and drink, and especially to cocktails.  Everything was so much sweeter back then.  So when I was in Cole’s restaurant in downtown L.A. a couple of days back, it seemed only natural to order the “Original Martinez” on the drinks menus, made from genever, Dolin sweet vermouth, orange curacao, angostura bitters and with a Luxardo cherry. It looked like this:

I found it a little sweet too sweet for my taste, but I’m sure the girls in Albuquerque, in 1954, would have lapped it up.

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