Sunday, February 22, 2009

1933 Chicago World's Fair

During my Mom's recuperation following her recent stay at the hospital, we were relaxing in her sitting room. We were talking about what a hard worker my Dad's mother was, my Grandmother Johnston. This woman never stopped! She cooked morning, noon and night, both at the family's drugstore, that had a lunch counter with the best home cooked food you ever tasted, and at the family's Fireside Inn, a lovely old restaurant right off the MU campus in Columbia. She made millions of pies in her life, the majority of them being cherry!

Anyway, we were chatting and my Mom tells me that Grandmother, who was an avid contest entrant, saved some particular food labels for months, filled out an entry form in my 15 year old Dad's name and low and behold, Dad won an all expense paid trip to the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Can you imagine what an experience that was for a boy of 15! He talked about it every now and then, how I wish
I had paid more attention to what he said. But I do remember how amazed he was at everything he saw. The trip was sponsored by the University of Missouri and the City of Columbia. Two teens were chosen as recipients of the trip. I cannot help but feel that trip influenced both of those teens as they matured. To travel from a small college town to a giant city in 1933 was enough to change their lives, but then add the World's Fair!

As for the fair, "A Century of Progress Exposition" was conceived as a 100 year anniversary commemorating the city of Chicago and a testament to the industrial and scientific achievements up to that time.
The selected site was the land and water areas, under the jurisdiction of South Park commissioners. It was located adjacent to the shore of Lake Michigan between 12th and 39th streets. Located south of the Navy Pier in Chicago, the site of A Century of Progress had 424 acres of lakeshore and was within walking distance of Chicago's downtown. The Fair Grounds comprised of two man-made lagoons and Northerly Island.
The fair was opened on May 27, 1933, when the lights were turned on with energy from the rays of the star Arcturus. The rays were focused on photo-electric cells in a series of astronomical observatories and then transformed into electrical energy which was transmitted to Chicago.
Unlike any fair before it, A Century of Progress celebrated color and lighting. The architecture of the fair as drawn was influenced by great depression of the time. Rather than focusing on architecture, the fair focused on scientific and technological progress and the manufacturing processes behind them.

The World's Fair - View of the Exposition
from Lake Michigan
"A Century of Progress Exposition" was a unheralded success and hosted over 48 million visitors in two years it ran. It provided an uplifting glimpse into a future of embodied by technology while honoring the achievements of past. So, yes, I am sure it had an influence on my Dad.
Here is a recipe near and dear to my heart. Cherry pie is just about the easiest fruit pie to make. Sour cherries--the kind you need for pie--are rarely available fresh or frozen, so the canned variety usually is the only option for most cooks. Not only do canned cherries make good pies, but there's also no peeling, coring, seeding, pitting or slicing the fruit. Just drain, dump, sweeten, flavor and thicken, and you're in business. As for the crust, lard was used in both of my Grandmother's kitchens. I still think it makes the very best pie crust....but I know.....blah, blah, blah! She didn't have a food processor, but I do, and the crust recipe is so easy and very good.
Grandmother's Cherry Pie
Flaky Food Processor Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
5 tablespoons shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ice water

Measure the flour into the processor with the regular blade attached. Add the unsalted butter, cut into cubes, and shortening, cut into cubes. (Your fat should be frozen or very cold. You may vary the proportions, or use some lard, but the total should be 9 tablespoons.) Add salt. Pulse three times with three counts per pulse to lightly mix the ingredients.
With the motor running, pour ice water into the workbowl just until the dough just starts to get noticeably crumbly. Don't wait until it is a big clump or it will be way too wet and will turn out tough.
Stop the machine, dump the crumbly dough into a bowl, and gather the dough into a ball with your hand. you can squeeze it a bit to make it stick together. If it just won't form a ball, add a tiny bit more water. (Note that if you are making crust in the food processor, you will use less water than most recipes call for.)
Wrap your dough ball in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill it about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Roll it out on a cool surface if you can. Then follow your pie recipe for baking.
Now for the Cherry part!
1 (20 ounce) can pitted sour cherries
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 C). Make pastry and refrigerate.
Drain cherries, reserving 1 cup liquid. In a saucepan combine sugar, flour and salt. Stir in cherry liquid and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Mixture will thicken.
When mixture is thickened, add butter, almond extract, food coloring and cherries. Cover and refrigerate.
On lightly covered surface, roll out half of the pastry into an 11 inch circle. Put into 9 inch pie dish. Roll other half of pastry into another 11 inch circle. With a knife or pastry wheel, cut eight 1/2 inch strips.
Pour cooled cherry filling into pie dish. Place pastry strips horizontally, then vertically, across the top of the pie and lightly brush with egg yolk. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, and cool before serving.

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