WATERLOO — Townspeople used to order eggs by mail.
Six dozen eggs were stored in padded compartments inside a protective metal crate. The crate was then shipped by US Post. With somewhat too easy handling, the farm-fresh eggs arrived at their destination, hopefully unscrambled.
One of these early 20th century crates is on display in the Grout Museum’s sentimental journey through “Midwest Comforts,” a celebration of the food, recipes, product advertising and amenities that made life easier home cooks.
“We’ve all been through a few tough years and thought it would be fun to host a wellness expo. Most people have positive thoughts related to food, family recipes, and family gatherings, so we pulled out some things from our collection that we thought people would enjoy and maybe remember on their own. childhood,” said Jenny Bowser, exhibition coordinator.
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Refrigerators and stoves are commonplace in homes today, but in the early to mid-20th century they were modern marvels that impacted and changed people’s lives. These innovative new machines have kept food safe and made meal preparation easier.
While preparing dinner tonight may involve opening and preparing a kit from Blue Apron or another food delivery service, prepackaged and processed foods like macaroni and cheese, canned soup, mixes cakes, frozen TV dinners and veggies were godsends for busy moms trying to get a family meal on the table.
In the Grout exhibit, a 1930s GE globe-top or “electric refrigerating machine monitor” and Tappan Deluxe stove are part of a kitchen display with a 1940s dinette set and classic cabinetry. There is also a Herrick ice fridge – in perfect condition – built in Waterloo. Considered the “aristocrat” of refrigerators, this 1930s model could hold up to 200 pounds of ice in one chamber while cool air circulated through other food chambers. This kept food cold and dry without condensation which could cause mold and food spoilage.
Black Stories collective at the Grout Museum in Waterloo
Recipes like Miracle Whip Cake with Caramel Frosting and Celebratory Potatoes — “sometimes called funeral potatoes because it was a dish people would make and take back from neighbors after a loss in the family,” noted Bowser – can be found prominently displayed in wall displays. People can take the time to write down their own family recipes to share with others.
Newspaper clippings feature details of a 1958 Betty Crocker Food Festival that visited Waterloo, and visitors are captivated by period advertisements including Waterloo’s Rath meat products, as well as Crisco, diners TV shows from Swanson, Campbell’s Soup, Quaker Oats, Spam, Tang, Folger’s Coffee, Morton’s Iodized Salt, Kleen Maid Bread, Wonder Bread, Kraft Deluxe Slices and other familiar products.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the exhibit is the nostalgic collection of classic TV commercials looped through an old-fashioned television. Younger viewers might not remember Life’s “Mikey likes it” cereal ad, for example, but older visitors will. They can also relive their childhood through Oscar Mayer’s song “Bologna” (singing along with the jingle is OK), Mean Joe Green accepting a cold coke from a young football fan, kid Kool-Aid and other iconic advertisements.
“We have 25 commercials on repeat, so it’s easy to get caught up in watching them,” Bowser said.
Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for veterans and children ages 4-13. Children 3 and under and members are free.
Try this classic recipe from the show:
Miracle Whip Cake with Caramel Frosting
- 3 cups flour
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ cups Miracle Whip
- 1 ½ cups of water
- 1 ½ teaspoon of vanilla
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- Granulated sugar
Start by grease two round molds and line them with parchment paper. Put aside. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the Miracle Whip. Gradually add water and vanilla, mix well. Pour the batter evenly into the two cake tins. Bake for 30 minutes or until cake test is complete.
For the glaze: Add the brown sugar, butter and evaporated milk to a saucepan and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Add the powdered sugar until the mixture has the consistency of icing. Frost the middle and top layers of the cooled cake.
Treasure Chest of Wonderful and Weird Objects at Cedar Valley Museums and Galleries