“Making the Most of the Meat,” a chapter in Louise Bennett Weaver’s and Helen Cowles Le Cron’s whimsical 1922 tome A Thousand Ways to Please a Family with Bettina’s Best Recipes, begins with a complaint one housewife, Ruth, makes to another, Bettina:
“Oh, dear,” sighed Ruth, taking off her hat and leaning back against Bettina’s cushioned armchair, “I’ve just paid my meat-bill for last month, and it certainly did bite a chunk out of my housekeeping allowance! But I don’t know what to do about it. Fred is like most men and wants meat for one meal at least six days of the week. And that costs money!”
What to make of a man for whom meat is a most serious matter? Weaver and Le Cron present Ruth’s remarks as exemplifying an all-too-common household quandary. Fortunately, ever resourceful Bettina has the answer.
Indeed, Bettina has the answer to nearly every quandary faced by the harried housewife. From the pitfalls of the “October dinner table” to the dangers of “Canning Day,” Bettina comes to the rescue with grace and aplomb. The book’s dedication sings the praises of its quick-witted heroine:
To busy mothers everywhere
With families to please, —
With countless joys and griefs to share,
And little time for ease, —
We offer, as a truce to care,
Not even a meat-hungry husband can stymie the unflappable Bettina. She asks her disheartened friend, “Do you always make the most of every bit of meat you buy?” Ruth replies that her fickle Fred is tired of her “crisp brown hash” and laments, “I wish I knew some other ways of using up the Sunday roast.”
Bettina suggests a “meat and vegetable stew” as a break from routine. “We like that very much,” she adds. “I just reheat the left-over gravy, or if necessary, make new brown-sauce. Then when it’s boiling hot, I add bits of my left-over meat — beef, lamb or veal … and the same quantity of pared and sliced potatoes, and of course a little onion for flavoring. If I happen to have them. I sometimes add carrots or turnips and let everything cook together.” Bettina assures Ruth that “such a stew if really delicious — nothing better in cold weather when you have a good appetite.”
Ruth warms to the idea of vegetable stew. It sounds to her like something her husband would enjoy. Bettina once again defeats another devilishly difficult domestic dilemma. She advises her readers that “where there’s a single scrap left there is always a use for it, so don’t ever discard it.”
With that helpful advice in mind, you might try this recipe for Bettina’s Spanish Lamb. If you have any leftovers, you can use them to make Bettina’s Cottage Pie. Both recipes are sure to satisfy even the most carnivorous hankerings of hungry husbands.
Bettina’s Spanish Lamb
Three tablespoons butter
Two tablespoons chopped onion
Two tablespoons chopped green pepper
One cup cooked rice
One and one-half cups canned tomatoes
Two teaspoons salt
One-half teaspoon paprika
One-fourth teaspoon celery salt
One and one-half cups chopped cooked lamb
Place the butter in a frying pan. When hot, add the onion and green pepper and cook until well browned. Add the rice and allow to brown. Stir constantly with a spoon. Add the tomatoes, salt, paprika, celery salt and lamb. Cook slowly until the mixture is thick and well mixed. Serve.
Bettina’s Cottage Pie
Two cups chopped cooked meat
One cup gravy
One-half cup milk
One teaspoon salt
Two cups mashed potatoes
Two tablespoons melted butter or meat drippings
Line a buttered baking-dish with the mashed potatoes, leaving one-third of the potatoes for the top. Mix the lmeat, gravy, milk, and salt, and place on the potatoes in the lined dish. Flatten out the rest of the potatoes and place on top. Pour the melted butter over the top, and bake in a moderate oven for thirty minutes. (Have the meat cut in one-inch pieces, no smaller. The potatoes may be left-over ones. If they are too hard to handle, add a little milk and place in a double boiler over the fire until warm. Then they will be soft enough to mash down easily.)
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