The original recipe is from the pages of The Settlement Cookbook
Until the recent past, I associated scalloped potatoes with the boxed variety. You know the kind; the kind made up entirely of sodium, dehydrated potatoes, and, um, more sodium. I wish I could say I was off-put by those as a kid, but I wasn’t. I gobbled them up, just I did hamburger helper and Little Debbie Snack Cakes. I’m proud to say I’m a product of two very hard-working parents and because of this, my love for cooking started in my family kitchen, cooking boxed, processed food after school, .
As I delve more deeply into these old cookbooks, it’s very clear that, as you would think, there was very little which was processed, boxed, or quick to make. I noticed American cheese was a key ingredient in this scalloped potatoes recipe, which really surprised me. Oddly enough, American cheese was around in the 20’s.
(You know the kind made up entirely of sodium…and, um more sodium).
I didn’t have to look far for information about American Cheese’s origin. The Michigan State University’s publication, Michigan Dairy Review
(April 2009), describes below:
“The first patent, which was issued to [James L. Kraft] in 1916, describes melting pieces of Cheddar cheese and stirring it while heating to form a homogenous warm cheese which was then packaged in glass jars or cans. This first patent did not describe addition of emulsifying salts and/or other ingredients during processing. The use of emulsifying salts (sodium phosphate) was described later for the first time in 1921 in a patent issued to George Herbert Garstin of the Phoenix Cheese Company.”
Thus was the birth of American Cheese, nearly a century ago.
I made the scalloped potatoes for Easter, going by the recipe verbatim, and friends said they liked them, though I thought they left a lot to be desired. The white sauce was really thick and didn’t really brown when cooked. The finished product looked (and tasted, in my opinion) much like you’d expect dishes to look in the early days: kind of monochromatic and goopy. Though I don’t have a rave review for this one, it did inspire the very tasty and very colorful Scalloped Beets with Rosemary, Chevre, and Walnuts.
I should also mention this white sauce is used in MANY recipes in this particular cookbook. Hopefully, I don’t run into a recipe where it’s slathered on a lime jello mold.