Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Complete Electric Kitchen

I had to share this latest find which cost me 99 cents in a secondhand shop - I present to you the Mr. & Mrs. Roto-Broil Cookbook (4th printing, 1956) by Sarah Alexander, starring the Roto-Broil rotisserie oven which was made by the Klinghoffer family of Queens. The purple paperback, with 225 recipes in it, was published "by Roto-Broil Corp. of America, Long Island City, N.Y." I remember Long Island City as the place where my scary driving teacher took me to practice 3-point turns back in the early 1980s, but little did I know then that I was in Roto-Broil territory.

Here is a link to the Greater Astoria Historical Society which talks about the Roto-Broil operation there.

Now your Roto-Broil comes in three sizes and status levels, rather like the three bears. You got your Riviera, your Capri, or your doesn't-have-a-resort-name. I wish they had called the baby bear model something like the Long Branch (this was a resort in New Jersey - my grandmother's family worked there in the World War I era, doing what I do not know, but something to do with boardwalk concessions I believe). Or the Coney Island. Or even the Brighton-in-the-middle-of-August (now we're in England, which is closer to the Meditarranean, I suppose.

The Roto-Broil does the following things: it barbecues, broils, grill, boils, roasts, toasts, fried and bakes. Not all at once, I trust. But it appears to be trying to.

Take, for example, the "Capri" model on the front cover. It is tackling a whole turkey, some hot dogs and burgers and bacon on the top tray, and a large waffle on the "Bak-A-Tray" that is hovering warily near the Capri.

(Before we turn to the other models, I want to know what sort of meal this is supposed to be. Come on. Is this breakfast, Thanksgiving dinner or a summer cookout? Is this the result of some dysfunctional family conflict over meals? Has the Roto-Broil restored harmony to some troubled household, mercifully out of camera range, that cannot agree on which meal it is time for?)

Let's move on, shall we?

The Riviera is on the back cover. It boasts a coffee pot up on the top bit, as well as a pan and five bagel-like objects clustering around the pan and the coffee pot. The Riviera in the high season, it mst be. Just like a crowded beach, with everybody toasted and broiling and frying.

If you were a cheapskate you could go for the Roto-Broil Custom "400" (the "Long Branch", if you will) which looks quite similar to the others to me. And with it is our old friend the Bak-A-Tray, which has abandoned its waffle and now holds a large chocolate layer cake. How did the Bak-A-Tray manage to produce that?

Inside, they talk about a fourth, really new model called the "Sun Valley" that is the "'Cadillac' of rotisseries" and can cook a 25 lb turkey or "up to 8 chickens." (But, I say, weak from looking at all the activity going on with the Riviera et al, I don't want to cook 8 chickens!)

Now this Roto-Broil could be used "all day - any place" and was an "Automatic Infra-Red Complete Electric Kitchen." I don't know that I like the sound of the infra-red rays that are shooting around all day and any place (really? ANY place? you can cook with this, what, in the forest? in the bathroom?)

My initial question, when I first looked at this wonderful little book, was why the "Mr. & Mrs." Presumably this refers to the target market, not the appliances being, um, married to each other. Are single people not supposed to use this? Will the infra-red rays attack them if they do?

Questions we may never know the answers to.

On the inside back cover is a small photo of a man in a chef's hat who looks extremely happy and excited. He is identified as the "Roto-Magician" who has been talking up the Roto-Broiler on television "from coast to coast." From coast to coast! They still said things like that when I was a kid 15 years later, it was still exciting to think that we could all be slumped in front of TVs all across the continent.

The Roto-Magician looks a little like Ralph Kramden when he was trying to unload the 2000 "Handy Housewife Helpers" on TV, assisted by Ed Norton, wearing those big white chef's hats. Ralph got very nervous and fell into the set kitchen wall at the end. The Handy Housewife Helper did almost as much as the Roto-Broil: among other things, it could (in Ralph's words) "core a apple," scale fish, remove corns and clip nails, sharpen scissors, open bottles and cans and peel potatoes.

And now let me present a genuine Roto-Broil recipe. All the temperature setting are in capital letters, because at this point the reader will be too excited to be thinking clearly.

Barbecued Bologna Kebabs

2 lbs bologna sausage
Barbecue Sauce for Ham or Pork
Red wine, if desired

Remove casing from sausage, and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Marinate sausage in barbecue sauce for at least an hour (note: it may be necessary to prepare double quantity of sauce recipe). Place sausage cubes on skewer spit. Brush again with barbecue sauce. Barbecue at MEDIUM heat for 10 minutes; brush with barbecue sauce. Turn heat to HIGH and barbecue 10 minutes. If desired, brush with wine, and barbecue for another five minutes.

NOTE: Serve with huge salad bowl and French bread

My NOTE: Could they possibly use any more barbecue sauce? The bologna cubes will have drowned by the time you stick them in the Roto-Broil, never mind coming at them again and again with the sauce! Leave them alone already! And then wine! The only wine I am brushing anything with is the wine that I'll be brushing up against the inside of my wine glass. I'll be needing a drink at about that point.

The other thing I love is that you serve it "with a huge salad bowl" - not with any salad, mind you. Just the bowl.


Rochelle R. said...

I am enjoying your new blog. I wish I had your clever way with words. This booklet was in a lot I bid on on eBay recently but alas I lost. I hadn't seen a giant chunk of bolonga in the supermarket for about 30 years and then 2 weeks ago there they were at my market. Once I barbecued a whole chunk on a spit. It took years to live that one down.

Anonymous said...

My mother received the "Riviera" as an engagement present (ca 1959)
and growing up it was fun to see the chicken spinning inside.
These things were made to last as it is still working. The 2008 Easter pork roast was great, thanks Roto Broil 400!

Bill J said...

I just dug a Roto Broil 400 out of the attic. It works but is missing the rotisserie piece. Any idea where I can get one?

Anonymous said...

I will try it at home!
I Buy Barbeques

JGJ said...

I just wanted to let you know that the "waffle" on the bak-a-tray is not a's a pie with a lattice top crust that, supposedly, was baked inside the roto-broil 400.