Vintage Cooking – Central Lutheran Ladies Guild of Portland X Purefoy Hotel

Though I’m not a particularly accomplished home cook, one of my favorite things to collect is old cookbooks, in particular the small run examples turned out by local community organizations, or businesses capitalizing on the secrets to their own menu. Besides what you can cook from them, they’re always fascinating anthropological documents. The introductions and asides, back page advertisements and acknowledgements, and illustrations and photographs carry a wealth of details about daily life at time of publication. The evolution of cooking techniques and wax and wane of the popularity and availability of different ingredients evidenced by the writing is always interesting too.

Today, I prepared a few items from two cookbooks I’ve accumulated…

The first is from one published by members of the Ladies Guild of Portland’s still extant Central Lutheran church in Northeast. Printed by the Kenwood Company of Portland in 1956, this volume advertises Scandinavian specialties on the cover, and the set of lefse recipes I adapted from are featured front and center.

The second is from a 1941 edition of the Purefoy Hotel cookbook, authored by Eva B. Purefoy. Being a lifelong resident of the Northwest I can’t say to what degree the byline “Tried and True Recipes of Real Southern Cooking” stands up to a practiced connoisseur, but they all look pretty tasty, and the one I prepared certainly delivered.

On account of dietary restrictions and preferences in the household, a number of modifications applied to both recipes. For standard wheat flour, I substituted the gluten free 1:1 substitution mix we have around the house. Milk ingredients were also omitted or substituted.

I started off with the creamed chicken recipe from the Purefoy cookbook. Since I have an instant pot handy I just used that to cook the chicken, which since I’m not keen to deal with a whole bird was just two pounds of fresh chicken breasts. Cup of water, some salt and pepper, and a bit of garlic powder thrown in with it for 7 minutes at high pressure did the trick nicely. I then cubed the meat and set it aside.

The rest of the recipe I followed fairly faithfully, though I went heavier on the vegetables, especially mushrooms since I enjoy them a lot, and couldn’t find pimentos in the midst of the Coronavirus-instigated grocery apocalypse this weekend and so left them out. Substituting chicken stock (from bouillon) for milk worked just fine, and the gluten-free flour posed no problems aside from being a bit more prone to clumping. Adding it in slowly and aggressively whisking it into the butter and stock mixture was enough to compensate for that tendency.

The “lefse” I prepared ended up being a more troublesome adversary. I used red potatoes out of personal preference, leaving the skin on, and cooked them in the instant pot to start. Then I cut them into small sections and started mechanically mixing them at lowest speed with a flat edge beater attachment. Other ingredients were added in quantities somewhere in between the two lefse recipes pictured, with the cream and sugar omitted, and a non-dairy butter substitute used.

I’m not certain what exactly what went wrong, but I suspect the gluten-free flour… The resulting dough was not at all suitable for rolling out and I gave up on that idea in moments. As an alternative I first tried dropping a ball into a pan on the range and pressing it flat, but found the stickiness of the dough to be a problem, and also ran into the issue of it being quite slow to cook through. I tried a few different heat settings and thicknesses of cake and found the sweet spot to be about 1/4″ thick of a dough blob at 1/3 power, low and slow. Once one side firmed up the cake could be flipped without disintegrating, and yielded an passable but not pretty result. The better preparation came by way of a suggestion from my partner, who offered that we might want to drag out the waffle iron. That worked far better, at about 40% heat with a well oiled grid.

As the comments on the recipes suggest, the finished product loses its crisp pretty quickly following preparation, so I was glad I did the potato cakes last.

The finished combination is perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing dish, but it was very delicious. It came together as something resembling a chicken and dumpling soup, or inverse chicken pot pie. Certainly something I’d try again, especially once I’ve done a bit of research as to how to improve the handling of the potato based dough.

1990s Skee Ball Lightning N1C

I parted ways with my Williams Scorpion and Big Guns in December, and as part of the deal on those took a pretty beat up but complete 1990s Skee Ball Lightning in trade. I thought it would need a lot of work but it was actually a pretty simple thing to revive.

The main issue with it was a bad power supply, which I received separated from the machine, heavily corroded, and caked with dust. I didn’t even bother testing it and just ordered a fresh Happ Power Pro 200W supply and threw that in. It connected right up, but on powering the cabinet only the red LED came on and stayed steady.

I’d done my homework and knew these machines need a higher +5V input voltage than most equipment. The Happ unit was set for 5.25 volts out of the box, and I had to crank it up to 5.6 volts to get the controller to boot (the test point on the board is in fact labeled 5.6V!). Once I did that it cycled through all of the LEDs, settled on green, and after a few moments greeted me with “Have a nice day”.

Now it would play but I still had no output on the dot matrix display… This ended up being dumb simple. The cable coming out of the display is actually two sections, joined with a male-male bridge connector inside the display housing. The bridge piece in my cable was broken in half, and missing four pins. I tracked down a replacement and reconnected everything and the display came right up. Very lucky, as replacements are pretty hard to find and can cost a few hundred bucks when they do turn up.

This machine is an ‘N1C’ serial number prefix variant. There are also ‘N1E’ prefix machines with a different controller board, and an early production block that uses Skee-Ball model ‘S’ controller hardware. I’ve seen posts that indicate shared hardware between the post-S Lightning machines, and other contemporaneous titles from Skee Ball including Skee Ball Too, Tower of Power, and Yoo Yoo Punch.

I also saw a NOS ‘N1H’ board for sale that is labeled “Lightning Logic Board” and shares the connector layout of the other board types, so I’m guessing there are other compatible boards out there too, if one could find appropriate ROM images.

One of the optical sensors for scoring is flaky, registering only about 30% of the time. Fortunately these Omron EE-SPY415 modules are still readily available through Mouser and various other parts suppliers’ sites for a little over $20 each.

By far the worst thing about this machine is the metal guard cage. It’s clearly endured a ton of abuse, and has a lot of popped welds and tears due to metal fatigue to show for it. I’m going to crib from modern skee ball variants and fabricate some plexiglass guards to replace the tired metal design.

All told, pretty nice score. Any alley roller game like this will still readily make money in a bar, so used machines still command a lot of cash, and I’m fortunate to have been able to pick up a project machine relatively inexpensively as part of a package deal.

Cheap cuts – Another example of fake goods on Amazon

I’ve eschewed Amazon for many reasons, among them their lax policing of counterfeit goods, and practice of comingling stock from different sellers. Most of my online shopping happens on eBay, where I can typically evade the grifters by avoiding listings with stock photos and canned descriptions. But, occasionally I still fall victim to a drop shipper operating there and receive goods from Amazon’s tainted pool. In this case, I was attempting to find legitimate Philips Norelco HQ8 replacement shaver heads for my old AT880 electric razor, and instead ended up with junk…

I ordered a set off eBay from a seller that seemed above board, but shortly received a parcel from Amazon. I opened it and found a reasonable facsimile of the Philips retail packaging. Inside that, a set of superficially legitimate looking replacement heads. Unfortunately I quickly found the resemblance to the real thing was only skin deep.

I didn’t keep the external packaging from the knockoff set, but the impostor box didn’t set off a ton of alarm bells. The only apparent red flag I recall was a dubious looking ‘PHILIPS’ sticker seal on one end whose muddied font compared to the real trademark aroused suspicion.

As for the blades, in side by side comparison some key differences make themselves apparent. At left, we have a brand new replacement set of Philips Norelco SH50 heads, the successor part number replacing the discontinued HQ8. Middle is a set of well used original HQ8 heads. Lastly at right is the counterfeit set.

The two genuine sets are similar, with nine blades, while the fake has fifteen. Looking at the way the metal halves are joined, we can see that the real blades are secured with a small rivet, while the fake has metal tabs that are bent over to hold the halves together. The plastic drive shafts are also different, with the real ones having three protrusions along their circumference that lock into notches in the metal blade carrier plate (the notches are missing on the fakes as well). We also see the shape of the plastic drive shafts is different, with the counterfeits having a lobed shape where the real ones are round.

Finally, looking at the blade assemblies from the side, we see another significant difference. The genuine blades are actually three pieces, with a copper colored thin metal piece sandwiched between the two outer halves that curves up and presents an additional edge. The counterfeits lack this entirely, and simply have the tines coming off of the one half ground to a comparatively crude finish. This difference probably explains the bulk of the performance gap between the real and counterfeit items.

Poking around sites dealing in bulk direct from China products like Aliexpress I found a host of similar knock off blades being sold under a variety of brand names and with varying center logo stickers. Common to most is the count of blades, and the missing middle layer of the blade assembly that should provide the additional finer edge. Construction varies otherwise from offering to offering, with none of them providing anything that matches the real deal.

Unfortunately, there’s little recourse here given the time that has passed since the transaction, and not much of a way to avoid this kind of counterfeit good on many online shopping platforms. For this sort of heavily counterfeited item the best bet is probably to go with a reputable brick and mortar retailer whose supply chain can be trusted to a greater degree, and where in person inspection of the product is possible prior to purchase.

Hopefully this will help people stay alert to the fakes on the market, and if not avoid them, at least know when they’ve been had.