It’s been a while since my last post: mainly because I had been writing and thinking and thinking about lots of other, non food related things. But just today I picked up a copy of the August edition of Food&Home Entertaining magazine, and to my delight, found another of my pieces of writing which I had submitted a while ago. I was not sure when exactly it was going to be used, so I was paging through the magazine, as I do, and found this:
And here is the article:
A fifties favourite remembered.
I could not for the life of me remember what it was called, this strange looking metal rod with a wooden handle, and at the other end, three cast metal shapes: round, triangular and square. I had just unpacked it from a box of kitchen stuff from my dad’s packed-up belongings I had been storing since his death. The last time I saw this, was when I left home years ago. My mom used to keep it in a bottom drawer in the modest kitchen in the house I grew up in an East Rand town.
I could not even recall the name of the little fried batter shapes, which my mom’s mother who lived in an adjacent town, used to make heaps of on a Saturday morning before a planned cocktail party. And then it came to me: this was a Snackle Iron™, to make “snackles”. I Googled it, and found it under vintage kitchen tools. There are even some for sale with their original packaging and instructions, including a recipe for the batter.
I remember this grandmother standing over her stove, deftly dipping this iron contraption into thick, pancake-like batter, coating these moulded metal shapes before plunging it into the hot, roiling oil. She almost immediately scooped out the resultant fried batter casings, which loosened themselves sizzlingly from the metal as they cooked. This whole process was repeated, until there was a gleaming heap of straw coloured square, round and triangular casings cooling on a plate, quite fragile and very crispy, ready to be filled with something savoury. They were then stored in an airtight container, until they were needed.
The “something savoury” was usually tuna mayonnaise, and also chopped hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise, and savoury mince too, slightly curried. These fillings were spooned into the casings at the very last minute. Once filled, they became soggy, sagging sideways if left uneaten. I remember standing on a chair in my grandmother’s kitchen rather clumsily putting a halved cocktail onion in the middle of each bite-sized snack. My 6yr old self thought the cocktail onions, red and green and yellow, were the epitome of style! The filled and garnished “snackles” were then arranged artfully on large plates, and carried to the dining room table by my mom and her sisters, their silky skirts swishing against their stockinged legs. Other platters were carried to the table too: mini meatballs threaded onto toothpicks together with cubes of cheddar and that obligatory cocktail onion, and another favourite: whole dates wrapped in bacon and then deep-fried. For the daring and sophisticated, there were green olives stuffed with pimento, also on toothpicks.
These “cocktail parties” were had without any cocktails. I never saw even a martini glass or a champagne flute before I went to varsity. The men would drink Gin and Tonic, but more often, Brandy and Coke in ordinary highball glasses, and pop whole snackles into their mouths. The women would have weak wine spritzers, or tiny glasses of sweet sherry, and pick daintily at the finger food. For us kids, little plates of this cocktail fare were set out on the kitchen table, keeping us away from under the grown-ups’ feet.
I think I should, at least once, use this retro kitchen tool. I’ll make a stack of casings, and at my next party serve snackles with updated and deeply flavourful fillings: scrambled eggs, soft and creamy, with speckles of smoked salmon and a dainty dollop of caviar. Or spicy chicken livers with a little salsa on top, or crayfish ceviche with a sliver of lime… endless possibilities. It may not start a trend, but it will be my culinary homage to an era long past.