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HOME COOK

Of Ham Loaves and Chocolate Rolls

September 16, 1993|MARION CUNNINGHAM

After World War I, as women made their forays into the workplace and the polling place, a new breed of restaurant bloomed to meet their needs. Tearooms--the very name suggests propriety and domesticity--were the first eating establishments to welcome unescorted women. These places flourished in large cities, becoming practically an extension of the home. With their friendly atmosphere, simple but nourishing home-style menus and inexpensive prices, tearooms offered these "new women" a reassuring replacement for the families and parlors they had left behind.

They also offered tea, but the favorite drink of the era was the pink Champagne cocktail. This, however, was incidental to the food, which tended to be solid and substantial, not just dainty nibbles. It was like food that mothers used to serve at home--but presented more attractively. The sandwiches, the ham loaves, the egg sauces and chocolate sponge rolls with chocolate sauce, popovers, chicken a la king--all were familiar, friendly and satisfying without being heavy. And because they were made with fresh ingredients, they tasted as good as they looked.

Because telephones were rare (unless you were willing to share your conversation on a party line), tearooms were also ideal places to catch up on gossip and news. Diners and lunch counters, which sprang up around the same time, lacked the warmth and privacy for this necessary social function. What barrooms were for men, tearooms were for women: havens where one could purge oneself of secrets to trusted friends.

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To enter a tearoom now is to be whisked back 50 years to an era when "home cooking" meant almost no "prefab" ingredients and certainly no microwave ovens or food processors. Of course, there aren't many tearooms left these days. The most famous Los Angeles-area tearooms were to be found in department stores: Robinson's, Bullocks Wilshire, Bullock's Pasadena and others. Around the holidays you'll still see a few older women wearing hats and white gloves, dining at the only remaining Los Angeles tearoom I know of, Bullock's Pasadena, with children, grandchildren and sometimes great-grandchildren. If you are weary of trendy restaurants where the food is so nouvelle as to be unrecognizable, then you will find tearoom cooking a refreshing oasis.

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Egg sauce is very good on many green vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and spinach.

EGG SAUCE 1/2 cup butter 4 tablespoons flour 2 cups hot water 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

Put 1/4 cup butter in saucepan over low heat. Do not let butter turn brown. Add flour to melted butter. Mix well. Simmer several minutes. Add hot water little at time and stir as it thickens.

When smooth, add remaining tablespoon butter in small pieces. Stir until absorbed. Add salt and pepper. Stir in chopped, cooked eggs. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Each tablespoon contains about:

48 calories; 96 mg sodium; 37 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0 fiber.

HAM LOAF 3 cups ground ham 1 1/2 pounds ground pork 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme 1 whole bay leaf, crumbled 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, preferably dark rye 1 egg, lightly beaten 1/2 cup milk

Mix ham, pork, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, bread crumbs, egg and milk together in bowl.

Lightly pack mixture into medium-size loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees 40 to 50 minutes, or until meat fat bubbles around edges of pan. Remove and pour off excess fat.

Let stand 10 to 15 minutes in pan before turning out. Serve hot or cold. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

455 calories; 1,588 mg sodium; 198 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 14 grams carbohydrates; 48 grams protein; 0.10 gram fiber.

CHOCOLATE SPONGE ROLL 5 eggs 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup cake flour 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla Powdered sugar 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped and sweetened with 2 tablespoons sugar Quick and Easy Chocolate Sauce

Put eggs and sugar into mixing bowl and beat about 4 minutes with electric mixer until pale, fluffy and light.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in bowl, stirring with fork to blend well.

Turn mixer to lowest speed and sprinkle flour mixture and vanilla over egg mixture. Mix few seconds. Using spatula, gently finish folding flour into egg mixture until no white streaks show.

Grease 15x10-inch jellyroll pan and line with wax paper. Grease and lightly flour wax paper. Spread batter evenly in jellyroll pan. Bake at 350 degrees about 12 minutes, or until top of cake is golden.

Spread tea towel on counter and sift little powdered sugar evenly over towel. Invert cake onto towel. Remove wax paper and roll cake wide-side-up in towel. Leave rolled up until ready to fill.

To assemble, unroll and spread cake all over with whipped cream evenly right to edges. Roll cake again and place seam-side-down on serving dish. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar. Slice and serve with Quick and Easy Chocolate Sauce. Makes about 10 servings.

Each serving contains about:

311 calories; 299 mg sodium; 139 mg cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 33 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.36 gram fiber.

Quick and Easy Chocolate Sauce * 8 ounces semisweet, bittersweet or milk chocolate 1 cup whipping cream

Break chocolate into heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring frequently. While stirring, slowly add cream and continue to stir until well blended. Remove from heat and serve hot or let cool to room temperature before serving. Makes about 1 cup.

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