In Mad Men Season 1, Episode 9, (“Shoot”) Don Draper is wooed by Jim Hobart, an executive with a Sterling Cooper rival firm, McCann Erickson. Hobart sends Don a membership to the New York Athletic Club and a set of golf clubs, and promises that Don will enjoy working in a bigger shop with more glamorous, big name clients such as Esso (now Exxon) and the world’s high-flying airline, Pan Am (now defunct). By contrast, Sterling Cooper’s major aviation client is tiny Mohawk Airlines, a regional carrier.
Pan Am is also the name of a new television drama set in the 1960s that debuted a week ago on ABC, along with The Playboy Club, which premiered a week earlier on NBC, also set in the 1960s. Both shows have drawn inevitable comparison to Mad Men since they seek to tap into nostalgia for the same time period.
When Betty Draper sought to bring an international flair for dinner guests, she hosted her Around the World Dinner in Season 2, Episode 8 (“A Night to Remember”). The meal she prepared reflected a surge of interest in international cuisine inspired by Julia Child and other factors, including the growing number of people traveling by air to international destinations. Pan American World Airlines had its own cookbook, published in 1954, The Complete Round-the-World Cookbook: Recipes Gathered by Pan American World Airways from the 84 Countries They Serve, by Myra Waldo (Doubleday & Company, Inc.) Waldo called this new-found culinary curiosity, “the gradual maturity of our country, gastronomically speaking.”
In the only episode of Mad Men to date set outside of the United States, Don and Betty Draper fly to Rome (Season 3, Episode 8, “Souvenir”). So, we turned to Myra Waldo’s book to see what Italian delicacies the pilots and stewardesses of Pan Am sampled when they flew there. From stuffed peppers and anchovy and rice soup to shrimp in wine sauce, fillet of beef with Marsala, and almond spongecake, Italy then, as now, was a gourmand’s slice of heaven.
But one recipe in Waldo’s book especially caught our eye because we remembered Betty trying to dress up a humble celery stalk while preparing hors d’oeuvres for the adult guests at daughter Sally’s sixth birthday party. (Season 1, Episode 3, “The Marriage of Figaro.”) She settled for filling the celery with cream cheese and capers (we include this recipe in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook). But a more ambitious celery recipe can be found in The Complete Round-the-World Cookbook. If Betty had had Waldo’s book on her kitchen counter she might have made Celery Parmigiana Style (sedani alla parmigiana). How?
Celery is delicious in this easy to make side dish (or main course) and you can easily prepare a vegetarian version by omitting the ham. Adapted from The Complete Round-the-World Cookbook: Recipes Gathered by Pan American World Airways from the 84 Countries They Serve by Myra Waldo.
- Note: This recipe calls for Gruyère or American cheese, but we prefer good quality Cheddar cheese.
- 3 bunches celery
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup stock or ½ bouillon cube dissolved in ½ cup hot water
- ¼ cup chopped ham
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup grated Gruyère or American cheese (see note)
- Wash the celery thoroughly and remove the leaves.
- Cut into ½ inch thick slices .
- Melt butter in a skillet.
- Add the celery and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring gently so as not to break up the slices.
- Add the stock, ham, salt and pepper.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Drain carefully. Preheat oven to 425˚ F.
- Place the celery in a buttered baking dish and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.
- Bake in oven for 15 minutes, or until cheese is delicately browned.
Perhaps Don should have made the leap to McCann Erickson after all, because unlike Pan Am which flew to such glamour destinations as Paris, Honolulu and Tokyo. Mohawk Airlines flew to Utica, Albany and Poughkeepsie where the most exotic native fare may have been corn on the cob and kielbasa.