Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good Food Served Here

Grandma Wenzel, my mother's mother, was notorious for her wonderful food.  So much so, that during the depression era the hobo's who passed by their Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Dutch farm left a red bandana dangling on the gate--code for:   "Good Food Served Here".  Other train hoppers knew what it meant and stopped there for a meal.  Grandma always delivered.
Grandma Wenzel pictured here on my wedding day
Born Viola Diller and affectionately known as "Lola" by her husband, Grandma was no stranger to cooking for others.  She regularly fed large numbers of field hands who hurried to her door during lunch hour, after hearing the huge, iron dinner bell gonging loudly and signaling:  Time to eat!" 
She had a summer kitchen and a winter kitchen.  The summer kitchen was more like an outdoor camp kitchen and where she fed all those bronzed and sweaty field hands, famished from working tirelessly in the Lancaster County humidity, harvesting Grandpa's cash crop, tobacco. 
I can still visualize that old, sturdy wooden table, a metapor to Grandma's permancy and steadfastness. I can picture too all the sights, sounds and smells that permeated her airy and open summer kitchen.  If I close my eyes now I can just feel the light breezes tickling my skin, hear the flies lazily buzzing about, smell her incredible roast chicken and imagine the touch of the bushels and bushels of hulled lima beans, their cool shells soothing my fingertips. (Those same beans had been picked from her 2 acre garden and I remember developing calluses shelling them.) It is an era gone now and one that my own children and grandchildren will never really know.  That is sad.  
However, there are some things that still remain and that's the Savory, the roast pan of choice for my Grandmother and the one I use now.  It's the key to melt-in-your mouth beef roasts, chicken that falls off the bone and meatloaf to die for.  (I happen to be a fan of this poor man's loaf, which Grandmother did to perfection.  Unfortunately, I've never mastered duplicating her browned meatloaf or the gravy that always accompanied it.) 
Also unfortunate, while the Savory is still around, they are no longer manufactured.  But the good news is, with diligence, they can be found.  As a matter of fact, I am on the search for one now, because a certain little girl I know keeps hounding me to find her one! (I haven't found hers yet, but I know that her brother in D. C. has an agate speckled model that would be perfect for two-- hint, hint!) Savories come in a variety of fun, vintage colors and sizes and range in price from $5 (if you're really the lucky type) to $85 and up. 
A while ago I was on a girl trip with my cousins and their moms at the Jersey Shore where I scored the pictured yellow beauty above, even more stained and worn now then when I purchased it.  I paid $70 for it and was happy to do so. Caution!  There are many old roast pans "out there" but it has to say SAVORY.  Why?  Because it's double walled and cooks somewhat like a slow cooker, with all the capacity for good browning as well.  The sublime Savory with its heft and weight, broad shoulders and deep capacity are so akin to Grandma Wenzel it's no wonder I love it so much!
Since I wanted to write about it in my blog, I did a little research on the company that produced this mighty roaster, and found that--not surprisingly--someone else blogged about it too.  Here's what had to say:
She [the Savory] was made by Republic metalware company of Buffalo New York around 1908. Here is an ad in Home furnishing review of the time.
Home Furnishing Review: “Republic Metalware Co. Every buyer of house furnishing goods knows that the Republic Metalware Company of Buffalo NY manufactures the Savory Roaster. The sale of the roaster has been so enormous during the past year that there is not a housewife from Maine to California who does not know of these roasters. The Republic Metalware Company does not stop with the make of Savory Roasters however, but manufactures also the famous Hustler Ash Sifters. This is a rotary sifter that sifts out the coal clean without dust or dirt. The ashes are put in a hopper and the boy or woman of the house turns the handle which revolves a heavy galvanized sifter dropping the ashes into the barrel and throwing the unburned coal into a waiting coal skuttle. It is lots of fun to work one of these ash sifters and they will more than pay for themselves within a short time. The Republic Metalware Company also makes galvanized ash cans with broad tripple corrugated reinforced strips securely riveted on with large malleable drop handles. These are the best and strongest ash cans made and the entire equipment is one that should be known to every house furnishing dealer in the trade. Full particulars regarding this and the many other metal ware specialties manufactured by the Republic Metalware Company may be obtained from writing to the firm.
So what are you waiting for?  Get started on ebay or the internet and find that Savory so you too can say:   "Good Food Served Here".  (In the meantime, here's a Grandma Wenzel favorite recipe our family calls "Sticky Chicken".)
Grandma Wenzel's Sticky Chicken in the Savory:
4-6 chicken breasts, browned (see below)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
Salt and Pepper
Saffron (we buy the best Spanish Saffron from Shanks extracts, Inc, Lancaster, Pa
Enough cornflake crumbs to cover breasts
Roll each piece in 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs & brown seasoned breasts in butter.  Smother with celery and onion and cook at 325 for 1 hour and a half hours.  If you desire browner meat, take off the cover the last 15 minutes or so.--Enjoy!


  1. I think you had better make Jord give that Savory to someone who'll really put it to use! He can come visit it when he visits us and I'll be sure to put the red bandana outside my window so he'll know the place=)

  2. I just bought a Savory double walled roaster today at a thrift shop. I was debating because it was $8.00. When I looked inside i noticed the roaster had a double wall. I thought I better buy this. Well I just looked up the roaster and just realized how lucky I am. I will be using my new roaster for our Thanksgiving dinner.. :)

  3. My wife just inherited a Savory from her mom who recently passed. The surface is enamel....does anyone know if we need to be concerned about lead content?

    1. My fear too! I just bought a savory jr. at a yard sale. What kind of paint were they using on these pans over 100 years ago?? I can't wait to try it, but I am a lot worried!

  4. I was at a local thrift shop yesterday looking for a vintage mirror to repurpose. I didn't find one. But I did find a light blue "SAVORY" roaster with a whopping sticker price of $9.99! I didn't have any history at the moment but I do have an affinity for enamelware and knew I'd never seen one of these before so it had to be a prize. Not only was I surprised at it's potential value (priceless if you ask me) but the fact that it's history declares it a locally manufactured piece (Buffalo, NY) makes it a true treasure for me!


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