Ridpath Salad, from the mid-20th century

Ridpath salad

Let’s examine what is the healthiest bacon on the market,  as we indulge in an outstanding 1950’s salad,  while reminiscing about the historical Davenport and Ridpath hotels, in Spokane, WA.

This Ridpath salad dates back to my early childhood days in the mid-twentieth century; then my family traveled to Spokane, from our little mountain village of East Glacier Park, MT, on such special occasions as school-clothes-shopping.  During these trips, we always stayed at the Davenport, and ate at least one of our meals at the Ridpath, where their signature salad was served, with its pickled beets, eggs, bacon, and more.

The Healthiest Bacon

Today, with our high health-consciousness, we may be reluctant to indulge in regular bacon, but fear not, for there are safer alternatives out there.  The three recommendations in choosing the best bacon are: the uncured, reduced-sodium, and center-cut options.  1

Uncured bacon has no nitrates or nitrites and generally tastes no different.  (For more on the history of curing and nitrates/nitrites, see respectively: The Best Corned Beef  and Disguised Ham .)

Reduced-sodium bacon may not appeal, for it may present a small taste adjustment, which is quickly overcome.  This change is important, as the salt used in producing bacon isn’t the high quality pink salt-Himalayan and Real Salt, which is actually critical for optimum health.  Rather, the sodium in bacon is harmful to our bodies; thus, reduced-sodium bacon may be the best choice, if you are planning on having more than one serving (2-3 pieces)-and this only on rare occasions.

The final instruction is to look for center-cut bacon.  This is bacon that has less fat; being mostly meat; thus, it is healthier and tastes even better.  It also is easier to cook, for it doesn’t curl so readily.

To get a brand that has all the above three qualities, you may have to go to a health food store, such as New Seasons or Whole Foods, but it’s really worth it.   You will also be able to find some of these three recommendations, in various brands at your local supermarket.

Davenport Hotel  2

The Davenport Hotel, which my family stayed at during the mid-twentieth century, was built in 1914.  Louis Davenport, however, neither provided the idea or the finances for it, but because of his already strong name in the city-as a restaurant owner widely established in hospitality-he was made its overseer and first proprietor.  Rather, it was it was commissioned by the Davenport Company, a group of Spokane’s leading businessmen, who desired a large public house for boarding and entertaining their guests.

Along with engaging Davenport, this group chose Kirkland Kelsey Cutter as the architect, for it had been Kelsey who had expanded Davenport’s highly acclaimed restaurant in 1904.

Davenport and Cutter employed lavish architectural elements from Italy, France, England, Spain, and Imperial Russia, with the lobby being inspired by the Spanish Renaissance style.  Among its lush details were Irish linens from Liddell, which came over on the Titanic; all this lent to the establishment’s promoting itself as “one of America’s exceptional hotels.”

It was on the roof of this hotel that the first commercially licensed radio station in Spokane was set up in 1922.  KHQ featured Harry “Bing” Crosby, a drop-out from Spokane’s Gonzaga University, who later became world famous for his singing.

Having sold the hotel in 1945, Davenport died in his suite in 1951.  It was shortly after this that my family first began staying here.  My brother Paul, two years my junior, can recall being taken in the arms of the bellhops around the lobby to gaze into the large fish tanks.  I remember the beauty of this majestic room, as well as the scurrying about of those attending to us.

The Davenport was closed in 1985; it was re-established, after a $38 million dollar renovation, by local entrepreneurs Walt and Karen Worthy, in 2002.

Ridpath Hotel  3

While we stayed at the Davenport in the 1950’s, we always ate at least one dinner at the Ridpath Hotel, which doesn’t exist anymore as a hotel, but rather is the Ridpath Club Apartments, a renovated, low-income, apartment complex, since 2017.

This grand hotel, the Ridpath, was known as Spokane’s longest, continuously run hotel, with its original building, built in 1900 and destroyed by fire in 1950.  Being promptly rebuilt, the doors of the second iteration of the Ridpath closed in 2008, a half a century later; thus, its continuous existence covered 108 years.

The original Ridpath Hotel, established by Colonel William Ridpath, suffered its first fire in 1902, but was subsequently restored.  The other fire, in 1950, totally destroyed this 5-story building.   It was 1952, the year of my birth, that San Francisco architect Ned Hyman Abrams completed the design of this second rendition, a twelve story building, with the architectural style of modernism.  It was during this decade that my memories of this establishment were formed.

History Translated into Personal Experience

The memory of their famous Ridpath salad is vivid to me, as is Caesar salad at this hotel (for history of the latter’s origin, see Creative Caesar Salads).  For Caesars, they would coddle the egg with a Bunsen burner table side; this fascinated my young mind, as did the strong garlic, tantalizing my tongue beyond imagination.

Food holds a power over our souls; we look for the good in this.  Tastes can invoke recollections of the past in our hearts; certain recipes call forth experiences from our childhood, as well as strengths and weaknesses found in our present existence.  We watch these, as they surface in our minds, tending to these impressions with care-allowing positives in and rejecting negatives.  This ordering of our live’s palates always produces good fruit in us.

References:

  1. https://www.self.com/story/weekend-approved-bacon and https://www.healthline.com/health/cured-vs-uncured-bacon
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Davenport_Hotel_(Spokane,_Washington)
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ridpath_Hotel

light olive oil good for dressings

Ridpath Salad  Yields 6-8 servings.  Total prep time: 20 min (only if preparing your own pickled beets and croutons, total time for these two items: 1 hr 10 min/  prep time: 10 min/  cooking time: 1 hr).

2-3 small fresh beets, or 1-15 oz can of pickled beets

1 c raw apple cider vinegar, if pickling your own beets

1/2 lb bacon

3 lg eggs

3 Roma tomatoes  (Organic is best.)

1-6 oz package of organic greens  (Available at Trader Joe’s for $2.29.)

croutons  (Use ready-made, or see recipe at Healthy Greens .)

1-2 garlic cloves, for optional rubbing of serving bowl

Dressing

1/4 c vinegar of your choice  (I used lavender.)

1/3 c olive oil  (See photo above, for a light olive oil from Trader’s, for $7.99/liter, that works well in dressings.)

2 med/lg cloves of garlic  (For easy prep, may substitute 1 cube frozen garlic from Trader’s.)

1/8 tsp oregano  (Organic is inexpensive at Trader’s-$1.99.)

1/8 tsp basil  (Also available at Trader’s.)

1/8 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

  1. rubbing skin off cooked beets

    If pickling your own beets, cut roots off beets, spray with vegetable spray (an effective, inexpensive spray is a combination of 97% white distilled vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes and rinse well.  Boil until tender.  Remove from hot water, cool, and rub off skin with your hand (see photo).

  2. Next, cut beets in 1/2”x1/2”x 2” slices.  Put beet slices in a small container and cover with apple cider vinegar.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Boil eggs.  Cool, peel, and set aside.
  4. Place bacon in a large, cold frying pan.  Turn heat on to medium and brown well on one side before turning.  This method helps some with curling of bacon, as does using center-cut bacon, which is mostly meat (see photo below).
  5. center-cut bacon in cold pan

    Shake all dressing ingredients in a pint jar; set aside.

  6. Place greens in a large bowl, optionally rubbed with garlic.  Top with all other ingredients, toss with dressing, and serve.

Disguised Ham, c. 1857

disguised ham

Here is the fascinating history of the making of ham, with the differences between traditional and modern day industrial processing, as well as an early American receipt for holiday leftovers of this meat.

The Beginnings of American Cook Books in 19th Century

Eliza Leslie devised the perfect solution for the remains of our Easter dinners, in Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book (c. 1857), with her disguised ham recipe.  There she recommended baking, on toasted bread, seasoned ground ham-mixed with mustard and egg yolk-and crowning it with a golden meringue.  1

Leslie started her prolific career in 1828, with her humble Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats.  Her writing had developed greatly by the time she published the above cook book, with her disguised ham; now the New Cookery Book included a thousand recipes.  Her cook books evidenced that Leslie was following the lead of the influential Amelia Simmons in her writing of American recipes for an American audience.  2

American Culinary Heritage Originated with African American Cooks

Prior to the influence of Simmons, the heritage of our national cuisine can be attributed greatly to African American cooks on colonial plantations.  Here, due to great rivalry, the colonial dames jealously guarded their well-provisioned tables; thus, the great recipes of their Native African American cooks were strictly handed down by mouth from generation to generation.  All the cook books published this side of the Atlantic-there were only a few-were really English cook books, which were merely printed in the States.  3

Amelia Simmons Initiated the Writing of American Cook Books

Simmons changed all this, when she ushered in our nation’s writings on American cuisine, with American Cookery in 1796.  She introduced the publication of receipts using New World foods, such as cranberries, clams, shad, and terrapin, as well as cornmeal in puddings, corn cakes, etc.  She included Indian pudding, Indian slapjack (pancakes), and johnnycake or journey cake-called thus because these flat corn cakes were frequently carried on journeys.  4

Meanwhile, a number of American ladies followed Simmons’ lead with the writing of American recipes for an American audience; the most prolific of these writers was Eliza Leslie, from whom we have this inspiration for using leftover ham.

Traditional Curing of Meats

Back then, cured meats were made by either dry-salting (dry-curing) or brining (wet-curing) large cuts for several days, giving them about 60% moisture and 5-7% salt by weight.  This process preserved them and they could be kept uncooked for long periods without refrigeration.  5

Modern Industrial Processing of Cured Meats

Today salted meats-ham, bacon, corned beef-are still popular, because of their great taste, even though salting is no longer essential for preservation.  The curing process has gone from several days for traditional, wet-cured meats to just hours for their modern, industrial counterparts-in the case of some bacon-processing, the pork is cut into slices, immersed in brine for 10-15 minutes, and packed the same day.  With their milder cures, industrial meats generally must be refrigerated and/or cooked.  6

Now wet-cured hams are injected with brine.  The pork pieces are then “tumbled” in large rotating drums for a day to massage the brine evenly throughout the meat, making it supple.  Finally they are pressed into shape, partly or fully cooked, and are sold chilled, with no maturing period.  7

No Salt in Modern-day Corned Beef

Modern corned beef is also injected with brine, and actually doesn’t touch any salt grains, as its name indicates-corn comes from the English word for grains, which includes salt grains.  (For the detailed beginnings of corned beef, see The Best Corned Beef .)  8

Dry Curing Then and Now

With dry-curing, salt is used to transform pig into sublime hams, a process that goes back at least to classical times.  Among our modern versions of dry-cured ham are: Italian prosciutto di Parma, Spanish serrano, French Bayonne, and American country hams.  Though it is possible to cook these delicacies, which are comparable to long-aged cheese, they are best when eaten raw in paper-thin slices.  With a vivid, translucent rose color, their texture is silken and their flavor at once meaty and fruity.  9

In the process of dry-curing, the raw meat is cleaned, and then covered with salt, while being gradually pressed to draw out the blood.  (Specific herbs and spices may be added for flavor at this point.)  Next the hams are washed and hung to dry in a temperature-controlled atmosphere; finally, they are hung to air for a period of time.  This period may greatly vary: in the case of Serrano hams the time may be as little as 9 months, while 12 months are required for the Parma; the Iberian ham may take up to 2 years.  10

Though comparatively rare, dry-cured hams may use salt only in curing, such as with the Parma.  Most modern dry-cured ham, however, employs both salt and nitrites (either sodium nitrite or potassium nitrate), which prevents bacterial growth and gives the meat a desirable dark red color.  11

History of Nitrates and Nitrites in Curing

Potassium nitrate was first discovered in the Middle Ages; then, it was named saltpeter because it was found as a salt-like crystalline outgrowth on rocks.  Later in the 16th or 17th century, it was being used to brighten meat color and improve its safety and storage life, as well as enhance its flavor.  Around 1900, nitrite (a derivative of nitrate, due to chemical reactions during the curing process), began to replace saltpeter in the cure, except in traditional dry cured hams and bacons, where potassium nitrate has remained preferable.  Both nitrate and nitrite can react with other food components to form nitrosamines, which can be carcinogenic; thus, today we tend to read labels carefully to avoid both.  12

If you are celebrating this holiday with ham, utilize the historical Eliza Leslie’s disguised ham receipt for any leftovers.  Happy Resurrection Sunday!

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964) pp. 190, 192.
  2. Ibid., pp. 183, 187.
  3. Ibid., p. 183.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 173.
  6. Ibid., p. 175.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., pp. 173, 175.
  9. Ibid., p. 174.
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ham
  11. Ibid.
  12. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p173, 174.

finished sandwich

Disguised Ham (c. 1857)  Adapted from Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964) p. 192.  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 35 minutes/  active prep time: 18 min/  baking time: 17 min.

1/3 lb or 1 c ham, chopped to a coarse grind  (May use leftover baked ham or 8 slices of Trader Joe’s Uncured Black Forest Ham, which is nitrite-free.)

2 tsp of mustard, or to taste  (Trader’s Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce is ideal.)

Salt and pepper to taste

4 lg eggs, 3 of them separated

4-5 slices of bread  (I use homemade Struan bread, see 2018/12/17.)

Spray oil, preferably coconut spray oil

  1. grinding of ham in food processor

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. With a food processor or Vita Mix, chop ham to a coarse grind, see photo.  Measure and place 1 c ground meat in a bowl.
  3. Season ham with mustard, salt, and pepper to taste (may not need salt, if ham is salty).  May refrigerate at this point and finish just before serving.
  4. ham/egg mixture

    Separate 3 eggs.  (If you are anticipating leftovers: when separating eggs, save 1 or 2 whites in a small container in the refrigerator to be used later.)  With a fork, beat yokes and 1 whole egg in a small bowl; mix beaten yokes/egg into ham.  See photo.

  5. Toast bread in toaster; spread ham mixture on top; place in a baking dish lightly sprayed with oil; bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until brown on top (see photo below).
  6. after baking ham mixture on toast for 12 minutes

    With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff.

  7. Cover browned ham with 3/4” beaten egg white.  Return to oven and bake about 5 minutes more, or until whites are just beginning to turn golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).
  8. Serve immediately.  Great way to use leftover ham!