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Celery: from silver vases and glass bowls, to tonics, malts and soda
June 24, 2014 9:25 AM   Subscribe

If you've browsed collections of glassware from decades and centuries past, you might scratch your head and wonder, what exactly was the use of this item? This reverse glossary of vintage and antique terms may help, or it might confuse you further. For instance, why were there fine glass celery dishes and celery vases of glass and silver? Take a look back, at home in the nineteenth century with celery at the dining table. Celery was once a status symbol, due to its high cost (Google books preview), and was included in tonics and sold in the 1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue in a malt compound (Google books preview). Kalamazoo even boasted of being the Celery City in the late 1800s and for a few decades to follow. But the craze faded as celery cultivation became easier. One of the few remaining products from the celery craze is Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda, an acquired taste.
posted by filthy light thief (64 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Metafilter - Reliable Worm Syrup and Worm Cakes.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:28 AM on June 24


Mr. Celery approves.
posted by delfin at 9:28 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]




This has made me just realize that a boyhood with celery being a high-status object of desire in the process of falling down must have influenced Art Frahm via some kind of neurology cross-circuit.
posted by Drastic at 9:33 AM on June 24 [11 favorites]


"My nose is so stuffed up, I can't even taste Mom's delicious boiled celery."

If you don't have easy access to Cel-Ray to mix with your gin, here's a recipe for celery bitters.
posted by BrashTech at 9:40 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Mr. Celery approves.
In the late 1990s the operators of Wilmington’s concession stands had mascot costumes depicting a soda, popcorn, a hot dog and celery that they used to promote their offerings. By the year 2000 the celery stalk was the only costume still in the ballpark.

Kemple didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a new mascot, so when he came across the abandoned costume, he decided to see how the public responded to a dancing celery.

“To this day people still think that there’s some sort of Da Vinci Code symbolism,” Kemple said. “Why is it celery? They are rearranging the letters. It’s much ado about nothing. We happened to have the costume and threw it on someone.”
Amazing. Did they sell celery at the concession stand? And Mr. Celery is one of three mascots the Blue Rocks have.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:44 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Ugh, I can't stand the stink of celery. I'll tolerate it in a Bloody Mary, I'll begrudgingly add a few slivers to a stock, but there's just something about the smell that makes me feel a little bit ill. A decorative bunch on the dinner table? I don't think so.

And yet ... Cel-Ray is widely available around here (as widely as any celery-flavored soda can be, I suppose), but I've never tried it. And now I sort of want to. (Probably with gin. [Maybe a lot of gin.])
posted by uncleozzy at 9:48 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I despise celery. I hate the flavor; I hate the odor; I hate the texture. Raw or cooked, it's an abomination. I shun dishes from tuna salad to moo goo gai pan, just to avoid that loathsome stalk.

And yet I drink Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray. Nothing is better to wash down a big, fat pastrami on rye.

Go figure.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:48 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Huh. How about that.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:50 AM on June 24


"It's a candy dish, Ned! $90!"
posted by lagomorphius at 9:50 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Cel-Ray is the easiest way to let the staff and clientele in a Jewish deli know that you are Serious Business and not to be trifled with.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:53 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


Mr. Celery, who runs out, as we were told, in celery-bration, is really great and it's just a great little stadium, A+++ Blue Rocks*

*also, you're cheering on a team named after literally a pile of rocks, who has another mascot named Rubble, who is...a giant rock. So it's really hard to go wrong there.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:56 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I think Cel-Ray has some mild amnesiac properties. Because: every time I've been to Katz's deli, I am moved to order it because "soda that tastes like celery! WEEEEEEEIRD!" and I giggle at the first few sips because "soda that tastes like celery! WEEEEEEIRD!"

And it's only when I'm halfway through the can that I remember that I do not like vegetable flavor soda well enough to want to polish off an entire can of it, and that each time before I had sworn that I would not do it again. But then I forget the next time and order it again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


Love celery. Some varieties on the shelves this time of year are a bit on the bitter side, but a sprinkle of salt's usually all that's needed to fix it.

Also, celery salt is actually ground lovage seeds, and neither celery nor salt, discuss!

The glassware is gorgeous, but far too frou-frou - something you'd need a doily collection to accentuate.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:04 AM on June 24


That Bloody Moira sounds pretty tasty.
posted by boo_radley at 10:05 AM on June 24


Empress, I am unfortunately cursed with a similar faulty memory for a number of items. "Twinkies are great!" I think, and I buy a pack. "Twinkies are AWFUL!" I remind myself, with the first bite.

My vague recollection of Cel-ray is that it's a mild flavor, compared to some weird flavors available.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:06 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Cel-Ray is the easiest way to let the staff and clientele in a Jewish deli know that you are Serious Business and not to be trifled with.

I once asked for Cel-Ray at a supposedly "Jewish" deli (I imagine it's out of business by now, so no need to name-and-shame). "What's that?" they asked. I imagine my look of withering contempt said all it needed to say.
posted by BrashTech at 10:18 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


All I Know About Celery

1. Only food that takes more calories to eat and digest than it contains (this may not be true - childhood fact remembered).

2. Celery raw/Develops the jaw/Celery stewed/Is more quietly chewed.

3. The giant stalks of the stuff they put in the Bloody Marys in the bar where I wait for my flights back from SFO to LHR are the size of triffids.
posted by Devonian at 10:19 AM on June 24


1. Only food that takes more calories to eat and digest than it contains (this may not be true - childhood fact remembered).

Nope--not a thing.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:22 AM on June 24


Huh, I did not know that celery has a flavor. I'm obviously not a super taster.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:27 AM on June 24


The thing about Cel-Ray is that it doesn't taste like celery.

What does it taste like?

Dried figs. A soda made of dried figs.

Go figure.
posted by ostro at 10:37 AM on June 24


Fun celery fact: The ancient Egyptians used (an ancestor of) celery for its boner-making properties.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:38 AM on June 24


Wait, no, that's a fun lettuce fact. Never mind.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:39 AM on June 24


We used to have celery sticks with peanut butter in them, as a snack.

Hey, it was the seventies.
posted by gubo at 10:42 AM on June 24 [7 favorites]


tuna salad ain't tuna salad with out ground celery seed.

However, it does still remain tuna salad if you do not put grapes, walnuts, or chopped celery in it.
posted by k5.user at 10:42 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Ugh, I lived in an apartment next to a celery field once. After harvesting, they left the remainder in the field to rot. It was just an all-enveloping funk for weeks after. Worse than when the mushroom farm caught on fire.
posted by Eddie Mars at 11:26 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Worse than when the mushroom farm caught on fire.

You can't just drop that here like it's nothing and then just walk away. For serious.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:34 AM on June 24 [17 favorites]


"We used to have celery sticks with peanut butter in them, as a snack."

With raisins? That would be Ants on a Log.
posted by Mchelly at 11:38 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Also Dr. Brown's Black cherry is also authentic and way yummier than Cel-Ray. Bonus points for calling it wishniak, just to see if the waitress (generally in her 80's with a beehive and smoker's cough) is paying attention.
posted by Mchelly at 11:40 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


A dish of celery and olives is a staple at my wife's family's thanksgiving table. So, now, it's a staple at our thanksgiving table.

I don't get it and I never will get it. Olives are fine when mixed with gin and vermouth, and celery is ok chopped up fine into chicken salad, but that's about it. I don't need it with my gravy and stuffing.
posted by bondcliff at 11:42 AM on June 24


feckless fecal fear mongering, it wasn't my farm, I just happened to live near it when it caught on fire.
posted by Eddie Mars at 11:44 AM on June 24


I live in kalamazoo but I don't know if I've ever had kalamazoo celery. All the stuff at Meijer is the California stuff, not the white/yellow stuff. I'll have to keep my eyes open.
posted by rebent at 11:46 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I had some lovely celery soup in Belgium last year. So now I make it myself from time to time. Both the colour and flavour is very fresh, and now I can enjoy it even more knowing that it once was a high-status food.
posted by Harald74 at 11:49 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I'm a little surprised no one has linked to this already but Alton Brown did a Good Eats programme on Celery and featured a recipe for Celery Soda. Which I can attest to be delicious and refreshing.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:03 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I hate celery. It tastes awful, it smells terrible, and I want nothing to do with it. However, I will begrudgingly add it to stews in small quantities for its strong bitter flavor, but if I add too much the stew is ruined for me. Any dish that promotes having celery in it is a firm no-go. I once thew away an entire box of Kung Pao chicken for having a heap of celery on it (not mentioned on the menu). Blech!
posted by fremen at 12:03 PM on June 24


I've been on a binge lately of celery with blue cheese dressing--a holdover from a recent hot wings consumption.

Of course, it's blue cheese dressing--how bad could anything with it be?
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:03 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


We have a dish of celery and olives at Thanksgiving too!

In James Joyce's The Dubliners, celery is prominently featured
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:08 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


This is where I get to feel old. During my childhood, celery was definitely a very sophisticated and international and somehow expensive thing (though it wasn't). We had it with cheeses for special events. Or in virgin marys, while the adults had their bloody ones. Celery was classy.

Today I never eat raw celery, neither alone, with cheese or in salads - to me, it is like eating grass. But I use it all the time in soups and other hot dishes, I love the flavor and crunch.
posted by mumimor at 12:20 PM on June 24


Would a celery make a better pet than a cabbage? Do they like being walked?
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:22 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


A dish of celery and olives is a staple at my wife's family's thanksgiving table. So, now, it's a staple at our thanksgiving table.

That's good that you put them both in one dish. That way when you smash the shit out of that dish with a baseball bat, you're really getting your money's worth for your sudden, violent display.

(ProTip: Go for the trifecta and put some deviled eggs in that dish too. Then swing away, Merrill, swing away!)
posted by Naberius at 12:23 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


If you eat at the Jewish deli, you drink Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda. I think it's in the Constitution, or maybe one of the amendments.
posted by tommasz at 12:29 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


We used to have celery sticks with peanut butter in them, as a snack.

People don't do this any more? It was Most Depressing Snack at our house in the eighties. (Most depressing dessert? Butterscotch brownies.)

Celery is gross because the strings get caught in your teeth. It's good in pot roast when it's cooked soft.
posted by Frowner at 12:30 PM on June 24


I'm unashamed in my love for celery. Shaved raw in salads, or the bitter greens used as a garnish. Braised, in soups, roasted! grilled (seriously just a little olive oil, salt, pepper, whole stalks straight on the grill, amazing) ... I love celery.

Don't even get me started on celeriac which annoys me only because it takes (relatively) so damn long to clean the buggers before I can omnomnomnom them.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:01 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I was brought up with Cheez Whiz spread on celery as a snack. Now a days, wouldn't be caught with the Whiz in the house, but still occasionally pine for that ridiculous snack.

BTW, you can peel celery to get rid of the strings.
posted by Bovine Love at 1:02 PM on June 24


BTW, you can peel celery to get rid of the strings.

But then you have to peel the celery. I can't even bring myself to bother peeling carrots, and carrots are good.
posted by Frowner at 1:05 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]



BTW, you can peel celery to get rid of the strings.

My mother peels celery, so I do. I feel like the biggest jerk in creation, but there I am, taking the strings out.

People who come to our house, and who enjoy eating the celery, do say that it's much better without strings.

It's so Martha Stewart, one more step to make something that's essentially a garnish, more palatable. Although, I do like celery.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:17 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


To me raw celery tastes like nothing at all. Cooked, though, it does seem to add something good to stock.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:22 PM on June 24


And when I eat at the Jewish deli, though it does have celery soda, I prefer a good craft beer.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:23 PM on June 24


It's so Martha Stewart, one more step to make something that's essentially a garnish, more palatable.

That's not Martha, that's just good cooking. So don't knock yourself for doing that. You're making sure the people dining at your table will have a more enjoyable time, which is always a Good Thing ;)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:25 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Now I'm really curious about the Great Kalamazoo Celery Blight of the 1930s, mentioned in the celery city link. Why has no one written in greater detail about this obvious national tragedy??
posted by mudpuppie at 1:40 PM on June 24


Also, celery salt is actually ground lovage seeds, and neither celery nor salt, discuss!

Except when its both
posted by Dr. Twist at 2:16 PM on June 24


We used to have celery sticks with peanut butter in them, as a snack.

Hey, it was the seventies.


And my children eat them too, because they are children of a child of the 70's

Also, I had no idea that so many people had a strong feelings about celery,
posted by Dr. Twist at 2:21 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I like celery, but for its texture, not for its flavor. It's basically like crunchy water to me. I am happy to munch on crunchy water all day long.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:23 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


It's basically like crunchy water to me.

And it's far easier on your teeth than ice is.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:27 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Here in Texas it was celery sticks stuffed with pimento cheese...
posted by jim in austin at 2:37 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I get looks when I pick up a bunch of celery and sniff it at the grocery store, but it's essential for me. There are good seasons for it, when it's kinda nutty, and there are seasons when it smells and tastes like kerosene. So I definitely understand the revulsion above. But when it's good, it's so good.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:33 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


So ... many years ago, I met a collector of celery dishes (glass and pottery). Now, I encounter many collectors as an antique dealer; there are a good number of folks who collect goblets or egg cups or tumblers or pitchers or covered serving dishes or even salts ... but I've only met the one celery dish collector. Choosing to collect celeries is a certain kind of genius - celeries do not sell very well, so it's easier to negotiate a good deal at the shop or auction (dealers sell things out of box lots or trays to other auction-goers regularly) particularly if you are the only person to show interest in a piece that has languished on the shelf for months. He was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a cartoon-style dancing celery and full of celery-related "knowledge". I will never forget the practiced leer in his voice when he told me was that celery is an aphrodisiac, which is only vaguely true.

Also: Chicken salad with celery for the win.
posted by julen at 3:33 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Depressing? I still love celery with peanut butter as a snack---quick and easy peanut butter delivery system, without the extra bulk of bread, and the (dammit!) debunked folk believe in its negative calorie count makes me feel slightly virtuous for eating all that peanut butter.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:29 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda (mmmmmmm!) is made with extract of Celery Seed, not celery. I think this explains its deliciousness to people like FaintOfButt who otherwise avoid celery.
posted by warreng at 8:17 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I ordered a Cel-Ray once when I was visiting the USA. "Ha ha! I said. This is Cel-Ray! The famous drink sold at Jewish delis!" (Kosher Cajun in New Orleans, if you're wondering) "I bet it doesn't taste like celery!"

Well, it didn't really taste like celery. It tasted as though I was throwing up after eating celery casserole.

The sandwich was good, though, once the taste of the soda had gone.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:49 PM on June 24


All worthy of fancy cut-glass dishes:

Par-cooked celeriac discs baked a in garlic butter
Roasted celeriac with Oregon truffles, truffle salt, or chantarelles
Cream of roasted celeriac soup
Shredded celeriac latkes
Deep-fried celeriac balls with curry mayo

If I could just get the stuff to grow as well in Seattle as sunchokes ("Jerusalem Artichokes) do...
posted by Dreidl at 10:05 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I still love celery with peanut butter as a snack---quick and easy peanut butter delivery system...

This.

When you're being all civilized and such, it's a very easy, no mess preparation involving one utensil to clean up. Fill the sticks, place on a paper towel, and eat with your fingers.

When you're in a blue funk and sitting in front of the computer in your underwear depressed and embittered, you can dispense with the utensil by using the celery stalk to dig out the peanut butter, then lick off your wrist in lieu of wiping with the paper towel you neglected to bring. Later when your mood turns manic, you can wave the stalk as an improvised baton to a YouTube symphony.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:08 PM on June 24 [12 favorites]


After reading this thread, the word "celery" has started to look very weird to me.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:44 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I like celery, but I dislike handling it, even for the seconds it takes to wash some and roughly chop it to add to a stock. The aroma stays on one's hands for hours, and soap and water won't banish it. Coffee grounds will help, but I swear, I'd rather have garlic hands than celery hands any day.
posted by salix at 2:27 AM on June 27


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