15-year-old Helena wrote a hundred years ago today:
Monday, January 23, 1911. Here’s Monday, another school day. It’s so hard to get up awful early, when you feel nice and sleepy.
Her middle-aged grand-daughter’s comments 100 years later:
Sometimes I wish that Grandma provided more detail when she wrote. There are many things that I wonder about that she apparently felt no need to write about because they were so routine.
For example, I wonder what Grandma ate for breakfast. I imagine that it was similar to what I ate two generations later when I was growing up on another farm near McEwensville—but I might be totally wrong.
In January we generally ate pancakes (griddle cakes) for breakfast. We often ate pancakes made from a mix, but occasionally had the more traditional buckwheat griddle cakes that I envision would have been eaten when Grandma was young. After the pancakes were cooked I’d put maple syrup or jam on mine—but my father always put old-fashioned liverwurst on his. We only had pancakes when liverwurst was available, and that was only during the winter months when my family or a neighbor butchered a hog.
I love to go to flea markets in central Pennsylvania with my father—
One find was a promotional cookbook published by KC Baking Powder in 1911 that contains a recipe for Buckwheat Griddle Cakes. I decided to make the recipe to see if they were like the buckwheat cakes I remembered.
KC Buckwheat Griddle Cakes
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoonful sugar
3 level teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ cups cold water
1/3 teaspoonsful salt
Sift together, three times, the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder*; stir the water in all at once and bake immediately on a hot well-oiled griddle. Buckwheat flour calls for a generous measure of baking powder. Part milk may be used to mix the cakes but water give quite as good results.
The Cook’s Book: KC Baking Powder (1911)
*I just stirred the ingredients together and didn’t sift anything. I’m not sure why old-time cookbook authors were obsessed with sifting.
I was surprised how few ingredients there were, but from looking through the cookbook I realized that most recipes a hundred years ago had very few ingredients. I guess that since people cooked from scratch every day that they gravitated toward simple recipes.
After I’d cooked the griddle cakes—I poured some maple syrup on them and took a bite. They were very good though the robust taste of the buckwheat was a prominent undertone.
I then remembered that I had a jar of homemade current conserve that a friend of my daughter’s had given me. (An aside–I think that it’s really cool how some young people care enough about what they eat to revive traditional cooking and food preservation). I spooned a little conserve on the griddle cakes and took a bite—and the taste was awesome. The tartness of the conserve wonderfully complemented the robustness of the griddle cakes—and I almost felt like I had drifted back to Grandma’s day.