1920 Advice: Wash Fruit Before Serving

Washing fruit under running water
Source: Household Arts for Home and School (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

Is it important to wash fruit before eating? Of course, the answer is “yes.” According to the National Health Service:

It is always advisable to wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure they are clean and to help remove bacteria from the outside.

Similar advice has been around for a long time. According to a 1920 home economics textbook:

All fruits that are eaten raw should be thoroughly washed. One never knows what has come in contact with the fruit through the handling or from exposure to the dirt and dust of the streets. Woman shaking dust mop; dust landing on fruit

Even oranges, grapefruit, lemons, bananas, and melons, whose skins are to be discarded, should be washed and wiped to remove surface dirt. Small fruits such as grapes and berries should be thoroughly rinsed just before serving; they should never be allowed to stand in water. 

Household Arts for Home and School (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina H. Spohr

Old-fashioned Carrot and Apple Salad

Carrot and Apple Salad on Plate

Summer is the perfect time for salads to take center stage, so I was intrigued by a hundred-year-old recipe for Carrot and Apple Salad. The recipes called for arranging apple slices that are spread with mayonnaise on lettuce, and then sprinkling with grated carrot. The recipe also called for putting additional mayonnaise in the middle plate. Based on the recipe description, I couldn’t quite picture what the salad would look or taste like, so I decided to give it a try.

The Carrot and Apple Salad was fun to make. I enjoyed arranging the apple slices on the lettuce – then garnishing with grated carrot. This is a recipe that a child might enjoy helping make.

The salad was bright and sunny. And, it met the taste test with a delightful combination of textures. There was just the right balance due to the crispness of the apples, the crunchiness of the lettuce, the sweetness of the carrots, and the hint of a dressing. (My husband and I didn’t add any of the additional mayonnaise that was in the center of the plate when we ate the salad).

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Carrot and Apple Salad
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Recipes and Household Discoveries (1920)

When I made this recipe,  1 cup of apple slices were not quite enough to make an attractive arrangement on the plate so I used additional slices. Similarly, 1 cup of grated carrot seemed like too much, so I only used about 1/2 cup.

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Carrot and Apple Salad

  • Servings: 2 -3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


1 – 1/2 cups thinly sliced peeled apples (I put the apple slices in a mixture of 1 cup water + 1 tablespoon lemon juice for 5 minutes to prevent browning; then drained and dried using paper towels.)


1/2 cup grated carrot

Arrange lettuce pieces on plate. Lightly spread mayonnaise on the top of each slice; then arrange the slices attractively on the lettuce. Sprinkle with the grated carrot. If desired, put additional mayonnaise in a small bowl in the center of the plate.


Olive Rarebit

Olive Rarebit on Toast

Welsh Rarebit over toast is one of my comfort foods, so I was intrigued when I came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Olive Rarebit. This recipe is nice variation on the classic. It contains chopped olives embedded in a savory cheese sauce.

Here’s the original recipe:

Olive Rarebit Recipe
Source: American Cookery (January,1920)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Olive Rarebit

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 teaspoon butter

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

1/4 cup milk, water, or apple cider – If desired, olive brine from the jar may be substituted for part of the liquid  (I used milk – and no olive brine.)

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

dash paprika

6 olives, coarsely chopped (I used pimento stuffed green olives.)

Put butter in a saucepan; melt using medium-low heat. Stir in the cheddar cheese; continue stirring until the cheese is partially melted. Then add the milk and continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. While continuing to stir, add the egg, mustard, salt, and paprika. Heat until hot, then stir in olives. Remove from heat. Serve over toast, English muffins, or other bread.


1920 Description of Vitamins

Text Description of Vitamins
Source: American Cookery (May, 1920)

Nutrition is important, so I try to prepare foods that contain lots of vitamins: spinach – yes; sugary pastries – no (at least most of the time).

A hundred years ago people were aware of vitamins (though they spelled the word differently), and, like now, they tried to prepare nutritious meals.


Puffy Green Pea Omelet

puffy green pea omelet on plate

Omelets are a wonderful way to turn the lowly egg into a really special dish, so I was thrilled when I came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Puffy Green Pea Omelet.

This omelet is as light as a cloud. It gets its fluffiness from beaten egg whites. And, creamed green peas make a tasty and healthy filling.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Puffy Green Pea Omelet
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

I used butter instead of Crisco shortening in this recipe. And, I put all the creamed green peas in the omelet rather than reserving some to put around the edge of the omelet.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Puffy Green Pea Omelet

  • Servings: 2 -3
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


4 eggs, separated

4 tablespoons water

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place egg whites in a bowl, and beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then stir in the water, salt, and pepper. Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet on the top of the stove using medium-low heat. (If needed to prevent sticking, liberally grease the skillet before heating.) Pour the egg mixture into skillet, and gently cook for 1 minute. Move the skillet to the oven, and bake for about 10 minutes or until the egg mixture is set. Remove from oven, and loosen the edges of the omelet from the skillet with a knife or spatula, then turn onto a plate. Spoon the creamed green peas onto one half of the omelet, and fold in half. Serve immediately.

Creamed Green Peas

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup milk

1 1/3 cups green peas, cooked

In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir the flour, salt, and pepper into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in milk and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Gently stir in the peas and bring back to a boil; remove from heat.


“Why Crisco with a Balance Diet”

Image of woman baking and a can of Crisco
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

Shortening is made by hydrogenating soybean, canola, or other oils to make them solid and shelf-stable. Today there is a debate about whether shortening is good or bad.  A hundred-years-ago Crisco, which is a shortening, was the “new kid on the block,” and its manafacturer had to convince cooks that it was better than lard and other animal fats.

Back then lard and other animal fats were generally produced by local farmers – so there were variations in the characteristics and quality. To convince cooks to switch to Crisco,  advertisements focused on its wholesoness and purity. Here is what a 1920 promotional cookbook for Crisco said:

Why Crisco with a Balanced Diet

Solomon was one of the keenest observers in all history. Referring to the good woman he said: “She looketh well to the ways of her household.”

Certainly good cookery is one of the most important of the things worthwhile in life and Crisco has been a contributing factor to the comfort and gratification of countless housewives and chefs who seek for delicacy and wholesomeness of their own cooking. Undoubtedly many lives are shortened by unwise choice of foods. Many others suffer handicaps in depleted energy through indigestion and malnutrition resulting from ill-prepared or badly-balanced foods.

Crisco is so wholesome in itself it may be used with perfect assurance that it will aid in the preparation of a chosen diet that will not only be well balanced but possess those qualities of tastiness and daintiness for which every good cook has striven from the days of Epicurus at his luxurious feasts.

The stomach is the human laboratory in which all chemical changes in food take place, either for weal or woe. Crisco is so clean and pure it always blends nicely with the right food combinations likely to remove causes of so many internal digestive troubles and consequent misery. To the American housewife we say try Crisco in your own cooking.

You will find how delicious and dainty the natural flavors of many foods can readily be when prepared with Crisco and thus tasted at their very best. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are using the kind of cooking fat necessary for wholesome, well-balanced meals.

If there is any question, you may desire to ask on dietary problems or cooking, feel perfectly free to write us and ask us. Our Bureau of Household Service will gladly advise you, for it is maintained in the interests of better cooking and happier homes.

Yours very sincerely,

The Procter & Gamble Company

Source: Balance Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill