School Gardens a Hundred Years Ago

Childrens garden heading 5 1916

Photo caption: The first year the garden was all corn and potatoes.
Photo caption: The first year the garden was all corn and potatoes.

Some schools have wonderful school gardens that support good nutrition and the development of healthier children. I was surprised to discover that schools a hundred years ago also had gardens. The May, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal told the story of one such school, the Elihu Greenwood School, in the Hyde Park district of Boston. Here’s some excerpts:

The pupils first wrote letters to the men who owned unused land near the school, incidentally finding out how important English composition is in the business world. Permission to use the vacant lots having been granted, enthusiasm ran high. It was winter, and the only thing that could be done was to measure the ground-which every boy and girl did- and then draw plans.

The land was rocky, and the first thing to do when spring came was to clear it of stones and rubbish.  This work took more time than was expected so planting plans had to be changed. Potatoes and corn were the only crops the first year.

The breaking of the land having been accomplished, the next winter brought greater plans. The flower garden, beside the fence and bordering the vegetable garden, was 5 feet wide band 1200 feet long.The vegetable garden was divided into twenty-three plots.

Photo Caption: The second years they grew all the common and some of the uncommon vegetables.
Photo Caption: The second years they grew all the common and some of the uncommon vegetables.

The time spent in the garden could not be taken out of school work, and the children counted it as a “privilege” to begin school at half-past eight, that they might have the extra half hour in the garden. During vacation thirty-one pupils took charge of the garden, and were paid from three to four dollars a week.

Everything was for sale at reasonable rates. One could walk around the garden and say, “I should like this head of lettuce,” or “that cabbage,” or could wait at home for the visit of a boy or girl with a little cart of fresh vegetables and flowers.

It was demonstrated that garden work could be an integral part of the school curriculum in natural science, geometry, arithmetic and physical culture, as in garden work every muscle of the body is used

Caption: Gardening included training in salesmanship. Corn was sold by the foot.
Photo caption: Gardening included training in salesmanship. Corn was sold by the foot.

Old-Time Endive Salad with Homemade French Dressing

Endive Salad

Endive was a popular early Spring bitter green a hundred years ago. This divine tangy homemade French vinaigrette dressing served on crisp endive greens creates a flavorful, nutrient-rich salad.

Even though I found this recipe in a hundred-year-old cook book, it probably was considered a tad old-fashioned in 1916. Cooks a hundred years ago worried that tossed salad greens looked disorganized, and sought to impose order to salads using  scientific salad making techniques that,  for example, embedded ingredients in gelatin. Thank goodness strange food trends get reoriented over time. In 2016, this old recipe seems amazingly modern–and Endive Salad would be perfect with grilled salmon, chicken, or other dishes.

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe updated for modern cooks:

Old-Time Endive Salad with Homemade French Dressing

  • Servings: 5 - 6
  • Time: 15 minutes active prep
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 head curly endive

1/2 teaspoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne red pepper

1/2 teaspoon finely minced onion

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Chopped chives (for garnish)

Wash the endive and pat dry with paper towels, then tear the endive into bit-sized pieces and put into a large bowl. Set aside.

To prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the mustard, salt, paprika, red pepper, onion, olive oil, and vinegar.

Pour the dressing over the torn endive and gently toss. Refrigerate for at least one hour, then drain off any excess dressing and place the marinated endive in a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped chives.

Here are the original recipes:

Source: Lowney's Cook Book (1912)
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

Source: Lowney's Cook Book (1912)

French Dressing apparently was very popular a hundred years ago. Lowney’s Cook Book, a cookbook published in in 1912, had three French Dressing Recipes – none of which are anything like the cloying bright orange bottled dressing that’s in all the supermarkets today. I made French Dressing, Number 2. In my opinion, the original recipe was too salty, so when I updated the recipe, I only used half as much salt as was called for in the old recipe.

Old-Fashioned Spice Cake Recipe

Spice Cake

Can a dessert be a comfort food? If so, Spice Cake is one of my favorite comfort foods.

I found a Spice Cake recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook, and just had to give it a try. It was perfect, and brought back memories of luscious Spice Cakes at long-forgotten family reunions and church pot lucks.

This easy-to-make cake has a perfect spicy blend of  cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Brown sugar is the only sugar used in this recipe, which gives this cake a lovely caramel note.

If I had one complaint about this recipe, it’s that it did not make quite enough batter to use my “go-to” 9-inch X 13-inch oblong cake pan. Instead I used a 9-inch square pan, and that worked well. Hmm. . . now that I think about it, perhaps the smaller cake  is an advantage rather than a negative.  It was just the right size for my husband and me.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Old-Fashioned Spice Cake

  • Servings: 8 - 10
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup raisin or chopped dates (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°  F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. Combine all ingredients (except for the raisins or dates) into a large mixing bowl. Blend until well blended. If desired, stir in the raisins or dates. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Frost if desired. Good with a maple-flavored frosting.

And, here’s the original hundred-year-old recipe:

Spice Cake Recipe b
Source: Lowney’s Cook Book (1912)

Hundred-Year-Old Rice Creole Recipe

Creole Rice

Food is expensive. Sometimes I’m shocked by how much I spend when making a recipe, so I was absolutely thrilled to see a page of recipes in the January, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal for dishes that could be made for 10 cents.

Source: Ladies Home Journal ,1916

I tried not to get my hopes up too much, but the magazine promised that the recipes were not only inexpensive, but also nutritious and appetizing. I decided to try Rice Creole.

I was not disappointed. The Rice Creole was simple to prepare, and absolutely delicious. This is a lovely rice-pilaf type dish with a mild onion flavor.  And, diced tomatoes with bits of green pepper and parsley interspersed in the rice create a colorful dish that is a perfect accompaniment to fish, meat, or other entrees.

Bottom line – Rice Creole is wonderful with a surprisingly modern look and taste.  I plan to serve it in the very near future when I have friends over – and I fully expect they will to be amazed when I tell them it’s a hundred-year-old dish.

Here’s the recipes updated for modern cooks:

Rice Creole

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup rice

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1 cup onions, finely diced

2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) green pepper, finely diced

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon parsley flakes (or use 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley)

1 1-lb. can diced tomatoes, drained

Cook rice following the directions on the package. In the meantime, melt bacon drippings in a skillet, then add onions and green pepper; sauté until tender. Stir in salt, parsley, and tomatoes, and heat until it begins to simmer. Stir in the cooked rice; heat until hot.

Since Rice Creole is supposed to be an inexpensive recipe, I decided to cost it out:  1 cup rice ($0.50), 1 onion ($0.50), 1/4 green pepper ($0.32), 1 can tomatoes ($1.29), salt/parsley/bacon drippings ($0.05) for a total of $2.66. It’s a little more than the 10 cents of days gone by, but considering that a dollar in 1916 is worth $22 today, it’s still an inexpensive dish.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)

When I made this dish I used 1 teaspoon of salt (instead of the 2 teaspoons called for in the old recipe), and it turned out perfectly.

The old recipe calls for strained tomatoes. It’s unclear whether this means that the drained tomatoes or the strained liquid should be used in the recipe. I interpreted it to mean that drained tomatoes were combined with the other ingredients.

Hundred-Year-Old Directions for Separating Egg Whites from Yolks

Separating egg 2

Old recipes call for separating egg whites from yolks much more frequently than modern recipes. For example, a few days ago I needed to separate four eggs to make the hundred-year-old Lemon Meringue Pie recipe that I recently posted. The yolks went into the lemon custard filling and the whites into the meringue.

Old cake recipes also often call for separating the eggs and beating the whites before adding them to the batter to get a lighter, fluffier cake. . . and so do some old omelette recipes. . . . My list could so on and on.

Here are directions in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook for separating eggs:

Separating Whites from Yolks

Break the egg over a bowl, turn the small end down, and pull the shell apart, slipping the yolk from one half of the shell to the other once or twice, so that the white will drop into the bowl. If any of the yolk is mixed with the white, the white will not beat well on account of the fat present.

The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics by Emma E. Pirie (1915)