Desserts We Can Afford


Photo Caption: Rice cooked with gelatin, molded when cold, and served surrounded with apricots makes a delicious dessert and a very healthful one. (Source: Good Housekeeping, November, 1917)

Do you ever worry about desserts being too expensive?

Well, it was also  a concern a hundred years ago. It was the middle of World War I, and food was costly.  Here’s some excerpts from a 1917 magazine article:

Desserts We Can Afford

Ought we to deny ourselves desserts? With all the stress that is being placed upon economy of food, many housekeepers are asking themselves this question.

But luncheon without dessert, or dinner without dessert, would be disappointing to many of us who crave something sweet with which to top off a meal. And what would the children do if they could not look forward and guess what was coming at dessert-time?

To omit desserts entirely is too much to ask in the name of economy. And it would be an unnecessary denial. At present, desserts often come as a superfluous course at the end of a heavy meal. This is a mistake. Do not omit them altogether, but make them count as food. They may be made from materials which furnish concentrated nourishment and that are rich in energy-yielding material. A simple, light meal, topped off with such a dessert will be rich in food value while being economical.

Just because you don’t like the old-fashioned rice pudding, don’t discard rice altogether for dessert. Rice, gelatin, and milk combine very attractively.

Fruits, home-canned or the commercially tinned variety, preserved or dried, are a source of inspiration for inexpensive dessert combinations. All of them combine exceptionally well with rice.

Good Housekeeping (November, 1917)

I only occasionally eat desserts – though this article brought back memories of always having dessert after both lunch and dinner when I was a child.  I’m probably using my only occasional dessert-eating as an excuse, but I decided to pass on making rice cooked with gelatin and served with canned apricots.

28 thoughts on “Desserts We Can Afford

  1. Our parents and grandparents really came up through some hard times. I guess they really deserved a sweet dessert. I always had dessert after supper growing up. But now like you, I almost never eat it.

    1. I also think that people did more physical labor back then, which allowed them to eat more calories over the course of a day with no detrimental effects. 🙂

  2. We had dessert at every weeknight supper and at Sunday dinner — but not at lunches. On weeknights, things like canned fruit cocktail with a cookie often served. The “big” desserts like pie or cake were prepared for Sunday dinner, and then the leftovers were eaten through the week until they were gone.
    (Although I still contend there’s no such thing as “leftover cake.” There’s either cake, or there isn’t!)

    1. I agree- there’s either cake or there isn’t. 🙂 Similarly to you, we also often had canned fruit for dessert – which, looking back, seems like a relatively healthy option.

  3. Lol, oh come on now, Sheryl you didn’t want to give this a try.😁 I agree ,the rice pudding sounds better. When growing up at home we often didn’t have dessert except for Sunday dinner,or holidays. Mom always had special desserts for special occasions which were always looked forwarded too

    1. I agree – It doesn’t seem like there is a need for gelatin. Today there are so many varieties of rice, and some is “stickier” than others. Maybe common rice varieties back then resulted in drier rice.

  4. I think my mom prepared a dessert for one meal almost every day. By the time I cared about food, she quit. Maybe she’d gotten the message that we needed less sugar, or maybe she was tired of cooking. It’s too bad I didn’t volunteer to make dessert. I would have been better off if I had gotten tired of it long ago.

  5. Sounds like an interesting combination. Like the rest of us we also had the desserts after lunch and dinner. Even if it was a few cookies. Now I try to keep it to fresh fruits if I crave something sweet but cookies are still my to go to easy dessert. 🙂

  6. I remember when almost every evening meal included some kind of dessert, and I guess it would make sense that when people were living through tough times, they needed desserts that were cheap to make. Now dessert is a treat reserved for only special occasions (which is probably a good thing for my waistline.)

  7. At my grandmother’s home we had pudding twice a day. It was usually something quite simple like fruit and jello or fruit and a milk pudding. I wouldn’t have thought of putting gelatin in rice pudding but it would make a firmer cake-like pudding, but the key thing about gelatin would be its health benefits. Gelatin would definitely furnish concentrated nourishment and very cheaply, too.

      1. It’s mostly protein; a good source of protein, and good for bone, skin, hair, and joints. If you aren’t able to get much meat it would be a good cheap source of protein. And gelatin supposedly helps you feel fuller for longer. Also, in today’s world, where we rarely eat meat dishes with lots of gristle and bones, we are actually missing out on a lot of the benefits of gelatin.

        1. Thanks for the info. I never thought about it before, but it been years since I’ve made a soup using soup bones. (I may need to look for a hundred-year-old recipe for broth.)

    1. I found it really interesting that rice pudding was considered “old-fashioned” in 1917. My sense is that rice pudding (and tapioca) pudding have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. It’s interesting how food trends shift across the years.

  8. For us, dessert is always fruit, sometimes fresh, sometimes canned. Real Dessert, loaded with calories is a special treat, usually expensive. The other day I made Jello from a packet I found in the cupboard and it, due to rarity, was special!

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