Season with Intelligence

Source: How to Cook and Why by Elizabeth Condit and Jessie A. Long (1914)

I take pride in being able to successfully interpret most hundred-year-old recipes, but I recently came across a 1914 recipe for Cream of Carrot Soup that flummoxed me. The soup is supposed to be “seasoned with intelligence.” What the heck does that mean?

This recipe appeared in a home economics textbook. According to the book’s introduction, the book was written “in the hope of doing service to all such homemakers, to the teachers of classes of older girls – whether in high school, Y.W.C.A., settlement, or elsewhere – and to the girls themselves.”  Apparently, a hundred years ago even relatively inexperienced cooks knew how to season with intelligence.

33 thoughts on “Season with Intelligence

  1. I understand what they meant, but the double meaning’s wonderful. What I especially like is the assumption that cooks could decide for themselves the right amount of seasoning. It reminds me of the speed limit signs I grew up with in Iowa: unless there was a specific limit, like in a town, the highway signs said, “SPEED LIMT — Reasonable and proper”.

    1. Your comment sent me back to the book. I was surprised to discover that your hunch was right – near the end of the book there was a chapter on “Why Flavor Counts” that discusses seasoning.

    1. It’s nice to hear that you enjoyed this post. I definitely mess up the seasoning from time to time – and end up with something that is too salty or too spicy.

  2. My daughter recently made a basic carrot soup, because the cupboard was almost bare, in the kitchen where she is a chef. She was amazed when customers remarked how wonderful it was, and wanted the recipe, which was basically the same as your example, with a shake of salt and pepper ; )

  3. I get in trouble with certain folks for seasoning food I frequently eat without tasting it beforehand. I like pepper a lot and I’m one of those folks who are fairly fond of salt.

    I suppose that I’d probably grab the pepper grinder before the first taste here. . . perhaps not the most “intelligent” approach.

    1. I’m always particularly frustrated when I use too much of something. I can always add more salt or a spice – but when I add too much, I’m just out of luck.

  4. What I found interesting was the introduction. The key word was “settlement.” A settlement was a school for young women that where immigrants. They were taught how to be housekeepers, maids and cooks. They would learn basic reading, writing, math and language skills. Large cities had these schools before WWI.

    Some of these settlement schools had cookbooks published just for the school. They also sold the cookbook as a fund raiser. The idea was to help these young women settle into their new environment and support themselves. It kept them safe and not on the streets. Also poor families sent their daughters to these schools so they would secure a better job then dangerous factory work.

    The women who taught in these schools were educated upper class and tried to instill good morals and manners also. The person who wrote the cookbook was probably upper class and felt these young women and girls needed the reinforcement of being intelligent in their craft.

    Does the book have section on cooking for the infirmed and sick? Usually they do. Being able to do basic nursing skills was also sometimes taught. I have a book from 1910 and also a early edition of the Settlement Cookbook from the same time period.

    1. It’s fascinating to learn more about the settlement schools. The particular book that I used for this post doesn’t have a chapter on invalid cooking – though I’ve seen many hundred-year-old cookbooks that do. I’ve often thought that I should try making a couple of the recipes in the invalid cooking chapters for this blog – but I’ve never actually done it.

  5. It would be interesting because it something no one has posted recently. In those days you either had family to care for you or you went to the county home. Sometimes called the poor house.

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