Today there is a lot of discussion about whether students need physical education classes in school – or whether the time is better spent on academic subjects. I recently discovered that this issue has been discussed for at least a hundred years. This is what it says in the October, 1916 issue of American Cookery:
The belief seems to be growing that physical training in the American public schools should be standardized, greatly improved, and made obligatory. The Swiss system, which begins with youngsters of eight or ten years, or some adaption thereof, is being strongly urged in many quarters.
Adoption of such a system, administered by carefully trained, and thoroughly competent instructors, ought in a very few years to bring American youth to the requisite degree of “physical preparedness” — which would fit them, broadly speaking, for better and more useful citizenship in peace and in war time.
I recently made a recipe for Lemon Dumplings, and I have a conundrum. Should I change the name of a hundred-year-old recipe if the original name doesn’t come even close to describing the actual food?
The dumplings are made by dropping a sticky dough into a boiling molasses syrup. The dough is magically transformed into a dessert dumpling coated in the thick syrup that has a surprisingly complex flavor which combines the robust, nutty, sweetness of the molasses with citrus notes provided by lemon juice and lemon peel (which I assume is the reason for the name).
But, if I’d named this recipe, I won’t call them Lemon Dumplings. To me, the name “Lemon Dumplings” suggests a light, tart, yellow, citrus-flavored dessert. But the actual dumplings are a delectable old-fashioned dessert bread swathed in a rich molasses sauce. These dumplings should be called something like, “Molasses Dumplings” or “Great-Grandpap’s Favorite Dumplings” . . . or . . . anything but Lemon Dumplings.
When I made the dumplings, I asked my husband, “Is the molasses taste too strong?”
“No . . .” His voice drifted off. “They remind me of something my mother used to make, but I can’t quite place it.”
The Lemon Dumplings must have reminded him of something good, because they vanished with amazing speed.
Here’s the original recipe:
An aside: The recipes in the June, 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping had a new format that I hadn’t previously seen. The recipes included the number of calories. But, for some mysterious reason, the calories for all recipes seemed extremely high. Perhaps the magazine was reporting the total number of calories for the entire recipe rather than the per serving amount.
Put egg in a mixing bowl, and wisk until smooth. Add grated lemon peel, lemon juice, molasses, sugar, and water, and stir until combined. Put syrup into a skillet, and add the butter. [Use a skillet with a lid.] Using medium heat, bring the syrup to a boil while stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/2 cup milk, and stir to combine. If the dough is too dry, add additional milk to create a sticky dough.
Drop 1-inch balls of dough into the boiling syrup. Reduce heat to low, and cover pan. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove lid and gently roll the balls of dough to cook the other side. Put the cover back on and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
[Cook’s note: Stay nearby while the dumplings are cooking. I didn’t have any problems, but I think that the syrup could potentially boil over if the temperature is too high and care is not used.]
The April, 1917 issue of Ladies Home Journal suggested that women whose children are grown may want to get a job. The magazine described a new extension program that was looking for experienced homemakers, which the magazine dubbed “professional grandmas”, to help younger women learn the ropes of homemaking.
Here’s a few excerpts from the article:
The “Professional Grandma”
We do not generally think of a “grandma” as having a profession. But the modern grandma is still young at middle age, young enough to want a profession of her own and a wider outlet for her activities than her own family supplies.
Through a new provision of Uncle Sam, the middle-aged homemaker is now enabled to give the benefit of her large experience to women who are still grappling with the many problems of homemaking, for by the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, a “profession for grandmas” has been created. This work was to carry into the homes of farm women better ideals, newer methods and instructions in how to manage homes, cook, and care for children so as to reduce the drudgery of farm housekeeping and raising the standard of farm home living.
Here is the story of Mrs. M___, one of the first “professional grandmothers” in Massachusetts. A woman past forty who has raised a family and therefore has twenty-odd years of practical experience in home management she is also a woman of tact and sympathy.
Once a week, in the little village library she calls together the forty or more country homemakers in the surrounding district and talks to them intimately on food nutrition and on arranging their kitchens, how to choose labor-saving devices, and other problems of the homemaker.
Then she hires a horse and buggy, and visits personally the homes of those who had been at the group meeting. Once seated in the farm kitchen she gains the confidence of its mistress, noting that the kitchen might easily be arranged to save more steps, talking to the woman about the family meals, how much those meals cost and how they were prepared.
Another “grandmother” is Mrs. L__ in Illinois. Her state agricultural station told her that she was just the woman they needed as a canning demonstrator to go from county to county.
There is another “professional grandmother” in Indiana who gives cooking demonstrations at farmers’ institutes throughout the state. Sometimes this demonstration lasts two days, but generally it is what she laughingly calls a “one-night stand.”
Last spring I talked with the supervisor of this extension work in one of the largest states, and she said to me: “If I only knew where to turn to get the right women. We have more of a demand for workers than I can supply, and in a few years when the work becomes more established, still more will be needed.”
The “Professional Grandma” by Mrs. Christine Frederick (Ladies Home Journal: April, 1917)
There are lots of things I like about Easter, but using all those hard-boiled eggs lurking in my refrigerator can be a challenge. So I was pleased to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Egg Sauce. It was easy to make, and is delightful when served on asparagus or other green vegetables.
Here’s the original recipe:
The Egg Sauce recipe called for one pint (2 cups) of Cream Sauce. The Cream Sauce recipe made approximately one cup of sauce. To make the two recipes compatible I halved the Egg Sauce recipe.
Melt the butter in a saucepan using low heat, stir in the flour. Increase the heat to medium; gradually add the milk while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until hot and bubbly. Add salt, pepper, and chopped eggs. Stir to combine, continue heating until the sauce again begins to bubble. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
This poem in a hundred-year-old church cookbook doesn’t quite work for me. I need poetry, music, and art – and friends, hope, love, and books. And, what about women? Don’t they need to dine, too? Nonetheless, the introductory pages in old church cookbooks provide an intriguing window into the times.
I’m always on the look-out for good homemade salad dressing recipes. so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Thousand Island Dressing, I had to give it a try.
The Thousand Island Dressing was delightful, though much thinner than the typical modern commercial rendition. This olive oil- and mayonnaise-based dressing had just the right amount of spiciness and a lovely citrous undertone.
The modern version typically contains sweet pickle relish; the hundred-year-old recipe called for sliced chestnuts and olives. The sweet nuttiness of the chestnuts and saltiness of the olives added an appealing new (old?) dimension to this classic dressing.
8 chestnuts, sliced ( I used vacuum-packed, recipe-ready chestnuts.)
Put the olive oil, lemon juice, orange juice, onion, parsley, mustard, salt, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise in a medium bowl; and whisk together until smooth. Stir in the olives and chestnuts.
Sometimes I’m in awe of (or perhaps a better wording is “shocked by”) some of the things I find in advertisements from a hundred years ago. This 1916 advertisement for saccharin appeared in a trade magazine for food processors.
Saccharin was banned in 1911 by the Pure Food Referee Board in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to an article in National Food Magazine called “The Passing of Saccharin”:
It has a preservative power and is very cheap. But the Referee Board, which has been investigating Saccharin, has found it guilty of causing indigestion and otherwise injuring the system. Therefore, the government has issued a ruling entirely prohibiting its use after July 1.
National Food Magazine (June, 1911)
In 1912, the government reversed the decision and again allowed the use of saccharin, but it remained controversial – thus the advertisement in the trade magazine explaining why saccharin “won”.