1920 Tip: Use Paper Cups to Hold Picnic Salads

potato salad in a paper cupCooks have shared tips across the years. A hundred years ago Good Housekeeping magazine had a tips column called Discoveries. Readers could submit tips, and were paid one dollar for each tip that was used.

Here’s a tip for how to serve salads at a picnic:

Picnic Salad

When going on little picnic suppers – especially in a machine, where one eats by the roadside or in the car seat – individual paper drinking cups are most satisfactory as containers for salads. The salad may be packed in the individual paper cups and garnished attractively with a sprig of parsley in one side. They always call forth favorable comments and are not messy to handle and each person has his own portion easily handed out.  – Mrs. R.H., D.C.

Good Housekeeping (June, 1920)

Hundred-year-old Recipe for Boiled Corn (Corn on the Cob)

corn on the cob on plate

I see some very basic recipes (I tend to call them non-recipes) for simple foods in both modern and hundred-year-old cookbooks. Apparently both in 2020 and 1920 some cooks had simple questions – like how do you cook corn on the cob?

In 1920 corn on the cob was referred to boiled corn. And, here are directions for making it:

Recipe for boiled corn
Source: The New Royal Cook Book (1920)

When I made the recipe I skipped the suggestion to put the Boiled Corn on a napkin. Somehow it just didn’t seem necessary – and it seemed like the napkin might get soaked from any water that dripped off the corn.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Boiled Corn (Corn on the Cob)

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Husk corn and remove all silk. Fill large pot 2/3’s full with water. Bring water to a boil using high heat. Place husked corn in the boiling water, and boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove the corn from the water.


1920 Directions for Building a Fire in a Coal Stove

drawing of coal range showing a direct draft
Source: School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta C. Greer

A hundred-years-ago many people used a coal stove for cooking. Here are directions in a 1920 home economics textbook for building a fire in the stove:

Fire Building in a Coal Range

It is necessary to have the fire box, ash pan, and other parts of the stove clean before building a fire. After cleaning, place a generous layer of loosely crumpled paper over the bottom of the fire box, then about four layers of kindling wood, placed so that there are air passages between the pieces, and on top of the wood put two shovelfuls of coal. Regulate the dampers for a direct draft, replace the stove lids, and brush the surface of the stove. 

Before lighting the fuels, polish the range in the following manner: 

To the nickel of the stove apply whiting and ammonia or any satisfactory metal cleaner. 

To the iron of the stove apply oil. Light paraffin oil may be used for this purpose. Apply the oil with cotton waste, or a soft cloth. (Care should be taken not to apply an excess of oil.) Polish with soft cotton or woolen cloth. One should remember, however, that oils must be used with caution. It should never be applied to a stove containing burning fuels. If the stove cloth, saturated with oil, is not destroyed after using, it is well to keep it in a covered tin can or stone jar. 

After polishing the stove, light the fuels. When the wood is reduced to glowing embers and the coal is burning, add more coal. If this burns well, change the dampers to make an indirect draft. 

School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta C. Greer

drawing of a coal range showing an indirect draft
Source: School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta C. Greer

The direct draft makes it easier to get the fire started, but once it is burning well, the damper is changed to allow the hot air to circulate throughout the oven and cook the food.

I’ve never used a coal stove so I have little knowledge of this topic – yet the order of steps didn’t seem right to me. I understand that the only time that the fire is typically allowed to go out is when the stove is cleaned – but why are the paper, kindling wood, and coal arranged in the stove prior to polishing the stove’s surface? I would think that all cleaning and polishing should be completed before putting the paper, wood, and coal into the stove – but I’m probably missing something. Does anyone know whether the steps in old book are the typical order for preparing a stove for lighting?

Old-fashioned Fried Eggplant, Julienne Style

Fried Eggplant, Julienne Style and Steak on Plate

The eggplants were beautiful at the farmers’ market, so I bought one – and then started searching for a hundred-year-old eggplant recipe.

I found a nice recipe for Fried Eggplant, Julienne Style. The eggplant strips were tasty, and a nice alternative to French fried potatoes.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Fried Eggplant, Julienne Style
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Eggplant, Julienne Style

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 eggplant

salt & pepper

1/2 cup flour

shortening or cooking oil

Peel eggplant, and cut into strips approximately 4 inches long, and 1/2 inch thick and wide. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow bowl, then roll the eggplant strips in the flour.

Heat 1/2 inch of shortening or oil in a large frying pan until hot. Place the floured eggplant strips in the pan in a single layer. Depending upon pan size, the eggplant strips may need to be cooked in several batches. Fry for about two minutes or until the bottom side of each piece is lightly browned, then gently turn and fry until the other side is browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.


1920 Mapleine Advertisement

Advertisement for Mapleine
Source: American Cookery (April, 1920)

When I saw this hundred-year-old advertisement for Mapleine, my first thought was –  Is this product still made?  I thought that I had a vague memory of seeing Mapleine in the spice and extract section at the supermarket, but wasn’t sure.

Well, the answer is yes. It is still made. Mapleine has been around since 1908.  According to Wikipedia, Mapleine was even part of a court case:

An early enforcement action of the United States Pure Food and Drug Act in 1909 concerned a shipment of Mapleine confiscated in Chicago. The case was “United States of America v. Three Hundred Cases of Crescent Mapleine” in which it was found that the product was misleadingly labeled to represent actual maple extract. The case was cited as a precedent for the United States Supreme Court 1916 decision in United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola.

By 1920, the Crescent Company, which made Mapleine, clearly knew that advertising needed to make it clear that Mapleine did not actually contain maple syrup. The advertisement says it is a “pure vegetable flavoring” – though I’m not exactly sure what that means.

Old-fashioned Crusty French Bread Recipe

Recipe for Crusty French Bread
Source: American Cookery (April, 1920)

My grocery store has yeast! It’s the first time that I’ve seen it in months, and I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to make – a hundred-year-old recipe for Crusty French Bread. Several years ago I’d tried to make French Bread – and I’d been disappointed in the results – so I wondered if an old-time recipe might make a more authentic French Bread.

As part of the rising process, the hundred-year-old recipe called for putting the bread dough in lukewarm water, and then waiting for it to float. I had my doubts, but it was easy to do – and I was very pleased with the results.

The Crusty French Bread turned out wonderfully. It was crusty on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. This recipe is a keeper, and I feel certain that I’ll make it again.

2 loaves of Crusty French Bread
Source: American Cookery (April, 1920)

Here’s the original recipe:

I had to use more water than the recipe called for when I made the dough by mixing water, yeast, and flour. The recipe called for 1/2 cup of water, but it was not enough to make the dough cling together.

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

Crusty French Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 packet dry active yeast

1/2 – 3/4 cup lukewarm water + 1/2 cup lukewarm water + additional lukewarm water for use during the rising process (all the lukewarm water should be 110 – 115° F.)

2 cups flour + 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

milk, melted butter, or a sugar and water mixture (to brush on the top of the loaves) (I used milk.)

Blend the yeast with a little water in a measuring cup, and when smooth, add additional lukewarm water to make 1/2 cup. Put 2 cups flour in a mixing bowl, add the water and yeast mixture, and stir to combine. If it is too dry to knead, add additional lukewarm water until it can be kneaded. (It should be dryer than for most bread doughs). Put the mixture on a prepared surface and knead to form a stiff dough (about 5 minutes). Form the dough into a ball, and score it a couple of times across the top with a knife.

In the meantime, fill a Dutch oven or other large pan 2/3 full with lukewarm water. Put the ball of dough in the water with the scored side up. If the water does not cover the dough add additional water. Cover, and let the sit in a warm place until the dough swells and floats on top of the water (about 15-20 minutes). Lift the ball out of the pan using a large skimmer.

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the salt in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water, then add the ball of dough. Add 1 1/2 cups flour. (If needed, add additional flour to make the dough the right consistency for kneading.) Put the dough on a prepared surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Put in a large bowl, cover with a cloth, and place in a warm spot that is free from drafts until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

Divide dough into two equal parts, and shape into long narrow loaves. (I rolled each part into a rectangle approximately 9″ X 20″, then rolled starting from one of the long sides.) Place on a greased baking sheet. Score with light slanting strokes of a knife across the top of each loaf. Brush with milk, melted butter, or a mixture and water and sugar. Let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes).

In the meantime preheat oven to 400° F. Put the bread in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned.


Is this a Finger Bowl?

glass finger bowl

Is this a finger bowl? It is about 2 inches in diameter and 2 inches high. It was in my mother’s china cabinet for as long as I can remember, and then after my parents passed I brought it out to my house. My memory is that my mother called it a finger bowl.

The reason that I’m asking is because I decided to do a post on finger bowls, and I pulled out this old “finger bowl” illustrate the post. I then looked at Ebay to try to find similar bowls to determine its approximate age. I was shocked to discover that most finger bowls on Ebay were about 4 1/2 or 5 inches in diameter – and suddenly realized that the small glass bowl that I have may not be a finger bowl.

Let me step back a bit further, and share what I originally planned to post. I found information on finger bowls in two home economics textbooks that were a hundred years old. The first book contained a drawing of finger bowls and said:

line drawing of a finger bowl

If fruit needs to be pared or cut at the table a silver knife should be provided, and finger bowls should be used. It is well to use paper napkins instead of linen when fresh fruits are prepared at the table, for fruit juice stains are sometimes difficult to remove.

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

Hmm. . . I can’t tell for sure, but the finger bowl in the drawing looks larger than mine.

The second hundred-year-old home economics textbook said:

Use of Finger Bowls

Finger bowls are used after the fruit course of breakfast, and at the end of a luncheon or dinner. They should be placed on plates with a doily between the plate and the finger bowl. 

For breakfast, the finger bowls and plates may be brought in first. The finger bowl and doily should be removed to the left so that the same plates may be used for the fruit course. 

For formal luncheon or dinner, finger bowls on doilies and plates are brought in, one at a time, when removing the main dish of the dessert. The finger bowls and doilies are then set aside and the plate used for bonbons and nuts, which are passed on a tray. Or, if desired, the finger bowls may be brought after the bonbons. In this case the finger bowl and plate are exchanged for the plate of the dessert course. An informal way is to pass finger bowls on plates and doilies before the dessert course. Then the finger bowl and doily are set aside as at breakfast and the dessert served on the same plate. 

School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta C. Greer

Some days I guess that I’m just destined to have more questions than answers. I still don’t know whether I own a finger bowl – and I’m now wondering whether people actually ended meals with two desserts a hundred years ago – a “main” dessert and a secondary dessert (bonbons, nuts).