Old-fashioned Cinnamon Toast

slice of cinnamon toast on plateWhen I recently was browsing through a hundred-year-old cookbook, and came across a recipe for Cinnamon Toast, memories came flooding back. I have warm, fuzzy memories of eating Cinnamon Toast, as well as fun memories of making Cinnamon Toast that bring to mind people I hadn’t thought of in years.

When I was a child, Cinnamon Toast was the perfect after-school snack. Open the door, take off coat, put a couple slices of bread in the toaster, and toast. Then spread with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and voila – a delightful, sweet treat.

I also remember how my mother always made Cinnamon Toast when I didn’t feel well, and how it always made a miserable day seem a just little bit better. Similarly, I always made it for my children when they were ill, and not hungry for the usual foods. And, I’ve noticed that, as adults, they make Cinnamon Toast for themselves when they are sick.

When I make Cinnamon Toast, no recipe is needed. It is so simple to make. But seeing the hundred-year-old recipe for Cinnamon Toast reminded of another day, many years ago when I did make Cinnamon Toast using a recipe.

It was my first day in junior high, and I was feeling very grown up going from one class to another. Then I was brought back to earth when I got to home economics, and the teacher said, “Today we are going to learn how to make Cinnamon Toast.” And, she actually gave us a recipe. My friends and I tried to suppress giggles. A few of the more daring girls (only girls took home economics back then; the boys took shop) whispered, “This is stupid. Doesn’t everyone know how to make Cinnamon Toast? Does she think we’re little kids?”

But the bottom line is – recipe or no recipe – Cinnamon Toast is the ultimate comfort food.

Here’s the original recipe:

Cinnamon Toast Recipe
Source; The Cook Book of Left-Overs (1920) compiled by the More Nurses in Training Movement

The hundred-year-old recipe calls for brown sugar, while I typically use white. Either type of sugar works. When brown sugar is used, the Cinnamon Toast has a slight hint of caramel.

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Cinnamon Toast

  • Servings: 1 serving
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 slice bread

butter

Put the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; stir until mixed. Set aside.

Toast bread then spread with butter. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. (Save any extra of the sugar and cinnamon mixture to use on another piece of toast.)

If desired, melt the sugar mixture on the toast – Preheat oven to 350° F. Place the toast on a baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish, and put in the oven for 1-3 minutes or until the sugar is melted; remove from oven and serve immediately.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

1920 Lenten Luncheon Menu

Lenten Luncheon Menu
Source: American Cookery (March, 1920)

There’s been a history of giving up meat during Lent for a long time. I’m not sure exactly what was allowed a hundred years ago – and it probably varied depending upon someone’s religious and ethnic background – but this 1920 Lenten menu clearly suggests that it was common to eat fish instead of meat during this time of year.

Old-fashioned Cocoa Cookies (Chocolate Cut-out Cookies)

coffee mug and cookies on napkin

I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Cocoa Cookies that I just had to try. This recipe was actually a cut-out cookie recipe. The cookies had a crispy exterior with a softer, cake-like interior, and just the right amount of sweetness. They are lovely with coffee (or milk).

Here is the original recipe:

recipe for cocoa cookies
Source: New Royal Cook Book (1920), published by Royal Baking Powder Co.

When, I followed the recipe, the cookie dough was extremely dry and crumbly, so I added a second egg to make the dough a better consistency that could be rolled.

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

Cocoa Cookies (Chocolate Cut-out Cookies

  • Servings: approx. 40
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1/4 cup butter or shortening (I used butter.)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup milk

2 large eggs

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cocoa

2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400° F. Cream butter (or shortening) and sugar; then stir in milk and eggs.  Add the baking powder, salt, and cocoa; stir until combined. Add the flour and stir until well mixed. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick; then cut into shapes. Place on greased baking sheets. Bake 9-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com

Hundred-Year-Old Advice: Should Baking Soda Be Added When Cooking Vegetables?

vintage can of Royal Baking Powder
Source: New Royal Cookbook (1920) published by Royal Baking Powder Co.

When I cook vegetables in water, I usually add a little salt to the water. Apparently people a hundred-years-ago wondered whether it was a good idea to add baking soda when cooking vegetables.

Baking Soda in Cooking Vegetables and Fruits

The baking soda will soften the water in cooking beans or cabbage, and the vegetables will cook quicker and more thoroughly, but the alkali has a destructive effect on the vitamins present in these vegetables, and in all fresh foods. Scientists tell us that these vitamins are more important to nutrition than the foods themselves are when deprived of them, and that we lose the good of the food if the vitamins are destroyed. Try adding a little vinegar to the water for beans or cabbage; this will soften them quite as well, and our friends, the vitamins, are not injured by acids, only by alkalis.

Source: American Cookery (February, 1920)

Hundred-year-old Recipe for French Onion Soup

bowl of French Onion Soup with toast and cheese on top

French Onion Soup topped with toast and Swiss or Gruyere cheese is my favorite “restaurant soup,” so I was intrigued when I saw a recipe for French Onion Soup in a hundred-year-old cookbook. I could immediately tell the old recipe wasn’t exactly like a modern one because the soup was topped with toast and American cheese.

I have a somewhat negative stereotype of American cheese (and it just isn’t the same as Swiss or Gruyere cheese), so my expectations weren’t very high for this recipe. But I was pleasantly surprised. The resulting soup tasted similar to modern French onion soups–and the melted American cheese was yummy (and not the least bit jarring) when immersed in the soup. My husband even said that he liked how the cheese was “less stringy” than the cheese on the typical French Onion Soup.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for French Onion Soup
Source: A New Snowdrift Cook Book (1920) by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen

Old cookbooks often just use the generic term “cheese.” This is the first time I’ve seen a hundred-year-old recipe explicitly call for American cheese. According to Serious Eats, James Kraft patented a method for making process American cheese in 1916, and it apparently was widely available by 1920.

This recipe is from a promotional cookbook for Snowdrift published by The Southern Cotton Oil Trading Company. Snowdrift was a shortening made from cottonseed oil. When I made the recipe, I substituted butter for the Snowdrift.

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

French Onion Soup

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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3 tablespoons butter

6 medium-sized onions, thinly sliced

1 quart soup stock (I used beef broth.)

1 slice of bread for each bowl of soup

1 slice American cheese for each bowl of soup (Use 2 slices per bowl if the slices are thin.)

Melt butter in a Dutch oven or stock pot, then add onion slices. Using medium heat sauté until the onions have softened and caramelized while stirring occasionally. It will take approximately 45 minutes for the onions to caramelize. Add the soup stock, and bring to a simmer.

In the meantime, lightly toast bread. Cut toast into squares small enough to fit the soup bowls; then cut the American cheese into squares slightly smaller than the toast. Top the toast with the squares of American cheese. Put under the boiler until the cheese melts (about 1 minute); remove from oven.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls, and top with the toast squares/melted cheese.

1920 Tips to Prevent Spreading Disease

Woman drinking from a cup.
Source; Household Arts for Home and School (Cooley & Spohr, 1920)

During this cold and flu season, I frequently see tips for staying healthy. A hundred years ago people also want to avoid spreading diseases. Here is a list in a 1920 home economics textbook of precautions to take against infection and spreading disease:

  1. Use individual towels, combs, brushes, and clothing.
  2. Use individual drinking cups.
  3. Do not put fingers or hands to the mouth or face.
  4. Do not put money, pencils, pins, or anything else but food and drink into the mouth.
  5. Use a handkerchief to cover a sneeze or cough.
  6. Do not carry a handkerchief in the hand or leave it lying about. Put it where it will not be seen.
  7. Use gauze or clothes that may be burned when you have a cold; then burn them after use.
  8. Never kiss anyone on the mouth.
  9. Never spit on the floor of any building, or on the sidewalk.
  10. Avoid crowds of all kinds when there is an epidemic.
  11. Isolate yourself when there is an epidemic.
  12. Disinfect all dishes, clothing and other things which have been used by a person who had had a contagious disease.

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

Old-fashioned Fried Parsnips

fried parsnips in bowl

When I recently saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Fried Parsnips, I decided to give it a try. As winter begins to wind down, I’m enjoying some of the less common vegetables.

The parsnips are cut into large chunks. After they are cooked, each piece is dipped into a batter and then fried. The Fried Parsnips had a delightful earthy, sweetness which was accentuated by the crispy coating.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Fried Parsnips
Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

I could not figure why the cooked parsnips were supposed to stand in the butter for half an hour, or why the batter was to sit for half an hour – so I didn’t include extended wait times when I updated the recipe.

I also substituted butter for some of the Crisco, and any shortening or lard works for frying.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Parsnips

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 pounds parsnips (6 – 8 medium parsnips)

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter

shortening or lard

Peel parsnips and cut into 2 1/2 inch chunks. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until tender (approximately 20 – 25 minutes). Drain.

While the parsnips are cooking, make the batter. In a mixing bowl place the egg, milk, flour and 1/4 teaspoons salt. Beat until smooth; set aside.

Melt butter in skillet, then add cooked parsnips. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then gently roll in the melted butter. Remove parsnip pieces from the skillet, then add enough shortening or lard to the skillet so that there is 1/2 inch of shortening once it is melted.

Dip each piece of parsnip in the batter to coat, remove from batter, let any excess batter drip off, then put the batter-coated parsnips pieces into the hot fat. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then gently roll several times to brown other sides. When browned, remove parsnip pieces from the skillet with a fork. Drain on paper towels, then serve.

http://www.ahundredyearsago.com