1920 Description of Vitamins

Text Description of Vitamins
Source: American Cookery (May, 1920)

Nutrition is important, so I try to prepare foods that contain lots of vitamins: spinach – yes; sugary pastries – no (at least most of the time).

A hundred years ago people were aware of vitamins (though they spelled the word differently), and, like now, they tried to prepare nutritious meals.

 

Puffy Green Pea Omelet

puffy green pea omelet on plate

Omelets are a wonderful way to turn the lowly egg into a really special dish, so I was thrilled when I came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Puffy Green Pea Omelet.

This omelet is as light as a cloud. It gets its fluffiness from beaten egg whites. And, creamed green peas make a tasty and healthy filling.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Puffy Green Pea Omelet
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

I used butter instead of Crisco shortening in this recipe. And, I put all the creamed green peas in the omelet rather than reserving some to put around the edge of the omelet.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Puffy Green Pea Omelet

  • Servings: 2 -3
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Omelet

4 eggs, separated

4 tablespoons water

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place egg whites in a bowl, and beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then stir in the water, salt, and pepper. Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet on the top of the stove using medium-low heat. (If needed to prevent sticking, liberally grease the skillet before heating.) Pour the egg mixture into skillet, and gently cook for 1 minute. Move the skillet to the oven, and bake for about 10 minutes or until the egg mixture is set. Remove from oven, and loosen the edges of the omelet from the skillet with a knife or spatula, then turn onto a plate. Spoon the creamed green peas onto one half of the omelet, and fold in half. Serve immediately.

Creamed Green Peas

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup milk

1 1/3 cups green peas, cooked

In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir the flour, salt, and pepper into the butter. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in milk and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Gently stir in the peas and bring back to a boil; remove from heat.

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“Why Crisco with a Balance Diet”

Image of woman baking and a can of Crisco
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

Shortening is made by hydrogenating soybean, canola, or other oils to make them solid and shelf-stable. Today there is a debate about whether shortening is good or bad.  A hundred-years-ago Crisco, which is a shortening, was the “new kid on the block,” and its manafacturer had to convince cooks that it was better than lard and other animal fats.

Back then lard and other animal fats were generally produced by local farmers – so there were variations in the characteristics and quality. To convince cooks to switch to Crisco,  advertisements focused on its wholesoness and purity. Here is what a 1920 promotional cookbook for Crisco said:

Why Crisco with a Balanced Diet

Solomon was one of the keenest observers in all history. Referring to the good woman he said: “She looketh well to the ways of her household.”

Certainly good cookery is one of the most important of the things worthwhile in life and Crisco has been a contributing factor to the comfort and gratification of countless housewives and chefs who seek for delicacy and wholesomeness of their own cooking. Undoubtedly many lives are shortened by unwise choice of foods. Many others suffer handicaps in depleted energy through indigestion and malnutrition resulting from ill-prepared or badly-balanced foods.

Crisco is so wholesome in itself it may be used with perfect assurance that it will aid in the preparation of a chosen diet that will not only be well balanced but possess those qualities of tastiness and daintiness for which every good cook has striven from the days of Epicurus at his luxurious feasts.

The stomach is the human laboratory in which all chemical changes in food take place, either for weal or woe. Crisco is so clean and pure it always blends nicely with the right food combinations likely to remove causes of so many internal digestive troubles and consequent misery. To the American housewife we say try Crisco in your own cooking.

You will find how delicious and dainty the natural flavors of many foods can readily be when prepared with Crisco and thus tasted at their very best. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are using the kind of cooking fat necessary for wholesome, well-balanced meals.

If there is any question, you may desire to ask on dietary problems or cooking, feel perfectly free to write us and ask us. Our Bureau of Household Service will gladly advise you, for it is maintained in the interests of better cooking and happier homes.

Yours very sincerely,

The Procter & Gamble Company

Source: Balance Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

 

Canned Apricot Sherbet

dish with scoops of canned apricot sherbetThe store where I shop recently expanded its selection of canned fruits. Several weeks ago I noticed that there were canned apricots on the shelf and decided to buy a can. I put the can in a kitchen cupboard and figured that I’d eat the apricots “someday,” so I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a recipe for Canned Apricot Sherbet just a few days later.

The sherbet was easy to make with just three ingredients – canned apricots, sugar, and water. It was light and refreshing, and makes a delightful summer treat.

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Canned Apricot Sherbet
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

Today sherbet is often a summer dessert, but a hundred years ago sherbet and ice cream were often winter treats. Many people did not have ready access to ice in the summer, but could easily use ice or snow to make frozen desserts during the winter.

The directions in the old recipe about using snow to make the sherbet reminded me of when I used to post my grandmother’s diary entries. As some of you may remember, I originally started this blog as a place to post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred-years to the day after she wrote them. She kept the diary when she was a teen living on a farm in central Pennsylvania. On Sunday, February 12, 1911 she wrote about making ice cream:

Pa and Ma went away today and we had the house to ourselves while they were gone. Of course we had a fine dinner for my sister is an excellent cook, or rather she thinks she is. Any way we had dinner. Ice cream consisted of part of it. I had to turn the freezer, which I soon tired of. (I usually tire of anything I don’t like.) Any how I froze that cream so hard that it all crumbled up in big chunks . . .

Where did Grandma get the snow or ice that she used to make the ice cream? Did she gather snow from a snow bank? . . . or did she find some large ice cycles that had fallen off the roof? . . . or maybe she went down to the nearby creek to gather ice. . . or . . .

Then, two weeks later on Sunday February 26, 1911, she wrote:

I went to Sunday school this afternoon and staid for church and catechize. The walking was extremely bad, but still I went. We had chocolate ice cream for supper. We all rather like it, so we have it occasionally which is about once in a week.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Canned Apricot Sherbet

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 can apricots (regular size can – approximately 1 pound)

2 cups sugar

1 cups cold water

Drain apricots and press through a sieve.  (I used a Foley mill. The apricots could also be pureed using a food processor or blender.) Set aside.

Put sugar and water in a mixing bowl; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in apricot pulp.

Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours, then place in ice cream maker and freeze. (I used a 1 1/2 quart automatic electric maker.)

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1920 Estate Electric Range Advertisement

Advertisement of Estate Electric Range
Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1920)

Sometimes I see advertisements in hundred-year-old magazines that make me appreciate some of the little conveniences that I seldom think about. This advertisement made me realize that I am fortunate to have an electric strove (and that I am fortunate to have an air conditioner that I can turn on whenever I want to use it.)

Old-fashioned Maple Nut Cake

 

Slice of Maple Nut Cake on PlateOld-fashioned nut cakes bring back warm memories of family gatherings many years ago. There always seemed to be at least one nut cake – and often more – at family reunions. They were made by great aunts or other miscellaneous relatives. (I often was unsure of the relationship.) So when I saw a recipe for Maple Nut Cake in a hundred-year-old promotional cookbook published by the Royal Baking Powder Company, I decided to give it a try.

The cake is made in a loaf pan. The old recipe recommended using chopped pecans in the cake, so I went with that nut. The cake is iced with Maple Icing. It turned out wonderfully, and tasted just like those old-time cakes of memory.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Maple Nut Cake
Source: New Royal Cook Book (1920), published by the Royal Baking Powder Company

And, here are the original Maple Icing recipes. (The cookbook contained two icing options.):

Two Recipes for Maple Icing
Source: New Royal Cooking Book (1920) by Royal Baking Powder Company

I interpreted a “moderate oven” to be 350° F. However, the cake was not even close to being fully baked after 45 minutes, so I continued baking until a pick inserted in the center came out clean, which was about 1 hour and 10 minutes after I put the cake in the oven.

I made the first Maple Icing recipe. I softened the butter, and did not bother to heat the milk.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Maple Nut Cake

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Maple Nut Cake

2 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup shortening

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped nuts – preferably pecans

additional chopped nuts for top of cake

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites stiff peaks form.

In a separate mixing bowl put the flour, shortening, brown sugar, egg yolks, vanilla,  baking powder, and salt;  beat until combined. Then stir in the nuts, and gently fold the whipped egg whites into the mixture. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 1 hour 10 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Frost top with Maple Icing. (If desired, the cake can be removed from the pan. A slightly thinner icing can be made, and the icing can then be drizzled over the cake and allowed to run down the sides.).  While the icing is still soft, sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Maple Icing

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

approximately 2 tablespoons milk

Put confectioners’ sugar, butter, and maple flavoring in a bowl. Add milk and beat until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add additional milk.

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Fish Is Best Right After It Is Caught

Boy fishing
Source: Household Arts for Home and School, Vol. II (1920) by Anna Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

When I buy fish, I always try to select ones that look “fresh.” But I often find it difficult to determine whether a fish is fresh. According to The Healthy Fish, when buying fish at the grocery store:

  1. Check the Texture. The meat of the fish should be firm, moist and freshly cut without any dry spots. …

  2. Beware of Strong Fishy Smells. …

  3. The Eyes are the Window to the Freshest Fish. .

That advice is similar to advice from a hundred years ago. Here’s what it said in a 1920 home economics textbook:

Fish has always been used in place of meat (Fig. 209). In general it has much the same composition and food value as meat and is as easily digested. In most localities it is cheaper than meat. Fish is always at its best when used just after it is caught (Fig. 210). However, great quantities are frozen and are kept for long periods of time.

fish
Source: Arts for Home and School, Vol. II (1920) by Anna Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

Fish spoils very easily and needs to be cooked or put into storage at once. If you live near the sea coast or near lakes or rivers where fish is caught, you should have no difficulty in getting fresh fish, but if you do not, you should be careful when buying to select fish with firm flesh, pinkish gills, and bright eyes; it should not have an offensive odor. If the fish is frozen, it should be cooked immediately on thawing it out. Unless good fresh fish can be bought it is more satisfactory to use salt fish or the canned product. 

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