Hundred-year-old “Revolving Susan”

revolving susan
Source: Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home (1923)

A hundred-year-old book on scientific management of homes recommended the use of a “revolving susan.”

In many cases, where the dining table has a large enough diameter, it is practical to use in the middle of the table a “revolving susan” – or circular glass tray mounted on a revolving stand, which will accommodate butter, relishes, etc.; but its greatest value lies in assisting the host to pass dishes to each person to be served. Set the plate of food on the server, give a slight touch, and it will revolve to the person desired, thus doing away with awkward passing from one to another. Similarly the server may be used for removing the soiled plates, by each person laying their soiled plate in turn on the server, and whirling to the hostess, who will then remove them unobtrusively.

Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home by Mrs. Christine Frederick (1923)

First Vegetables Introduced to Babies a Hundred Years Ago

First vegetables for babies
Source: Order of the Eastern Star Relief Fund Cook Book (Michigan Grand Chapter, 1923)

A hundred-year-old cookbook recommended that the best first vegetables for a baby are strained spinach, asparagus, peas, and young carrots. I can’t remember which vegetables were introduced first when my children were young, but the Strong 4 Life site says:

Great first veggies to try:

  • Pureed carrots
  • Pureed squash
  • Pureed broccoli
  • Pureed sweet potatoes
  • Pureed green beans

1923 Spring Reducing Menu

menu Similarly to now, people worried about their weight a hundred years ago. A 1923 cookbook, The Calorie Cook Book, contains lots of menus and recipes for people who wanted to lose weight. The book contained menus for a week for each season of the year.  Here is the Sunday Spring Reducing Menu.

“What will we have for dinner?”


A hundred-year-old home economics textbook had a short section on planning meals:

The Planning of Meals

“What will we have for dinner?” Nearly every day in the year the average home hears this question. Sometimes the query comes very close to the meal hour and means that time is too short to prepare certain foods. This haste frequently means a hurried telephone call or a trip to the nearest store and the purchase of such materials as can be made ready very quickly for the approaching meal. This method is costly in time, energy, money and disposition, and should give place to a better plan. In a very smoothly running household there is a more or less definite and regular time for giving thought to the food question, resulting in a written meal plan and the making of order lists. Meals should be planned at least one day in advance, and very frequently it is advantageous to plan for several days. This results in better food, in less confusion, worry and waste, in lessened work, in a smaller cost, and in greater satisfaction to all persons in the household.

Economics of the Family by C.W. Taber and Ruth A. Wardall (1923)

I’m intrigued by the concerns and suggestions. In some ways the advice seems on the mark and in other ways it feels very dated. We don’t call the store to order groceries. (I actually was surprised that the textbook authors apparently expected most families to have telephones in 1923.) But we do plan menus, shop for ingredients, and try to keep the cost of food down.

Old-fashioned Rye Griddle Cakes

Rye Griddle Cakes on Plate

Do you ever decide to make a recipe because you want to use up an ingredient that is in your cupboards? Well, this is one of those times for me. I wanted to use up a  bag of rye flour that has been lingering in my kitchen for too long, so when I saw a recipe for Rye Griddle Cakes in a hundred-year-old cookbook I decided to give it a try.

When I selected the recipe, I didn’t have particularly high expectations, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The Rye Griddle Cakes (or pancakes to use more modern terminology) were absolutely wonderful. They were hearty and lovely with maple syrup. They don’t taste like rye bread, since rye bread often has additional flavorings like caraway or anise – but rather have a milder flavor. And, as an added bonus, the only flour this recipe calls for is rye flour, so it is a gluten free recipe. [2/18/23 update: My original post contained incorrect information. Readers who commented on this post noted that rye flour contains gluten – so this is not a gluten free recipe.]

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Rye Griddle Cakes
Source: Larkin Housewives’ Cook Book (1923)

I am not sure why the egg is beaten until light, then combined with the milk before adding to the other ingredients. Maybe the recipe author was beating everything by hand. When I made this recipe, I just put all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and then beat with an electric mixer.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Rye Griddle Cakes

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

1 1/2 cups rye flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups milk

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl; beat until combined.

Heat a lightly greased griddle to a medium temperature, then pour or scoop batter onto the hot surface to make individual griddlecakes. Cook on one side, then flip and cook other side.

1923 Home Economics Texbook Discussion Questions

List of Questions for Papers and Discussions
Source: Economics of the Family (1023) by C. W. Taber and Ruth A. Wardall

I’ve been reading a 1923 home economics textbook. It’s fascinating to see the questions for papers and discussion in the book. Some of the questions we still ponder today. (Should children be paid for doing work in the home?) Others are too gender-based for comfort. (Should a boy have some training along the lines of household electricity, plumbing, and carpentry? What should a girl know of these things?)

Old-fashioned Lettuce Washer

letttuce washer
Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1922)

It’s fun to see old-time kitchen gadgets. Here’s what a hundred-year-old magazine said about a lettuce washer featured in an article titled, The Newest Kitchen Utensils:

Lettuce Washer

There are few things more distasteful than a plate of lettuce or romaine or chicory which, no matter how carefully it has been selected, examined or washed, has been so imperfectly dried that the dressing is weakened almost to tastelessness by the water still remaining on the leaves. Yet this happens even in the most carefully administered households, for it is a difficult thing to dry salad plants well without breaking their delicate, tender leaves. This implement, which is a familiar object in all French kitchens, is a salad washer and dryer. The green leaves are rinsed and placed in it, then it is dipped several times in a pan of cold water, and finally it is hung in a cool place where it may drip uninterruptedly. If time presses it may be swung back and forth a few times and all superfluous water will be expelled. Place the basket close to the ice to crisp the salad until serving time.

Ladies Home Journal (March, 1923)