Drink Pure, Safe Water: Hundred-Year-Old Advice

I don’t generally worry about the safety of the water I drink. That wasn’t always true a hundred years ago. Here’s  an abridged version of what a home economics textbook from the early 1900’s  had to say:

Pure water is the most important of our foods. Water may contain impurities that come from decaying vegetable or animal matter, or it may carry the germs of disease, or minute insects or their eggs. Where shallow wells are used, water may wash filth into them. In deep wells, properly protected from insects and animals by high curbs, the water is usually pure because the many layers of soil, gravel, and rock through which it has filtered have taken out the impurities.

Even apparently pure water may contain germs only visible under the microscope. If there is any questions as to the purity of the water, send a sample to the state health laboratory or to a chemist for analysis.

If water is muddy let it settle, then pour off the clear water and boil it hard for five minutes. Put it into clean glass jars or bottles, cover it, and keep it cool. Boiled water is flat because the air is driven off, and may be aerated by being poured from a pitcher held at some height into a drinking receptacle. Distilled water, if bottled under clean conditions, is very useful in times of typhoid or epidemics of like nature. 

The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915) by Emma E. Pirie

Inexpensive Ways to Make Lemonade

Image Source: Ladies Home Journal (May, 1916)

Here’s a “Dollar Stretcher” tip for making lemonade that appeared in a hundred-year-old magazine:

If you add a teaspoonful of cream of tartar for each lemon, you can make double the amount of lemonade for the number of lemons you use. Another way to make your lemonade cheaper is to put the lemon rinds through the food chopper, pour ice water over them and drain. By doing this fewer lemons are needed.

Ladies Home Journal (January, 1918)

1918 Poem About Bread and WWI

Abridged version of a poem that appeared in the June/July, 1918 issue of American Cookery magazine.

I can learn a lot about what it was like a hundred years ago by reading old poems. For example, this fascinating poem provides lots of details about what people in the U.S. ate during World War I.

Wheat was in short supply during the war. Much of the wheat flour was shipped to Europe to feed the troops – so it was difficult (and expensive) to make white bread.  And, cooks in the U.S. had to substitute other foods.

Poppy Luncheon Table

A hundred years ago luncheons with friends often had beautiful tablescapes designed by the hostess.  Here’s a suggestion for how to create a beautiful table featuring poppies:

The poppy luncheon offers splendid possibilities for the massing of a single color, or two or three shades. Scarlet and white, or pink and white blooms blend wonderfully.

American Cookery (November 1916)

Source: American Cookery (November, 1916)

Poppies are so fleeting – and only last a few hours once cut, but my poppies are blooming, so this is the perfect time for a poppy luncheon.

Unfortunately, I failed to get organized enough to invite friends over, Not to be deterred,  I cut a poppy and popped it into a bud vase, got the good china out – and had a delightful poppy luncheon for one.

Mixing Method Definitions

“Cutting In” Flour

Cookbooks are chock full of different words that describe how recipe ingredients are mixed together. Ever wonder how  “stirring differs from beating? . . or how “creaming” differs from “rubbing”?  Well, I found the answers in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook:

Methods of mixing are important, where several ingredients are combined. We seek for a way that will give the most complete mingling of all the substances with smoothness and lightness, at the same time saving time and strength.

Sifting, or putting materials through a fine mesh, is used to lighten flour that has been packed down, to remove coarse portions, or to mix thoroughly several dry ingredients.

Stirring is done with a spoon, and is a round and round motion, used for mixing a liquid and a dry ingredient.

Rubbing is used for combining a dry ingredient with a semi-solid substance like butter.

Creaming is a term used for the rubbing of butter until it becomes soft and creamy. A spoon should be used, not the hand.

“Cutting in” with a knife is used for combining butter with flour for biscuits and pastry where the butter should not be softened.

Beating with a spoon, or beater of the spoon type, is free over and over motion, the spoon being lifted from the mixture for the backward stroke. This is used for increasing the smoothness of the mixture after the first stirring, and for beating in air. It needs a strong free motion of the forearm. Beating is also accomplished by the rotary motion of a mechanical beater like the Dover.

Cutting and folding is the delicate process of mixing lightly beaten egg with a liquid or semi-liquid without losing out the air. The spoon is cut in, sidewise, a rotary motion carries it down and up again, and it folds in the beaten egg as it goes.

Kneading is an option used with dough, and is a combination of a rocking and pressing motion, accomplished by the hands. A good result can be obtained by some bread machines, and this is the cleaner method.

Rolling out is just what the term denotes, a rolling of a thick piece of dough by means of a cylindrical wooden “pin” to the thickness proper for cookies and crusts. Dry bread is also rolled to break it into fine crumbs.

Pounding and grindingare usually accomplished for us now in factories in breaking of spices and coffee. It is better to have a coffee mill at home.

Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1915)

Hundred-Year-Old Advice: White Flour is Best for Making Bread

Today there are many tasty bread options. Some breads are made with wheat flour and contain gluten; others are gluten free.  Here’s a hundred-year-old description of the different types of flour that might be used to make bread:


White flour is the most important in bread making. Wheat contains gluten, which is the name given to the protein content. When the grain is ground into a fine flour, the gluten is elastic and has the power of stretching and expanding; making it ideal for bread making since it retains the air and carbon dioxide and hardens on baking, forming the framework of the loaf of bread.

The protein in corn and oats lacks this quality and therefore they are combined with white flour for baking purposes. Rye flour may be used alone or with white flour in bread making.

The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

Diet that will Help Prevent Tooth Decay

Every time I visit the dentist I seem to have a new cavity, so I was thrilled to find some advice about how to eat in ways that will prevent tooth decay in a hundred-year-old magazine. Here are some excerpts:

Diet in the Prevention of Dental Decay

Is there any mother who would not, if she could ensure a strong beautiful set of teeth for each of her boys and girls? Alfred Owre, dean of the dental department of the University of Minnesota feels strongly about the possibility of keeping teeth in a perfectly sound and healthy condition throughout life. He emphasizes the necessity of using hard foods, especially during the period when the bones of the jaws are developing in order to bring into full pay the organs of mastication, and he also emphasizes the necessity of eating plenty of coarse, fibrous food to keep the teeth well polished and to wear down irregularities of their surfaces.

Professor Henry Pierce Pickerill, director of the dental department of the University of Otago, and one of the foremost English authorities on the subject, agrees with Dr. Owre, on the points mentioned, but he emphasizes also the importance of keeping the mouth clean of sticky, sweet, acid-forming debris of food by selecting a preponderance of foods which are anti-acid, and eating at the end of meals such fibrous foods as celery, raw carrots, or apples. He calls attention to the scouring effect which these foods exert under the two-hundred-pound pressure of the normal bite, and their tendency to increase the quantity and quality of the flow of cleansing saliva.

It is only the residue of sweet and starch foods that is dangerous, particles of meat and other tissue-forming foods are not being fermentable or acid-forming. Our first safeguard then, lies in keeping the mouth as free as possible from sweet or starch particles of food. The second safeguard, and one which has been almost entirely neglected hitherto, lies in promoting, by a correct choice and sequence of food at meal time, a strong flow of highly alkaline saliva to neutralize the acid as it forms.

But it is long before a child begins to take solid food that the task of providing a strong set of teeth must be begun. Dr. J. I. Durand has proved that breast-fed babies stand the best chance of developing strong and beautiful teeth later in life. Babies fed on properly modified cow’s milk stand the next best chance. And babies fed on sweetened condensed milk are under the severest handicap. Moreover, Dr. Durance recommends the early addition of meat, fruits, and vegetables with their mineral constituents to the child’s diet. Orange-juice, he declares, may be given in small quantities any time after the first month, and vegetables, fruits, and meats, also in small amounts as early as the sixth or seventh month.

Then, too in babyhood the infant’s jaw is developing and it is very important that the child should be given an opportunity to exercise the muscles of mastication through chewing on tough crusts, tough strips of meat, bones, and other hard and tough articles. Otherwise the jaw does not develop properly and provide sufficient room for the teeth. When a jaw is too small the teeth are inclined to be crowded and irregular. This affects not only the child’s good looks, but it makes it easier for pieces of food to lodge between the teeth.

Good Housekeeping (January, 1918)