Old-fashioned Bread Griddlecakes

Bread griddlecakes on plate

Food was a major expense for many families a hundred years ago, and cooks tried to minimize food waste. Bread – often homemade – sometimes went stale before it was eaten, and rather than just throwing the stale bread out, they looked for ways to use it.

I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Bread Griddlecakes that called for using stale bread crumbs (and relatively little flour), and I just had to give it a try. The Bread Griddlecakes turned out well. This recipe made relatively thin pancakes that had a nice flavor. If I hadn’t made them myself, I never would have guessed that they contained breadcrumbs. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised since bread is made out of flour – so at some basic level this recipe contains similar ingredients to may typical recipes.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Bread Griddlecakes
Source: The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1921 Edition)

Modern bread (at least store-bought bread) doesn’t seem to go stale, so I just used bread that wasn’t stale when I made this recipe.

I’m not sure why the old recipe called for scalded milk, so I used milk that I didn’t scald. It worked fine.

It’s fascinating how words change across the years. The original recipe title had a hyphen between “griddle” and “cake.” Today “griddlecake” is generally written as one word – or people just call them pancakes.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Bread Griddlecakes

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

1 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs (I tore 3 bread slices into very small pieces.)

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

Put the bread crumbs and milk in a mixing bowl, then soak until the crumbs are soft (10 – 15 minutes). Add butter, eggs, flour, salt, and baking powder; beat to combine.

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.


Hundred-year-old Directions for Dressing a Chicken

Dressed ChickenMy mother knew how to dress a chicken. I’m (happily) clueless about how to even approach dressing a bird. A hundred years ago,  dressing a chicken was apparently considered such an important skill that a home economics textbook contained directions for how to do it. Times sure have changed!

In case you ever need to dress a chicken, here are the directions:

To Dress a Chicken

  1. Remove feathers by pulling them out, after plunging the fowl into boiling water and holding it there for a moment or two. Fowls are sometimes picked without scalding, if the work can be done immediately after they are killed.
  2. Singe the plucked fowl by holding it in a flame of gas or burning paper, being sure that all parts are exposed during the process so that all hairs are removed.
  3. Cut off the head, if it has not been removed. The neck may be removed by pushing back the skin and cutting it off.
  4. Remove the feet in cutting and breaking the legs at the joints.
  5. Make an incision one inch above the vent and crosswise between the legs. Draw out the intestines and other organs carefully, cutting away the vent. Remove from the mass the heart, liver and gizzard, being careful not to break the gall bladder which lies under the liver. Cut the gall bladder away carefully.
  6. Remove the skin from around the gizzard; open the gizzard and remove the inner skin and contents.
  7. Wash the liver, gizzard and heart, squeezing the latter to remove any blood. These organs are known as the “giblets.”
  8. The crop and windpipe may be removed at the neck. Do this without breaking the crop, or tearing the skin at the neck.
  9. Remove all pinfeathers with a sharp-pointed small knife. Remove the oil bag from the tail.
  10. Wash the chicken well in cold water, both inside and out. Dry  with a cloth. The fowl is now ready to be used from baking.
  11. When a fowl is to be cut into pieces, as for stewing, it is usually convenient to remove the wings and legs before removing the intestines and other organs from the body.

Poultry should always be allowed to stand several hours after dressing before it is cooked.

Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews

Hundred-Year-Old Directions for Frying Bacon

Baking frying in a pan

Some foods have retained their popularity across the years. Bacon is one of those foods. Here are hundred-year-old directions for frying bacon:

To Fry Bacon

Use a thick, or what is called a well-seasoned, frying pan. Put the slices of bacon in the cold pan and set over a slow fire until cooked, pour off the fat and set aside, not mixing it with other frying fats, for it is best kept separate for cooking eggs and frying slices of graham bread. Put some of the slices of bacon back into the pan to crisp, for those who like it that way, and toss about. 

American Cookery (August/September, 1921) 

Questions About Milk a Hundred Years Ago

Questions about milk
Source: Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews

I enjoy reading the questions at the end of chapters in old textbooks. They provide so much insight into what the book author considered important. These questions in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook at the end of a section about milk made me realize that the issues and concerns were somewhat different back then.

In case you are wondering, here is what it said earlier in the book about clean milk:

Clean milk is the only safe milk. Dirty milk may contain disease germs that cause typhoid fever, tuberculosis, or other diseases. Clean milk comes from clean cows kept in clean barns. The milk must be handled by persons with clean hands and clean clothes, and it must be placed in clean pails, bottles, or pans. 

If milk is purchased from a store or dairy wagon it should be in bottles, tightly covered. The bottles must be kept in a cool place where there are no flies. If a bottle of milk is put in the refrigerator it must always be tightly covered. 

Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews 

Old-fashioned Stewed Prunes

stewed prunes

Hundred-year-old cookbooks sometimes contain very basic recipes, such as a recipe for stewed prunes. I’m a little surprised when an author puts such a simple recipe in a cookbook – though I also find it fascinating how basic foods have changed over the past hundred years. Back then (and even when I was young) prunes were very dry and needed extensive soaking and cooking to make tender stewed prunes; whereas today many supermarket prunes are very moist when taken out of the package and need to be stewed for only a few minutes.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Stewed Prunes
Source: The New Cookery (1921) by Lenna Frances Cooper

One-half pound of prunes is about 1 cup of prunes. I’m not clear why the directions refer to 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon for each two cups of prunes. Maybe the author was referring to the volume of prunes after they are soaked. In any case, when I updated the recipe, rather than trying to estimate the volume of the prunes, I assumed that the recipe calls for adding 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon (if desired).

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

Stewed Prunes

  • Servings: 3 - 5
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/2 pound prunes (approximately 1 cup prune)

1 cup water (more may be needed if the prunes are very dry.)

1/4 cup sugar, if desired

1 tablespoon lemon juice, if desired

Put prunes and water in a saucepan. If desired, stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat until it simmers. Cook until the prunes are tender and the liquid is syrupy (about 15 minutes – if the prunes are moist; longer if they are very dry). Remove from heat, and, if desired stir in the lemon juice.


Good Cooks Are Composers

Quote by Henry Finck
Source: The New Cookery (1921) by Lenna Frances Cooper

The foreword to a 1921 cookbook begins with this quote. Nice quote – but I was curious about who Henry T. Finck was and why I should care about what he thought.

A quick google search turned up information about Henry Finck. He was both the music editor and the epicurean editor at the New York Evening Post. According to Oregon Encyclopedia:

Music critic Henry T. Finck spent his childhood on an apple orchard near the Christian agricultural colony of Aurora in the lower Willamette Valley. The first Oregonian to graduate from Harvard, Finck was a prolific writer and critic of contemporary music. He also wrote about horticulture, romantic love, travel, food, and his Oregon boyhood.

1921 Table Etiquette

set table on porch or patioPhoto source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1911)

Here’s a few table etiquette rules that appeared in a 1921 home economics textbook: 

Table Manners

  • Never go to the table unless hands and face are clean and hair is in order. 
  • Stand behind your chair until the hostess takes her seat. 
  • The napkins should be laid across the lap without being entirely opened out. Never stick the corner inside the collar. If the napkin is to be used again, fold it neatly before leaving the table. 
  • Always sit erect in the chair while eating. Keep the arms and elbows off the table. 
  • Never eat hurriedly. 
  • Do not talk when the mouth is full of food. 
  • Ask politely for dishes to be passed, rather than reach across the table. 
  • Never complain about the food. If it is not the kind desired, it need not be eaten. 
  • If it is necessary to leave the table before the others are ready, ask to be excused by the hostess. 
  • Do not talk about disagreeable things during the meal. 

Source: Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews