Both a hundred years ago and now, there were recommendations for distributing calories across nutrient groups.
Here are the 1921 recommendations:
An ideal distribution of the calories is one-tenth protein, three-tenths fat and six-tenths carbohydrate. In a dietary of 2400 calories this would be 240 protein, 720 fat, and 1440 carbohydrate.
The New Cookery (1921) by Lenna Frances Cooper
And, here are the 2021 recommendations (Actually they were published in 2015, but they are the most current recommendations.):
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (USDA, 2015) recommend that an adult’s total daily calories come from the following:
45–65 percent carbohydrates
10–30 percent protein
20–35 percent fat
Some nutritionists recommend a ratio of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat as a good target for healthy weight loss.
A 1,500 calorie diet with 40 percent carbohydrates translates to 600 calories per day from carbs. Using a ratio of 4 calories per gram (g) of carbs, a person on this diet would need to eat 150 g of carbohydrates per day.
This 1,500 calorie diet would also include 450 calories or 112 g of protein, and 450 calories or 50 g of fat per day.
I often make boiled potatoes. I think that they are out of style and considered old-fashioned; but, to be totally honest, I enjoy meals that feature meat and boiled potatoes. A hundred years ago boiled potatoes were more popular than they are now. Here are some 1921 tips for cooking potatoes:
The method used in cooking potatoes has much to do with the food value. Baking or boiling “in their jackets” saves the food value. Peeling and then boiling causes some loss of the mineral matter and protein, since these foodstuffs are found just under the skin of the potato and may be lost when it is pared, unless very thin peelings are removed.
Potatoes, to be cooked, should be put in boiling water, not in cold, as soaking peeled potatoes in cold water draws out the starch and also causes a loss of protein and mineral matter. Potatoes should never soak in cold water after they are peeled, if all of the food value is to be saved. If they are old and withered, they should be freshened by soaking before the skin is removed. Potatoes should be removed from the boiling water as soon as they are done.
Baked potatoes, when done, should have the skin broken or pierced with a fork to all the escape of the steam, which would cause the potato to be soggy.
Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews
I just realized that I don’t follow these directions. I generally peel potatoes before boiling them – and I put them in cold water which I then heat. For holidays, such as Thanksgiving, when I make a lot of boiled potatoes to mash for mashed potatoes, I’ll peel the potatoes several hours ahead of time, and let them sit in cold water until it is time to cook them. Probably many of the nutrients are probably lost . . sigh.
And, when I make baked potatoes, I pierce the potatoes with the point of a sharp knife prior to baking – to allow steam to escape and keep the potatoes from exploding – rather than waiting until they removed from the oven.
I learned something new from browsing through 1921 magazines. Did you know that string beans could be canned using a pressure cooker that long ago? I didn’t until I saw this photo and the accompanying article. Here’s what it said.
String Beans Canned in Pressure Cooker
Wash beans thoroughly, cut ends, and remove strings and cut as for the table. Dip in boiling water for two minutes, using a wire basket. Fill into cans, heat, and add boiling water and one teaspoonful of salt to each quart can of beans. Put on rubber ring and glass top. (Do not secure the top tight until after the cooking is done and the jar removed to cool.) Place on rack in pressure cooker, put on cover and process fifty minutes at 235 deg., eight pounds pressure.
When I flipped through a hundred-year-old home economics textbook, I was surprised how young the girls in the photo looked.
I also was surprised how dense the text was on the opposite page.
I then flipped to the Preface and saw that the book was intended for use in elementary schools. (Duh – I should have known that – the book title is Elementary Home Economics). BUT, how could elementary students possibly read something so complicated?
I decided to run the middle paragraph on the page – the one that begins, “Since, then, the scientist is able to measure. . . ” – through an online Flesch Kincaid Calculator to see how readable the text was, I was floored to discover that it was written at the 15.8 grade level. Did elementary students really read this stuff in 1921?
A century ago people believed that it was better eat different foods in different seasons. Here’s what a hundred year old cookbook said:
Some food adapted for use at one season or in one climate are not suited to another.
Some people make the mistake of eating in warm weather the same foods and the same quantities of food that they consume in the winter; but the quantity of food should be reduced during the spring and summer months. The digestive organs cannot readily care for the same quantity or the same quality in spring that they are capable of digesting during the winter. Wisely, therefore, with the return of spring, nature take away the desire for many of the more solid foods, and furnishes us with fruits, and greens, and succulent vegetables, which are appetizing and cooling to the system.
Much of the common sickness, especially during the spring and summer months, is caused by the absorption of poisons resulting from the decay of unsuitable food in the intestinal tract. Pimples, rash, and itching of the skin are often signs that nourishment ill-suited to the season or to the condition of the blood has been taken into the body. Fresh fruits are both food and medicine, and are needed by the blood; being especially rich in alkaline elements, they serve to keep the blood in good condition, and because they contain the carbon in the form most easily digested (fruit sugar), they hold first place in the list of foods which go to make up the ideal diet.
When making jams and jellies, pectin helps make the juice “jell.” A hundred years ago commercial liquid and powdered pectin was not available. Rather cooks used fruits with naturally occurring pectin – and often combined several fruits, including one with a lot of pectin, when making jelly. Here’s what it said in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook:
Fruit juice can be made into jelly when it contains two substances, (1) pectin and (2) acid. All fruits do not contain these in sufficient amounts to make good jelly, and often it is necessary to combine the juices of two fruits before the juice will “jell.” Sugar helps to make the juice form jelly, but unless pectin and acid are present, no amount of sugar will have that effect.
Fruits used for jelly should not be over-ripe, and sometimes it is better to use green fruits, because as fruit ripens it contains less pectin and acid. Tart apples, grapes, currants, crab apples and plums are good for making jelly. Sweet ripe apples, strawberries, blackberries, peaches and pears are poor fruits from which to make jelly.
Lemon and orange peel contain pectin in considerable amounts and are sometimes used to make fruit juices “jell.” Remove the yellow layers of the peel and put the white material that is left through the food grinder, cover with water and let stand for several hours, then cook slowly for two or three hours; strain the liquid and add it to the fruit juice that lacks pectin.
Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews
Until I saw directions for packing sandwiches in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I never thought about how people packed sandwiches to take to school or work back then:
Keep sandwiches wrapped in a cheese cloth which has been thoroughly dampened with cold water, and pack in a closed box until ready to use.
Lowney’s Cook Book (Revised, 1921 Edition)
Sounds like a good way to get a soggy sandwich – but apparently if the cheese cloth is merely “dampened” and not “wet,” this is not a problem.
The tip was supposed to provide cooks with guidance so they could confidently pack sandwiches. But I’m left with more questions: Was the cheese cloth reused for multiple days, or was it discarded after one use?Why didn’t the cook book suggest using waxed paper to wrap sandwiches? I’ve seen hundred-year-old recipes that call for using waxed paper to line pans, so I know it was available back then.
Packing sandwiches sure was more complicated in the days before Ziploc bags!