Do you need some ideas as you plan your Thanksgiving menu? Well, here are four hundred-year-old menus that might provide some inspiration.
The February, 1918 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine had this Q&A:
Question: Please tell me what a man about sixty years and who has a smoker’s heart and lately is troubled with indigestion should eat. Is sherry wine or porter good or bad for him?
Mrs. M.W.C., California
Answer: First of all, the man with a smoker’s heart should stop smoking; otherwise any attempt to remedy the indigestion by a course of diet would prove futile. I do not advise him to drink wine or beer of any description. His nerves are already sufficiently worn and are not in a condition to resist a new and violent stimulus. He should avoid tea, coffee, cocoa, and alcohol as well as tobacco.
A diet consisting of bread and mush made from whole ground cereals unbolted, good pure, fresh milk from healthy cows, fruits and succulent vegetables ought to prove helpful. If possible he should conduct his work and exercise so as to be properly fatigued when bedtime comes. He should sleep on a porch or in a thoroughly ventilated room, and take a morning bath as cold as can be tolerated, to secure a prompt and vigorous reaction when rubbed.
Do you want to save money? A hundred-year-old old home economics textbook says that it cheaper to buy sugar by the barrel:
When much preserving, canning, and jelly-making is to be done, a considerable saving is accomplished when sugar is bought by the barrel at its lowest price. An inspection of the fluctuation in food prices published in the daily paper will tell the woman who knows when she can buy most profitably. Sugar is a staple which it pays to buy in larger quantities than some other foods.
How to Cook and Why by Elizabeth Condit and Jessie A. Long (1914)
Did you ever hear of “apple rusting”? Apparently that term was used a hundred years ago to describe how apples tend to turn brownish after they are cut. Here’s what a 1918 magazine had to say about how to prevent rusting:
I take pride in being able to successfully interpret most hundred-year-old recipes, but I recently came across a 1914 recipe for Cream of Carrot Soup that flummoxed me. The soup is supposed to be “seasoned with intelligence.” What the heck does that mean?
This recipe appeared in a home economics textbook. According to the book’s introduction, the book was written “in the hope of doing service to all such homemakers, to the teachers of classes of older girls – whether in high school, Y.W.C.A., settlement, or elsewhere – and to the girls themselves.” Apparently, a hundred years ago even relatively inexperienced cooks knew how to season with intelligence.
How the U.S. military procures food for soldiers has changed over the past hundred years.
In 2018, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence program purchases the food. Here’s what the Defense Logistics Agency website says:
The Subsistence supply chain provides food support for the military all over the world. From individually packaged meals in a soldier’s ruck sack, to a ship’s galley and to full service dining facilities on military installations, Subsistence gets that food there.
We work with our industry partners around the globe to feed the newest troops in training and seasoned sailors at sea. And we take pride in ensuring our service members have a taste of home for the holidays, no matter where they’re deployed.
In 1918, World War I was raging, and I’m sure that much food for the soldiers was purchased from large companies; however, the army also purchased home-canned foods. Here are some excerpts from an article in the June, 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal:
How Twelve Girls Fed a Camp of Soldiers
I have been asked to give an account of the work done by the Girls’ Canning and Evaporating Club of Harvard, Massachusetts in order to demonstrate what twelve patriotic girls between the ages of nine and seventeen can do. The club was organized in the spring of 1917, with a special aim in view – that of creating what one might call an emergency supply. President Wilson said, to the women of the country, that one of the most patriotic things they could do was to conserve a surplus amount of food that would be available in case of a general shortage.
In the case of towns around the army camps, the possibility of being called upon to help out with food for the soldiers in case of shortage made this idea of an emergency supply of added value.
Now, while amateur work is often excellent, there is always the element of chance in it, because the knowledge of the fundamental principles is apt to be superficial. It was decided to give the girls a thorough training that would be a solid groundwork. A paid demonstrator was engaged to instruct the class every Saturday.
Toward the end of the season the club was invited to send an exhibit to the big Eastern States Exhibition that was held at Springfield, Massachusetts, and had the great pleasure and encouragement of being awarded a medal. This added zest to the work being done by the club, and all hands redoubled their efforts as the day for the home exhibition, held at the Town Hall at Harvard, approached. The results of the work were 1,000 jars of canned food done in the club and 200 pounds of evaporated food.
When the day came, in spite of a drenching rain, the doors had hardly been opened when the whole club exhibit of canned and evaporated food was sold to Battery F, 303d Heavy Artillery, through Lieutenant Martindale, the Battery’s mess officer, who expressed a wish that there was double the amount to secure.
The next morning a large army truck was sent over from the camp, and we had the great joy and satisfaction of seeing it packed with the results of our labor.
Clara Endicott Sears
When I came across a hundred-year-old recipe for making vinegar from apple peels and cores, I had to give it a try. I put the apple cores and peels, molasses, and water in a bowl, covered with cheesecloth, set on the kitchen counter, and viola – a month later I had vinegar. The use of molasses in this recipe results in a delightful dark robust vinegar.
Here is the original recipe:
And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Homemade Vinegar Made from Apple Peels and Cores
This recipe makes about 3 cups vinegar. It can be doubled, tripled, etc.
approximately 2 quarts apple peels and cores
1 quart water
1/4 cup molasses
Put the apple peels and cores in a large bowl or crock (or the peels can be put in quart canning jars).
In a separate bowl stir together the water and molasses. Pour over the apple peels until covered. (The peels may float. If they do weight them down with a plate.) Cover with cheese cloth, and tie with a string to hold in place.
Set in a warm spot, and wait one month. (I stirred weekly to help ensure that the peels are under the liquid; then re-covered – but I don’t think that it is necessary. Over the course of the month some white “mother” will develop as the vinegar ferments.)
After a month, strain at least three times. First strain to remove the large pieces of peels, then restrain to remove smaller pieces of pulp. Next line the strainer with cheese cloth and strain a third time.
Put vinegar in bottles or jars. This vinegar will get stronger over time. Once it reaches the desired strength, store in the refrigerator to slow any additional fermentation.