Hundred-Year-Old Food Advertisements Poem

Source: American Cookery (October, 1917)

When I saw this poem in a hundred-year-old issue of American Cookery Magazine, I had an immediate negative reaction. Did the magazine’s editors really think that they could convince consumers that everything in food advertisements was true? Didn’t cooks back then realize that the purpose of advertisements was to sell food, not to provide the most accurate information?

Then I thought –

Even though I’m cynical about advertising, I read food ads.  They must have value to me. Soon I was pondering,  “Why do I read food ads?”

Here’s the reasons, I came up with:

  • Food advertisements are fun to read.
  • I like to laugh at how over the top some ads are.
  • I read them to learn about new products.
  • I read them to find “good deals.”

Hmm . . . maybe the old magazine was  right, “food ads help me out so much.”

1917 Filene’s Department Store Employee Cafeteria Menu and Prices

Source: American Cookery (June/July, 1917)

There’s been a lot of inflation over the past hundred years. A century ago, you could get a meal of roast lamb, mashed potatoes, bread (2 slices), and butter for only $.20 at the employees’ cafeteria at Filene’s Department Store in Boston. What would a similar roast lamb meal cost today?

According to an online Inflation Calculator website, a dollar a hundred years ago is worth about $19 today.  That suggests that the lamb dinner should only cost about $3.80 today. Whew, that’s way too low. I can’t even buy a latte for $3.80. . . or has food increased in price much faster than overall inflation?

Old-fashioned Mashed Rutabagas

For years I’ve walked past rutabagas at the local grocery store and barely noticed them (and definitely never bought one).

But, that all changed when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Mashed Rutabagas, and decided to give them a try.

I was pleasantly surprised. The Mashed Rutabagas had a sweet, earthy, nutty  flavor; and they make a perfect winter side dish. Additionally, rutabagas are a good source of Vitamin C.

It took me many years to try rutabagas – but now that I’ve tried them, they’re sure to become one of the winter vegetables that I regularly serve.

Here’s the original recipe:

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

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Mashed Rutabagas

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

3 cups peeled and cubed rutabaga

water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon sugar, optional

Place cubed rutabaga in a saucepan and cover with water. Using high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer until the rutabaga is tender (approximately 1/2 hour). Remove from heat and drain. Mash the cooked rutabaga, then stir in salt, pepper, butter, and milk. If desired, also stir in sugar.  Serve immediately.

The Diary Years – Found Photos of Grandma’s Best Friend and her Husband

Carrie [Stout] Pressler (1897-1965)
I began this blog in 2011 to post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred years to the day after she wrote them. My grandmother, Helena Muffly [Swartz] kept the diary from 1911 to 1914 when she was a teen living on a farm near McEwensville in central Pennsylvania. After I posted all the diary entries, I reinvented A Hundred Years Ago to its current focus on food. Today I’m going to go back to the early days of this blog —

Helena’s best friend in the diary was Carrie Stout. During years when I was posting the diary, I never was able to find a photo of Carrie.

Imagine my surprise when I got a Christmas card from Carrie’s granddaughter, Barb Fry, a few weeks ago that contained photos of Carrie and her husband, John Pressler.  It was a dream come true. I finally knew what Carrie looked like. In the photo she was older than what she would have been when Helena was writing about her in the diary, but it’s easy to picture the two teens giggling and chatting in their younger days.

Both Carrie and Helena married farmers and lived their entire lives within a few miles of each other.

John Pressler (1888 – 1944)

I went through my transcript of the diary and found that Carrie is mentioned more than 70 times in the diary. I thought you might enjoy reading (or re-reading) a few of those diary entries.

February 11, 1911: Got up about eight o’clock this morning. Did quite a lot of work this forenoon. Carrie Stout was over a while this afternoon. Nearly all my Saturdays are alike.

March 5, 1911: I went to Sunday school this morning. Carrie Stout and I walked to Turbotville this afternoon going up the railroad. We were rather weak in our feet by the time we got home.

March 20, 1911: Carrie Stout was over this evening. She brought me a birthday present. It was a dainty white apron. Mother said, “It was only a patch.” Well I’ll have to say good-by to fifteen years and pass on to the next. Wonder if I will get any more presents.

April 29, 1911:  Ma kept me busy a chasing the chickens out of the garden this afternoon. I get so mad at them. Carrie Stout came over this evening. Wanted me to go along with her up to McEwensville. She is afraid of the dark. Of course I went, although I looked like a witch.

January 1, 1912: New Year’s day for me had a rather doleful beginning, but brightened up as the day passed on. Carrie came over this afternoon and we went a skating or rather she did the skating and I the tumbling.  I was just experimenting, being the first time I really tried to skate. Maybe I’ll buy a pair of skates pretty soon, as I haven’t any of my own. But the learning, however, isn’t much fun.

December 22, 1913: Carrie was over this afternoon. We picked out nuts. Made taffy this evening, but it didn’t get good and the nuts were wasted.

June 2, 1914: Carrie was over. We had some gossip and some other rare tidbits.

July 21, 1914: Went to a party about three miles from here. Went with Carrie and her beau. There were lots there I didn’t know. Didn’t stay so very late.

Friendships are special and to be cherished – both a hundred years ago and now.

Dollar Stretcher – Use Milk in Coffee

The January, 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal had several Dollar Stretcher tips which show “how women’s wits have overcome high prices.” One tip left me saying “dah.”

Cream will not be missed in your coffee if milk is first heated, poured in the bottom of the cup and the coffee slowly added.

Was this a new idea in 1918? I generally use milk in my coffee, and I don’t even bother to heat it first or put it in the bottom of the cup. Works just fine.

1917 Pictures of Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen

Source: Good Housekeeping (December, 1917)

Good Housekeeping magazine has had test kitchens where recipes are tested for at least a hundred years. Here are two 1917 photos of the Good Housekeeping test kitchen.

Caption: This is a view of Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen where all recipes appearing in Good Housekeeping, both on these pages and elsewhere in the magazine, are actually tried out. Here also are all sorts of kitchen utensils and appliances are give a thorough test under conditions identical with those in the average house. (Good Housekeeping, December, 1917)