A hundred years ago, there was a lot of food-related research, and people were beginning to understand the important role of vitamins and minerals in our diet. I was amazed to even find a poem in the Journal of Home Economics which encouraged cooks to prepare foods which contained lots of minerals.
Ever have a cake that didn’t turn out quite right? Well, here’s some hundred-year-old advice for troubleshooting cake problems (and, amazingly, much of it is still applicable today).
Here’s what Janet McKenzie Hill wrote in a 1919 cookbook titled Recipes for Everyday:
Heavy or fallen cakes are caused by having too slow an oven; by using too much sugar or shortening; by using too little flour; by having such a hot oven that the outside bakes so thoroughly that the inside cannot rise; by moving the cake in the oven before the cell walls have become fixed; or by taking the cake from the oven before it is thoroughly baked.
Thick-crusted cakes are caused by too hot an oven, by using too much sugar and shortening, or too little flour.
Coarse-grained cakes are the result of using too much leavening material, or of having too slow an oven. They are also caused by insufficient creaming of shortening and sugar, or insufficient beating of the batter before adding the egg whites.
A”bready” cake is caused by using too much flour.
A cake rises in a peak in the center when the oven is too hot during the first few minutes of baking.
A cake will crack when it contains too much flour, or when the oven is so hot at first that the outside bakes before the center can rise.
So many people around the world today are food insecure. A hundred-years ago people also often lacked sufficient food. Here is some advice in the January, 1919 issue of American Cookery magazine. World War I had just ended two months prior the publication of this magazine, and food was still in short supply in Europe.
The Needs Abroad
Fats, including butter and milk, are short the world over. Butter and milk are necessary to child life. The dairy herds have been terribly depleted throughout Europe. Eighty thousand more children died last year in France than the year before.
To help restore these herds we must ship cereals to feed them. Use more potatoes, and less than normal of bread or cereals.
Butter in England is $2 a pound. Eggs are $2.25 a dozen. Milk is impossible to get in many places.
Let us help all we can!
In 1919, people felt a bit smug about how easy it was to have sufficient food during the long, cold winter months; and, were thankful that they didn’t live back in the “old” days when it was often challenging for people to have access to sufficient food during the winter.
I recently came across an article in a 1919 magazine that went so far as to claim modern cities were able to develop as a result of the availability of canned foods.
With the enormous increase in size and number of cities, during the past century, the problem of winter sustenance has assumed tremendous proportions. It has been met by elevating to the first place of importance a method of food preservation that had always been of least value – exclusion of air.
The tin can and the glass jar are inventions which made this possible, and without them, modern city life, if not actually out of the question, would have been vastly more difficult. If one will but try to conceive what his mid-winter menu would be like, stripped of all the articles that come to him in glass or tin, he will hardly question any estimate which we may feel inclined to make as to the importance of canned foods in the civilization of today.
With all due allowance for their undoubted benefits, however, the tin can and the glass jar have not shown themselves altogether free from reproach. They must shoulder full responsibility for the growth of the factory system of food production, which, at its best, fall short of being an unqualified boon to the consumer.
American Cookery (January, 1919)
A hundred-years-ago apples were one of the few fruits available during most of year. According to a hundred-year-old magazine article titled “Apples for All:”
After all has been said and done, the apple is the housekeeper’s best friend. Berry time comes and goes, the delicious fall fruits have their fleeting season, but the apple comes and stays.
Good Housekeeping (January, 1919)
Times sure have changed. Now I can get berries and many other fruits any time during the year – but apples are still a favorite. I’m currently enjoying the last apples from the tree in my back yard.
Soup is the perfect comfort food on these cold winter days. I recently found a wonderful hundred-year-old recipe for Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage. The soup was delightful – but the recipe name is misleading. The recipe only calls for two tablespoons of barley – and it is not a predominate ingredient in the soup. This soup is really a hearty, rustic Cabbage and Bacon soup.
Here’s the original recipe:
Since modern pearled barley does not need pre-soaking, I skipped that step. Also, I didn’t think that three green onions were very many, so I used all the green onions in the bunch that I purchased. Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage (Cabbage and Bacon Soup)
6 cups water
2 tablespoons barley
1/4 pound bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small cabbage (about 1 pound), finely shredded
1 bunch green onions (6 -8 green onions), chopped
1 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Put water in a dutch oven; bring to a boil using high heat, then add barley, bacon, cabbage, and green onions. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer for 1 hour. Add half and half, salt, and pepper. Heat until steamy hot, then serve.
This photo was the February, 1918 issue of Good Housekeeping. The caption beneath the picture says:
This very young old lady of ninety-five did all the work in her garden last year and then put up enough canned goods to supply herself, her grandsons, and her great-grandsons. She is already planning this year’s garden. Her recipe for long life and happiness is, “”Take good care of nature, and she will take good care of you.”