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

1921 Description of Vegetables

drawing of farmer with vegetablesA hundred years ago people thought about the nutritional value of vegetables differently than they do today.


Vegetables may be divided into two great classes:

  1. Coarse or fibrous vegetables, comprising roots, tubers, stems, bulbs, and leaves.
  2. The finer or fruity vegetables, as tomato, squash, pumpkin, green peas, corn, immature beans (shelled), cucumbers, melons, etc.

Vegetables are characterized by their large amount of cellulose; and as water enters largely into their composition, they are by no means the most nutritious diet. Food, however, in order to supply perfectly the needs of the vital economy, must contain water, and indigestible as well as nutritive elements. vegetables are therefore dietetically of great value, as they furnish large quantities of organic fluids, and are rich in those mineral elements which are necessary for maintaining the alkalinity of the blood, and for the repair of the bony structures.

Perhaps no food is more generally used by rich and poor alike in making up their daily fill of fare; yet how often the vegetable is spoiled in cooking! In the first place, the portion of the vegetable next to the skin contains the greater quantity of mineral matter and flavoring substances. Hence all thin-skinned vegetables such as carrots, oyster plant, etc. should be scraped. Others should be pared as thinly as possible.

Vegetables, like all starchy foods, should be put to cook in boiling water, as by the application of hot water, the starch grains are caused to swell and burst, and this give the starch an opportunity to escape through the cellulose.

Whenever possible, vegetables should be cooked the same day they are gathered. If necessary to keep green vegetables for any length of time, do not put them in water, as that will dissolve and destroy some of their juices. Lay them in a cool, dark place. A stone floor is best. Old vegetables should be immersed in cold water for an hour or more just before cooking, to make them more tender.

Young, tender vegetables, as lettuce, tomatoes, water cress, etc., served in the uncooked state, are valuable for the water and the potash salts they contain also for the stimulating effect they have on the appetite.

The Science of Food and Cookery (1921) by H.S. Anderson