1920 Advice: Wash Fruit Before Serving

Washing fruit under running water
Source: Household Arts for Home and School (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

Is it important to wash fruit before eating? Of course, the answer is “yes.” According to the National Health Service:

It is always advisable to wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them to ensure they are clean and to help remove bacteria from the outside.

Similar advice has been around for a long time. According to a 1920 home economics textbook:

All fruits that are eaten raw should be thoroughly washed. One never knows what has come in contact with the fruit through the handling or from exposure to the dirt and dust of the streets. Woman shaking dust mop; dust landing on fruit

Even oranges, grapefruit, lemons, bananas, and melons, whose skins are to be discarded, should be washed and wiped to remove surface dirt. Small fruits such as grapes and berries should be thoroughly rinsed just before serving; they should never be allowed to stand in water. 

Household Arts for Home and School (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina H. Spohr

1920 Description of Vitamins

Text Description of Vitamins
Source: American Cookery (May, 1920)

Nutrition is important, so I try to prepare foods that contain lots of vitamins: spinach – yes; sugary pastries – no (at least most of the time).

A hundred years ago people were aware of vitamins (though they spelled the word differently), and, like now, they tried to prepare nutritious meals.


“Why Crisco with a Balanced Diet”

Image of woman baking and a can of Crisco
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

Shortening is made by hydrogenating soybean, canola, or other oils to make them solid and shelf-stable. Today there is a debate about whether shortening is good or bad.  A hundred-years-ago Crisco, which is a shortening, was the “new kid on the block,” and its manafacturer had to convince cooks that it was better than lard and other animal fats.

Back then lard and other animal fats were generally produced by local farmers – so there were variations in the characteristics and quality. To convince cooks to switch to Crisco,  advertisements focused on its wholesoness and purity. Here is what a 1920 promotional cookbook for Crisco said:

Why Crisco with a Balanced Diet

Solomon was one of the keenest observers in all history. Referring to the good woman he said: “She looketh well to the ways of her household.”

Certainly good cookery is one of the most important of the things worthwhile in life and Crisco has been a contributing factor to the comfort and gratification of countless housewives and chefs who seek for delicacy and wholesomeness of their own cooking. Undoubtedly many lives are shortened by unwise choice of foods. Many others suffer handicaps in depleted energy through indigestion and malnutrition resulting from ill-prepared or badly-balanced foods.

Crisco is so wholesome in itself it may be used with perfect assurance that it will aid in the preparation of a chosen diet that will not only be well balanced but possess those qualities of tastiness and daintiness for which every good cook has striven from the days of Epicurus at his luxurious feasts.

The stomach is the human laboratory in which all chemical changes in food take place, either for weal or woe. Crisco is so clean and pure it always blends nicely with the right food combinations likely to remove causes of so many internal digestive troubles and consequent misery. To the American housewife we say try Crisco in your own cooking.

You will find how delicious and dainty the natural flavors of many foods can readily be when prepared with Crisco and thus tasted at their very best. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are using the kind of cooking fat necessary for wholesome, well-balanced meals.

If there is any question, you may desire to ask on dietary problems or cooking, feel perfectly free to write us and ask us. Our Bureau of Household Service will gladly advise you, for it is maintained in the interests of better cooking and happier homes.

Yours very sincerely,

The Procter & Gamble Company

Source: Balance Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill


1920 Estate Electric Range Advertisement

Advertisement of Estate Electric Range
Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1920)

Sometimes I see advertisements in hundred-year-old magazines that make me appreciate some of the little conveniences that I seldom think about. This advertisement made me realize that I am fortunate to have an electric strove (and that I am fortunate to have an air conditioner that I can turn on whenever I want to use it.)

Fish Is Best Right After It Is Caught

Boy fishing
Source: Household Arts for Home and School, Vol. II (1920) by Anna Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

When I buy fish, I always try to select ones that look “fresh.” But I often find it difficult to determine whether a fish is fresh. According to The Healthy Fish, when buying fish at the grocery store:

  1. Check the Texture. The meat of the fish should be firm, moist and freshly cut without any dry spots. …

  2. Beware of Strong Fishy Smells. …

  3. The Eyes are the Window to the Freshest Fish. .

That advice is similar to advice from a hundred years ago. Here’s what it said in a 1920 home economics textbook:

Fish has always been used in place of meat (Fig. 209). In general it has much the same composition and food value as meat and is as easily digested. In most localities it is cheaper than meat. Fish is always at its best when used just after it is caught (Fig. 210). However, great quantities are frozen and are kept for long periods of time.

Source: Arts for Home and School, Vol. II (1920) by Anna Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

Fish spoils very easily and needs to be cooked or put into storage at once. If you live near the sea coast or near lakes or rivers where fish is caught, you should have no difficulty in getting fresh fish, but if you do not, you should be careful when buying to select fish with firm flesh, pinkish gills, and bright eyes; it should not have an offensive odor. If the fish is frozen, it should be cooked immediately on thawing it out. Unless good fresh fish can be bought it is more satisfactory to use salt fish or the canned product. 

Arts for Home and School, Vol. II (1920) by Anna Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

Store Bread in a Bread Box

Drawing of a bread box
Household Arts for Home and School, Vol. 2 (1920)

Images sometimes jog memories of things that have been totally forgotten. I recently was browsing through a hundred-year-old home economics textbook and came across a drawing of a bread box. Suddenly memories of my parents stainless steel bread box came flooding back. And, then I remembered my Aunt’s white plastic bread box that had flower decals on it. . . . and our neighbor’s wooden roll-top bread box. Back then almost everyone had a bread box. Today, I don’t think any of my friends have one.

I’ve never owned a bread box, and just put plastic-wrapped loaves of bread on the kitchen counter. Are bread boxes just an old-fashioned way of storing bread, or do they help maintain quality?

Here’s what the old home economics textbook had to say:

Bread may be made ever so carefully, but if it is not properly cared for may not be palatable. After they have been cooled the loaves should be put into a clean tin bread box (Fig. 133). Before each baking the bread box should be washed thoroughly, scalded, and aired. Scraps of bread should never be allowed to accumulate, and under no circumstances should bread be allowed to mold in the box. Mold sometimes occurs when bread is wrapped in a cloth or when a cloth is used to line the box. Clean white paper makes a better lining.

Household Arts for Home and School (Vol. 2) (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina H. Spohr

Old-fashioned Rice Griddle Cakes (Rice Pancakes)

Three Rice Griddle Cakes on PlateI can accurately estimate how much my family will eat when I make some foods, but I’ve never been able to figure out how much rice they will eat at a meal. Which means that I often end up with left-over rice that I’m not quite sure how to use.

So I was thrilled when I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Rice Griddle Cakes which called for left-over cooked rice.  The recipe was easy to make. The Rice Griddle Cakes were delicious and tasted very similar to typical pancakes, but they were more textured because of the addition of the cooked rice.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Rice Griddle Cakes
Source: The Cook Book of Left-Overs (1920) by The More Nurses in Training Movement

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Rice Griddle Cakes (Rice Pancakes)

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg

1 cup milk (a little more may be needed)

2 cups cold cooked rice

Put flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, egg, and 1 cup milk in a mixing bowl, beat until smooth. Stir in rice. If the batter is too thick, add additional milk. Heat a lightly greased griddle to a medium temperature, then pour or scoop batter onto the hot surface to make individual pancakes.  Cook until the top surface is hot and bubbly, and then flip and cook other side.