Are Bananas Good for Us?

Sometimes I’m amazed by the things that people worried about a hundred years ago. For example, they worried about whether bananas were good for them. Here some excerpts from a hundred-year-old magazine article:

Consider the Banana

Perhaps no staple article of food is more the subject of strange fancies or more misunderstood – more overpraised for qualities which it does not posses and blamed for defects not its own – than that standby of the corner fruit stand, the banana. 

“Is it true that a banana contains as much nutritive value as a half-pound of steak?” “Is it true that a raw banana is as indigestible as a raw potato, and must be cooked before it is eaten?” “Is it true that the combination of bananas and milk is poisonous?” 

In spite of prejudice and misunderstanding, however, the majority of people accept its worth, for the consumption of bananas has increased by leaps and bounds. Less than fifty years ago the first bananas were brought to Boston. Today it is estimated that seven billion are consumed annually in the United States – an average of six dozen of this fruit for each man, woman, and child in the land. 

Do not chose bananas that look pretty rather than those that are ripe. The banana of a clear lemon-yellow color, which brings the best price in the market, is most certainly not yet a ripe fruit. The pulp of such a banana is composed very largely of starch, and while it is an exaggeration to say that it is as difficult to digest as the starch of a raw potato, it is greatly improved in this respect by permitting the ripening processes.

When the banana is perfectly ripe, the clear yellow peeling has changed to brown or black, and more of the starch in the pulp has been converted into sugar. Such bananas have a far better flavor and aroma than the unripe yellow fruit. 

Whatever bad reputation the fruit has acquired as regards to its indigestibility is due, undoubtedly to the fact that many people eat the unripe fruit. Then there is the tendency to eat the whole banana quickly without sufficient mastication. 

Nature has given us in the banana a sanitary, sealed package. The banana is cheap; when properly ripened it is easy to digest; moreover, it contains sufficient roughage and laxative properties to be free from the constipating tendency of which many highly concentrated modern foods are guilty. 

Its flavor is bland and characteristic, yet not sufficiently pronounced to become tiresome. 

Good Housekeeping (October, 1917)

Hundred-Year-Old List of Calorie Requirements by Job

Source: A Textbook of Cooking by Carlotta Greer (1915)

For more than a hundred years people have known about calories. Cooks a century ago worried about providing enough calories for people who did hard physical labor.  A 1915 home economics textbook showed that a lumberman needed more than twice as many calories each day than a shoemaker.

According to the book:

The man who is working at hard physical labor needs more food than the man who sits quietly at his work. Moreover, one working actively out of doors can take foods which are difficult of digestion for the person of sedentary occupation. 

A Textbook of Cooking

The Value of Attractive Food

Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1911)

Creating lovely food presentations can be a time-consuming task – and it really adds nothing to the taste or value of the food. Is it important to present food in attractive ways?

Here’s what a home economist in training had to say a hundred years ago:

The Value of Attractive Food

Having kept house before I took my domestic-science training I used to think that the use of pretty dishes and garnishes, and the serving of foods in unfamiliar but pleasing guises, were clever but a useless way of showing off before company.

Now I now know that these things have an actual physiological value. For instance, my sister, fifteen and anaemic, had a very capricious appetite and could not be induced to eat sufficient nourishing food, things that have an actual physiological value.

From my study of physiology and kindred subjects I learned how very closely the nerves of sight and smell are connected with those affecting the digestive organs, and how the very sight of attractive food causes certain digestive processes to begin.

Thus certain nourishing soups that sister ordinarily would not touch were eaten when served in a pretty china cup with a spoonful of whipped cream, the cream adding to its nutritive value, and a leaf or a flower at its side.

She needed eggs but refused them boiled, poached, or before my enlightenment, fried. Later she ate dozens of them worked up into attractive desserts or smuggled into unfamiliar dishes made appetizing and attractive enough to tempt her into sampling them.

She not only ate food which she would otherwise have refused, but, because she enjoyed eating it, she digested and assimilated it and became a new kind of girl.

M.W., Teachers’ College (Ladies Home Journal, February, 1917)


Do Women Waste 10% of their Husbands’ Incomes?

Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1911)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (December, 1911)

In general I enjoy looking at the world of a hundred-years-ago through rose-colored glasses – but sometimes I cringe and am glad I live now. Today is one of those times. Here’s what I recently read in a hundred-old-magazine:

Women, as controllers of at least seventy-five percent of the incomes of the men of the nation, must look to our habits and whether they need to be altered.

It has been said that there are three ways of producing prosperity, namely: by better production, by better choice, and by better consumption. One sees at a glance that the first lies within the diction of the men of the country, while the second and third are at the command of the women.

Statistics have proven that women waste ten percent of their husbands’ incomes! But those statistics are of the past, for the wide-awake women of today are giving time and thought to the study of the various interests of the home with a view of bettering conditions as well as economically as possible. Thrift has become a slogan. . .

Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

Hundred-Year-Old “Japanese” Tablescape

Source: American Cookery (November, 1916)

There was a lot of fascination with foods from far away places a hundred year ago. It may seem presumptuous today, but back then people believed that the world was getting smaller, and there was  interest in how people served foods in other countries.

Tea houses were very popular in the United States in the early 1900’s, and it was widely believed that the Japanese knew how to serve tea and other foods very elegantly and gracefully.

Here is the description of how to create a “Japanese” tablescape in a hundred-year-old magazine:

A Japanese table, exquisitely dainty and unpretentious, is that decorated with day lilies. It is laid with a snowy crash runner, and has crash plate doilies. The shallow white center flower bowl contains four claw feet holders, and from these, tall spikes of the white lilies rear their fragile heads above their own bloom. Note the arrangement at the base, and observe how the lily leaves are clustered to form pads, thus accentuating the green and white effect against the snowy background.

A white marble statue of Buddha at each end of the center receptacle under the shelter of a tall lily boom, reminds one of  Sir Edin Arnold’s lines to the Great Lord Buddha:

“The dew is on the lotus,
Rise great Sun!”

Blue and white Canton dishes add the final note of color to this dainty luncheon table.

American Cookery (November, 1916)

When I read this description, “crash runner” and “crash doilies” made no sense to me, so I looked up “crash” in the online Free Dictionary, and found that crash is a type of cloth:

Crash: A coarse, light, unevenly woven fabric of cotton or linen, used for towels and curtains.

Outdoor Furniture a Hundred Years Ago

Caption: Garden things never fail to give a pleasant little comfortable thrill that is worth more than money. (Source: Good Housekeeping– June, 1917)

I’m not into keeping up with the Jones, but I’m slightly envious of people with beautiful patios and outdoor rooms filled with stylish lawn furniture. People a hundred years ago also wanted nice outdoor furniture. According to an article in the June, 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping:

Garden furniture reminds one of cool summer drinks to be served.

Cooking with Electricity a Hundred Years Ago

Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1917)

I’ve been doing A Hundred Years Ago for six and a half years now. Over that time I’ve noticed many changes. One is that electricity and electrical appliances were much more common in 1917 than what they had been in 1911. Here’s an excerpt from a June, 1917 article in Good Housekeeping that  promoted the use of electric stoves:

“But cooking by electricity is so expensive,” says the average housekeeper when the question of installing an electric range in her kitchen is broached. But is this so?

Against the cost of operation must be charged the savings in time and energy which the use of electricity insures. At the same time, the savings in wear and tear on utensils and household furnishings that will result from the use of a fuel which produces no smoke to discolor walls, woodwork, or curtains must be considered.