Do Houses Need Kitchens? A Hundred-Year-Old Opinion

Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1919)

Sometimes I come across hundred-year-old magazine articles which absolutely stun me. They take positions which in some ways seem very forward thinking (or perhaps forward mis-thinking) – even by today’s standards.

Here’s some excerpts from a 1919 article which argues that there is no need for kitchens – and that cooking should be done in centralized locations:

Shall the private kitchen be abolished? It has a revolutionary sound, just as once upon a time there were revolutionary sounds in such propositions as these: Shall private wells be abolished? Shall private kerosene lamps be abolished? Shall we use ready-to-wear garments and factory-canned vegetables?

There must have been thousands upon thousands of men and women who said that these changes could never come to pass. But now we are not only reconciled to these, but delighted with city water, gas and electricity, and factory products.

And now why not get rid of the private kitchen?

The one who has not thought about it will almost invariably give the reply: “Oh, that will never be practicable.”

So now, when these very objections present themselves one after another before the proposition to abolish cooking in the home, it may be that we know how to meet them.

In a small town, it means the establishment of a central kitchen, or in a city the opening of many neighborhood kitchens. It means the preparation there of breakfast, lunch and dinner just as in a hotel or cafe. But the main industry would be the taking of telephone orders and the delivery of cooked food, hot, at the doors. Delivery would be made by auto; and, closed vans, with openings at the sides and filled with small electric ovens, heated by the power which supplies the car, are not such a far cry.

In the kitchen alone the primitive, solitary, unorganized labor of our ancestors continues to be maintained. When one thinks in terms of a whole town of, say, a thousand homes, a thousand stoves going, and the unpaid labor of wives and mothers who are themselves cooks, it is to be seen that the centralized system is exactly as logical in its certainty of economy as the centralized system any other business.

Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1919)

Raising Chickens in the Yard a Hundred Years Ago

Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1919)

I have friends who raise a few chickens in the suburbs. A hundred years ago, people also raised chickens to get fresh eggs and meat. Here are some excerpts from the March, 1919 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

Did You Ever Think of A Meat Garden?

Why not raise meat in the garden as well as vegetables?

There is no reason why chickens cannot be kept successfully in a town or village lot, provided they are kept in the sanitary condition that is just as essential to the health of the fowls as to the health of the community. Many a family could keep a few chickens, not to make a fortune on selling eggs, but to raise this quick meat for table use or to supply the table with eggs.

The objects attained in keeping chickens for the use of the home table are fourfold: Fresh eggs daily for the children year round; increasing the food supply; raising meat in a short time for the table; saving money on the meat bill.

1919 “Cooking for Profit” Correspondence Course

Source: Cooking for Profit (January, 1919)

Did you ever want to start your own food-related business?

People had similar desires a hundred years ago. The January, 1918 issue of American Cookery magazine had an advertisement for a correspondence course on “Cooking for Profit.”

Today lots of rules and regulations affect the operation of businesses serving or selling food. A hundred years ago there were few regulations.  But people in both 1919 and 2019 had many similar questions when  considering  whether to start a small food-related business – How do you cook foods that people want to buy? What is needed to ensure that the business will be successful? , etc.

Hundred-Year-Old Advice on How to Save Money by Substituting Fats

Today we worry about whether fats are good fats or bad fats. Is a fat saturated or unsaturated? Does it contain trans fats? Does it contain mono- or polyunsaturated fats? Will it increase or decrease cholesterol levels?

A hundred years ago people had different questions about fats. They asked questions like:

  •  How can I get the most calories for the least cost? (Amazingly more calories were seen as better back then.)
  • Does the fat provide sufficient vitamin A? (Fats with more vitamin A were considered better.)

Here’s what a woman wrote in a 1919 magazine article about how she selected fats to serve her family:

When it became necessary to pay two cents for every tablespoon of butter we used in our family, and I knew that we were paying that sum just to satisfy our palates with that specific flavor, I then and there decided that something must be done. I knew that a calorie of energy is as valuable from one source as another and that, measure for measure, other fats than butter would give the same energy.

In choosing a butter substitute, I found that oleomargarine, made largely from beef-oil, contains some, at least of this Fat Soluble A, and if I increased the family milk supply so that the children were getting nearly a quart each day, oleomargarine could replace some butter. I then I could give the family butter only where its flavor was most desirable and expected, and realize that it matters little whether we use lard, cottonseed oil, suet, or the most expensive imported olive oils, from the standpoint of fuel obtained, I could use any clean and wholesome fat in cooking with a perfectly clear conscience.

I found it economic and patriotic, too, to clarify every bit of fat, mixing hard and soft kinds together to get a degree of hardness satisfactory to use in bread, cakes and pastry and in all my cooking. Of course, it costs in time and labor, but save in food and money, and just now there is less food than time or labor.

from “How My Family Saved Fats” by Jessamine Chapman Williams (American Cookery, February, 1919)

The article said that oleomargarine was made from beef oil (tallow?). Today oleomargarine is just called margarine, and is generally vegetable oil product.

There’s Excess Flour and Sugar in Europe – No Worries, Eat Cookies

Source: Wikimedia Commons (Imperial War Museums), Women at a flour mill, public domain

1919 magazines were filled with articles about World War I, and how the U.S. and other countries were returning to normalcy following the end of war.

During the war, Americans conserved food and were able to send huge amounts of flour and sugar to Europe to feed the troops and others in need.

At the end of the war there was lots of sugar stockpiled in Europe, and people wondered what should be done with it.  Here’s what the February, 1919 issue of American Cookery had to say about this:

Cookies! Yanks Eat Millions

More than 6,000,000 old-fashioned American cookies have been manufactured in France and distributed with the compliments of the American Red Cross to the soldiers in service, the wounded in hospitals and to scores of canteens. Within a month it is expected that 700,000 will be made a day. At present the output is 200,000 a day.

It is the belief of Red Cross officials that the manufacture of cookies will not be affected by the cessation of hostilities.

It is pointed out that there is a six-months stock of sugar and one and a half years’ supply of flour in storage for making the cookies.


“Mineral Matter in the Diet” Poem

Poem titled: Mineral Matter in the Diet
Source: The Journal of Home Economics (April, 1919)

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.

Troubleshooting Cake Problems

cake with icing
Image source: Recipes for Everyday (1919)

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.