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.
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)
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. . .
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,unevenlywovenfabric of cotton or linen,usedfortowelsandcurtains.
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.
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.
Today there is a lot of discussion about whether students need physical education classes in school – or whether the time is better spent on academic subjects. I recently discovered that this issue has been discussed for at least a hundred years. This is what it says in the October, 1916 issue of American Cookery:
The belief seems to be growing that physical training in the American public schools should be standardized, greatly improved, and made obligatory. The Swiss system, which begins with youngsters of eight or ten years, or some adaption thereof, is being strongly urged in many quarters.
Adoption of such a system, administered by carefully trained, and thoroughly competent instructors, ought in a very few years to bring American youth to the requisite degree of “physical preparedness” — which would fit them, broadly speaking, for better and more useful citizenship in peace and in war time.