Hundred-Year-Old Reasons to Eat Salad Greens

Greens are so good for us – and as spring arrives there’s a renewed focus on these delightful vegetables. Here’s what a hundred-year-old cookbook says about them:

Salad Greens

At no time have greens played such an important part in our diet as they do today. We are realizing and appreciating their beneficial effects on the system more than ever before. Containing, as they do, valuable mineral salts and special medicinal virtues, they should be used liberally, while they are in season.

The tonic greens of spring correct the results of the heavy winter diet. Greens of every sort are held in high esteem for their purifying qualities–spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, cress, dandelion, sorrel, mustard greens, chicory, beet greens, horseradish, and parsley are examples.

Each green is considered as possessing specific medicinal value, and all are aids in clearing the liver, blood and skin.

Serving a variety of greens from day to day provides all the virtues possessed by the different ones. Americans are appreciating the homely garden greens more and more and are utilizing them in salads, soups, sauces, and as garnishings.

In the these days of auto-intoxication, and other diseases, due to accumulated poisons in the body, it is well to make liberal use of nature’s cleansing agents.

  • Water cress grows wild and may be found on streamlets. Like other greens it is an anti-scorbutic, palatable and wholesome.

  • Dandelion greens are regarded as liver and blood purifiers.

  • Lettuce contains an opium principle, is a laxative, introduces mineral matter and helps to provide an alkaline condition of the blood.

    The Housevife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

The statement about lettuce containing an opium principle made no sense to me, so I googled it, and discovered that the white oozy liquid that emerges from lettuce stems when they are freshly cut looks similar to opium. This liquid was once considered to have medicinal properties. It used to be dried and was put into some patent medicines. It was believed to be a sedative and cough suppressant.

Great Hotel Dining Rooms and Kitchens a Hundred Years Ago

hotel-dining-room-gh-4-1917Caption: So many persons are not content with a “perfect day,” but want a perfect evening, too, that a scene like this at the Hotel Biltmore, New York, is set every night.

There were some very elegant hotel restaurants a hundred years ago. Here are a few pictures from a April, 1917 article in Good Housekeeping.

hotel-kitchen-gh-4-1917Caption: The kitchen is the very heart of a hotel, where the tremendous task of feeding a multitude is always in process. This is a busy corner in the kitchen of the Ritz-Carlton, New York.

hotel-dining-room-gh-4-1917-cCaption: Managing the dining-room of a great hotel is, after all, much like managing the dining room of a private home. (Plaza Hotel, New York)

Play Aprons for Children Making Mud Pies

burlap bag 1

Are children’s play aprons and mud pies a relevant topic for a post on A Hundred Years Ago? This blog is about food and related topics. Today I may be stretching the limits,  but somehow it seems to work on this muddy spring day.

Now that spring is on the horizon, children are playing outside again—and horror of horrors– perhaps making mud pies. They may need a play apron.

Here are hundred-year-old directions for making one:

Play aprons for children may be made most satisfactorily of burlap. An ordinary feed bag will do.

For the material on the shoulders cut a kimono clip apron having a square neck large enough to permit dropping of the apron over the child’s head. Do not seam it, but bind it all around with some bright-colored material and fasten under the seams with large buttons and loops.

This kind of apron requires little washing, as the coarseness of the material prevents the dirt from sticking to it. Such aprons will protect the children when playing in the sand or dirt, or making mud pies.

Ladies Home Journal (April, 1914)

Sometimes when I read old magazine articles, I’m surprised how much times have changed. A hundred-year-ago so many people must have still had such close ties to farms that a mass-circulation magazine like Ladies Home Journal thought that readers could easily get an “ordinary feed bag” made of burlap.

I also can’t quite picture parents putting burlap aprons on their children today. And, do kids still play in the mud? What about the germs?

P.S. I know that the burlap bag in the photo is not anywhere close to being a hundred years old, but it brought back nice memories of Agway feed bags that we had on the farm when I was a child.

Raising Pineapple in Hawaii a Hundred Years Ago

Source: American Cookery (February, 1917)
Source: American Cookery (February, 1917)

Did you ever wonder what it was like in Hawaii a hundred years ago?  Well, according to a 1917 magazine article there were huge pineapple plantations – and there were tourists. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Hawaii’s Immense Fields of Pineapples

The Islands of Hawaii possess many interesting sights, but they have none that elicit more universal admiration from the tourist than the immense pineapple plantations, which, in some localities, spread over the landscape as far as the eye can see.  While pineapples are grown on nearly all of the islands of the group, by far the larger part of the acreage is on the capital island of Oahu.

The larger portion of the Hawaiian pineapple crop is consumed by the canneries and juice-makers on the Islands. The raw or fresh fruit comes chiefly to the mainland ports of the United States, but the juice and the canned product go, also, to Canada, Great Britain, and the continent of Europe.

American Cookery (February, 1917)

Pound Equivalents for Recipe Ingredients

Source: The Housewife's Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)
Source: The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

Today there’s lots of discussion about whether it is better to measure recipe ingredients by volume (teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, etc.) or by weight (typically grams).  A hundred years ago cooks apparently wanted to go back and forth between volume and weight measures. Here’s a table from a 1917 cookbook which shows approximately how many cups (or other measures) of various ingredients were the equivalent of one pound.

When Potatoes Are Expensive, Substitute Rice


In 1917, food prices were rising rapidly in the U.S. because of World War I and the demand for food in Europe. Magazines were filled with articles about how to cope with the high food prices. One article encouraged readers to substitute rice for potatoes. Here’s a few excerpts:

Who Cares for Potatoes?

When there are cheaper foods that can take the place of Irish potatoes, why do we worry over their increasing cost? Besides, mankind has not always had potatoes to eat. The potato became widely popular only about one hundred years ago. It was the middle of the sixteenth century that the Spaniards found the potato in Peru and took it back to the Continent where it was cultivated as a curiosity.

In our own country we know the potato was cultivated in the temperate sections, for we have record of Sir Walter Raleigh’s taking it in 1585 from North Carolina to Ireland, to be cultivated on his estate near Cork. Its cultivation first became general in Ireland (whence its name) and not until a little more than a century ago did it come into widespread popular usage.

Certainly  we are not wholly dependent upon the potato for a well-balanced dietary since our ancestors thrived without it. To be sure, the potato has justly soared its popularity because of its cheapness, its food-value, its palatability, the convenience with which it can be shipped and stored, and the ease with which it can be prepared in a surprisingly large variety of attractive ways.

Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)
Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

It is true that men and women are largely creatures of habit, but the time has come when the women, as controllers of at  least seventy-five percent of the incomes of the men of the nation, must look to our habits to see whether they are expensive and whether they need to be altered.

Starch is not the only necessary constituent of a substitute for potatoes. The potato is rich in vitamins. This property, however, is possessed by most fruits and vegetables, and by milk.

Rice would more than fit the bill, as it contains nearly three times as much energy-building material as the potato. If we substitute it for potatoes, me must have at the same meal vegetables or fruits that will supply the needed potassium and bulk. Such vegetables and fruits are: Cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumbers, beets, lettuce, celery, string beans, parsnips, rhubarb, rutabagas, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, bananas, apricots, lemons, oranges, peaches pineapple, strawberries.

In purchasing rice we have a chance to economize by buying the broken kernels, which sell for several cents a pound cheaper than the whole grain, and have exactly the same food value.

Not that we wish to taboo potatoes–far be it from that–but since their price is relatively high we can save money by using potato-less menus.

Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

Is the Bread Crust Less Digestible than the Inside?


People have strong opinions about whether bread crusts are worth eating. I was surprised to learn that people have been questioning the value of bread crusts for a long time. Here’s a question and response that I found in a hundred-year-old magazine:

Is the Crust of Bread Less Digestible than the Inside?

No! The crust is satisfactorily digested when properly chewed. Part of the protein of the crust is present in a more soluble form and some of the starch has been partly digested to dextrin through the action of the heat in baking. The crust is fully as nutritious as the crumb or the inside of the loaf.

Ladies Home Journal (February, 1917)