The Avocado: A New Fruit in the Northern States

Avocado 3

Sometimes I’m surprised by the large variety of foods that were available a hundred years ago. Apparently even farm families were beginning to eat non-local foods during the winter months. The February, 1915 issue of Farm Journal contained a serving suggestion for avocados.

The Avocado

The avocado or the “alligator pear, “ is at once one of the oldest and newest of fruits. It is an old standby in tropical countries and yet is one of the latest fruits introduced into the northern states. Just why it has not been more generally taken up and considered a staple rather than a luxury is not plain. It costs about the same as grapefruit. However, grapefruit is usually eaten as a fruit, while the avocado serves more or less as a vegetable—usually more. It may replace lettuce, though it is more tempting when served on lettuce leaves.

We in the North get our avocados from southern Florida or California. The avocado may be served in various ways. Often it is simply cut in half, lengthwise, and the stone removed. A quarter or less of a lemon or lime is put beside it, and it is then eaten with a spoon, as you would eat a cantaloupe. Some add a little powdered sugar.

The Value of Good Table Manners

Source: A Text-Book of Cooking by Carlotta C. Greer (1915)
Source: A Text-Book of Cooking (1915)

Are table manners less important now than a hundred years ago? Sometimes I think so; other times I’m not sure.

Here’s what a hundred-year-old book had to say about table manners in a chapter titled Dining Room Courtesy:

The Value of Good Table Manners

No matter how cultivated in mind and spirit one may be, if there is an absence of refinement of manners, the higher qualities are likely to be overlooked. The basis of all good manner is tact, i.e., a kindly consideration of others.

Graceful and easy table manners and a knowledge of how to serve and be served add to the comfort as well as to the pleasure of one’s associates in the dining room.

Most of the rules of table conduct have been adopted because they lend ease and grace or because they are sensible; others have been established by custom and long usage.

Source: A Text-Book of Cooking by Carlotta A Greer (1915)

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Built-in Farmhouse Sinks a Hundred Years Ago

Source: Women's Home Companion (March, 1916)
Source: Women’s Home Companion (March, 1916)

Kitchen decorating tends come and go. Currently “farmhouse” sinks are popular. They are deep sinks which have a finished front that also serves as the front of the cabinet which houses it. Sometimes they are called apron sinks.

Farmhouse sinks have been around for a long time, and a hundred-years ago a Woman’s Home Companion reader submitted a suggestion to a household tip column about how to make an attractive built-in sink.

Under the Kitchen Sink

Our kitchen is very small. There was absolutely no place to keep scrub pails and such unsightly paraphernalia except under the sink, which had open plumbing. So, in order to hide these things from view, I had a carpenter build lattice-work beneath the sink and drain board, with a door. This is painted white and makes a light, airy place in which to store many housekeeping necessities. As one of my friends said, it’s the most effective “piece of furniture” I have in the house!

Women’s Home Companion (March, 1916)

Stylish Aprons a Hundred Years Ago

Apron 4
Source: Ladies Home Journal (March, 1916)

Are some aprons more stylish and youthful-looking than others? I never thought about it until I saw an article in the March, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal titled, “The New Girlish Apron: Daintily Made in Handwork.”

I always think that I look like my grandmother when I wear an apron – but perhaps my aprons are just dowdy.

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Apron 3

Apron 1

Apron 2

Sharpless Bread Maker

Sharpless bread maker 2

A hundred-years-ago, Good Housekeeping had a monthly feature on “Tested Helps for Housekeepers” which showcased new kitchen gadgets and appliances that had received the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

One item that got the seal of approval was the Sharpless Bread-Mixer:

This machine will make bread of uniformly excellent quality in inexperienced hands. The principle of operation is radically different from other machines or from that used in making bread by hand. The liquid ingredients and softened yeast are placed in the lower section and the flour above, separated by a sifting-screen. Turning the crank sifts through just as much flour at one stroke as the beating paddles can thoroughly mix with the liquid.

Thus, as soon as all the flour is sifted through the bread is “mixed” and ready for its first raising. The whole process requires less than a minute for five pounds of bread, and when raised the can be immediately molded into loaves for baking.

Many housekeepers ask if machine-made bread is better than that made by hand. It is invariably better when compared with that made by inexperienced cooks. . . It is therefore safe to say that home-made machine bread will be an improvement over the hand-made variety in ninety percent of homes. . .

The price is $8.00 delivered.

Good Housekeeping (March, 1916)

Whirling Lettuce

lettuce leaves

A hundred-years-ago Good Housekeeping magazine had a column that contained household tips submitted by readers.

Source: Good Housekeeping (January, 1916)
Source: Good Housekeeping (January, 1916)

When I wash lettuce, it’s always a little tricky to get it dry before making a salad, so I was very excited when I saw a tip for drying lettuce in the magazine:

To Dry Lettuce for a Salad

The most effective way of drying lettuce, I have found, is to place it in a clean dish towel after washing, gather the sides and corners in the hand so as to form a bag, step to the kitchen door, and whirl the bag at arm’s length three or four times. This drives out almost every particle of water from the lettuce.

Mrs. C. H. C., Colo.

Good Housekeeping (January, 1916)

Of course, I had to give it a whirl.

lettuce whirling

Do I recommend whirling lettuce to dry it?

Naw—I just about froze. It’s way too cold to whirl lettuce in January.

Get Rid of that Antiquated Kitchen – Modernize

Source: Good Housekeeping (November, 1915)
Source: Good Housekeeping (November, 1915)

The holidays are winding down and many of us have spent long hours in the kitchen preparing for large family gatherings. Perhaps now is a good time to consider what it was like to prepare meals in kitchens a hundred years ago.

This April, 1915 article in Farm Journal implored farmers to consider how difficult it could be for their wives to cook in antiquated kitchens—and to make sure that modern conveniences were equitably distributed across the farm and the house.

With families averaging 5.2 members in number, the housewife preparing three meals a day, provides in the course of a year 5,694 meals, a discouraging proposition under the best conditions, but cooked in the average kitchen, it becomes deadly monotonous.

The lack of running water, a poor stove, the empty wood box, the heavy teakettle and iron pots, insufficient towels, antiquated woodenware, rusty and battered tin ware, the lack of a pantry, the cold in winter and heat in summer, the lack of screens, –I wonder how many meals the men folks would cook under these conditions.

In these days, when efficiency is required along every line of work. I wonder how our women work against such heavy odds. If the men had to cook and keep the kitchen clean, they would want linoleum on the floor, they would have running water, the stove would not smoke and the wood box would never be empty. There would be good, handy and substantial tools to work with, the teakettle would be easy to lift and easy to clean, the knives would be sharp—oh, I am sure of that!

There would be towels galore, and they would be good ones; a pantry would be built to save running to the cellar, the kitchen would be protected in winter and shaded in summer, doors and windows would be screened, there would be a stool to sit on while doing some kinds of work, and a low, comfortable chair for other work, and a few minutes’ rest, now and then. There would be some good way to prop the ironing-board (no makeshift here) and irons enough to allow time for thorough heating.

As the work is almost entirely done by women, they get along with things as they are, renewing and replacing the old as they have the opportunity.

The farmer and his wife (or daughter, or sister, whoever does the work) should constitute a partnership, and for every convenience secured for his part of the work, there should be one for hers. It need not always represent an outlay of money, but it will represent love, appreciation, the desire to protect and willingness to cooperate, which is the foundation for family happiness and prosperity.

Source: Good Housekeeping (May, 1916)
Source: Good Housekeeping (May, 1916)