I always enjoy reading hundred-year-old advice. Sometimes I agree with it; other times I just smile. Here is what a century-old home economics textbook says about drinking water:
That drinking water at meals is harmful is another tradition to which some people still cling. There may be certain pathological conditions that would make this practice harmful. But people in normal health suffer no ill effects from a reasonable amount of water taken with meals. A safe rule at meals is to drink when you are thirsty, and with one limitation not to drink when masticating.
The digestion of starch foods should begin in the mouth and this can take place only when the food is thoroughly mixed with the saliva. If food is mixed with water the salivary glands are not sufficiently stimulated to action, and the food passes from the mouth without enough of the digestive juice.
One disadvantage of drinking water at meals is that people who do so often think they have a sufficient amount and do not drink between meals. Copious water-drinking is essential for proper elimination. It is a safe rule to take at least six glasses a day, including that taken at meals, and ten glasses are not too much.
How to Cook and Why by Elizabeth Condit and Jessie Long (1914)
Today summer squash is often streamed or grilled, but once or twice each summer I fry it. So I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Fried Summer Squash.
When I make fried squash, I generally “bread” it with flour. The old recipe called for actual bread crumbs. The bread crumbs are a nice twist to this classic comfort food.
Here is the hundred-year-old recipe:
Yellow summer squash or zucchini could be used in this recipe. I used yellow straightneck squash to more authentically replicate the hundred-year-old recipe. According to Wikipedia, “the first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s.” Since this cookbook was published in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1917, the cookbook author won’t have used zucchini.
Wash and cut the squash into 1/2-inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper, dip in the beaten eggs, and coat with bread crumbs. Set aside.
In the meantime, heat 1/2 inch of shortening or oil in a large frying skillet. When hot, carefully place the breaded squash slices in the skillet in a single layer. Depending upon pan size, the squash slices may need to be cooked in several batches. Fry for about a minute or until the bottom side of each slice is lightly browned, then gently turn and fry until the other side is browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.
Cook’s note: Some of the breading will fall off the squash during cooking. This is okay, the remaining breading is enough to make an attractive and tasty dish.
The old recipe calls for coating the squash slices with bread crumbs, both before and after dipping in egg. When I made this recipe very few bread crumbs clung to the squash slices prior to dipping it in the egg – so I skipped this step when updated the recipe. It works fine to only coat with bread crumbs after dipping in the eggs.
The introduction to the “Fish” chapter in a hundred-year-old cookbook explains why we should eat fish:
If more fish and less meat were used in the daily meals, it would help to reduce the cost of living. Fish provides the same nutrients as meat at a much smaller cost, and furnishes a food that is not only palatable but easily digested.
Whitefish, haddock, halibut, cod, flounder, smelts, perch, pickerel, sunfish and crappies belong to the white-fleshed family. Salmon, shad, lake trout, butterfish, and herring being to the red-fleshed family.
As the white-fleshed fish is considered more easy of digestion than the red-fleshed, it should be selected for invalids, convalescents or those suffering from weak digestion.
Fish should be eaten while fresh and in season; then it provides a delicate protein food. Stale fish is poisonous, so great care should be used in its selection. Fish contains albumen, and as albumen (which is like the white of egg) coagulates at a low temperature, it should be cooked at a temperature below the boiling point for water.
The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)
I find the last sentence about cooking fish at a temperature below the boiling point of water a bit befuddling. Have you ever heard that it was important to cook fish at low temperatures? I often put fish in the oven at 400° F. or sear on top of the stove using high temperatures.
I always thought Succotash was a mixture of corn and lima beans, so I was surprised to see a recipe in a hundred-year-old magazine for Tomato Succotash. The recipe called for seasonal vegetables – tomatoes, corn, green pepper, and onions – so, of course, I had to give it a try.
The medley of vegetables was delightful. This recipe is a keeper. And, I know that it will become part of my repertoire of recipes that I regularly make.
Here’s the original recipe:
I’m not sure what is meant by “green corn” in the recipe. When I made the recipe, I took it to mean tender (perhaps slightly immature) corn.
3 large ears of corn , cooked (tender corn is best)
2 tablespoons butter
1/ 2 green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Peel and slice the tomatoes, set aside. (I put the whole tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then removed from the hot water and put briefly in cold water. The skins are then easy to slip off the tomatoes).
Cut the corn from the cob. Set aside.
Put the butter in a large skillet; melt using medium heat. Add green pepper and onion; saute until tender. Stir in the sliced tomatoes, corn, salt, sugar, and paprika. Cook until the mixture is hot and bubbly. Remove from heat and serve.
Wesson Oil has been around for more than a hundred years – though its composition has changed over time. It originally was a cottonseed oil. Today it is a mixture of oils, and may contain soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil.
I recently found a hundred-year-old recipe for the perfect peach dessert – Peach Tapioca Without Cream. The name is a bit misleading. This luscious, refreshing dessert is topped with almond-flavored whipped cream.
The peaches are embedded in a delightful, thick, sweet, tapioca sauce made with water, sugar, and lemon. The use of water rather than the usual milk or cream creates a lovely new dimension that’s unlike any tapioca I’ve ever eaten.
This recipe was published in Good Housekeeping in 1917. At the time, food prices were rapidly rising due to food shortages cause by World War I. Cream was expensive – so the recipe called for making the tapioca with water instead of cream. But apparently the recipe author couldn’t bring herself to totally eliminate the cream and decided that people could afford to use a little cream that could be whipped into a delightful topping.
Here’s the original recipe:
And, here’s the recipe updated for modern readers:
Combine the tapioca, water, and salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil using medium heat while stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer gently while continuing to stir; cook until the mixture is clear and thick (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in the lemon juice, grated lemon rind, and sugar. Added the sliced peaches and gently stir to combine. Put into a bowl and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Serve with Almond-Flavored Whipped Cream.
Almond-Flavored Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Put cream in a bowl; beat until stiff peaks form. Add confectioners sugar and almond extract; beat until combined.
I tend to think that there were no commercially prepared foods in the mid-1800s – but I’ve learned that’s not true. Some food products have been around for more than 150 years. According to a 1917 advertisement, Gulden Mustard is one of those foods.