Ever wonder what the soldiers ate during World War I? . . . Well, according to a hundred-year-old magazine, one thing they ate was honey.
Honey in the Trenches in Europe
Honey is being used in the European trenches along with sugar. Both of these articles are energy-producers, and in many cases honey is cheaper than sugar.
When the war broke out in 1914 the prices on medium grades of honey began to sag until there was no demand. In the meantime sugar began to climb. The war lords of Europe, when it came to the matter of rations, soon discovered that honey, an energy-producer, was much cheaper than sugar (also an energy-producer), and consequently honey has been going into the trenches, and is going there still.
Apparently, only the medium grades are being used, because they furnish as much energy per pound as the finer and better-flavored table honeys that cost as much or more than sugar.
Frankly I’m tired of the ubiquitous pumpkin pie recipe that calls for evaporated milk and a 1-pound can of pumpkin. Is it really necessary to use evaporated milk–or would regular milk work? And, of course, I then made the short leap to: How did they make pumpkin pies a hundred years ago?
I found an awesome pumpkin pie recipe in the Lycoming Valley Cook Book. It was compiled by “the Ladies of the Trout Run M.E. Church, Trout Run Pa”. in 1907. The pie is similar enough to modern recipes that it won’t alarm your Thanksgiving guests. They’ll just think you used your usual recipe–but that it turned out better than it does in a typical year.
The resulting pie has a nice blend of spices that don’t overwhelm the pumpkin. The recipe calls for just two spices (cinnamon and ginger) rather than the three or four typically used in modern recipes.
It also uses more eggs than are generally used in recipes that call for evaporated milk. Since the milk used in the old recipe contains more liquid, additional eggs are needed to set the custard. This pie also requires more baking time than modern pumpkin pies, but the result is a rich and creamy custard filling.
Here’s my adaptation of the old recipe for modern cooks:
Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine all ingredients (except pie shell) in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°. Continue baking (about 50-60 minutes) until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.
Notes: This recipe filled the 8-inch pie shell to the very rim, and it was a little difficult to get it into the oven without spilling. (Don’t overfill pie shell. If there is too much filling put the extra in a small casserole dish and cook separately.)
I’ve often heard parents say that their teen-aged sons “eat them out of house and home.” That’s apparently been an issue for a long time. Here are some excerpts from a hundred-year-old Chicago Evening Post article as reprinted in the December, 1916 issue of American Cookery:
The Russell Sage Institute has just completed a scientific inquiry into the eating capacity of 300 boys at a big boarding school. The whole thing is summarized in one convincing sentence, “The 5,000 calories thus contained in the daily diet of active American boys of school age are half again as much as a farmer at work is believed to require.”
It is well to keep this scientifically ascertained fact in mind if you have boys of your own; it is their perfect justification for trying to eat you out of house and home.
The fixing of the fact by research has its sociological value, too. There are multitudes of boys who do not get their 5,000 calories daily. “Lack of appreciation of this factor,” says the investigator’s report, “and lack of provision for it, are the probable causes of much of the under-nutrition seen in children of school age.”
There is an old saying that Blancmange should be wobbly but not as rubbery as a rubber ball. I recently made a hundred-year-old recipe for Chocolate Blancmange, and using the criteria in the old saying, it was excellent. The Blancmange was rich and decadent, and trembled just a little.
Even though Blancmange is an old dessert, it was new to me; and this was the first time that I ever made this lovely molded dessert.
This recipe is a keeper. As my husband finished the Blancmange, he asked, “When are you going to make this again.?”
The old recipe was part of an advertisement for Minute Tapioca. (Yes, Minute Tapioca as been around for more than a hundred years).
Here’s the original recipe:
When I saw the illustration for the Blancmange, I realized that I actually owned some old dessert plates that once belonged to my grandmother that looked very similar to the ones in the picture. I hadn’t seen the plates in years, but I pulled a chair over to my highest kitchen cupboard, and climbed up. A few minutes later I’d found the plates. They weren’t identical to the ones in the drawing, but I had a lot of fun trying to semi-replicate the old picture.
The old recipe called this dessert “blanc mange.” I think that today, the two words are generally combined into one (blancmange), so that is the way that I’ve spelled it.
In a medium saucepan stir together the tapioca, sugar, cocoa, and salt. While stirring, slowly add the milk. Using medium heat, and while stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that there is a slow rolling boil. Cook for an additional 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Be sure to stir to the very bottom of the pan because this mixture will easily burn. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour into individual molds. Custard cups work well as molds. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
To serve, set the molded dessert in a pan of hot water for a few seconds; then run a table knife around the edge of the mold to loosen and turn upside down on serving plate to unmold.
If desired, serve with whipped cream.
To make homemade whipped cream, Put 1 cup whipping cream in a mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar. Whip until there are stiff peaks.
Cook’s note: I did not make the cocoa (hot chocolate) prior to making this recipe. It seemed unnecessary to use a two-step process. Instead, I found a recipe for hot chocolate on a can of cocoa. I combined the dry ingredients in that recipe with the dry ingredients called for in the hundred-year-old Blancmange recipe. I then stirred in three cups of milk. This streamlined process worked just fine.
They sure knew how to package Jell-O a hundred years ago. The “Safety Bag” would keep it “as pure and sweet” as the day it was made for years.
I checked the “best used by” date on a package of Jell-O in my cupboard. The date was November 16, 2014. Time flies, and I don’t remember when I bought it, but I don’t think that it was real long ago. In any case, I discarded the package . . . sigh . . . I wish that modern Jell-O would keep for years like the old-time Jell-O in its Safety Bag.
Have you ever “hidden” vegetables in food to get your kids to eat healthier? I thought that hiding vegetables was a recent trend, but when I made a hundred-year-old recipe for Squash Bread, I discovered that cooks have been hiding vegetables for a long time.
The Squash Bread had a rustic artesian look, a nice texture, and a sunny yellow tinge – but I couldn’t taste the squash in it. It just tasted like the typical homemade bread.
The verdict: If you want to hide vegetables in bread this recipe is worth a try; otherwise, just stick with your usual bread recipe.
1 cup pureed winter squash (Butternut squash works well in this recipe.)
1 tablespoon shortening (or lard)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Scald milk by heating in a sauce pan until the milk begins to steam and form bubbles; use medium heat and stir occasionally. Remove from heat before it comes to a boil. Let the scalded milk cool until it is lukewarm, then dissolve the yeast in the milk.
Put 2 cups flour, squash, shortening, butter, sugar, salt, and the water and yeast mixture in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).
Place in a greased bowl. Cover; let rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead for an additional 5 minutes. Divide dough into two equal parts and shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased loaf pans, 9″ X 5″ X 3″, and cover. Let rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
Bake loaves in 400° F. oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.
I always find old-time bread recipes particularly difficult to interpret because modern yeast is so different from what it was a hundred years ago. Back then it was not dried like the yeast that we generally use today. I guessed that 2 packages of dried yeast would be the equivalent of 1/2 cup (1/2 yeast cake) back then. This substitution worked just fine when I made this recipe.
Did you ever plan the menu for a meal with 200 people? . . . and ended up getting sticker shock at how much it would cost? According to a hundred-year-old magazine, a church supper for 200 people in 1916 would cost only $74.58. To keep the costs down, the menu did have a few limitations. For example, canned peas were listed as the main vegetable. But, on the other hand, the person planning the menu did budget $3.50 for “help”.
We really should factor in inflation when looking at this old menu. According to an online inflation calculator, a dollar in 1916 is worth $22.22 today. So in today’s dollars, the total meal cost $1,657.17 or $8.29 per person – which, at least in my book, is still a very reasonably priced meal.