An “Army” of Diet Experts Helped Ensure Victory in WWI

Source: Good Housekeeping (July, 1917)

During World War I food in the U.S. was very expensive, and people worried about food shortages. Here’s excerpts of what Harvey Wiley, a popular food expert who led the laboratories at the Good Housekeeping Institute, had to say:

The victory in this war will  be won by those nations which have the best and most abundant supply of food. Bread is more important than munitions. The nation that is hungry will first be ready to yield. We must see to it that none of the Allies is put in such a position. To this end everything that can be done to awaken the American people to their responsibility must be done.

We must stop wasting food in our kitchens and on our tables, and we must conserve the whole of the food product that is edible.

Our people must be taught how to eat in these times of stress. The teachers of home economics and domestic science throughout the country should be mobilized to carry messages to the people. The welfare of the nation is at stake. The success of our Allies is in the balance. It seems strange to speak of an army of diet experts, but such an army is just as important as one carrying modern rifles and sharp bayonets.

Good Housekeeping (July, 1917)

Old-fashioned Vegetable Chowder with Meat

Vegetable Chowder with Meat is the ultimate comfort food. This hundred-year-old recipe makes a delicious hearty soup that is perfect on these cold winter days. This flavorful  soup features carrots, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, onion, and celery, as well as a little barley.  I used beef in this recipe, though other meats would also work.

Here is the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (february, 1917)
Source: Good Housekeeping (February, 1917)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Vegetable Chowder with Meat

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 1/2 pounds stewing beef

4 quarts water

2 tablespoons barley

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup potatoes, diced

1 cup cabbage, shredded

1/2 cup onion

1/2 cup celery

2 cups tomatoes, diced (or use 1 16-oz. can of tomatoes)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Put the meat and water in a stewing pot or dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil using high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer for one hour. Add barley and cook for an additional half hour.  Add carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions, celery, and tomatoes. Continue cooking for an additional hour. Add salt, pepper, and parsley. Remove the meat from the pot and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return the meat to the pot. Reheat until the soup is hot, and then serve.

Hundred-Year-Old Food Advertisements Poem

Source: American Cookery (October, 1917)

When I saw this poem in a hundred-year-old issue of American Cookery Magazine, I had an immediate negative reaction. Did the magazine’s editors really think that they could convince consumers that everything in food advertisements was true? Didn’t cooks back then realize that the purpose of advertisements was to sell food, not to provide the most accurate information?

Then I thought –

Even though I’m cynical about advertising, I read food ads.  They must have value to me. Soon I was pondering,  “Why do I read food ads?”

Here’s the reasons, I came up with:

  • Food advertisements are fun to read.
  • I like to laugh at how over the top some ads are.
  • I read them to learn about new products.
  • I read them to find “good deals.”

Hmm . . . maybe the old magazine was  right, “food ads help me out so much.”

Old-fashioned Honey Wafer Recipe

I’m always on the look-out for “healthy” hundred-year-old cookie recipes, so I was thrilled when I came across a recipe for Honey Wafers. The recipe uses honey as the primary sweetener – though it does contain a small amount of sugar.

Old-fashioned Honey Wafers are delightful with coffee. They have a distinct honey flavor, with mild undertones of lemon. Don’t expect these cookies to taste like sugar cookies.

I used a 2-inch in diameter round cookies cutter when making these cookies. This was a good size. Small is better. The honey is very predominant, and made for savoring.

These cookies got relatively hard after a day or two, but were still good. They could also be softened by putting in an airtight container with a slice or two of apple.

Here’s the original recipe:

The Cook’s Book (a small promotional cookbook for KC Baking Powder, 1911)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Honey Wafers

  • Servings: approximately 60 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup honey

1/3 teaspoon lemon extract

2 3/4 cups pastry flour (All-purpose flour can be substituted.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2-4 tablespoons milk, if needed

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Combine butter, sugar, honey, and lemon extract in a mixing bowl. Add baking powder, stir to combine. Add flour, stir until well-mixed. If the mixture is too dry, add milk to create a dough with a consistency that can be easily rolled.

On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12  minutes or until lightly browned.

1917 Filene’s Department Store Employee Cafeteria Menu and Prices

Source: American Cookery (June/July, 1917)

There’s been a lot of inflation over the past hundred years. A century ago, you could get a meal of roast lamb, mashed potatoes, bread (2 slices), and butter for only $.20 at the employees’ cafeteria at Filene’s Department Store in Boston. What would a similar roast lamb meal cost today?

According to an online Inflation Calculator website, a dollar a hundred years ago is worth about $19 today.  That suggests that the lamb dinner should only cost about $3.80 today. Whew, that’s way too low. I can’t even buy a latte for $3.80. . . or has food increased in price much faster than overall inflation?

Old-fashioned Mashed Rutabagas

For years I’ve walked past rutabagas at the local grocery store and barely noticed them (and definitely never bought one).

But, that all changed when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Mashed Rutabagas, and decided to give them a try.

I was pleasantly surprised. The Mashed Rutabagas had a sweet, earthy, nutty  flavor; and they make a perfect winter side dish. Additionally, rutabagas are a good source of Vitamin C.

It took me many years to try rutabagas – but now that I’ve tried them, they’re sure to become one of the winter vegetables that I regularly serve.

Here’s the original recipe:

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

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Mashed Rutabagas

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3 cups peeled and cubed rutabaga

water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon sugar, optional

Place cubed rutabaga in a saucepan and cover with water. Using high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer until the rutabaga is tender (approximately 1/2 hour). Remove from heat and drain. Mash the cooked rutabaga, then stir in salt, pepper, butter, and milk. If desired, also stir in sugar.  Serve immediately.

The Diary Years – Found Photos of Grandma’s Best Friend and her Husband

Carrie [Stout] Pressler (1897-1965)
I began this blog in 2011 to post my grandmother’s diary entries a hundred years to the day after she wrote them. My grandmother, Helena Muffly [Swartz] kept the diary from 1911 to 1914 when she was a teen living on a farm near McEwensville in central Pennsylvania. After I posted all the diary entries, I reinvented A Hundred Years Ago to its current focus on food. Today I’m going to go back to the early days of this blog —

Helena’s best friend in the diary was Carrie Stout. During years when I was posting the diary, I never was able to find a photo of Carrie.

Imagine my surprise when I got a Christmas card from Carrie’s granddaughter, Barb Fry, a few weeks ago that contained photos of Carrie and her husband, John Pressler.  It was a dream come true. I finally knew what Carrie looked like. In the photo she was older than what she would have been when Helena was writing about her in the diary, but it’s easy to picture the two teens giggling and chatting in their younger days.

Both Carrie and Helena married farmers and lived their entire lives within a few miles of each other.

John Pressler (1888 – 1944)

I went through my transcript of the diary and found that Carrie is mentioned more than 70 times in the diary. I thought you might enjoy reading (or re-reading) a few of those diary entries.

February 11, 1911: Got up about eight o’clock this morning. Did quite a lot of work this forenoon. Carrie Stout was over a while this afternoon. Nearly all my Saturdays are alike.

March 5, 1911: I went to Sunday school this morning. Carrie Stout and I walked to Turbotville this afternoon going up the railroad. We were rather weak in our feet by the time we got home.

March 20, 1911: Carrie Stout was over this evening. She brought me a birthday present. It was a dainty white apron. Mother said, “It was only a patch.” Well I’ll have to say good-by to fifteen years and pass on to the next. Wonder if I will get any more presents.

April 29, 1911:  Ma kept me busy a chasing the chickens out of the garden this afternoon. I get so mad at them. Carrie Stout came over this evening. Wanted me to go along with her up to McEwensville. She is afraid of the dark. Of course I went, although I looked like a witch.

January 1, 1912: New Year’s day for me had a rather doleful beginning, but brightened up as the day passed on. Carrie came over this afternoon and we went a skating or rather she did the skating and I the tumbling.  I was just experimenting, being the first time I really tried to skate. Maybe I’ll buy a pair of skates pretty soon, as I haven’t any of my own. But the learning, however, isn’t much fun.

December 22, 1913: Carrie was over this afternoon. We picked out nuts. Made taffy this evening, but it didn’t get good and the nuts were wasted.

June 2, 1914: Carrie was over. We had some gossip and some other rare tidbits.

July 21, 1914: Went to a party about three miles from here. Went with Carrie and her beau. There were lots there I didn’t know. Didn’t stay so very late.

Friendships are special and to be cherished – both a hundred years ago and now.