Soy: The Coming Bean

Soybean Plan (Source: Good Housekeeping, September, 1917)

According to a 2007 CNN story,  “Soybeans, usually in the form of oil, ­ account for an astonishing 10 percent of our total calories in the United States.” It was very different a hundred years ago when soybeans were a new crop in the U.S.  Here’s some excerpts from a 1917 magazine article promoting the use of soybeans. (Back then “soy” and “bean” were two separate words.)

Soy: The Coming Bean

The soy bean, also called the soja bean, is a native of south-eastern Asia, and has been extensively cultivated in Japan, China, and India since ancient times. The beans are there grown almost entirely for human food, being prepared for consumption in many different ways.

The soy is a coming bean if not the coming bean. It is on its way to arrival in the American kitchen and dining room.

The outstanding fact of importance to consumers of food in the United States today is that a nutritious, palatable, easily grown (and therefore eventually cheap) legume is being recommended by the food experts. Pressure of circumstances has revived interest in foods and combinations of food of which the majority were old and have been forgotten. The soy bean, however, is to practically all American cooks and to the large body of food manufacturers an entirely new product.

Good Housekeeping (September, 1017)

Old-fashioned Stuffed Sweet Potato Recipe

Sweet potatoes are the perfect Fall vegetable – they’re both delicious and nutritious. They are a rich source of vitamins A and C, and contain substantial amounts of calcium and potassium.  So when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, I had to give it a try.

The recipe was a winner. It was easy-to-make, visually appealing, and most important, tasty. Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Larkin Housewives Cook Book (1917)

And, here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks (I halved the original recipe.):

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

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

3 medium sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

dash pepper

2 teaspoons minced parsley

1 egg white, beaten

Preheat oven to 400° F. Prick each sweet potato several times with the tines of a fork. Place of a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until tender (about 45 minutes – 1 hour, depending upon size).  Take out of oven, and cut each sweet potato in half. Gently scoop out pulp, and put into a bowl. Mash; then add butter, salt, pepper, and parsley. Mix thoroughly, then refill the skins. (The mixture should be heaped and nicely rounded–which means that not all the potato skins will be needed. ) Brush with beaten egg white. Put under the broiler until the top is lightly browned.

I used less salt than called for in the original recipe because it seemed excessive for my taste.

Hundred-year-old Advice for Avoiding Diabetes

Source of drawing under the “no” symbol: Lowny’s Cook Book (1912)

It’s fascinating to see what people knew a hundred years ago about the relationship between diabetes and the foods they ate. Here’s a Q&A on this topic in a 1917 magazine:

Avoiding Diabetes

Question: Can diabetes be avoided by a proper diet? If so, what food should one avoid to escape the disease?  I was told by a physician that diabetes was often inherited, but I want to try to escape it if it depends upon me. –E.L., New York

Answer:  No one can answer definitively your question in regard to avoiding diabetes. There is a general impression among physicians that diabetes is, to a certain extent, a diet disease; that is, it has been brought on through faults of diet.

This introduces the personal element. Why does one man eating a certain diet have diabetes and another man eating the same diet not have it? The answer is that one man is resistant and the other non-resistant; but this does not solve the problem.

I believe that if we would eat less carbohydrates, especially sugars, we would be less liable to diabetes. I would advise a simple, wholesome diet such as I would give any person who wishes to lead a correct life from the dietary point of view. I would emphasize the importance of avoiding the use of tea, coffee, chocolate, and tobacco. Sugar cakes, ice cream, pudding, and things of that kind would not enter into my diet scheme. Diabetes is not inherited, but the tendencies which make it possible may be. 

Good Housekeeping (September, 1917)

Old-fashioned Spanish Scrambled Eggs

Food for week-end breakfasts and brunches should be special – yet I also want convenience. I found a hundred-year-old recipe that fits the bill.

Spanish Scrambled eggs are colorful, tasty, and easy to make. These savory scrambled eggs have flecks of green pepper, pimento, and onion that delight both the eye and the taste buds. This recipe is a keeper.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (July, 1917)

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

Spanish Scrambled Eggs

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

6 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1 2-ounce jar pimento

Whisk the eggs  together in a bowl, then stir in the milk, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

In the meantime,  melt the butter in a skillet, add the onion and green pepper and saute until tender. Add the egg mixture and the pimento. As the mixture begins to thicken, use a spatula to lift and fold the curds. Continue cooking and folding until no liquid remains. Remove from heat. If desired, may be served with toast.

Cook’s note: The old recipe called for 1 teaspoon salt. This seemed excessive to me, so I reduced it to 1/2 teaspoon when I updated the recipe.

What Shall We Have for Breakfast?

There have been arguments over what constitutes a proper breakfast for at least a hundred years. Here are some excerpts from a 1917 article:

What Shall We Have for Breakfast?

Between the old-fashioned hearty breakfast and the coffee and roll of the slender modern meal, there is a golden mean. Those of us whose days are busy ones need to start them with plenty of nourishing food. This does not mean that we should overload the stomach, but it does mean that we should take sufficient food to keep from feeling faint in the middle of the morning.  The body needs to be “coaled up” just as a furnace does for a day’s work.

But steaks and chops every morning are out of the question. Some families, however, still regard the egg as the breakfast dish. Almost everyone wants fruit for breakfast. Stewed rhubarb is a healthful breakfast fruit. Apples, uncooked, baked, fried or in applesauce, cannot be improved upon.

Advertisements on packaged cereals usually quote alluring figures to prove how surprisingly low is the cost of cereals. And, yet, these do not seem so cheap when the housewife begins to cast up accounts! Many grains and cereals — oatmeal, hominy, and others —  can be purchased by the pound. This is particularly delicious with stewed canned berries.

Griddle cakes are always popular, and if well made, and quickly and thoroughly cooked, are light and digestible. If the family does not object to fried things, rice fritters will be enjoyed.

Good Housekeeping (October, 1917)



Old-fashioned Onion Toast

Sometimes simple foods are the best. Toast toppers are a favorite of mine for lunch or a light dinner, so when I saw a recipe for Onion Toast in a hundred-year-old magazine, I had to give it a try.

Mild, sweet onion slices embedded in a rich, creamy sauce are served over a classic French toast.  The bread was soaked in beaten eggs, and then grilled to create a delightful French toast that added an unexpected, but delightful, dimension to this dish.

In days gone by, this simple dish was probably seen as a way to stretch budgets when money was tight – but I would put this dish in the category of gourmet comfort food. This recipe is a keeper, and will become part of my repertoire of recipes that I regularly make.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Good Housekeeping (August, 1917)

When I made this recipe I wasn’t exactly sure what a Bermuda onion was, so I googled it and determined that it was a large, mild onion. But I was surprised to discover that in the late 1800s and early 1900s that large quantities of onions actually were imported into the U.S. from Bermuda. According to the Bermuda 4U website, after Mark Twain visited Bermuda, he wrote about its wonderful onions in Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion:

The onion is the pride and joy of Bermuda. It is her jewel, her gem of gems. In her conversation, her pulpit, her literature, it is her most frequent and eloquent figure. In Bermuda metaphor it stands for perfection — perfection absolute.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Onion Toast

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Onion Sauce

2 onions, sliced (about 1 1/4 cups sliced onions)

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk

French Toast

2 eggs

4 slices bread

1/4 teaspoon salt



Onion Sauce: Melt butter in a skillet using medium-low heat, then add the onion slices and saute until the onions become soft and translucent.  Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the milk while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until hot and bubbly. Remove from heat and serve over the French Toast.

French Toast: Beat eggs with a fork, then stir in salt and a dash of pepper.  Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture then place on a hot griddle that has been generously greased with butter. Using medium heat, grill until the bottom side of the bread is browned, then flip and cook the other side.

Cook’s notes: The original recipe called for 6 slices of bread, but I used 4 slices. I only had enough of the beaten eggs to coat 4 slices – and the amount of onion sauce seemed about right for 4 slices. I also did not scald the milk prior to stirring it into the onion mixture.

Selling Yourself Canned Goods

The Discoveries  column in a 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping invited readers to send in their “discoveries” for possible publication. Readers whose submissions were accepted received $1 from the magazine. I always need to buy lots of supplies when canning season rolls around, so I was thrilled to see a reader’s suggestion for minimizing the impact on my pocketbook.

Selling Yourself Canned Goods

I keep a bank on a shelf in my preserve closet. For each glass of jelly I pay the bank five cents, for each jar of fruit or vegetables, ten cents. When the canning season comes round again I usually have enough money saved up to buy all the needed materials for the next winter’s supply.  This is an easy way to spread the comparatively large expenditures of canning over the whole year instead of having to make them in a few weeks. — Mrs. A.H.G., Pa. 

Good Housekeeping (September, 1917)