Some recipes don’t change across the years; others do. As tastes and preferences change, recipes are updated. In other cases, lack of availability of an ingredient might lead to tweaking of an old recipe. Also, for commercially-prepared foods, government regulations can affect their composition. Last week I was amazed to discover that the government regulated French Dressing for many years.
On January 13, the Wall Street Journal had an article titled “The U.S. Federal Government Deregulates French Dressing.” The government established the standard for French Dressing 72 years ago, and “according to the original 1950 standard, a French dressing should include vegetable oil, and a vinegar and/or lemon or lime juice, and could be seasoned with ingredients such as salt, sugar, tomato paste or puree, and spices such as mustard are paprika.”
This article made me remember the many French Dressing recipes that I’ve seen in hundred-year-old cookbooks over the years, and how those recipes differed from today’s seemingly ubiquitous creamy orange dressing. Back then the dressing was often more of a vinaigrette. Here are two French Dressing recipes from 1922 cookbooks:
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries (1922)
I made the French Dressing in the photo using the first recipe.
And, here is a 1922 magazine article that responds to a reader’s question about French Dressing. The response differentiates between French Dressing and Russian Dressing -though it is mostly focused on French Dressing:
Whew, my head is spinning. Who would have guessed that for a least a hundred years people have been giving lots of thought to exactly what comprises French Dressing?
Old cookbooks often contain recipes with names that memorialize someone, but provide almost no clue about the food. For example, I’ve seen recipes for Grandma’s Cake and Mrs. Johnson’s Dessert. I usually shy away from these recipes because of the unhelpful title – but I recently made an exception. I decided to give “Mother’s” Salad Dressing a try, and I’m glad I did This tangy, creamy, old-fashioned milk, vinegar, and egg dressing was delightful.
I’m always on the look-out for good homemade salad dressing recipes. so when I saw a hundred-year-old recipe for Thousand Island Dressing, I had to give it a try.
The Thousand Island Dressing was delightful, though much thinner than the typical modern commercial rendition. This olive oil- and mayonnaise-based dressing had just the right amount of spiciness and a lovely citrous undertone.
The modern version typically contains sweet pickle relish; the hundred-year-old recipe called for sliced chestnuts and olives. The sweet nuttiness of the chestnuts and saltiness of the olives added an appealing new (old?) dimension to this classic dressing.
8 chestnuts, sliced ( I used vacuum-packed, recipe-ready chestnuts.)
Put the olive oil, lemon juice, orange juice, onion, parsley, mustard, salt, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise in a medium bowl; and whisk together until smooth. Stir in the olives and chestnuts.