A Glimpse Into The Kitchen Of The Roaring Twenties
A long, long time ago, I came to possess a cookbook that was published in 1927. It was a one-off publishing of a fundraiser entitled “Selected Recipes Chosen by The Woman’s Board of The Jackson Park Sanitarium Stock Yards Day Nursery”
I was still a teenager, but I found it fascinating how these women explained how to make their favorite recipes.
There are many things that these women took for granted that each other knew. Or so it seems by the lack of instructions. They use terms like ‘slow oven’ to explain how hot something should be baked. And seldom mention how long it should cook.
I suppose, in the 1920’s most women had learned to cook from their mothers, who’d learned from their mothers and so on.
I checked to make sure, and it is now in the public domain, as the copyright was not renewed.
Recipe: Old Fashioned Marble Cake
As fascinated as I am by the old recipes, and the way people cooked in the 1920s, there is only one recipe that I actually tried.
Every marble cake I’d had up to that point was combining chocolate and white cake. This recipe creates a spice marble.
For the cake batter:
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup milk (whole milk)
4 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
8 egg whites
For the spiced marble:
2 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
Sift the baking powder with the flour and set aside.
Beat the egg whites until stiff, set aside..
In a large mixing bowl, creme the butter, then add the sugar, milk and flour mixture. Beat until ingredients are well mixed, and then fold in the beaten egg whites.
Put 1 pint of batter in a separate container, (I like to use my glass measuring cup,) and add the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and molasses, mixing just enough to distribute the spices evenly.
Pour white batter evenly into prepared cake pan(s). For layered cake, use two 8″ round pans. For loaf cake, use two pans as well. Or use one bundt pan, (or other fluted tube pan,) like the cake in the above image.
Pour spiced batter over the white batter. With two pans, pour batter in three or four places in each pan, using about 1 cup each. For a tube pan, you can pour the batter in several places, or in a ring around the tube.
Using a spatula or spoon, gently swirl the spice batter into the white batter for the marbled effect.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Once cooled, frost with your favorite frosting. I prefer a white vanilla frosting with the spice. A cream cheese frosting would work well, too. With a loaf or bundt cake, if you prefer, you could liberally sprinkle powdered sugar over the top instead.
Here are the actual directions from the cookbook:
Nineteenth Century Cast Iron Cook Stove
This short video shows how a nineteenth century woman went about cooking breakfast on her cast iron stove. This antique stove is neither big nor pretty, but it gets the job done. I imagine my great-grandmother must have cooked on a stove much like this one, And my grandmother, too, when her mother taught her how to cook. Grandma was born in 1881.
Recipe: Beaten Biscuits
There are hundreds of pages of recipes in this book, and picking just a few to share is not easy.
This one caught my eye as the directions tell you to beat the dough with a rolling pin!
1 1/4 lb. flour (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 oz. butter
2 oz. lard
1 cup water and milk (50/50?)
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of soda (baking soda, I think)
Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Mix butter and lard with dry ingredients. Use your fingers to thoroughly blend the ingredients.
Add the milk/water and mix just until all ingredients are blended.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board.
Beat the dough with a wooden rolling pin until the dough blisters.
Roll dough flat and thin. Cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter.
Using a fork, prick each biscuit several times.
Bake at 350 degrees until the tops of the bicuits begin to brown.
Here are the actual directions from the cookbook:
I’m not sure what ‘machine’ the directions are referring to, but these ladies have a special board that is just for making beaten biscuits
Recipe: Hungarian Veal Goulash — Matzos Fritters
Do You Know How To Make Corn Fritters?
This recipe was contributed by the Chef of the Cooper-Carlton Hotel.
You might expect a Chef to want to keep his culinary secrets to himself, but this recipe and ‘directions’ leave much up to the cook. Again, perhaps the housewives of the 1920s were so experienced with cooking that it made sense to them.
And if they had eaten this dish at the hotel, they would know if the goulash was intended to be served over the fritters, or to one side.
The first line is little more than ingredients for the Goulash. You saute all the ingredients. Is that it? Apparently so.
Without listing any other ingredients other than Matzos, you are left to your own devices for making the matzos fritters. Searching on Google shows that matzo balls are made from matzo meal. Does this mean you are creating fritters by substituting the matzo meal for the corn? Or for the flour?
And what if you don’t know how to make corn fritters? (Well, there are actually two recipes for corn fritters elsewhere in the book. But if I were trying to replicate the Hotel’s dish, I’d want his recipe, not my own.)
I’m a pretty good cook, but this recipe leaves me feeling like I’m in a bit over my head! I doubt I’ll be trying this one any time soon.
Here’s the recipe as it is written:
I Really Can’t See Myself Cooking On A Wood Stove
New wood stoves today are bigger, and more energy efficient than the wood stoves our forebears used. But you still have build a fire to use them. And wood needs to be spit and stacked. And that’s if you have it delivered. If you have to go out and harvest the wood, that’s even more work. No wonder everybody looks so tired in all those vintage photos!