The first electric range was introduced in 1914, around the time my grandparents were introduced to each other. World War 1 was “modernizing” civilization across the Atlantic, but in most homes cooking was still done over and inside of a wood-burning stove. You split and chopped wood for it, and what was life if not getting fuel for free with a little extra labor? Of course, it wasn’t a little. The trade-off was that their work resulted in delicious meals the likes of which we will never see, smell or taste. We can only imagine the culinary artistry perfected by spending years in old kitchens, steamy in summer and drafty in winter.
Recipe (often spelled receipt) language was different because our ancestors’ life experiences were different than ours — closer to earth, simpler to plan, more familiar from field and garden to the table. Here are some receipts which are offered on the internet: gleaned from published books, magazines, and newspaper clippings. Run-on sentences did not bother the cooks, apparently. Most libraries have collections of old cookbooks which are equally fascinating.
Fried Chicken Take one young spring chicken. Cut it in pieces, salt it, have nice, fresh lard well heated; flour every piece separate, then put into the boiling lard and cook to a nice crispy brown; drain off the fat for gravy except just a little, add one tablespoon of flour and one cup of sweet milk, add salt and pepper to taste. You will have a nice, brown cream gravy. Biscuits to serve with the creamy gravy. One pint of flour, one teaspoon of baking powder, one tablespoon of nice, sweet lard or butter and a pinch of salt, add just enough sweet milk to make a soft dough. Bake quickly and you will find them delicious. (www.joycetice.com)
Mashed Carrots Carrots boiled and mashed and warmed with butter, pepper and salt deserve to be known. Scrape and boil whole until tender. Drain, and cut into round slices a quarter of an inch thick. Warm a cup of broth, add three or four tablespoons of milk, a lump of butter rolled in flour, with seasoning to taste. Bring to a boil and pour over carrots.
Salmon Salad One can salmon, cut in small pieces, one very small head of cabbage, chopped fine, one dozen small cucumbers, chopped, two hard boiled eggs, chopped, mix the ingredients well together, pour over one pint vinegar after heating it to scalding, and season with pepper, salt and mustard to suit taste.
Fruit Punch Take two dozen oranges, peel and take seeds out, two dozen bananas sliced, two quarts canned pineapple and put all in a jar and cover with a gallon of warm water, a few tablespoons sugar and place a plate over it and let stand about fifteen hours. Then put it through a colander or sieve, then have ready five dozen lemons and squeeze juice out and mix with the other and sweeten to taste and put in three quarts fresh strawberries, if not strawberries, then use maraschino cherries, also two quarts grape juice; serve as punch.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter, milk and vanilla. Beat for 3-4 minutes, occasionally scraping sides of bowl. Add eggs, beat for 3 more minutes. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally among both. Bake 30 to 35 minutes at moderate heat or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Turn out and cool thoroughly on wire racks. Frost with your favorite frosting. (http://www.cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com, from McCall’s 1910 Cookbook)
In case you hadn’t guessed, the titles of the last two “receipts” were Pumpkin Pie and Butter Cake. A spacing glitch with the program prevented me from tagging them. Top photo: http://www.livinghistory.wordpress.com.