Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree – Still in Italy

This is the fourth article in December of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on December 30, 1906, and is a discussion on keeping house while in Italy.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree

Still in Italy

AN OLD writer records that the reigning powers of Rome once expelled professional cooks from the city for “corrupting and enforcing appetites with strange sauces and seasonings.”

From which stern edict we gather that, in the youth of the empire, the Italian gourmand knew something of the insidious aroma of onion and leek; the mysterious ambush of cheese; the suggestion of chestnuts; the suspicion of tomatoes—the ineffable blending of all these and other ingredients that make Italian cookery distinctive and delicious.

It is not practicable to teach their art by rehearsing the formulas given to us by native cooks. We may evolve, by the help of these, palatable dishes. We do this daily, and congratulate ourselves upon our success. To reproduce them in their delectable perfection, the artist must have genius, no less than skill—and the genius must be of the native stamp.

No one really understands the possibilities of cheese as do these children of “bella Italia.” It is to be found in their soups, sauces, ragouts, meats and vegetables; indeed, it is put in almost every dish concocted, and, lest it be overlooked, grated Parmesan is often served in small dishes with each meal.


We are quite used to macaroni and cheese, but how many of us have eaten creamed spinach or cauliflower or eggplant (baked or stuffed) or creamed cabbage covered with grated Parmesan?

A simple omelette of three eggs, salt and cayenne maybe made most palatable if done in a pan that has been rubbed with a clove of garlic, and the omelette be sprinkled copiously with Parmesan just before turning out.

Polenta, described last week; risotto, of which rice is the chief ingredient; beans, “finocchi” or fennel, boiled in a cream sauce, macaroni and other nourishing farinaceous goods form the daily diet of the lower and middle classes in Italy, where the rich, as in most other lands, have yielded to the influence of French cookery.

Chestnuts are to the Italian—and in an almost equal degree to the French—peasantry what the potato is to the Irish. Sometimes they are served boiled, shelled and dressed with drawn butter; or they are brought to the table in the shell, kept piping hot by folding in a napkin. These are opened with sharp little knives and eaten with butter and salt. Frequently chestnuts are shelled and cooked in the gravy with the meat as we serve potatoes under a roast, or they are broiled, mashed and made into a thick puree with hot milk, butter, salt and pepper, as we prepare mashed potatoes.

As I have explained in a former paper, no baking is done in the home kitchen. Cakes, bread, pastry and fancy desserts are bought cheaply from the confectioner. Italy especially excels in sweets and pastry.


Many of the poorer Italians never have a kitchen fire at all, as for a few cents they can run out and buy a dish of macaroni or fish cooked in oil.

Italy is noted for its chickens, which are tender, cheap and delicious. They are served stuffed with chestnuts and roasted; boiled with rice, eggs and pork; or cooked in broths. The peculiar shapes of the pieces are puzzling till one learns that the usual method of dividing a chicken for broiling is to cut it with scissors.

Giblets are sold separately in the markets; also the breasts, stripped from the bone and laid apart from the dark meat of the fowl. This assortment of the various portions makes it easy for the cook to secure the materials for frittura and other dishes calling for certain tidbits we cannot get in this country without buying the whole fowl.

The poorest peasant would not consider a dinner complete without soup. Sometimes a good broth, or an onion soup forms the entire family meal. Every edible is utilized for the soup pot, and with marvelous results.

A favorite soup is rice with peas; another is lettuce soup made with three pints of stock, a head or two of shredded lettuce, two tablespoonfuls of rice, salt, pepper and a tablespoonful of Parmesan cheese. The rice is boiled in the stock, then the lettuce is added, gradually, and the whole simmered for twenty minutes. The cheese is added just before serving, or strewed upon each plateful by the eaters.

Onion soup with cheese is made of fried onions sliced very thin and added to bouillon. It is served with slices of toast, sprinkled with grated cheese floating on top.

The typical Italian bread is somewhat heavy and substantial, being made without yeast.

Good ice cream is bought at the confectioners. “Granita” is a half-frozen ice, something like a frappe. The Neapolitan ices are especially famous, also the Venetian water ices.

Every Thursday and Saturday is a special time for serving “dolci” (dolche), as all cakes and candy are called. These, with “pastetti,” or tarts, may be bought surprisingly cheap. A good Christmas cake, “pan-forte de siena” (siena, hard bread), comes in round cakes about an inch thick, made with raisins, citron, figs and currants. It is very dark and very hard, but a popular sweet “delicta” (Italian honey) is made by the peasants with the ground comb stirred in. It is served for breakfast. Sweet champagne is always served at Christmas, New Year and Twelfth Night.

Some of the following recipes are so typically Italian that they should be tried by the hostess aspiring to novelties:

Macaroni “Alla Napoletana.”

¾ pound macaroni.
¼ pound grated Parmesan cheese.
½ ounce shredded tongue.
6 shredded mushrooms.
2 shredded truffles.
½ pint tomato sauce.
½ pint white sauce.

Boil the macaroni in salted water until tender. Drain and put into a saucepan with the white and tomato sauce; add the other ingredients; stir over the fire for ten minutes; add the cheese and serve.

Potenta “Alla Bologna.”

3 or 4 sausages.
1 pound of Indian cornmeal.
1 pint of boiling water.
¼ pint of tomato puree.
Grated Parmesan cheese, butter, salt, pepper and bread crumbs.

Stir the polenta or cornmeal gently into boiling water; stir until smooth; add salt to taste and let it cool.

Boil the sausages ten minutes; cool; remove the skins and cut into slices. Place a layer of polenta in the bottom of a baking dish, then a layer of sausages, add the tomato sauce, cheese, salt and pepper. Repeat till the dish is full. Cover the top with breadcrumbs and pieces of butter. Bake in a moderate oven a half hour and serve hot.

Roast Turkey “Alla Milanese.”

One turkey; sausage, one-half pound; chestnuts, boiled and peeled, one-half pint; eight prunes, scalded, halved and stoned; four pears, pared and quartered; one glass of white wine; slices of bacon, butter, pepper and salt.

Parboil the sausages; cool, skin and slice. Heat two ounces of butter in a skillet, add the chestnuts, prunes and pears and chopped liver of the turkey. Fry for a few minutes, drain well from the butter, add the wine and stuff the breast with the mixture. Lard the breast with bacon, wash well with butter, and cook in a moderate oven for two hours, basting frequently.

Risotto “Alla Milanese.”

Rice, six ounces; butter, two ounces; grated Parmesan, one and one-half ounces; one small onion, finely chopped; six button mushrooms, finely chopped; three pints of stock; salt and pepper.

Wash, drain and dry the rice; heat the butter; fry the onion brown; add the rice, and stir over the fire for a few minutes. Add half the stock, boil quickly for twenty minutes, then cover the pan and let the contents cook slowly. Add the remaining stock by degrees, and when nearly the whole of it of it is absorbed, stir in the cheese and seasoning.

Cabbage “Al Forno.”

One large cabbage; white sauce, one and one-half pints; grated cheese, two tablespoonfuls; bread crumbs, butter, salt and pepper.

Soak the cabbage in cold water an hour, chop coarsely, and boil tender. Put a layer in a pudding dish, cover with white sauce, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Repeat until the dish is full. Cover with bread crumbs, dotted with bits of butter, and bake in a moderate oven half an hour.

The Housemothers’ Exchange
The Ideal Bathroom
New Use for Old Washstands
A Receptacle for Bottles
A Shelf for Everything

Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree – Our First Christmas Dinner in Italy

This is the third article in December of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on December 23, 1906, and is a discussion on keeping house in Italy.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree

Our First Christmas Dinner in Italy

“Ter——zo pian——o!
Via San Sebastian——o!”

THUS “Boy,” aged 5, set our Roman address a to a tune of his own making, and chanted it twenty times a day at the top of lusty lungs, for mnemotechnic purposes. He was never suffered to go into the street alone, and when there, was held closely by the hand of his nurse, who regarded “those Eyetalians” as bandits all ready and eager to kidnap fairer-skinned babies—Americans in particular. But in case he might slip his moorings, the name and number of the old and brief street, where we had set up our Lares and Penates for the winter, were fastened upon his glib tongue by the process.

“Terzo” (pronounced “tertzo”) “piano” meant that we toiled up two flights of stone stairs to the third floor of the building—once a palace—that looked out from the back windows upon the Pincian Garden—a never ending delight to old and young. Orange trees flowered in the court at the rear, and the steep little street made a short run in front down to the world-famed Piazza di Spagna.

Where Italy Yields to France

Location was all we could have asked. Nor were the interior accommodations amiss to tenants who had, by now, become in a measure accustomed to stone walls, brick and stone floors, and kitchens like penal calls in dimensions and bareness.

Our Parisian kitchen was tiny, but bright and even gay with the touches of decorative art the French lend to the commonest household appointments.

Marie, albeit not a commissioned “cordon bleu,” sported a ribbon in her cap border, or upon the pockets of her broad white apron. Her marketing always included a bunch of flowers, to be divided between the salon, dining room and kitchen. Her very manner of disposing herbs intended for soups and garnishes had a suggestion of festivity.

My Italian kitchen was, if not absolutely gloomy, dingy and ugly. Instead of the white tiled rang and floor, we had an iron stove and a brick floor. There were four holes in the top of the stove, in one of which burned a low-spirited charcoal fire. A box of charcoal stood in one corner; in another was a heap of kindling in the form of balls of shaving dipped in rosin. They made a quick, hot flame, and sufficed to boil the kettle for afternoon tea, and to make the coffee for breakfast, or to cook the eggs for the same meal.

The body of the range was taken up by what the Italian-speaking member of the family informed me, after consultation with the presiding genius of the precincts, was a plate-warmer.

“Where, then, is the oven? You must have misunderstood her.”

Another consultation ensued, in which the native was raked fore and aft by the energetic young foreigner, the former emerging from the dialogue flustered and tearful, but resolute and respectful.

“She insists that no private kitchen is fitted up with a range oven; that, while she can boil, broil, fry, stew and saute like an angel, she never was called upon to bake bread or roast meat. Such joints as are not to be braised must be sent to the bake shop around the corner. Just as one sees in Hogarth’s pictures,” concluded the student of art and languages, with evident relish of the situation.

A Gem of a Cook

We bowed to the inevitable more complaisantly than would have been possible a year earlier, and entered upon our apprenticeship in Italian cookery. The cook—Septima by name—was prettier of feature and slimmer in build than Marie, but so much less neat in apparel and person, not to mention methods, as to suffer grievously by comparison until we learned to value aright the sweet temper, the gracious deference, the unfailing cheerfulness and desire to oblige, which endear the Italian servant to the employer whom she serves long enough to give the superior the opportunity to become well acquainted with cook, waitress or lady’s maid.

From the second day of her residence with us we saw that Septima’s interests and ours were identical in her creed. Having taken service with us she was bound by honor and by feeling to take our part against tradesmen and peddlers. We were as sheep without other guardian than herself in a wilderness of extortion and crookedness. She did our marketing, beat down prices in all directions, and ate so little that we were uneasy as to her health, wiry and industrious though she proved to be. The excellence and variety of the fare cooked in the dingy kitchen over the dreary holes in the uncomely stove were, to the last day of our sojourn in the Eternal City, a continual surprise.

At 9 o’clock each morning she brought in the breakfast tray. It wound have been vain to hope for the materials of the simple meal at an earlier hour. She made delicious coffee. Like our French cook, she knew little and cares less for tea. It was, as she informed us, the drink of “forestrieri” (foreigners) and aristocrats. With coffee, she was joyfully at home; she could make good chocolate, even milling it, when ordered to prepare it in that way. We wisely took the tea-making out of her hands, brewing the breakfast and afternoon cup at the table by the help of a spirit lamp. Our breakfast bill-of-fare was invariable. Crips, tender rolls, left hot at the door, and kept warm in the hollow that should have been the oven; coffee and tea for the elders, and cocoa for the children; pats of unsalted butter we came to like so well that it took us a long time to get over our distaste for salt butter after our return to “The States;” a boiled egg apiece, and—an innovation upon Continental custom—honey in the comb, or marmalade. In the two years we passed in Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland we never wearied of what would seem monotonous fare to untraveled Americans or English, accustomed to the hearty first meal of the day. Yet, strange to say, we found it tiresome in a short time when we attempt to introduce the Continental breakfast into our home across the sea.

Light Luncheons

Luncheon consisted of a dish of hot meat, or an omelette, one or more vegetables, a salad, biscuits and cheese—the latter often of goat’s milk, and a sweet of some kind. The light wines of the country, hardly more intoxicating and sometimes not sweeter than vinegar, are the universal beverage at luncheon and dinner. The prejudice against the former water supply of Rome and Florence impelled foreigners to fall in with the national fashion. Part of Septima’s wages was half a lira (ten cents) for the purchase of wine for her daily consumption. She brought it home in her market basket—a flask (fiasco) of thin red liquid that smelled and tasted sour, which scarcely any other flavor. I doubt if it did her one-tenth of the harm that Bridget’s stewed tea works upon her stouter stomach and nerves. I am sure that it would be a difficult task for any one—be he native or forestieri—to drink enough wine of the quality brought by the peasants of France and Italy to make him drunk.

But to the chief meal of the day—never served earlier than 7 P.M.

Let my first Christmas dinner in the land of poetry and painting stand for a fair sample of the matter and manner of the same.

Our dear friends, the K——s, who had been abroad twice as long as ourselves, but who had kept moving for so much of that time that they had never “kept house” anywhere, were in Rome for the winter, and, as usual, at a hotel. A week before the great festival we determined, in pity for the homeless and out of our love for the particularly charming exiles, to ask them to dinner. The invitation was accepted with gratification that was pathetic in the light shed upon the acceptance by the last sentence of the note:

“You may guess what this feast will mean to us when you know that for eighteen months we have not broken bread in a private house—birds of passage that we are!”

Four days later, without taking counsel with Septima, whose ultra-economical propensities might, we feared, interfere with our hospitable designs, we went to the poultry market in the immediate neighborhood of the Pantheon. Up to that December day I had resented the profanation implied by the proximity. Today I thought more of the probable difficulty of finding a turkey large and plump enough to express the fullness of our desire to make up to the pilgrims for the privations of the last year and a half than of the history and the meaning of the mighty temple, for we had already noted and remarked upon the insignificant fowls roasted to our order at the convenient bakehouse. We had remarked, also, and in bewilderment, that they shrank more in the cooking than might have been expected from their plump outlines when Septima held them up for our inspection on her return from market.

The biggest turkey in the exhibition on the sunny side of the Pantheon was alive. That should not be an obstacle to our purchase, the dealer assured us, obligingly. In ten minutes he should be dressed and ready for our larder. To show his willingness to make his words good, he forthwith began to strip the wretched creature of the breast-down, despite frantic squawkings and struggles. Nor was this all or by any means the worst of the operation. While we looked on in wonder and pity we could not recall enough Italian adjectives to express, an assistant of the obliging center tied a string so tightly around the gobbler’s neck that the strangling bird, like the young woman who horrified the elder Weller by drinking six-and-twenty cups of tea at a church party, “swelled visibly before our eyes.” I beat a hasty retreat into the open door of the old temple, my companion smothering his disgust in the consciousness that, if he did not keep his eyes upon the prize, he would probably be exchanged for one less eligible as soon as his back was turned.

We held the “facchino” who took the turkey home for us under guard until the puffed-up body was safe in Septima’s hands. She praised his fair proportions generously, while assuring us mournfully that she could have brought him for three lire less than we had paid to “that wicked robber.” She was not shocked when we told of the manner of the fowl’s decease. Her wide, innocent stare supplied the rest of the story.

The simplicity of her “Why not, Signora?” needed no comment.

A Novelty in Soup

The first course of that memorable dinner was a clear soup, based upon a strong stock of veal and lamb bones and thickened with “manestra.” Manestra, be it known, includes countless kinds of paste, compounded of flour and water, eggs and a little salt. One and all, they belong to the macaroni family, and Italy is the home of macaroni. The maestro of our Christmas soup was in the shape of stars, emblematic of the Star of Bethlehem. We had a constellation in each plate. Parmesan cheese, finely grated was passed with it. It is a savory accompaniment to all soups that contain macaroni in any form, and one soon learned to enjoy the seasoning, which seemed odds to the uneducated palate.

A fish of noble proportions and handsome figure had been selected as the second course. I had instructed Septima to boil it, and how to prepare a Bearnaise sauce to accompany it, discovering, to my delight, that she had made it before, and was adequate to the preparation without my supervision. Potatoes a la Parisienne were to be served with the fish. It appeared duly and in fine shape, whole, from nose to tail, imbedded in celery tips and parsley, the alternation of pale and dark green skillfully managed and enhancing his comeliness. An exclamation escaped my surprised lips at the first mouthful. The fish was ice-cold! Luckily, the guests were familiar friends, and had a keen appreciation of the humorous. I had never eaten cold cooked fish, except as a salad, but they had, and were ready with the information that the fashion was common in southern Europe. I had not told poor Septima of my wish to serve it hot, and she, coupling my order that the fish should be carefully boiled whole with that for the sauce tartare, did as she had often done under similar conditions. Really—as the Edinboro’ gallery god said of one of Mrs. Siddons’ grandest outbursts—it “was nae sae bad!” We condoned the untimely introduction of a fish salad, and found it uncommonly good when masked by the sauce, even relishing the queer adjunct of hot potato.

The next course was a royal dish of Frittura. (See recipe column.) It was a chef d’oeuvre in its way, and amply redeemed the blunder that preceded it. I have never eaten frittura out of Italy, and despair of making the uninitiated reader comprehend what gave it an honorable place in our menus.

It was attended by risotto, a recipe for which will be found in another column.

The turkey, somewhat shrunken in the cooking that had let out the air from the artificially distended body, but respectable still as to size (for a transatlantic fowl), was done to the brownest and juiciest of turns. He was stuffed with chestnuts, and lay in a nest of greenery, with egg-shaped croquettes of polenta tucked snugly about his sides. Instead of giblet gravy, the liquid left in the roasting pan was made thick with dried mushrooms, soaked, stewed and finely minced. Stewed artichokes, baked macaroni and fried fennel—a species of celery some of us liked from the first, and others never learned to relish—were passed with the turkey.

Tasty Game and Salad

The game course was broiled snipe, wee birds shot on the Campagna, and sold at an absurdly low price in the Roman markets, or what seemed small to us until we found that one made but half a mouthful. They were fat and sweet at this season and an appetizing bonne bouche.

Instead of the toast on which they would have been served in America, a round of chestnut polenta, fried to a delicate brown, lay under each of the savory mites.

The salad succeeding the birds was mixed lettuce and chicory, with French dressing. Fromage de Brie, such as one never gets on this side of the Atlantic—soft as cream and nearly as sweet—and strips of the black bread of the country support the salad.

The conventional Christmas pudding might have been brought in tins at the English grocery in the Plazza di Spagna. We maintained the Italian character of the feast by substituting a lighter and a toothsome native sweet dish—chestnuts smothered in whipped cream, attended by luscious cream puffs from Nazarri’s, the famous confectioner of the old city. Mandarinoes (miscalled “tangerines” in the United States), oranges and certain crescent-shaped grapes we liked so much that we mourned their disappearance from the fruits-shops soon after Christmas, and figs were our fruits. Olives, candied cherries, nuts, celery and sugared ginger were hor d’oeuvres.

Coffee, black, clear and fragrant, follow us to the salon.

A big bowl of camellias, crimson and white, formed the centerpiece of the table. We bought them from street peddlers for 2 and 3 cents apiece. A spray of holly was at each plate. In the salon or drawing-room were broad dishes of the glorious purple violets that grow nowhere else in such profusion as in Rome, and are never so fragrant under any other sky as that of Italy.


One pound of lamb’s liver, cut into dice after boiling it and letting it get perfectly cold. The giblets of chicken or other poultry, boiled in salted water, cooled and cut into pieces of uniform size. A calf’s brain, cooked and cooled, then cut small. A dozen small oysters, drained dry; small artichokes, Also boiled and cooled, then divided in to halves or thirds. Cold boiled celery, in inch pieces. Cauliflower, treated in like manner. Cold cooked potatoes cut into neat dice. When all are ready sprinkle with salt and pepper; roll in egg, then in flour and again in egg. Let them get very cold before frying in deep fat-dripping, if you have it. First, cook the liver and giblets, next the oysters, then the vegetables. In Italy all are cooked in pure, sweet olive oil. Drain and serve very hot.


A cupful of rice, washed and cooked for twenty minutes in plenty of boiling water. Drain and keep hot. Slice an onion and fry in butter. (In Italy the butter is displaced by oil.) Add to the fat and onions a cupful of stewed tomato, and when it boils, two sweet peppers, previously seeded, scalded, cooled and minced. Heat for a moment, in the rice lightly, cover, and let all simmer for ten minutes. Turn into a deep dish; strew Parmesan cheese on top and serve. This is but one of many varieties of the national risotto.


This is really generally nothing but cornmeal mush, thoroughly cooked, cooled and fried in oil.

Chestnut polenta is made of the large chestnuts of the country, boiled, then ground fine and kneaded into a thick dough or mush. It is offered for sale at the street corners in the winter, in the form of huge cakes, that look like big cheeses. They are piping hot, and, sliced as one would cut a pie, form the only supper of many a gamin and grown-up tramp.

Chestnut Stuffing for Roast Turkey.

Boil, shell and take the inner skin from the chestnuts. While they are hot, mash them smooth and work into the paste a tablespoonful of butter to a cupful of the chestnuts, and salt and pepper to taste.

Chestnut and Cream Charlotte.

Boil, shell and skin the chestnuts. While they are hot, mash or run them through the vegetable press. Sweeten to taste, and beat to as of it paste with a little cream. Mound in the middle of a glass dish; set where it will get very cold, and just before serving heap sweetened whipped cream over and about it.

The Housemothers’ Exchange

Christmas Fare in Many Lands

This is the third article in December of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on December 16, 1907, and is a discussion on Christmas traditions in other countries.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Christmas Fare in Many Lands

DO YOU ever realize how much of the good cheer of Christmas is dependent on cookery? Every land—indeed, almost every family—has its own special dainties of the season, the omission of which would mean the loss of half the Christmas spirit.

From remote antiquity has come to us this habit of Christmas feasting; indeed, the Christmas cakes are said to typify a direct connection between the adoration of the God of Light and the expression of his power on earth in the fire and the hearth.

In many of their Christmas customs today the peasantry of Europe is all unwittingly following the traditions of its pagan ancestry. Thus, little do the people of central France, who each year bake small crescent-shaped “gateaux de Noel,” called “cornabeaux,” to give to the poor, realize that the odd shape of these cakes, resembling a bullock’s horns, is a heritage of their heathen forefathers.

Equally ignorant are the Scandinavians, who bake their Christmas cakes in the shape of a pig, and feast on roast pork for their Christmas dinner. They do not think that they are commemorating the sacrificial boar whose life was offered up each Yuletide.


The superstitions which so frequently cling around Christmas customs are not confined to saving scraps of the Yule log to ward off thunderstorms. A certain French loaf cake baked by some of the old-time farmers on Christmas Eves, so far from being indigestible, is thought to have healing powers, and is saved all through the year to give to the sick of the family.

Then there is a Scandinavian cake made from the flour of the last sheaf of corn harvested, a piece of which is always kept until spring, and given to the plowman for good luck in his crops.

The Christmas spirit is, doubtless, the same the world over, though it is manifested in some very curious foods. While the Russian and the Scandinavian always feast on Christmas Day on roast suckling pig, stuffed with buckwheat or chestnuts, the German regales himself on a fat goose, or, if he be from the Southern Rhine, on the “carpen blau,” or blue carp. This is cut in small pieces, and stewed in a red wine sauce, flavored with salt, pepper, a small onion, a bay leaf or two, slices of lemon, a large lump of butter and breadcrumbs. Just before serving, the raw blood of the carp and a lump of sugar are added.

While the Anglo-Saxon is eating his crisp, juicy turkey, the people of Panama are reveling in sancolcho, a special Christmas stew of beef, chicken, pork, potatoes, plantains, tomatoes, onions and peppers, cooked into a thick brown gravy, and the Neapolitan is feasting on eels boiled in oil.

The Christmas cake is equally varied, though it has a striking similarity in that most of it is dark, rich and plummy.

Holland, Amsterdam especially, indulges in quantities of St. Nicholas cake—a crisp brown gingerbread—made in the form of men and women. This is often called “vrigers,” or sweethearts, because each person gets a cake of the opposite sex. The Dutch also have another Christmas cake, scarcely so inviting. It is called “taai-taai,” or “tough-tough,” from its lack of tenderness. This cake, fortunately, has the happy faculty of mellowing with age.

After all, it is to Germany one must go for the real Christmas spirit in cookery, as in everything else. For weeks before hand the hausfrau and all her flock are making pleasing preparations for the great day. Indeed, if she be especially thrifty, she has been paying to the baker throughout the year a small weekly “stolle” tax, in order to get not only stolle, but all her cakes free at Christmas.

While the confectioner bakes most of the German cakes, especially the huge baumkuchen, numbers are also prepared at home.

Baumkuchen, a white cake, with streaks of fawn color running through it, is typically German. It is at least three feet high and hollow clear through the centre. The top is cut in points like a turret and iced with a white icing, while all over the glazed surface of the sides are knobs daubed with icing. Such a cake naturally requires to be baked in a special mould.

The baking of the springerle, a white cake with anise seed, causes quite a jubilation. The entire family gathers round the kitchen table and mould the dough into round little wooden forms of flowers and figures; the forms—which, by the way, may be bought in this country—are removed and the cakes baked on iron sheets.

Aix-la-Chapelle is noted for its honigkuchen (honey cakes). A delicious German recipe for this is to heat three-quarters of a pound of honey with three-quarters of a pound of sugar. Then add the pounded paste of seven ounces of sweet and 1½ ounces of bitter almonds, 3½ ounces of candied lemon peel, 1 ounce each of cloves and cinnamon, the grated rind of a lemon, 1-3 ounce of soda, and half cup of rosewater. After this is well mixed, add about 1¼ pounds of flour to make a firm dough that can be well kneaded. When cold, roll out, stick cherries over it, and bake in a moderate oven.

No German family would be without stolle at Christmas, a very rich cake raised with yeast, nor without their delicious candy marzipan. Many of the cakes and candies are hung on the Christmas tree, as well as barley sugar candy, apples and gilded nuts. Little cakes, iced with different colored sugar, can be bought especially for the decoration. These are left on the tree for two weeks or until the “baumplundern” (robbing the tree), when they are taken down with special ceremonies and given to the children of the poor. Most of the German cakes keep a long time.

Christmas in England means equally good things to eat, though possibly not so varied. Plum puddings, fruit cake and mince pie are never wanting, and delightfully rich and “plummy” are they all.


The stirring of the plum pudding is made a special ceremony. The night before Christmas, or sometimes a week earlier, the family all gather round a holly-decked dining table. Then, as the butler brings in a huge bowl filled with the pudding batter, the father of the household rises, and, pouring m a glass of brandy, stirs it with a long spoon, wishing good luck, good cheer and good health to all, and to the King as well. He is followed, in turn, by each member of the family, down to the tiniest baby, and by the servants according to rank, each stirring in his glass of brandy, or, if one be a teetotaler, milk is sometimes substituted. Even the wee pet dog must be allowed to stir.

When that blazing plum pudding is brought in at dinner the next day one must be sure to get a piece of the flame for good luck.

One must also be very sure they have not tasted mince pie that season before they get a tart from the Christmas dinner, for that would be very bad luck, indeed.

After dessert very probably there will be snap-dragon, with the guests all pulling raisins out of blazing brandy. When they have eaten all they wish, salt is poured on the dish, and very weird does every one look in the blue light.

France does not pay as much attention to Christmas as do many other countries. New Year’s is her great day for feasting. Therefore, there is very little distinctive fare, beyond the few cakes already mentioned and some candy in odd forms and figures. No foreigners, however, eat candy as do the Americans, even at the holiday season.

The Italian Christmas is largely religious, but there is a varied interest in the Christmas fare. We find the Neapolitans and others of southern Italy going mad over “Il capitone,” the eel, reeking with garlic and oil, that every one must eat on Christmas day. All Christmas Eve the markets are full of excited people auctioning this delicacy of the season, which brings many times its regular price; indeed, the very poor often beggar themselves in their determination to buy an eel.

“Pizza,” a pastry filled with fruit and eggs, is another favorite Christmas dish.

In north Italy we find the people always eating Agnolotti (or Ravioli) on this day.

The giving of presents in an imported custom, and instead of a Christmas tree the wealthier people have a dark corner, adorned to represent a manger and the Nativity. This is called “Il Presepio,” and is common all over Italy. The churches have it for the poorer classes.


Christmas in Mexico is a gala time, indeed; the feasting and present-giving lasts for nine days. During Posadas—the feast previous to Christmas (“Noche Buena”)—nine families club together, each taking a night. Even the children are brought to these feasts, where there are refreshments according to one’s means.

All gather in the parlor, and after singing and telling of the rosaries the hostess brings into the room a great basket filled with bananas, fruit, peanuts and “confites,” the national candy, of little sugared balls in many colors. These are thrown to the small children, to their intense delight.

Later, the older boys and young men blindfold the girls, give them a big stick and take them out to the courtyard, in the centre of which hangs a big pot decorated as a bull or man and filled, as was the basket, with assorted good things. Each girl in turn, after being turned till she loses her bearings, is given a try at the pot with her stick.

When a girl finally breaks the pot such a made scramble ensues, after which the distribution of presents on trays takes place.

For nine succeeding nights this is repeated until Christmas Eve, when a big dinner is given at midnight, to which all contribute. At this meal is served soup, turkey, vegetables and “Fiambi,” a kind of fruit salad, of organs, bananas and chicken marinaded in French dressing. The dessert is usually ices in fancy moulds, followed by much fun over nuts and raisins.

In Peru, Panama and other South American countries they also have an eight-days’ celebration at Christmas. The young girls, dressed all in white decollete, much-ruffled muslin gowns, with flowers in their hair, go into the plaza each night and dance in procession. This is followed by a feast.

Always at this season the people eat Buenonella, a very light egg fritter, in the shape of a ring and fried in lard. These are sold everywhere on the streets.

They also have “Toronde alecante,” a sort of nougat, and many delicious “dulce,” as cakes and candy are called.

One of the favorites is called “Dulce de Naranja.” Take four large, thick-skinned navel oranges and cut them in round slices about a quarter of an inch thick, skin and all. Boil with one quart of water and a pound of sugar until the skin is tender. This should make a thick syrup like marmalade. If the oranges get too soft, take them out and pour the syrup over them.

Even Clavinistic Scotland has certain Christmas dishes, the chief being an extra rich shortcake, made of two pounds of flour, one-half pound of sugar, one pound of butter and one ounce candied peel. After washing the salt from the butter, rub it to a cream with the sugar, add the flour, which has been warmed, and mix carefully with a wooden spoon. Roll with a rolling pin or knead well with the hands. Press into tins, add comfits or sugared caraway seeds and the cinnamon, and bake in a moderate oven until crisp and brown, about three-quarters of an hour.

In far-away Calcutta they also have the Christmas spirit, and the natives make innumerable little cakes and present them to the English Sahibs. Sometimes these cakes are received by the score as offerings from the tradespeople and servants—though “backsheesh,” be it said, is usually expected in return.

The following recipes are all used by families noted for their good cooking in the lands from which they hall:

(The German Christmas candy).

1 pound sweet almonds (blanched).
1-16 pound bitter almonds or ½ ounce of the flavoring.
1 pound pulverized sugar (the finest confectioner’s).
A few drops of rosewater.

Buy the almonds shelled. Pound them to a paste in a mortar and add the rosewater. Mix in the sugar gradually and work to a paste of sufficient consistency to roll out. Sugar the board before rolling.

Marzipan may be made in any fancy shape or in moulds. A favorite way with the Germans is to roll part of it into a round cake about an inch thick, then mould another portion into a long, sausage-shaped piece and run around the edge of this cake, moistening it first with rosewater, so it sticks. Put candied cherries over the surface.

The marzipan may be put in the oven a minute to harden or even slightly brown. Sometimes the paste is divided into three parts, and colored brown, red and green with some harmless essence, and then put together in layers.

(A favorite German Christmas cake.)

3½ pounds flour.
1 pint lukewarm milk.
8 eggs (yolks).
1 yeast cake.
1 pint melted butter.
½pound stoned raisins.
½ pound sugar.
6 ounces chopped almonds.

Mix the flour with the yeast dissolved in warm milk and salt, and let it rise in a warm place. Beat the yolks and sugar together. Stir up the butter. Add to the dough, then add the fruit and lemon peel, and about a dessertspoonful of yeast that has been kept out. Raise again until very light. Mould into long loaves like a Vienna loaf, but not so pointed. Dent the top slightly with a knife, glaze with melted butter, and bake in a moderate over three-quarters of an hour. Almonds are often stuck in the top before going into the oven.

(A German Cake.)

One pound sugar.
Four eggs.
One lemon and grated rind.
One pound flour.
A knifepointful of soda.

Mix the soda through the sugar and beat well with the eggs. Add the other ingredients and put dough away to rest. Take off rather small pieces of the dough; roll out on the board to the thickness of a knifeblade. The moulds are sprinkled with flour, and the rolled-cut dough os pressed tightly on them. The cakes are then put on buttered tins and covered with anise seed, and are allowed to stand over night, being baked the next day in a moderate oven.

Cut-and-Come-Again Cake.
(An English Nursery Fruit Cake.)

One pound flour.
One-half pound butter.
Three-quarters pound raisins.
One-quarter pound currants.
Three ounces of candied peel.
Two eggs.
Six ounces sugar.
One tablespoonful of baking powder.
Milk to make a stiff dough.

Mix well and bake for two hours.
This cake may be eaten plain, or can have an almond icing covered with a white icing.

Almond Icing.

One pound confectioner’s sugar.
Three-quarters pound ground sweet almonds.
Two or three eggs.
A little rose or orange-flower water.

Mix the sugar and almonds together, make a hole in the centre and stir in two eggs and the rosewater. Wet to a firm paste, using the third egg if necessary. Turn the mixture on to a board that has been dusted with sugar to prevent sticking. Roll with a rolling-pin to the size of the cake. Place it on top and press smooth. Cover with a white boiled or unboiled icing.

Marion Harland

The Housemothers’ Exchange

Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree – France, the Land of Noted Cooks and Dainty Service

This is the second article in December of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on December 9, 1906, and is the first in a series of talks on housekeeping in foreign countries.

The first country Marion discusses in this series is France and the wonderful skills she picked up while learning about French cooking though Marion came to prefer Florentine cooking.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree

France, the Land of Noted Cooks and Dainty Service

AN AMERICAN nomad—of the genus that has won for us the reputation of being a nation of globetrotters—claims boastfully that his practice is to adopt the diet of each country visited by him, and to eat none but national dishes while he is in that region. In pursuance of this system, he has, he would have us believe, acquires a positive foundress for foods the thought of which was a disgust when he was introduced to them. He is especially vain of the victory over prejudice and custom displayed by the fact that he actually learned to eat blubber and to drink train oil while sojourning with the Esquimaux, and became a connoisseur in the quality of birds’ nests served to him in soup by Chinese Mandarins.


Without imitating his palpable affections, or going to the opposite and more common vanity of the typical traveling American, who loudly proclaims his disrelish of “foreign kickshaws” sensible people appreciate that our native cooks have so much to learn from our transatlantic seniors that it behooves us to set about the tasks intelligently and candidly.

I diverge here to observe that our national cuisine is so sharply criticised by visitors to the land of hog and hominy, buckwheats and baked beans, that we may well lower our crest when cookery, as a fine art, is the theme of conversation. Hundreds of us have heard the true anecdote of the comment passed upon a buckwheat cake by the wife of a distinguished poet-philosopher upon a recent visit to the United States:

“Me dear! you need not be afraid to eat it.” (This to her husband, who awaited her verdict.) “It is really not so nasty as it looks!”

Lady B——, another tourist, was less complimentary after a sip of tomato soup:

“B——! I say! Don’t eat your soup! It is quite filthy! It has tomatoes in it!”


The brutal frankness of the average Briton, of whatever rank, is, and will ever be, a cause of amazement to the well-bred American. If, in the depths of complacent hearts, we may think that we have as little occasion to go to school to him in cookery as in manners, the belief should not blind us to the truth of our inferiority to other civilized peoples in the preparation of our daily food. Our raw materials are not equaled by those of any other country in abundance, variety and excellence. We need nothing but culinary skill to make our menus the finest ever known to the world.

The consciousness of this has been forced upon me by object lesson in the course of much travel in foreign lands. In some measure, following the example of our gastronomic nomad, I have taken pleasure in gratifying my curiosity with respect to culinary enterprise in all countries visited in our tours. The history of certain dishes is marvelously interesting, apart from their appeal to the palate. I have room for but one instance. In a Bedouin’s camp we were set down to a mess of “red pottage,” so hot and savory that the rising steam wrought in us charity for hungry Esau. The base of the pottage, or stew, was beans of a color we called “Spanish brown,” known to the Syrians as “red.” It was easy to credit the tradition in that oldest of lands, that the composition of the tempting bowlful was the same with that practiced by deft Jacob to his brother’s undoing.

During a residence abroad, covering several years, I “kept house” in France, Italy, Switzerland and England. I recall little of culinary lore that I learned in the last-named country, except how to make Yorkshire teacakes, Melton pies and Banbury tarts; also that I made the pleasant acquaintance with vegetable marrow and white-bait. From my France cook I gained much that was valuable which has stood me in good stead ever since. A longer sojurn in Italy, repeated at intervals of years, taught me to prefer Florentine cookery to Parisian in many respects. Although but a boarder in Germany, I made it my business to inquire closely into the housewifely methods of the several “hausfraus” who ministered to our material wants.

It was in my mind to utilize the mass of recipes collected in these wandering and sojournings by arranging them in book form under the title of “THE INTERNATIONAL COOK BOOK.” But life is short and duties many. Pending the arrival of the day when I shall have leisure to carry out this, with other cherished projects for the improvement of the national cuisine, it is my purpose to share my store with the members of our beloved EXCHANGE.

And since the genius of our body domestic and economic is expressed by that one word, I ask the co-operation of our foreign-born constituents in our enterprise. Will they not unlock their treasure houses of practical recipes for the common weal? I invite contributions from all nationalities that go to make up our composite republic.


It goes without saying that France leads the culinary world. In no other country is cookery so serious a business. Nowhere else is the “blue ribbon” (cordon bleu) awarded to the cook who has mastered his profession.

The very peasants study how to evolve savoriness from the simplest materials, and garnish as a matter of course.

I shall never forget my dismayed astonishment at the first survey of the kitchen in the furnished “apartment” engaged for us in Paris by a friend long resident in that city. It was barely six feet square, and the plenishing matched the dimension of the room. A tiny range, heated by a charcoal fire built in the top, said fire being blown into liveliness by a turkey-feather fan wielded by Marie, a bouncing figure that yet further dwarfed her surroundings; a miniature dresser that reminded one of a doll’s house; a folding table and one chair left just room enough to pass from stove to door, and from door to dresser. Floor and walls were covered with white tiles; a white curtain veiled the solitary window; a brilliant array of copper and porcelain saucepans hung against one wall, and Marie wore a blue gown, a wide white apron and a high white cap, starched and frilled.

Nothing was wasted in that tiny realm where she reigned supreme. She did the marketing. It was her prerogative. If I knew that she exacted a commission from every merchant upon each purchase, I also knew that, when the levy was paid by me, she laid in our stores at least 5 per cent, less than I should spend, let me haggle never so wisely. And what miracles of gustatory deliciousness were brought forth for our wonder and delectation, day by day, week after week, until we exhausted our stock of laudatory adjectives!

I have said that she wasted nothing. One plain-spoken writer says:

“The Frenchwoman is so economical that the insides of everything, from a horse to a rabbit, go into the frying pan or kettle, and most of the outsides, from the comb of a cock to the feet of a sheep.”

I had not heard that disdainful comment when the remark of a Hibernian, “who has not hired to do French cookery” in my kitchen, was reported to me by one of my children:

“Your mamma is the beateree of all ladies ever I saw for cooking wild things and innards.”

Which being interpreted, meant sweetbreads, kidneys and game.

“Who of us,” asks another critic, “would dream of scalding the feet of chickens to remove the skin and then turning them into soup stock that makes an especially firm jelly? Or, would cocks’ combs ever appeal to one as an excellent filling for a vol-au-vent or pate shell, or as a separate entree with a highly-seasoned creamed sauce?”

Yet I recollect that in Old Virginia, even in lavish ante-bellum days, the heads, necks and feet of chickens were skinned and used for broth.

To get the cocks’ combs ready for use they should be put in a cloth with coarse salt, dipped in boiling water, and rubbed between the hands until the skin comes off easily. They should then be soaked in cold water for at least six hours and cooked until tender before they are dressed.

The water in which meat, fish or vegetables are cooked is utilized by our bourgeois French cook as palatable soup when mixed with a roux of butter and flour, herbs, onion, carrots, rice or barley, and the whole well seasoned. Peapods are never thrown away; they give flavor to a puree for the next day.

Meat from the famous national soup, “pot-au-feu,” or bouillon, is always served with the vegetables that season it, either plain with a tomato sauce or sometimes wrought into a ragout. So daintily is this served with garnishings of parsley, pickles and mustard that it appeals even to the American who would scorn the leavings of the stock pot at home.

A very good, cheap bouillon is made by using all left-over meat, carcasses, giblets, necks, heads and feet of chickens and turkeys, allowing a quart of water to a pound, and adding a look, carrot, turnip, a small piece of celery, a small onion, a few sprigs of parsley, a clove or two and salt. Prepare as one would ordinary clear soup.

Left-over vegetables, when not turned into the stock pot, are utilized for dainty salads; stale bread is cut into croutons or rolled; all grease from roasts and soups is saved, clarified and clarified for frying; a little cold stewed tomatoes will make a sauce for next say’s chops or spaghetti, and left-over fish is sure to turn up in salads, croquettes or in some of the purees of fish that are so popular.

No dinner in France would ever be complete without soup. Even the poorest workman has the national favorite pot-au-feu in the evenings, and there is no skimping of material in it, either.

Purees of vegetables and greens are favored, sorrel soups being especially well liked. The sorrel is chopped and cooked in butter for a quarter of an hour, then thickened with two tablespoonfuls of flour, passed through a sieve, and cooked again with one pint, each, of hot milk and stock. After it has come to a boil, season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg, and add the yolk of an egg just before removing from the stove.

An ordinary French family dinner consists of soup, a roast or fish, one vegetable or salad, cheese or fruit. For company, one would have soup, fish, an entree, a vegetable, roast, salad, fruit, and cheese, with black coffee later in the drawing room.


Four pounds of beef.
A shinbone.
One-half of a cabbage.
Two leeks.
One large onion.
Two carrots.
Bunch of soup herbs, thyme, bayleaf, leek, etc.
Four cloves.
Twelve peppercorns.
One tablespoonful of salt.
Slices of browned bread.
Six quarts of cold water.

Put the meat and water into a stock pot especially kept for the purpose, let it come gently to the boiling point and skim carefully. Wash and clean the vegetables, stick the cloves in the onion, tie up the cabbage and leeks, and put all in the meat. Add the carrots, cut in small pieces, the herbs, peppercorns and salt. Simmer gently for four hours. Just before serving, have the bread, which has been cut into very small thin slices about as big as a dollar and browned, put in the bottom of the tureen, with some of the carrot, leeks and onion cut into small pieces. Remove the meat from the pot, season the broth to taste, let it boil hard a minute, and then strain into the tureen. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on top. The meat and vegetables are served as a separate course. The rest of the broth is strained and put in a cool place for future use.

(“Chowder” in American English.)

Three or four pounds of different kinds of fish.
One small eel.
One lobster.
One quart of water or fish stock.
One-quarter pint of salad oil.
One-eighth pint of claret.
Three tomatoes (cut in pieces).
Two small onions (chopped).
One ounce butter.
Soup herbs (parsley, thyme, bayleaf.)
Garlic (chopped).
Five cloves.
One teaspoonful, each, of saffron, spinach, salt and pepper.
A pinch of cayenne.

Clean, wash and cut the fish in square pieces. Cut the lobster into sections and retain the shells. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and boil gently for thirty minutes. Fry slices of stale bread to a golden brown in butter, put them into a deep dish or tureen, pour the fish stew over it and serve very hot.


Two pounds of flour.
One pound of butter.
One yeast cake.
Four ounces of sugar.
Eight eggs.
One teaspoonful of salt.
Cold water for soft dough.

Put one-half pound of the flour in a bowl, hollow it in the centre, stir in the yeast dissolved in warm water, mix to a soft dough and set in a covered pan near the fire to rise. Add the butter, salt, sugar and well-beaten eggs to the rest of the flour, working it gradually, till the paste is smooth. When the dough has expanded to double its original size, mix the paste with it and set to rise for three hours. Put the dough on a board, knead it well, fold over three times and set it to rise for two hours. Once more knead it out, fold it up and put it on the ice till firm; mould into large or small cakes and bake on a hot oven about three-quarters of an hour. Glaze the top with egg to make it glossy when baked and dust with sugar.


One rabbit.
Two ounces of butter.
One finely chopped onion.
One tablespoonful of mild curry powder.
One clove of crushed garlic.
One-half teaspoonful of ground cinnamon.
One-half tablespoonful of ground ginger.
A little ground mace.
One-half pint of brown stock.
Six mushrooms.
Boiled rice.

Cut and slice the rabbit, wash and wipe, and dip each piece into flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry in a large casserole in the butter. When nicely browned remove the rabbit. Add a finely-chopped onion to the fat in the pan and fry with the curry and garlic. Then put in the rabbit and spices, moisten with the stock, and boil, stirring occasionally. Skin well, add the mushrooms, peeled, and let the whole summer gently, with the lid on the casserole, for about an hour and a half.

Vol-au-Vent of Chicken.

Butter small pate pans and line them with a good puff-paste. Bake in a steady oven, having first set the past shapes in a very cold place for an hour. Make a savory mince of roast, or boiled, chicken, stir into a good drawn butter and let it come to a boil while the shells are baking. Turn these out carefully from the tins, and fill with the hot mince. Serve at once.

Minced sweetbreads, mushrooms, fish, oysters, veal—in fact, almost any kind of meats or fish—may be converted ??? uninviting “left overs” into a

“Dainty dish,
To set before the king—”

by learning how to prepare and serve the vol-au-vent. If you prefer, you may bake it in one large pastry shell.

Marion Harland

The Housemothers’ Exchange

Plum Puddings and Fruit Cakes for the Holidays

This is the first article in December of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on December 2, 1906, and is a discussion on puddings and cakes for the holidays.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Plum Puddings and Fruit Cakes for the Holidays

HE who doubts that fashions come and fashions go in the culinary world as truly, if not as fast, as the modes of gowns and hats in another sphere, should read up in cookbooks the history of cakes for the last half century.

As the nominal chaperon of a small granddaughter, I was permitted to attend a children’s lawn party last summer. While the babies of assorted sizes were regaled with sponge cake and ice cream upon the turf below us, we seniors, sitting on the veranda, sipped “afternoon tea” and were served with cake adjudged to be too rich for young stomachs. It was as yellow as gold; it was tender, yet firm; it was as sweet as honey and yet so spicy that it was fragrant.

The Rapture of Reminiscence

As the palate appreciated the ineffable deliciousness of the dainty, two of us uttered in delight not far removed from ecstasy—

“Real poundcake!”

Both of the speakers were grandmothers. Women of the second generation shared our pleasure, but not the rapture of reminiscence. When one granddame sighed, “I do not think I have eaten genuine poundcake before in thirty years,” the juniors confessed that they had never tasted it before.

It transpired, presently, that the mother of the hostess, a Southern woman, had compounded the delicacy, assisted by her colored maid.

Like the “venerable men” eulogized by Webster at the inauguration of Bunker Hill Monument, it had “come down to us from a former generation”—a generation that had time to take pains in whatever it undertook. A pound of loaf sugar, crushed and sifted through muslin; three quarters of a pound of washed butter; a pound of flour dried in the oven; a pound of eggs; one nutmeg, grated; a teaspoonful of mace, and a glass of pure old brandy went into that peerless loaf. The mixing was done as carefully as the weighing. Then came half an hour of steady beating (think of that, ye hustlers of the twentieth century!) that left it velvety in consistency and in color like molten gold.

This sounds like bathos to our up-to-date cook. I forgive her, if she has never known real poundcake.

“Snowball” Sponge Cake

I spoke, just now, of the sponge cake served to the children. I did not see it or taste it. I am, nevertheless, as sure as if I had done both that it was as little like the “snowballs” that were the joy of my childhood as cup cake resembles the luscious pound loaf I have described but feebly. Sponge cake (the real thing) was guiltless of butter. So is the modern plagiarism. I could run over the original recipe backward—so familiar was it to my charmed ears:

Twelve eggs; the weight of the eggs in sugar, half their weight in flour; one lemon—juice and rind. Beat yolks and whites separately and very light, the sugar into the yolks when they are perfectly smooth: next the juice and grated lemon peel, then the stiffened whites; lastly the sifted flour, very lightly and rapidly.

As with the poundcake, the rest was skill.

The perfect product was never tough. It melted in the mouth like butter, never sticking to the teeth, and although most delicious when freshly baked, did not desiccate into sweetish dust when cold.

What might be called “the sponge cake of commerce”—most often sold in the shape of lady fingers (save the mark!) and jumbles—better befitting the name—is coaxed into lightness by ammonia and baking powders. It is always either tough or sawdusty.

In all the changes and chances, the downfalls and upheavals, in the realm of cake-making, the queen holds her own. Fruit cake has never been superseded by angel or by devil cake, by any of the countless varieties of cup or layer cake. She smiles serene indifference upon Lady Baltimore, while French, lady, marble, caramel, Washington, Lincoln and Lee “win no regard from her calm eyes.” She is empress, and her dynasty is perpetual. Two hundred years ago fruit cake was an indispensable feature in every feast of note. The reveler of today holds it in equal esteem with his great-great-grandfather.

“Indigestible,” say our diet dictators. “Horribly expensive!” cry frugal housewives. All the same, children cry for it, and the four-dollars-a-week housemother pinches in here and overruns there to have that on Christmas Day which will set the younglings to singing—

“Some gave them white bread, some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake and sent them out of town.”

To the maker of the immemorial ballad “plum cake” stood for the most costly bribe in the gift of the harassed townspeople. Before coming to recipes for the royal loaf, let me remind the maker thereof of a few important preliminaries to the ceremony.

Collect and weigh all the ingredients before you begin to mix the cake. Appropriate a table of fair size and settle yourself in a corner where you are not likely to be interrupted. Neglect not the least detail of spoon, or spice sifter, or grater. Pay especial attention to the fruit. The currants may be labeled “Cleaned.” See that you wash them in three waters. The third may be clear. The first and second will justify my caution and your obedience. Drain and dry them when they are clean, drying in the open oven and in a heated colander lest they should sweat. Rinse the raisins in clear water, and dry them. Do not chop nuts if they are to go into the cake. Cut them small with a sharp knife, or shave them thin with the same.

All must be perfectly dry when they are dredged or the fruit will make the cake heavy. Shred the citron fine with keen clean scissors.

Thirty odd years ago I italicized a sentence in a paper upon this subject, which I shall now set up in capitals:


Every step must be as carefully taken as if upon it depended the fate of the undertaking.

Pound Fruit Cake.

One pound of butter; one pound of powdered sugar; one pound of flour; one pound of seeded raisins; one pound of currants; half a pound of shredded citron; twelve eggs; one even teaspoonful of cinnamon; two teaspoonfuls of nutmeg; one teaspoonful of cloves; one wineglass of best brandy. (Cooking brandy will not do.)

Rub the butter and sugar to a smooth cream; heat in the whipped eggs and stir hard for two whole minutes before adding half of the flour. Beat the flour in with long, even strokes; add the spices, and when these are well incorporated with the other ingredients “fold in” the whites, i.e., with long, almost horizontal, sweeps of the spoon, alternately with there served flour. The brandy goes in last, and this must be with as few strokes as will suffice to blend it completely with the batter.

This is a large quantity. For a family of ordinary size half as much of each ingredient will do.

The whole will make two large loaves. Cover with thick paper when you put it into a steady oven, and do not remove the paper under an hour. It will require nearly, if not quite, two hours’ baking.

The novice would best commit the baking to an experienced cook.

A Cup Fruit Cake.

One cupful of washed butter; two cupfuls of powdered sugar; two and a half cupfuls of sifted flour; half a pound each of currants and seeded raisins; a quarter of a pound of shredded citron; a teaspoonful each of cinnamon and grated nutmeg; six eggs.

Cream butter and sugar, add the beaten yolks of the eggs, next the flour and the well-dredged fruit and citron, the spices, and whip upward for one minute before adding the whites of the eggs whipped to a standing froth. Fold them in lightly and quickly.

Half-Pound Christmas Cake.

Half a pound of butter and the same of sugar; half a pound each of currants, raisins and shredded nuts; a quarter pound of clipped citron; one teaspoonful each of powdered nutmeg, mace and cinnamon; one heaping cupful of flour; seven eggs, whites and yolks whipped separately.

Mix as directed in the preceding recipe, being careful to dredge the fruit well. A pleasant flavor is imparted to the cake by mixing a tablespoonful of rosewater with the nuts while mincing them.

Raised Fruit Cake.

Set aside on baking day a cupful of dough that has had the second rising. Work it into a cream made by stirring together a cupful of butter with one of brown sugar. Have at hand half a cupful of raisins and currants dredged with flour and an equal quantity of shredded citron. Mix through the half cupful of fruit half a teaspoonful of cinnamon and half as much powdered mace, and work it well into the dough. This done, beat two eggs very light, yolks and whites together, and knead them into the mass until it is very light. Five minutes should be enough. Finally, mould in to two loaves, throw a cloth over them and set in a rather warm place for twenty minutes before baking.

This is a popular cake with English children, and is sometimes called “Twelfth Night Cake.”

White Fruit Cake.

The following formula for an excellent white fruit cake was contributed by a member of the Exchange:

Put three-quarters of a pound of fresh butter into a basin, and beat until white and creamy. Add by degrees three-quarters of a pound of sifted powdered sugar and beat this mixture for a few minutes. Separate the yolks from the whites of eight eggs; add yolks to butter and sugar and beat again ten minutes. Then stir in half a pound of sultanas, half a pound of raisins seeded and cut into halves; six ounces of glace cherries and candied pineapple, also cut in pieces; a quarter of a pound of almonds (sweet), blanched and baked to a golden brown; the grated rind of a lemon; a saltspoonful of cinnamon (ground) or a wineglassful of brandy.

Whisk the whites of the eight eggs to a stiff froth and mix lightly with the other ingredients. Have ready a pound of flour, sifted, and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder added to it. Scatter it in by degrees, stirring in one handful before the next is added. Bake in a paper lined, buttered tin from two and a half to three hours. Cover the cake with boiled icing. It may be made quite fanciful by pipings of colored icing, glace cherries or other fruit to correspond with the colors used.

T. V. (Lockport, N. Y.).

We are indebted to another—a Massachusetts housemother—for a tested family recipe for what may be ranked as a cousin-german of our empress—to wit, PLUM PUDDING.

Christmas Plum Pudding.

One pound of butter; one pound of suet freed from string and chopped fine; one pound of sugar; two and a half pounds of flour; two pounds of currants, picked over carefully after they are washed; two pounds of raisins seeded, chopped and dredged with flour; one quarter of a pound of citron shredded fine; twelve eggs, whites and yolks beaten separately; one pint of milk; one cup of brandy; one ounce of cloves, one-half ounce of mace; two grated nutmegs. Cream butter and sugar, beat in the yolks when you have whipped them smooth and light; next, put in the milk, then the flour, alternately with the beaten whites; then the brandy and spices; lastly the fruit well dredged with flour.

Mix all thoroughly, wring out your pudding cloth in hot water, flour well inside, pour in the mixture and boil five hours.

MRS. J.O.D. (Hyde Park, Mass.).

After a long vacation the Private Secretary is heard from again, and with a baker’s dozen of practical household hints. Although he persists in calling himself “ a mere man,” it is obvious that he has sowed beside all waters to which housemothers do resort.

Quere: Does his wife prompt him?

“Do you know—

1. That if you will make a strong suds of silicon and very hot water, and wash your silver in it, then pass through another pan of boiling water, and wipe piece by piece, you need never scrub it with powders, that / will, eventually, wear it thin?

2. That if the inside of a silver teapot is darkened by much brewing of mixed tea (it’s the green that does the mischief), you may clean it by putting a teaspoon fill of baking soda into it, filling it with boiling water, and setting it over the fire in a pan of boiling water for five or ten minutes—you may wipe it out clean and bright?

3. That you may clean the pewter-ware bequeathed to you by your great-grand aunt by washing it in boiling water, covering it with a thick paste of woodashes, sifted through mosquito-netting, then mixed with kerosene, and after six or eight hours polishing it with old, soft flannel?

4. That delicate stomachs that cannot digest ham, much less fresh pork, can assimilate thin slices of breakfast bacon?

5. That, while creamed coffee is rank poison to some dyspeptics, nearly everybody is the better for a small cup of black coffee taken after the heaviest meal of the day?

6. That this same black coffee, drunk as hot as one can swallow it, is a prime remedy for nausea, from whatever cause?

7. That matches should never be left in closed houses in paper boxes, since mice are passionately fond of the tips, and often play the incendiary unintentionally?

8. That bananas, peeled, dipped in egg, then rolled in cracker-dust and baked in the oven, are more palatable and far more wholesome than when they are fried in the usual way?

9. That the same may be said of croquettes?

10. That if, in putting away papers and books which are not to be used for some months, you will put camphor balls or gum camphor among them, the mice will not touch them?

11. That silver may be protected from tarnish in like manner?

12. That almost any scorch may be removed from cloths (linen or cotton) by simply washing and boiling in the usual way, and hanging in the hot sun while wet?

13. That, when the fat takes fire on the stove, it is better to sacrifice a kitchen rug by throwing it upon the flame than to try to put it out by throwing water on it? The burning grease will float farther, and blaze more fiercely from the water.

Camden, N. J.

Marion Harland

Caring for Oilcloth
Decorating Closets
A Happy Solution of a Hard Problem
Recipes by Request
Sink Knowledge

Pretty Centrepieces for Thanksgiving Tables & Winter Desserts of Preserved and Canned Fruits

These are the fourth articles in November of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on November 25, 1906. I have transcribed two articles as I did not know which one was the more prominent of the two and thought them both to be interesting.

One article, the shorter, is on dressing a Thanksgiving table while the other is on desserts made of canned fruits.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Pretty Centrepieces for Thanksgiving Tables

WE AMERICANS are little given to sentiment, and we are apt to take our national holidays too much as a matter of course to bestow much thought upon their origin. It seems fitting, however, that in this time of plenty, we should pay some little tribute to the memory of those stern Pilgrim fathers, who nearly 300 years ago set aside a day in which to give thanks for the gathering in of the first harvest in their new country.

There is a pretty custom prevalent in some families on Thanksgiving Day which is worthy of more followers. This is to bring the guests into a table bare of food, decorations, even of a cloth, and with only five grains of corn (for it was for this tiny individual portion that the first Thanksgiving Day was held) lying at each plate. Afterward, of course, the table is spread with all the luxuries and beauties that modern custom demands, and the little lesson in contrasts plants in each heart another note in the swelling song of thanks.

A good dinner is a good thing, but a good dinner daintily served, with charming accessories, is even better, and the successful hostess is she who puts almost as much thought and skill into the arrangement of her table as she does into the planning of her menu.

Fruits and Nuts in Decorations

Fruit, nuts, vegetables and grains form the basis of the true Thanksgiving decorations. If flowers are used, chrysanthemums are the most appropriate, and if you live in a section of the country where the autumn leaves retain their rich coloring until late November, you will find them a charming addition to your table.

A novel centrepiece can be made of a huge yellow pumpkin, to which are fastened great clusters of purple grapes, each bunch concealing a tiny favor. Stick pins, silver bookmarks, any trifle that the grapes will hide, will do for these gifts. Or the pumpkin may be hollowed out and filled with fruit, with candles set at intervals about the edge.

This matter of fastening the candles to the pumpkin is simple enough if you leave a broad rim after you have scooped out the seed and pulp. A sharp knife will cut little sockets, and the candles are made a trifle more secure if the ends are softened by holding them to a lighted match just before they are set into place.

When you don’t care for the candle-trimmed pumpkin, you may scallop the edges, and it is rather effective to suspend a similar pumpkin, scalloped and fruit filled, from the ceiling to a little distance above the one on the table. The cord by which this second pumpkin is hung should be concealed by a clinging green vine, and this vine brought down, twined about the lower pumpkin and across the cloth to each plate, then circling the table, is not to be despised as an aid to beauty.

A more conventional centrepiece is an ordinary flat fruit dish filled with fruit and banked with chrysanthemums. A number of chrysanthemums with very long stems extend from this banking, one ending in front of each guest’s plate. This fruit dish remains in place during the entire meal, the fruit is eaten as a final course, and each guest carries away the chrysanthemum that touched his plate as a souvenir of the occasion.

Corn in the ear makes a beautiful Thanksgiving decoration. If you can get unhusked ears of corn in both yellow and red, lay them about the centerpiece of fruit, flat on the cloth. Strip the husk back from one side so that the gleaming kernels are revealed, then draw the husk over the fruit so that the rich colors of the apples, oranges and grapes gleam through its pale yellow.

The woman who is fortunate enough to be able to get hold of a shock of wheat for her Thanksgiving table has wonderful possibilities at her command. The wheat, loosely bound, with a profusion of fruits apparently falling from it, certainly suggests the richest sort of a harvest. Then she can make her candle shades like miniature shocks of wheat, and she can conceal favors in wheat shocks beside each plate.

Where the autumn leaves are “getable,” a charming effect can be gained by a background of grown leaves, strewn with nuts, from which rises a centerpiece of the usual fruit, banked about with corn and wheat. The dull browns and the pale tints of the grain bring the deeper coloring of the fruits out into unusual beauty.

Candle shades for this table of autumn leaves can be made in the semblance of several richly tinted maple leaves, out of paper, or, what is far more economical and quite as effective, the hostess may make them herself of the real leaves. All she needs forth is purpose are the tiny wire frames, which are sold at a trifling cost, and which, when covered with thin white paper, may be decorated in any manner that falls in with the proposed dinner scheme.

Yellow chrysanthemum shades are pretty, but by no means novel. Tissue-paper pumpkin shades are a delight if they are not beyond the skill of the amateur shademaker, and clusters of grapes twined over green tissue-paper shades are good to look at, but a trifle top-heavy and therefore keep you on the lookout to guard against fires.

If you want something novel in candlesticks, use carrots that have been cut off at one end to make a substantial base, and hollowed out at the other to form a socket; or pumpkins, or even apples, if you can get the big, rosy ones. Candles set in these fancy sticks are better without shades.

Of course, the hostess who is tireless in her ambition need not stop at decorations which are for the table alone. She can carry out her Thanksgiving idea in her salads, in the garnishing of her dishes and in her ices. Her time, strength and pocketbook are the only limitations to her possibilities.

Winter Desserts of Preserved and Canned Fruits

THERE are more possibilities in preserved and canned fruits than are dreamed of in our housewife’s philosophy.

Of course, she knows that the fruits put up last summer during the torrid days, when, perhaps, the flesh groaned under the effort, will be of use for Sunday night teas and for the luncheon on washday or ironing day, when the exigencies of must-be-dones allow little time for the dessert that is only a may-be-done. But on these occasions the fruit is simply “turned out” into a glass bowl and served with sweet crackers, biscuit, or cake. The children may like it, although they soon weary of the cloying sweetness of too many conserves; but John, remembering his mother’s frugalities, suspects a makeshift in the hastily and easily prepared dessert, and does not ask for a second supply—unless he be that rarity among the masculine sex, a man with an inordinately sweet tooth.

In retrospection, those hot July, August and September days (in which she literally won her metaphorical bread in shape of preserved fruits by the sweat of her brow) will seem better worth while to our housewife if she appreciates that at that time she prepared the nucleus of many a delicious winter dessert-—a dessert in which the boys and girls will revel, and of which John will show his approval by that most convincing of phrases, “A little more, if you please, mv dear!” Pies are expensive and indigestible articles—

“Too rich and good
for human nature’s daily food,”

in a family where digestions are delicate and purses even more slender. Pastry of all kinds is to be taken very sparingly by the child one would have escape American dyspepsia. One mother insists that a diet of apple pie makes the small boy’s complexion of the hue of the soggy pastry and his temper and stomach of the acidity of the not-too liberally-sweetened contents of the crust. Occasionally, however, the pie may be introduced into the bill-of-fare, but only as a stranger with whom one has a mere speaking acquaintance, but is not on terms of intimacy. And when it is thus brought forward, it may consist largely of one of the fruits from last summer prepared by the housemother herself.

For this same housemother, remembering with qualms of the diaphragm and indigestion of soul, recent “pure food” investigations, does not often set before her family the tin-can product from the corner grocery. The amber lobes that were once fresh plums, the carefully halved peaches, translucent and shining; the wax-like Bartlett pears, perfect in contour and firm of texture, are, to her, one and all objects of suspicion. They may be pure, and yet, again, they may not—and in her cautious mind the “nots” carry the day. Looking well after the ways of her household, she fears to introduce some deleterious acid into the stomachs of her family, and so does not trust the wares offered by the salesman as “the finest thing in fruit to be found anywhere, 15 cents a can—two for a quarter.”

Our housemother prefers to know just what she gets for her money, and knows that sweet, firm fruit and pure sugar went to the preparation of her preserves which are, let us hope, as sweet now as they were the day she parboiled herself and cooked them against the time when heat and fruit would be expensive luxuries. And just here is it well to remind this same housekeeper that, if her fruits show signs of fermentation, they should not be used, even in pies and puddings. Turn them back into the preserve kettle, add sugar and “cook them over” before serving them in any shape. The little acrid taste that leaves a “tang” on the tongue may leave a worse reminder upon the sensitive mucous membrane lining the stomach.

In the following recipes there are often directions for draining the fruit from the liquor in which it is canned or preserved. Our housewife may save this liquid and make of it excellent pudding sauces.

Plum Batter Pudding.

Drain the liquor from a can of plums and set in an open bowl for an hour. Remove the stones carefully, not to break the fruit.

Sift three teacupfuls of flour with a heaping teaspoonful of baking powder. Beat four eggs very light, add a generous tablespoonful of melted butter, a quart of sweet milk into which a saltspoonful of salt has been stirred, and, lastly, stir in lightly the flour. Have two dozen stoned plums arranged in layers in the bottom of a deep, greased pudding dish, pour in the batter and bake at once in a hot, but steady, oven. While baking, make a hard sauce, flavoring it with vanilla. Serve the pudding with this sauce as soon as baked.

Small Plum Puddings.

Drain and stone the plums as in the last recipe. Put four plums in the bottom of a very deep greased patty pan or very small pie plates. Work into a large cup of flour a scant tablespoonful of butter, add a gill of milk and a little, salt. Work smooth, then spread over the top of the plums. Bake in a quick oven. When ready to serve, loosen the edge of the crust on each tin, and turn upside down on a broad platter. Serve with rich cream.

Cherry Turnovers.

Drain canned or preserved cherries into a pound of flour, and rub a cup of butter. When like a coarse powder, moisten with a teacupful, or less, of iced water, and work to a paste, handling as little as possible. Roll out upon a floured board, fold up and roll out again, and yet once more. If very cold still, use at once. If not, set in the ice chest until chilled. Chop the cherries (from which the pits must have been removed, unless this was done before canning them), add two beaten eggs and the juice of one lemon. Roll out the paste, and cut into rounds the size of a large biscuit. Put a tablespoonful of the mixture on one-half of the round, and turn the other half over upon the fruit and itself, pinching the edges together. Lay these half-circles in a floured baking pan and bake to a golden brown. These are good, hot or cold. Sift powdered sugar over them before serving.

Cherry Bread Pudding.

Drain the liquor from a can of stoned cherries, and chop these small. Cut the crust from a loaf of bread, and slice thin, then spread each slice with the chopped cherries. Pack all into a deep dish, and pour slowly over the bread—allowing time for it to soak in well—the liquor from the cherries. Set aside in the ice-box for some hours, or until the juice is thoroughly absorbed by the bread. Make a custard of three eggs, a pint of milk and sugar to taste, and pour this over the bread. If this quantity does not fill the dish, add more milk, for the bread must be entirely covered with the custard. Put a plate or cover on the bread to keep it under the custard, and bake until the custard is set. Serve with powdered sugar and cream.

Steamed Cherry Pudding.

Make a batter of a pint of milk, a tablespoonful of melted butter and two well-beaten eggs. Add three cups of flour that has been sifted with a teaspoonful of baking powder and a pint of cherries that have been drained from the liquor in the can. Dredge the fruit well with flour and stir it in lightly. Turn into a greased mould and steam for three hours. Eat with a hard sauce flavored with the cherry liquor.

Raspberry Pudding.

Open a can of canned or preserved raspberries, and drain off the liquor, saving it for sauce for the pudding. Make a rich biscuit dough: roll this into a sheet a half inch thick, spread thickly with the berries, sprinkle bits of butter over these and roll up the sheet of dough as you would a sheet of music. Put into a floured cloth and boil for three hours. Add to the raspberry liquor a little sugar and boil up once. Take the pudding from the cloth, lay on a dish and pour the steaming sauce over it.

Rhubarb Pie.

Drain the liquor from a can of rhubarb and chop this. Add to it a half cup of sugar, the yolk of an egg, a piece of butter the size of a walnut and a tablespoonful of flour. Moisten with three tablespoonfuls of the rhubarb liquor and bake in an open piecrust. When done, make a meringue of the white of the egg and sugar, spread this on the pie and return it to the oven just long enough to “set” the meringue. Eat cold.

Rhubarb Pudding.

Drain the canned rhubarb and put a layer of it in the bottom of a greased pudding dish. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, add a few drops of lemon juice and dot with bits of butter. Now put in a layer of crumbs and moisten these with the liquor from the can of rhubarb. Put in more rhubarb, sugar and butter and more moistened crumbs. Continue in this way until the dish is full, having the top layer of dried and buttered crumbs. Cover and bake for fifteen minutes in a hot oven, then uncover and brown. Serve hot with hard sauce.

Huckleberry Shortcake.

Into a quart of flour chop a tablespoonful of butter and work in a half cup of powdered sugar. Add three cups of milk and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder. Mix to a soft dough, handling as little as possible. Roll out, and cut into rounds that will fit in two layer-cake tins. Bake in a quick oven. When these two biscuits are done, turn out, split open and spread with butter. Have ready the contents of a can of huckleberries, drained and heated, and spread each layer thickly with these. Place the rounds on top of each other, pour the remaining berries and liquid over the top round and serve at once.

Dutch Peach Cake.

Drain the liquor from a can of peaches, and, if not already stoned, stone them, cut into strips or eighths, and set in the colander to drain well while you make the cake.

Sift with a pint of flour two teaspoonfuls of baking powder and a half teaspoonful of salt. Into this stir a beaten egg and a teacupful of milk. Grease a loaf tin and put in the dough, then press the pieces of peaches into the top of the loaf, laying them close together. Sprinkle with bits of butter, and dust all with sugar, adding but a little of this, as the peaches are already sweetened. Bake until done, and serve with whipped cream or, alone, as a cake.

Peach Tapioca.

Soak a cup of pearl tapioca until clear and soft. Cut up canned peaches into bits. There should be eight or ten of these peaches if large in size and a cup of their liquor. Boil the tapioca in a pint of water. When tender, add the peaches and liquor, and stir while the mixture comes to a boil, then remove immediately from the fire. When cold, set in the ice until wanted. Serve with cream.

Peaches and Cream.

Drain the liquor from halved preserved or brandied peaches, and set on the ice until very cold. Beat a pint of cream very light, sweetening it as you do so, and whipping into it a half cup of blanched and chopped almonds. Arrange the halves of the peaches on a chilled platter, and fill the cavity left by the stone in each half with the whipped- cream mixture, heaping this high.

Keep in the fire until ready to serve. Pass fresh sponge cake with this dessert. This makes an attractive and delicious company dessert. It is still prettier if a Maraschino cherry top each mound of whipped cream.

Apple Whip.

Chop canned apples very small, or, better still, if you have canned apple sauce, use that. Rub through a colander. Beat the whites of four eggs to a stiff meringue, and add gradually to this a pint of the minced apples, adding, also, a dash of lemon juice and a little sugar, if needed. Line a glass bowl with ladyfingers and fill the bowl with this mixture. When serving, put a great spoonful of cream on each portion.

Strawberry Souffle.

Drain the liquor from a can of preserved or canned strawberries. Beat the whites of seven eggs to a stiff froth, adding the berries gradually. Turn into greased pudding dish and bake for a half hour in a steady oven. Serve at once with whipped cream.

Strawberry Jelly.

Soak a half box of gelatine in a little water, and, when the gelatine is dissolved, add a cup of the liquid in which strawberries were canned, and the berries themselves. Stir for a moment, pour into a wet mould, and set aside until cold, then put in the icebox. When turned out, the berries will be at the top of the form, the pink jelly at the bottom. Turn upon a platter and heap whipped cream about the base of the form.

The Housemothers’ Exchange

Grapefruit at its Best

This is the third articles in November of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on November 18, 1906, and is a short talk on the grapefruit.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Grapefruit at its Best

THERE is a tradition that has come to us across seas and through centuries that the much prized grapefruit of today is none other than the mysterious forbidden fruit that grew in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps it is true. Perhaps, too, its slight bitterness is symbolical of the heritage of suffering that Mother Eve laid upon all succeeding generations when she listened to the voice of the tempter and turned longing eyes upon the tree of knowledge.

Certain it is, that in some Eastern countries the pomela, as it is sometimes called, is still known as the forbidden fruit, yet it would be hard to find a modern housekeeper who would not willingly forgive Eve for her shortcomings when this season rolls round and she can add the appetizing dainty to her menu to tempt the jaded palates of those to whom must cater.

Grapefruit is looked upon in some households as an expensive luxury, but when you consider the heights to which the price of oranges is soaring just now and the scarcity of other fruits, and when you remember that in many markets the grapefruit may be bought three for a quarter, and that half of one is quite enough to put before each person, this notion seems bit exaggerated.

Of course, the primary use for grapefruit is as a first course for breakfast, luncheon, or dinner, but it is sometimes used as a dessert for a simple lunch, and its possibilities in the way of salads and sherbets are almost unlimited.

For a simple home breakfast the core is usually removed, the fruit loosened at the sides from the skin and a tiny bit of sugar added to it. It is well to put this sugar on with a skimp hand, for many persons do not care for too much sweet, and it is always possible to add it afterward.

For a more elaborate breakfast, remove all the seed and white fibrous parts, cut the pulp into pieces and mix with cracked ice. This, of course, is served in the shell of the fruit, and is perfectly permissible for the more ceremonious meals of the day. However, if you want something a little different, opportunity is not lacking.

You may take red and white California grapes cut them in halves, seed them and lay them about the edges of the grape fruit. Or you may take Mallaga grapes, seed them and pile them in with the sugar and pulp. Maple sugar, used instead of the ordinary powdered sort gives a peculiarly delicious flavor to the fruit.

Grapefruit glasses are now used very much by people who have wearied of the serving in fruit shell. The cracked ice is plied in the outer glass, while the fruit and its juice are placed in the inner glass. Sometimes when this method of serving is employed the pulp and sugar are mixed and set aside several hours before they are needed.

Salads are becoming more and more a matter of course in this country, and the average man has a leaning toward those whose component parts are of fruit. One grapefruit salad allows the pulp of half of one to each person, This is served on crisp lettuce leaves and garnished with blanched almonds and about a tablespoonful and a half of mayonnaise dressing.

Another salad is made of the grapefruit and celery in equal parts; still another of grapefruit and pineapple. The question of dressing is very much a matter of individual taste. Many persons think that mayonnaise dressing is entirely out of place in a fruit salad and that a French dressing is the only proper thing. One of the latest ideas is to make your French dressing of lemon instead of vinegar, since the acid of the lemon blends better with the fruit.

Whether sugar should or should not be used is another matter often discussed. There is theory that it is out of place with most salads, yet the women who make the best dressing usually confess to adding a little—not enough to let the outsider into the secret, but enough to blend with and soften down the other ingredients.

If the salad is served from the pantry it is always prettily piled up in half a grapefruit shell, which is set on a plate, one being put in front of each guest. If, however, the salad is put on the table in a large salad bowl and served from there, a garnishing of grapefruit peel makes a pretty and effective addition.

For the people who like sherbets of every kind, here is one that can be made of grapefruit. Squeeze every bit of juice from the pulp, being careful to allow not one seed nor a bit of white skin to drop into it. Allow half a pound of cut sugar to each pound of fruit juice ,stir and pour into a freezer.

A drink made from grapefruit, and known as bitter sweet, is made by cutting the fruit into sections, extracting the seed and covering with boiling water, a quart of water to a quart of fruit. When cool, strain and sweeten. This is served in glasses that are one third full of cracked ice.

Grapefruit rind preserves are made by cutting off every particle of the yellow epidermis and using two pounds of sugar to one of rind.

Keeping the Silver Bright in Spite of Has and Heat
Kitchen Recipe Book
Rainy-Day Closet
What to Do With Thanksgiving Left-Overs

What Can Be Done with Old Carpets

This is the second article in November of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on November 11, 1906, and is a discussion on how to bring new life into old carpets.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

What Can Be Done with Old Carpets

WHEN in tolerable preservation and passable in appearance, carpets are a discouraging feature in the autumnal domestic upheaval. They have gathered dust during the absence of the family—no matter how carefully the sun has been excluded by closed shutters and lowered shades, the colors have suffered from heated light, producing a general effect of dinginess peculiarly dispiriting to the frugal housewife.

For, as none of us needs to be told, floors and windows are the most serious items in computing the probable cost of housefurnishing. Your notable manager will tell you that, when hangings are up and carpets (or rugs) are down, the rooms are “more than half furnished.” What follows is mere child’s play by comparison. Tables, beds, chairs, sofas, and sideboards are optional with the mistress. It there are few, ingenuity to brought into exercise to place them to the best advantage, and no conventional decree in this our day obliges us to buy parlor and chamber, or even dining-room “sets.” Carpets and curtains are obligatory and immutable. Nor is it worth our while to pretend to ourselves that the wholesome fashion of hardwood or painted floors emancipates us from the bondage of expensive floor coverings.

We need not buy carpeting by the hundred yards, but we do not sit and stand on naked boards. The rich mask parquet and mosaic with costly rugs; the day laborer’s wife spreads rag carpeting in her kitchen, and scrimps her family bill-of-fare all winter to get what she shows as “a genuwine Brussel” (singular number, accent on last syllable) for the parlor. We must have carpets. As axiomatic is the assertion that carpets will wear out, and the cheaper they are the sooner they give way. Furthermore, a worn or ragged carpet imparts a poverty-stricken look to a room and house. No smartness of furniture can banish or conceal the squalor of a dingy floor covering.

A Dismaying Survey.

Appreciating the fell truth, our housewife of narrow means surveys with dismay the threadbare breadths in the middle of the dining room, defining where restless feet have stirred or beaten the pattern to death; the lines of gray blank spaces, stretching from doors to hearth in the family parlor; the holes worn in the 75-cents-a-yard ingrain, promoted only last year from “mother’s room” to the nursery. The hand-made rag carpet in the kitchen, a present from John’s mother, three Christmases back, was turned last winter—but, bless your soul! you can’t expect anything but wear and tear in a house where there are three boys, all under fifteen. The home-made carpet holds its own, so far as that own is represented, by warp and wool. But it is dirty—vulgarly and unequivocally dirty!

Our housemother is not easily approached while she ponders these things in her heart, and couples them with a gloomy talk she held with John last night upon the increased cost of living and the upward tendency of everything except wages. She is sore of heart—poor woman—and, although she may never have heard the word, a pessimist of a pronounced type.

Nevertheless, it is she, and at this season, with whom I would hold converse today.

You may not be able to make money. You and every other woman—even a busy editor—can make time to do what must be done. And, since your carpets are pastworthy, it follows that they must be renovated.

Begin we with the dining room. It not escaped your housewifely eye that the breadths next the walls are comparatively unworn.

“Of course!” you interrupt, sarcastically; “just where they are least seen!”

Take that as your starting point. Have the carpet beaten free of dust; take it to the least frequented room in your house; rip the seams and shift the breadths. Put the breadths together again, piecing ingeniously, so as to bring the best bits into the light and thrusting disreputable portions into dark corners, or where they be shaded by the heavier articles of furniture. A window bench may cover an atrocious two-yard strip. A sideboard is a friend in need, and hearthrug a boon. You will find real pleasure in the task when you discover to yourself a talent or matching figures and discerning possible fits.

When the carpet is a harmonious whole and on the floor, imitate the example of a happy-go-lucky housewife whom I have quoted here before—and more than once—who set the table “so as to humor the spots” on the cloth. Dispose your furniture charitably, with an eye to the weak points in your handiwork.

The parlor carpet, if good at heart, may be manipulated successfully in like manner. The task is easier, since the widest license prevails in the disposition of rugs in a drawing room. One expects to see a tag under the piano, where the feet of the performer must rest. A smaller, cast carelessly down diagonally, here and there, excites no suspicion of the bare space beneath. You may not have an open fireplace, but the sham chimney and mantel demand the corresponding sham of a hearthrug—the bigger, the better.

Now for the nursery ingrain, too good to be thrown aside, even if you could afford to do it, yet unpresentable in its present dishevelment. Take it up and bundle it up—never mind about shaking it—and send to one of a dozen factories, where it will be cleaned, torn into shreds, woven into rugs of the size designated in your letter of instructions and returned to you in such guise as reminds you of the spring resurrection of leaf, bud and flower from the unsightly root burled in soil. Meanwhile, have the nursery floor painted—or stained and oiled—letting the children sleep elsewhere for three nights to allow paint or stain to dry so thoroughly that the smart new rugs will not suffer from contact with it.

For smart they will be, and new to all intents and purposes, with a world of honest wear in them.

I have omitted in the inventory of pastworthy floor covering the grievous disappointment of the “filling” you laid down in own bedroom four winters agone, in the fond hope that it would be as serviceable as it was cheap. You bought it for 15 cents a yard off at an auction—a bankrupt sale. It was soft green in color—“Nile green,” said the auctioneer—and rested the eyes with its modest uniformity of hue. You mentioned to John, one unseasonably warm spring day, that it reminded you of mosses and young grasses.

It began to fade by the first of April, and has been at the evil work ever since. It has faded in spots—“greenery yallow” and “yallowy green,” saffron and sage color—each vying in hideousness with its neighbor. A more depressing, hopeless carpet it would be hard to imagine, and impossible to manufacture.

Banishing a Nightmare.

Why not rid your eyes and spirits of the nightmare by dyeing it? I am assured by six incorruptible witnesses that this is practicable.

Make up your mind what scheme of color you will adopt, and purchase patent dyes with this end in view. Mix with boiling water in as saucepans as have colors or shades, and keep them hot while you work. Use a broad painter’s brush—four inches in width is not too large—and apply with long, straight sweeps. Paint toward you, as you kneel on the carpet, receding as the painted area broadens. If you paint in strips, or patterns, let each dry before you begin another, that the colors will not run into each other. If you would have a border running around the main carpet cut out a conventional design in stiff pasteboard, tack or pin it to the carpet, and apply dye within the openwork of the design, shifting as you go. This is known, by fresco painters as “stenciling.”

Do not step upon the dyed carpet until it is perfectly dry.

Our descending scale has brought us to the home-made and vulgarly dirty kitchen carpet. Were it mine, I should wash it on the floor. Choose a fine, windy day, when John and the boys are safely off to work and to school, for the operation. Shave a bar of old white soap into a pail or hot water; churn it to suds and stir it in a cup of gosolene. (Have no fire in the room.)

In another pail, close at hand, have plenty of clean hot water for rinsing. You should be provided with a new, strong scrubbing brush and abundance of clean, soft cloths. When everything is in order, scrub that carpet as you would a floor, but with less slopping. Wash a space the width of a breadth and a foot wide, rinse quickly and wipe as dry as you can get it before taking the brush in hand for another scrub. Proceed in this way until you have been over the whole carpet. Rub the badly soiled parts hard, applying suds several times before rinsing.

The floor will be dry in an astonishing short time, if you have not been too lavish with the water.

Leave windows and doors open, and let the air and sunshine do the rest.

Household Helps
Menu for One Day – By a Contributor

A Candy Pull

This is the last article in October of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on October 28, 1906, and is a talk on the entertainment of doing a candy pull. The article also discusses how how many candy is much better for children rather than store bought bonbons full of chemicals.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

A Candy Pull

THAT is what they call it now-a-days.

In my youth and at the South, it was known familiarly as a “Molasses Stew”—sometimes as a “Sugar Stew.” It was a popular form of entertainment on winter evenings, and divided the honors at “Halloween” with snapdragon and the dozen charms practiced a peep into the future we had not then learned is lovingly veiled from our presumptuous eyes.


I do not know that confectioners were more honest then than now, but they were more simple concerning that which is evil. In unbiblical language, they were not “up” in the matter of adulterations of their wares. Alba terra had no marketable value, and candy-makers neither poisoned nor painted the “goodies” that had children for their chief customers.

The subject of this Talk with the Housemother was suggested to me by the sight of a “scare head” in a newspaper:


It was not cheap candy, I learn from perusal of the story, but put up in pretty boxes, and colored attractively. Retail price—40 cents a pound. The father bought it on his way home from work, and he, the mother and the three children ate the whole pound before bedtime, with the exception of a few bits left in the bottom of the box. These, when analyzed by the doctors, whose united skill saved the lives of the sufferers, were adjudged to contain arsenical green and other deadly drugs.

For many years the purchase of cheap candies has been sternly prohibited in the several households in which my word has the weight of lawful authority. Chocolate, which we more than suspected to be half American mud; lemon drops, so sour as to cut the throat of the infant that swallowed them, demonstrating to the initiated the active presence of sulphuric acid: green, red and yellow sticks and cubes that owed brilliancy to mineral dyes; brandy drops, sticky and cloying, redeemed from insipidity by alcohol—one and all of these fruits of juvenile speculations with pocket-money and windfalls of pennies—are ruthlessly confiscated and burned in the market place—alias, Grandmamma’s wood-fire, or the kitchen range. If a child fall ill suddenly of indigestion, the first query is—“Have you eaten shop candy?” If the answer be affirmative, the case is treated as one of poisoning.

This is not an idle tale, or an exaggeration of facts. I could make yet stronger the appeal to mothers to withhold hurtful sweets from their darlings were I to tell all I know of the infamous cheats foisted upon us by men who, after all, are no worse than their fellow money-makers.

These things being true, why do we not make our candies as well as can our fruit and vegetables? And this last is what we must do if we would not be done slowly to death by salicylic acid and more potent drugs.

Pulling candy on a frosty evening when a boy or two, and a girl or three, have dropped in, may be a puerile amusement in the sight of sophisticated younglings of the human species. I submit that it is better exercise for the moral muscles, as it assuredly is for the physical, than waltzing and “bridge.”


Now, as to the modus operandi of the family and social entertainment: Cover the dining table with a clean white cloth, and set on this four large platters, and a large plate for each pair of “pullers.” Platters and plates are well-buttered, and saucers of cornstarch and pats of butter stand conveniently near the platters. The candy is cooked in the kitchen. If Bridget resent the invasion of her domain when an “acquaintance” may be with her, choose her “evening out” for the frolic. “Our” cooks have been uniformly tolerant of candy pulls, for we give them no additional trouble in the way of cleaning kettles and plates next day. As soon at the kettle is emptied it is filled with hot water and set on the side of the range to soak itself clean by the time the fun is over. The plates are piled in the sink, soaped, and covered with hot water when they are cleared.

To return to our candy! For a “molasses stew,” put into the kettle ingredients in the following proportions:


To one quart of the best quality of molasses allow one cup of granulated sugar, a great spoonful of butter and half a cup of vinegar. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, mix with the molasses, and cook—slowly at first—until the mixture hardens when dropped into water. At this point stir in the butter, and when this is melted a teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in a little hot water. The boiling mixture will foam up furiously, so be on your guard against spatters of hot syrup. As soon as the effervescing ceases, take the kettle from the fire and empty into the buttered platters, dividing the contents equally between them.

Now, let the pullers gird them for the work by donning big white aprons, turning back sleeves, removing cuffs, and buttering the tips of the fingers. The adroit candymaker never touches the hot mass except with dainty finger-tips. It is a sign of awkwardness or ignorance if any other part of the hand is sticky.

The hot mass must be taken from the platter as soon as it can be handled. The butter will keep it from adhering to the sensitive skin, and a little fortitude enables one to bear the heat in consideration of the fact that the hotter it is when drawn out into a rope, the better the chance of working it speedily into excellent candy. If left to cool until tolerable to the touch, it will string, and give no end of annoyance. Let the practiced puller—who is almost surely a woman—manipulate the hot lump alone for a minute to get it into working order. When she can draw it into a thick rope, her partner must come to her help by grasping the other end of it. Henceforward the business is play, and graceful play. The fast-whitening rope is drawn out as far as may be without danger of parting, caught dexterously in the middle, first by one, then by another of the pullers, turned back upon itself to double its thickness, then drawn out again. The process, often and swiftly repeated, bleaches the dark yellow candy to cream white, if it is not allowed to cool too suddenly. In hardening it opposes more resistance to the arms and hands, until the strain is a test of agility and strength. Here is where skill and grace come into play.

It will be so brittle, by and by, that further pulling would snap the rope. Now, lay it carefully on the platter, coiling as you let it down. If you wish to braid it, do it on the platter, not when suspended in the air. Divide into three strands of equal length, and plait them evenly and fast. Set the platter in a cold place for a few minutes before breaking the candy into lengths. If properly cooked and pulled, it will be light, porous, of a pale straw color, and delicious to the taste.


What is sold in the shops as old-fashioned molasses candy” is too often doctored with chemicals, and thickened with flour. The cornstarch of which mention was made just now is for the benefit of luckless pullers whose fingers have got sticky. A touch of the starch is safer than rebuttering. Too much butter will cause the rope to split into strings.

Sugar candy is made thus: To two large cups of granulated sugar allow half a cup of water. Do not stir it, but set over the fire to heat slowly while dissolving. When you have a clear liquid, dissolve a bit of cream-of-tartar not bigger than a lima bean in a teaspoonful of cold water, and pour into the sugared water, shaking the saucepan to induce mixing. Cook steadily until a teaspoonful, poured slowly from the tip of the spoon into cold water, hardens and threads in the air.

Proceed then as with the molasses candy.

Home-made candies, packed into paper-lined boxes, will keep for weeks. If the sugar be stirred at any stage of the process, it will soon granulate.

The above are warranted (truthfully) pure candies, that cannot hurt any healthy child. The taste for what English children call “sweeties” is normal and right. When founded upon wholesome domestic confections, it revolts at unholy combinations of white and colored earths, false essences, and froth—sold under the name of “French bon bons.”

Recipes for various home-made candies will be found in another column.

The Housemothers’ Exchange
Recipes for Domestic Candies

Mrs. Sterling’s Ways – The Knack of Retrieving Failures No. XVIII

This is the third article in June of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on June 17, 1906, and is an article on how to fix cooking failures.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Mrs. Sterling’s Ways – The Knack of Retrieving Failures No. XVIII

“ONE may take devout satisfaction in considering how few irreparable failures there are in the word we have a bad habit of calling ‘crooked.’”

The blessed woman said it with feeling. Evidently something deeper and of more vital importance than the subject in hand was in her mind. “At 70”—I have heard her say—“one learns to look under the surface of the things which are seen, and temporal, or one has lived to little purpose.”

We had been talking, of course, of the weather in general, and in particular of the disastrous effects of heat upon foodstuffs.

“Do what I will, my custards curdle before they are half done!” Mrs. White had lamented, “and yet, the milk is put into the refrigerator as soon as it is delivered, and the bottles are not opened until we are quite ready to use milk and cream.”

Then our hostess and mentor fell to moralizing, and produced the bit of practical wisdom I have cited. Recovering from her momentary reserve, she continued:

“My mother used to say (how naturally the phrase comes to every woman’s lips!)—my dear mother used to say that milk should have air and space. So I have my milk bottles emptied, as soon as they are brought in, into wide, shallow crockery bowls, and set in a compartment of the refrigerator where nothing but milk and butter are kept. As to cream—the ‘separated cream’ sold to us in small glass jars—of one thing you may rest assured – in nine cases out of ten it is doctored with some chemical preservative – I hope nothing worse than salicylic acid—before it is bottled.”

Mrs. Martin struck in impetuously here:

“That accounts for the bitterish ‘tang’ I detect in it sometimes! I thought it was incipient – corruption!” with an expressive grimace. “I’m relieved to know it is nothing worse than a vegetable ‘embalmer.’ But it is there, all the same, and account for much. For example, for the cream keeping—not sweet, perhaps, but without souring or thickening when the mercury touches the nineties.”

“But,” demurred Mrs. White—“I don’t like to mix your antiseptic drug with really pure milk, such as goes into my custards!”

“Drop into the milk a bit of baking soda, no larger than a green pea,” advised Mrs. Sterling. “Even cream twenty-four hours old may be boiled without clotting if this simple precaution be taken and the cream be brought slowly to a gentle simmer. I never omit the bit or pinch of soda when milk is to be cooked for any purpose. It arrest decomposition by neutralizing the acid generating in the milk. Old-fashioned people used to say, when this was faintly perceptible to the taste, that the milk, or bread, or meat was ‘just on the turn.’ There is nothing better or more harmless than soda for averting this evil ‘turn.’ Like the fire and water, kerosene and gasoline – and I might add mustard, cayenne and salt to the list—our bicarbonate of soda is a good and faithful servant, but a cruel master. The cook who has ‘a heavy hand with soda’ is not to be trusted to use it at all. I have save a ‘touched’ steak by a timely bath of soda and water. After leaving the suspected meat in it for an hour, I wiped it dry, washed it with lemon juice and proceeded to braise it with minced vegetables. We were in the country; the butcher had not come that day, and Mr. Sterling had!—bringing with him a couple of city men for dinner. Not another morsel of meat was to be had for love or money. My cook was sick in bed, and the waitress, a model in her own sphere, knew nothing of cooking, and ‘had never cared to learn.’ I had to cook the dinner. Whatever else was to be omitted from the bill of fare, I determined there should be no apologies. I had soup-stock, fresh vegetables, cake, berries and real cream, succulent lettuce for salad, and clear, hot, black coffee. The piece de resistance was the ‘high’ steak. It figured as ‘braised beef a la jardinière,’ was enjoyed by all. When I took my husband into my confidence after the guests had gone he assured me that it was ‘savory, tender and delicious, with never a suspicion of taint.’”

“Even your bicarbonate cannot redeem strong butter,” said Mrs. Black, mournfully.

“That depends upon the degree of ‘strength.’ I have washed butter that had entered upon the earlier stage of ruin in pure, cold water, working it with a wooden paddle, and not touching it with my hands. Then I kneaded it with the same spatula until not a drop of butter-milk was left in it. Finally, I buried in the heart of the lump a piece of charcoal wrapped in clean old linen. In twenty-four hours the work of redemption was complete. Another and a less hopeful case was treated to weak soda and water. The rinsing was done in clear iced water. The butter was left in this for an hour.”

“An old housekeeper once told me that cooking butter which was slightly rancid could be made tolerable by heating it slowly in a perfectly clean flying pan, adding, when it began to hiss, some pieces of raw potato, and cooking the two together for a few minutes, not allowing the butter to color. Then it was strained and put away for shortening, etc.”

This contribution was from Mrs. Bistre.

“I have corrected many a batch of sour dough by kneading into it a bit of saleratus dissolved in boiling water,” ventured Mrs. Black, who is not always ready to refer to the long ago in which she “did all her own work.”

Mrs. Sterling added encouragingly.

“Thank you! I was about to say the same of my early housewifely experiments. Coming down the hill—or up—it was only last week that my cook came to me in dire dismay to say that they ‘mayonnay’ (she always speaks of it in the singular number) had ‘gone back on her.’ That is, it had curdled and separated under the whip. We saved the day by beating smooth the yolk of a fresh egg and stirring it into the disintegrated mixture. It acted as a cohesive agent, and our salad was presentable. The study of redeemed failures is a large and interesting field of thought and adventure.”

“But”—said Mrs. White, whom irrepressible Mrs. Martin has nicknamed “Thomasine”—“nothing can be done with really sour bread when once baked—absolutely nothing.”

“I beg your pardon! Sliced and dried, then crumbled, it can be wrought into excellent puddings of divers sorts if soda be added judiciously. I made a most toothsome cheese fondu of such crumbs, some years ago.”

“Success along this line may be classed among the peaceable fruits of the discipline of failure.”

Marion Harland

Housemothers’ Exchange
Sherbets and Water Ices