Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Dec 5, 2013 06:44 PM

1887 recipes

I'm in the process of selling some cookbooks, and this one in particular is so much fun that I thought I'd share some excerpts. It's called "The White House Cookbook," first published in 1887, one of the co-authors being Hugo Ziemann, who was steward of the White House, apparently during the McKinley administration. It's a big book, over 500 pages, and must have been very expensive.

The recipes are often startling for what they are, for their ingredients, for the methods, and for (by today's standards) the imprecise directions. This is their entirety - no list of ingredient amounts.

Fresh mackerel are cooked in water salted, and a little vinegar added; with this exception they can be served in the same way as the salt mackerel. Broiled ones are vey nice with the same cream sauce, or you can substitute egg sauce.

Cut all the meat from cold roast duck; put the bones and stuffing into cold water; cover them and let boil; put the meat into a deep dish; pour in enough of the stock made from the bones to moisten; cover with pastry slit in the centre with a knife, and bake a light brown.

Pare them and cut lengthwise in very thick slices; wipe them dry with a cloth; sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge with flour, and fry in lard and butter, a tablespoonful of each, mixed. Brown both sides and serve warm.

Beat two eggs and one-fourth cup sugar together. Then add one cup sweet milk and one cup of sour milk in which you have dissolved one teaspoonful soda. Add a teaspoon of salt. Then mix one and two-thirds cups of granulated corn meal and one-third cup flour with this. Put a spider or skillet on the range and when it is hot melt in two tablespoonsful of butter. Turn the spider so that the butter can run up on het sides of the pan. Pour in the corn-cake mixture and add one more cup of sweet milk, but do not stir afterwards. Put this in the oven and bake from twenty to thirty-five minutes. When done, there should be a streak of custard through it.

Break off the end that grew to the vine, drawing off at the same time the string upon the edge; repeat the same process from the other end; cut them with a sharp knife into pieces half an inch long, and boil them in just enough water to cove them. They usually require one hour's boiling; but this depends on their age and freshness. After they have boiled until tender and the water boiled nearly out, add pepper and salt, ad tablespoonful of butter and a half a cup of cream; if you have not the cream add more butter.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. boiling string beans for an HOUR!

    15 Replies
      1. re: Fida

        I don't have to imagine, thats EXACTLY how my grandmother used to cook green beans. People always think I'm exaggerating, nice to see it in print. Having said that I can't help but wonder if we don't use younger more tender beans than were commonly used at the turn of the last century. Naw, grandma pretty much cooked all vegetables that way. Learned it from her mother who learned it from her mother . . . ad infinitum.

        1. re: KaimukiMan

          I think we do use much younger, more tender beans. There was an article in some cooking magazine recently - Eating Well, maybe? - about a bean farmer who's got a great heirloom string bean thing going. In the article they mentioned that string beans used to be harvested at a much more mature state, and were therefore more nutritious (since the seeds are more developed). I'm sure it would take longer boiling to get older beans more tender.

        2. re: Fida

          not at all -- that's STILL how you make stewed green beans.

          I saute bacon and diced onions until the bacon is crisp and the onions aren't -- then add trimmed green beans and water, and simmer for a couple of hours.

          You have to use the great big ones for this -- skinny little haricots verts would be nothing but mush at this point.

          VERY traditional preparation, particularly in the southern US, and awfully, awfully tasty.

          Wouldn't dream of making it every day like this, but it's a family favorite at my house and appears on every holiday table -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, as well as any time big, tough green beans are on sale.

          1. re: sunshine842

            We found a pork product called smoked hog jowl that I used a bit of in making a large pot of fresh green beans with onion. Makes a very delicious pot liquor.

            1. re: MamasCooking

              any cut of smoked/cured pig works great.

        3. re: hotoynoodle

          Some truly great classic dishes from all cultures include protracted cooking times, so as the saying goes, " Don't knock it until you've tried it!" My absolute favorite long-cook string bean recipe is taze fasulye, a classic Turkish dish that is drop dead delicious and is great warm or room temperature as a meze:
          Try it! You'll love it!!!

          Contrary to popular belief, such cooking methods are not unhealthy because the liquid is not drained and discarded. Think about it the next time you peel and boil a pot of potatoes, then throw the water containing some of the nutrients away before mashing the potatoes. How "healthy" is that? Certainly not as healthy as using some of the water in the potatoes, then saving the rest of the potato water to make fabulous potato bread. "Healthy" should be considered from the total daily nutrient intake and not judged by one dish. How else can I have my chocolate lava cake for dessert?????

          Go on! Try some cooked-for-an-hour string beans. I dare ya!
          They are INCREDIBLE!

          1. re: Caroline1

            Caroline: you are far more knowledgeable than I ever will be, but doesn't long cooking break down vitamins? The minerals are leached into the water, but I thought the vitamins are destroyed. or is that another old fable?

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Not to speak for Caroline of course, but you are right about vitamins per se, Kaimuki: they're _relatively_ fragile molecules and generally the more you cook, the more you lose. (It also happens to be the rule for incidental _toxins_ that foods can carry, from things like fungal attack or even inherent to some vegetables, the kind that are "indigestible" unless cooked.)

              But that's not the whole story. Minerals (including valuable blood minerals like potassium and iron) will survive cooking, even if they end up in the pot liquor. And nowadays, with any luck, or rather dietary variety, your total vitamin intake isn't dominated by the single particular vegetable being long-cooked.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Well, let me explain my viewpoint and how I think "conventional wisdom " of looooooooooong ago is most likely to be a lot more accurate than today's "conventional wisdom."

                These "heritage recipes" for things such as my very favorite and much loved Tukish "taze fasulya" is a dish of tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and green beans that is traditionally stewed for at least an hour from heritage green beans. There are counterparts to this recipe from just about any culture where green beans are known and grown. The cooking vessels may be different: For example, in Turkey, even in the time of the Ottoman Empire, tinned copper pots wee the most likely cooking vessel. Check out the traditional adaptations of my covered wagon American Pioneer4 woman great grandmother, and her cooking vessel would have been cast iron. Remember this, because I will come back to it.

                The "green beans" of the U.S. and Canadiaan driv en food industry of today is LOADED

                dAMMIT! a COMPUTER GLITCH POSTED THIS BEFORE IT IS COMPLETE! if YOU ARE READING this PARAGRAPH, I INVITE YOU TO RETURN LATER FOR MY COMPLETE REPLY. Meanwhile I'm going to go finish writing this in Microsoft Word, and then I will cut and paste my completed and corrected response here, so check back later please!

                And sorry for the bother! <sigh> Never happened with pencils!

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Damn! The phone rang and demanded my attention elsewhere and now I've missed the "edit" target for my post. Sorry about that! And here it is...:

                  Okay, safe to read now!

                  Well, let me explain my viewpoint and how I think "conventional wisdom " of looooooooooong ago is most likely to be a lot more accurate than today's "conventional wisdom."

                  These "heritage recipes" for things such as my very favorite and much loved Turkish "taze fasulya" is a dish of tomatoes, onions, often optional garlic, olive oil, and green beans that is traditionally stewed for at least an hour from heritage green beans. There are counterparts to this recipe from just about any culture in the world where green beans are known and grown.

                  The cooking vessels may be different: For example, in Turkey, even in the time of the Ottoman Empire, tinned copper pots were the most likely cooking vessel in the court, but terra cotta may have been the choice of the common people. Check out the traditional adaptations of my covered wagon American Pioneer great grandmother who crossed the plains in a covered wagon, and her cooking vessel would have been cast iron, also a common choice globally for centuries. In some countries and cultures terra cotta cooking vessels were used. Think of pots similar to but not exactly like the tagines of Morocco, or the ollas or Mexico., or even the cazuelas and romertopfs of more modern Europe. ALL of these pots make GREAT stewed heritage green beans. Remember this, because I will come back to it momentarily.

                  So now we come to the question of whether I can go to a supermarket, or even a farmer's market, and buy canned, frozen, or fresh picked heritage green beans. The answer is “yes and no.”

                  Why? Because the food plants of today are nearly all greatly hybridized and changed from the foods that your or my grandparents had available to them, and in turn, their food was a little different than the food of several hundred years before their time, which was different from the food of a thousand years ago, and on and on and on... ANYTIME in the loooooooooong history of man that domestication has occurred, whether with plants or animals, change and adaptation is the common theme behind what we have available today.

                  'Scuze my language, but ain't no way in hell ANY breed of domesticated cattle or edible domesticated plant food of today will come even close to the plant foods or domesticated cattle grazing the fields near Çatal Hüyük, Turkey of 7,500 years ago! And somehow, I highly suspect that our green beans are going to be a whole lot different than theirs! (and by the way, that was a remarkable civilization, with very aggressively designed ecological housing that is most remarkable when you measure how it holds up against the urban designs of today!) But I guarantee that *IF* it was possible for us to sit down to a little roast beef and a green bean stew from those days, we would fall in love...!!!

                  Those were sturdier plants with tougher fibers, and required more cooking time to tenderize and make them palatable. So a long stewing time was required. Did this compromise the nutritional value? I don't think so because... the liquid was cooked into the beans, the flavor was cooked into the beans, and in the case of possible vitamin loss, the most beneficial cooking vessel of ancient to modern times for stewing vegetables was/is cast iron and iron nutrients were leached into the food as it cooked. Your and my great grandparents who cooked in cast iron NEVER had an iron deficiency UNLESS they had a serious health issue that caused it. Combine this with the fact that a varied diet is ALWAYS the healthiest diet, and there is no fault that I can see to stewing green beans for an hour. But if they are all you will be eating the rest of your life, you've got a problem, but for other reasons than loss of nutrients due to the cooking method.

                  I probably should stop here, but you've provided me the opportunity to rant on, so I'm there!

                  So let me return to conventional wisdom of today versus the conventional wisdom of yore. Two VERY different animals! Why? Because of “SCIENCE”...!!! For nearly the last full century, man has messed with our food supply to the point of FORCING mad cow disease upon us, hybridizing our plants to the point that they are heavily contaminated with unnatural substances through GMO hybridization that has implanted pesticides in the germ cells of many plants, then set those “GMO” plants out in open fields to contaminate neighboring farms (ANY political ban on GMO foods is a joke!), seriously messed up our immune systems by dangerously increasing the hormone levels of our food supply and through the introduction and gross overuse of antibiotics and hand sanitizers. We are DESIGNED to have immune systems that can hold their own against NATURAL AND UNMODIFIED plants and animals of yore. But.... Bottom line seems to be that with each passing year, it is ever more difficult to get there from here!

                  How many years did science and experts tell us not to eat butter or beef because it was causing hypertension and bad cholesterol? Turns out the truth of the matter is that the very margarines and trans fats they were so “knowledgeably” recommending are the very things that were causing the problems. Agribusiness fed cows grain and corn that they are not designed to digest, so agribusiness gave them antibiotics to keep them from succumbing to the illness that their improper diet caused, then added growth hormone so they could grow to harvest size before the digestion problems and high cholesterol problems the improper diet caused in them could kill them, then fed them to us. We ARE what we eat! But don't get me wrong. NO ONE at that time realized the huge mistakes they were making. And they made those mistakes in an effort to feed the mushrooming population of the U.S. and Canada after the Baby Boom population explosion. BUT.... We now KNOW what the problems are, and while we are truly trying to address them, we ain't there yet!

                  Soybeans and garbanzo beans are the two plants that hold the highest level of natural plant estrogens. When eaten in their natural form without hybridizing and manipulation, they are delicious and safe to eat.

                  But by using soy meal and other modified and concentrated and isolated soy bean ingredients to “extend” hamburger, to stimulate the growth rate of cattle artificially, to feed chickens and even modify the breast tissue of turkeys, we now have genuine and dangerous side effects associated with too much estrogen/estradiol (female hormones that can promote growth in animals that can often be interchanged and/or supplemented with plant estrogens) reaching our diet and that of animals to the point that even our natural drinking water is now often contaminated with too much estrogen. In my opinion, we no longer have a 100% reliable food source left to us today because “science” has so greatly modified what is available.

                  I recognize that this DOES make me sound like an alarmist. But I will say this: The information about these problems and their reality is all over the web if you just look for them. My best advice is not to take the word or others, including me, but educate yourselves, examine the facts, study the supporting evidence, and then draw your own conclusions! The evidence and proof is, in my opinion, out there, and it is damning!

                  Okay, KaimukiMan, my wild rant is through! Thank you for providing this opportunity to share my fears. And what do I think now about how long stewing of string beans impacts on their nutritional value? Well, cook them in an iron pot, stew for an hour, and then do what your mamma told you to do when you were a kid and, “Eat your string beans. They're good for you!” '-)

            2. re: hotoynoodle

              If they're young and tender I don't cook them at all! I love me some raw green beans.

              1. re: hotoynoodle


                I was looking at this recipe recently, for Ree Drummond's green beans with tomatoes and bacon. They cook for about an hour but they look really good and not at all mushy.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Grew up in the South, with a Southern Mom and even more Southern grandma: green beans, by law I think, always cooked an hour. And they still do in my kitchen.

                  I'll order crispy green beans in restaurants, but never do 'em like that at home.

                  1. re: pine time

                    i don't even like green beans! no matter how they are cooked or not. b/f loves them, so i do cave and cook them sometimes, but no thank you.

                    no doubt whatever is in markets today is different from 150 years ago, but were these more like "beans" then?

                2. Here's a link to the 1891 & 1913 e-copy of The White House Cookbook. Also a link to the 1897 Capitol Cookbook from the same author. You can read them online or download PDF copies for free.
                  The White House Cookbook from 1913
                  The White House Cookbook from 1891
                  The Capitol Cookbook from 1897

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Antilope

                    Thanks for that, antilope. I'm not the OP but I've been getting into historical cookbooks lately. The links you listed are informative and interesting.

                    1. re: thymetobake

                      I had the incredible luck to be browsing in a used-book store in England when the owner was feeling particularly generous.

                      He handed me a book and invited me to leaf through it -- "carefully though, luv, it's quite old"

                      It was a household management guide and cookbook from the late 1700s (no, not a reprint). I could barely breathe, afraid I'd tear the fragile pages, or drop the silly thing. He was selling it for £1200 -- probably a bargain.

                      But so cool. I could have sat there for hours poring over that old book.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Could you possibly be talking about "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management" published in 1861? It is available on line here:
                        All of her recipes etc. are available at this website, but unfortunately it isn't exactly a facsimile reproduction, but you can read the contents of the original verbatim. Have a look!

                        *IF* this is the cook book you're talking about, I'm one of the few fortunate who actually does own a first edition of the original! I love looking through it but it is incredibly fragile, so I don't take it down from my library shelf much any more. All of the pictures of food in it are black and white engravings of the food which is then "color tipped", which translates into painted with water color by hand. Each of those "color plates" is then protected with a sheet of velum that is bound into the book. My binding is leather, and the cover's inside pages are full of ads of the day. It is a marvelous piece that illustrates the history of advertising, as well as documents the chores of a housekeeper, a footman, a scullery maid, a footman, and the whole nine yards! It was written as a guide for young upper class brides who didn't have a clue as to what their chores were to be as the wife in the upper crust world BECAUSE the poor dear was raised by the nannies and scullery maids, butlers, and footmen that she is suddenly, by marriage, expected to manage!

                        If this is the same book you're talking about, I strongly encourage everyone reading this thread to at the very least glance through the contents of the on-line version because it will illustrate the kind of "cultural literacy" that is required to read the recipes the OP of this thread has so generously copied and shared with us.

                        You could say this is an exercise in modern archaeology! We're studying a culture long past! '-)

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          "late 1700s" would have predated Mrs. Beeton AND her book.

                  2. Nearly ALL cookbook recipes used to be written that way. Ever read an authentic Escoffier cook book? Or Larousse Gastronomic? Or Mrs. Beaton's 19th century English classic cook book? They were written that way because it was reasonable for the authors to assume that anyone who bought a cookbook already KNEW how to cook. Why else would they be buying a cook book?

                    The world was a very different place that had a different kind of cultural literacy before electronic communication came along, with the sole exception of land line telephones with which you placed a telephone call by telling an operator the name or number of the person you wanted to call.

                    Sometimes understanding the culture of the time and place things such as books come from give them expanded meaning. In my lifetime, for example, my means of reading books has gone from having to either have what I wanted to read in our home library, or make a trip to the public library or a book store to see what my options were. Today I am able to access millions of books instantly on my tablet PC with no cost in time and little cost beyond my tablet to access the information. Our culture today is VERY different from the time when your lovely book was written!

                    Thanks for sharing!!!

                    1. I'm intrigued by the spider corn cake. I had to google search for spider pan and it's a cast iron pan with three short legs and which could be placed directly on coals. I'm going to have to try it at some point.

                      What I find fascinating about 19th century cookbooks is the sheer variety of ingredients, namely the range of seafood, all sorts of fowl other than chicken, less common cuts of meat and lots of different types of fruits and vegetables. It's surprising to realize what was assumed to be commonly available to a typical home cook, compared to today and today's overstocked supermarkets.

                      But what's challenging in cooking from old recipes is that along with the lack of precise measurement (plus we can't guarantee that 1 cup in a 19th century cookbook is the same as a modern 1 cup), is the lack of precise cooking temperatures. The heat from these old stoves and open fireplaces couldn't be controlled to exactly 350 degrees!

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: Roland Parker

                        Thanks for sharing what a spider pan is. I was wondering the same thing, and also want to try the cake at some point.

                        I'd assume you could just do it on the stove top with a regular cast iron pan.

                        1. re: nothingswrong

                          yes -- the legs on a spider are designed to keep the food away from the intense heat of the coals.

                          It would be fine to put it in a CI pan on the burner.

                          1. re: nothingswrong

                            yep, it looks like a spider crouched over the coals.

                          2. re: Roland Parker

                            Roland, I guarantee that "one cup" then and "one cup" now are indeed the same. It might be helpful for you and others to know that both the terms "spider" and "skillet" assume you will know they are made of cast iron, and that any cook of that era reading the recipe would also know the size of the pan required to accommodate the quantities of ingredient stated in the recipe.

                            The cooking time given in this specific recipe, "from twenty to thirty five minutes," is stated in that way because the person WRITING the recipe correctly presumes that the person READING the recipe will know what size pan (as in smaller diameter with taller sides or wider diameter with shorter sides) s/he already owns will accommodate the quantities given and choose a spider or skillet accordingly.

                            These recipes are LOADED with TONS of information that cooks of that day would have understood completely, but that you, because you are from a future and totally changed culture, do not understand, and have no clue. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But a good analogy for what is happening between you, as a reader of that recipe, and the writer of that recipe, is that neither of you is speaking the same language. LITERALLY!

                            A bit more information for you about the design and use of both the "spider" and the "skillet" and the "oven" options this recipe assumes the cook reading the recipe will know is that a skillet will have a flat bottom and will be used to bake the corn cake in a "chamber oven" but a "spider" will be the choice of a cook who may not have an available chamber oven, but will be cooking in an open hearth or on a camp fire, in which case the "spider" *IS* the oven, and the batter will be poured into the "spider" that has been pre-greased (the directions call for tipping the SPIDER to coat the sides of the "pan", but does not specify those directions for a skillet). Here is a link to the specific type of "spider" that both the writer and contemporary reader of this recipe would use:

                            Note the variances in size. Also note that ALL have a lid that has a raised rim around it specifically designed to hold hot coals or embers to produce heat inside the covered vessel that will simulate cooking in an uncovered skillet in a chamber oven.

                            I suggest that you or anyone interested go to and do a search for "campfire baking," "chili cook-off" competitions, "chuck wagon cooking," and similar subjects to see how "spider baking" is done. Food Network used to broadcast such team competitions in which biscuits, corn bread, cobbler and more are baked in what we today call "camp ovens." Or at least Lodge calls them that. Chances are that most people who use them as intended still call them spiders!

                            I hope you find this information useful. If you know how to read them, these recipes are crammed full of detailed information for those who "speak the same language." '-)

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              i was surprised to see "amounts" in the baking recipe at all.

                              my understanding though is that those older recipes used a teacup for a "cup" and the time window was because of the variances between and among wood vs. coal vs. gas-fired stoves and ovens.

                              also, much of the home-cooking back then was done by servants, many (most?) of whom were illiterate.

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                No, "one cup" is not necessarily the same -- I agree that "one cup" is still technically 8 ounces, 16 tablespoons, etc., but it's not always the same!

                                Some recipes were written to mean that "one cup" meant one coffee cup (which size?!) -- and yes, the writer assumed that the reader had a cup that size.

                                I had a friend who tried and tried to make her grandmother's famous layer cake, but no matter what she tried, it failed.

                                Finally she managed to be visiting her grandmother on a lucid day for the grandmother, and asked her about the cake.

                                Turns out that the "one cup" of water in her grandmother's recipe was actually one of the ladles kept hanging by the water pump at the back door of the house where her grandmother had lived. The water pump and the ladles were long gone.

                                After much fiddling, she finally figured out that the "cup" was actually about 1-1/4 cups.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  1 cup is only 8 ounces when it's liquid. :)

                                  and yeah, people used teacups to measure, so your ratios would remain the same, even if next-door neighbors used different sized cups.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    according to the official measurement, yes.

                                    But how positive are you that everyone in that era used the official measurement?

                                    As my friend's cake would indicate, using the word CUP didn't necessarily mean an 8-oz one.

                                    It might have been a tea cup, a coffee cup, or a water ladle.

                                    If you told me right now to post a photo of "a cup" without specifying that you meant a measured cup of a liquid ingredient, it's hard telling what you'd see.

                                    I have espresso cups, demitasse cups, US coffee cups, UK tea cups, French café au lait cups, as well as mugs from various countries, go cups for the car....

                                    and let's not forget that "one cup" of dry measure is not absolutely the same as "one cup" of liquid measure.

                                    Even cookbooks today assume that readers know to measure flour and sugar with a dry-measure cup, and milk and water with a liquid-measure cup....will our grandchildren understand that difference?

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      you brought up the ounces issue, not me. :) on another website i frequent there is an astounding number of people who don't comprehend that a cup of dry goods is not equivalent to a cup of liquid. it's now, never mind the grandkids.

                                      since baking is mostly ratios, as long as the cook used the same vessel each time, ratios would remain constant, regardless of whether it was a juice glass or teacup.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        No, actually, I didn't bring up the ounces issue. Mine was a response.

                                        and once again -- we're talking about a cook *today* using a term written a long time ago, with no idea *what vessel* the writer used.

                                        Maybe the ratios are right...maybe they're not.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          sorry, now i'm confused.

                                          i'm thinking the book was written for readers and cooks of its time. none of my great-grandparents used measuring cups or spoons as we know them today. one had a specific teacup that she used for measuring out dry goods for baking, so her amounts were the same every time.

                                          from wiki:

                                          "No matter what size cup is used, the ingredients of a recipe measured with the same size cup will have their volumes in the same proportion to one another."

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            you're right. The book was written for readers and cooks of its time.

                                            The conversation is about the challenges of MODERN readers and cooks reading an OLD book without knowing what "cup" the WRITER was talking about.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              no need to SHOUT. i can't possibly be the only person knowing that kitchens didn't have sets of standardized measuring cups back then?

                                              sorry to have offended you.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                not shouting. Indicating emphasis, since it's not possible to use tags to produce boldface, underlines, or italics.

                                2. re: Caroline1

                                  This is from a cookbook with no publishing date, but there's an ad inside implying it's from the 1920s. Some of these measurements are the same as now, but a few seem very off. I wouldn't know without breaking out my kitchen scale, but:

                                  1. re: nothingswrong

                                    Where was it published, as in America or Britain or Australia? "Standard" measure is different in all 3 countries, and it seems improbable (but not impossible) that any publisher of the 1920s would publish anything that is as far off as that is according to American standards of the day.

                                    For example, a "gill" is a measure that has fallen into disuse because it means a half cup, but a half cup in America is 4 ounces, yet a half cup by British standard measure is 4.8 ounces. For a while, in the late 19th and early-ish 20th centuries, some cookbook authors and publishers tried to obscure the differences by equating a "gill" with a 5 ounce "teacup," knowing full well a teacup had no "standard measure" in either country that I've ever heard of. But I do have 1 cookbook from the 1960s that uses it. That cookbook is a compendium of recipes from many countries published in Britain, and that's the most current usage of "gill" that I've encountered, but then I don't have access to a whole lot of British cookbooks! Anyone ever heard Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay or Michel Roux use the term?.

                                    Assuming you have access to the book, where it was published is often stated somewhere on the title page or on the page following.

                                    Interesting! Thanks for sharing, and going to all the bother of scanning. Somewhere I have a link to a wonderful chart that gives the equivalence for American, British, and Australian cooking measurements, but after several hours of looking I'm wondering if my recent and many computer problems have whisked it out to float around in cyberspace forever? Stuff like that never happened to me with pen and paper! '-)

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      It's American. I wasn't looking for the measurement chart, I just have been looking through old cookbooks online after reading this thread. I find them really interesting!

                                      I can't remember what exactly this one was titled, but it was some kind of periodical with recipes compiled from women who sent them in. After each recipe it would say "From Mrs. Baker, Philadelphia, PA", etc. I looked thoroughly for a publishing date but there was none. There was one ad advertising some sort of women's retreat "coming up" in 1929.

                                      The only reason I started thinking measurements might be off by today's standards was seeing consistently strange ratios of ingredients in the pie crusts and breads. Comparing it to how I bake, I was thinking "Well that doesn't seem like it would come together."

                                      Anyway it's pretty interesting. Wish there was a way to figure out exactly what these measurements are because I'm really intrigued by some of the recipes and would love to try them out.

                                    2. re: nothingswrong

                                      This measurement chart is probably from Australia. In the U.S. and Britain, 3 Teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon. In Australia, 4 Teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon.

                                3. I'm embarrassed to admit I spent like 3 hours reading through nearly every recipe in one edition of the WH Cookbooks last night. It got more and more interesting the longer I read.

                                  Things I noticed:

                                  -There is very very little use of garlic. I only spied it a handful of times in 600+ recipes.

                                  -In meat dishes, the "flavor base" is often onion and spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg. This seemed to be a standard meat seasoning?

                                  -They use mace on everything. I don't even own mace, but now I'm thinking I want some.

                                  -A lot of the bread recipes call for 1/2 CUP of yeast. Is it safe to assume the yeast being used back then was nothing like the yeast we use now (where most recipes call for 2 1/4 teaspoon or less)?

                                  -Many bread/biscuit recipes call for "adding flour until it's a dough" type directions, which I can appreciate as a bread baker. This would not fare well in today's cookbooks.

                                  -I love the recipes which made use of household/cheap ingredients to sub in for more expensive things, even in the White House. Like the Ritz cracker mock apple pie. There are quite a few pie filling recipes based around cracker crumbs.

                                  -Turnips and parsnips in mirepoix. I wonder why you don't see these called for in recipes nearly as much today.

                                  -They love potatoes, which is fine by me.

                                  -Can someone explain the difference between sweet vs. sour milk? I assumed sour milk is milk that has turned, or maybe something like buttermilk today. And sweet milk is fresh milk. However the tip to add horseradish to your milk to keep it sweet confuses me if that was a standard practice, since most of the pudding/dessert recipes call for sweet milk. Would they only be able to make sweets when they had fresh milk on hand, or would they use horseradish milk? And the ice cream/dessert sections refer to refrigeration and even freezers, so they obviously had methods of keeping dairy cold.

                                  -Some of the canning/preserving methods are terrifying and make me wonder how many people were killed by botulism due to this book.

                                  -The health remedies in the back are fascinating! Apparently with most illnesses, it is advised to give emetics to the sufferer so they can vomit up their illness (even coughs or colds).

                                  -They recommend ingesting ammonia and borax quite a bit to soothe ailments, which upon further research does not seem harmful to humans, but I wonder why practices like this fell out of popularity. Maybe they just don't work.

                                  Thanks again for the links OP. I had stumbled across something like these before, but they were in French and I could only read maybe 1/3 of it. This was really interesting for me and at least passed a boring rainy night. I also saved several recipes and will try them and hopefully report back.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: nothingswrong

                                    If anyone would like to read it in its entirety, you can find it here: