A Sparkling Vintage Life


O is for Ovaltine

Originally called “Ovomaltine” (“ova” for egg and “malt” for, well, malt) the classic drink Ovaltine was invented in 1909 in Switzerland. When it was brought to England, the name was shortened to Ovaltine (later said to be an anagram of “Vital One). The original formula contained malt, eggs, cocoa, and milk. Today it’s changed somewhat, but is still a comfort drink for many people worldwide, whether served hot or cold.

In the 1930s, Ovaltine sponsored several children’s radio programs including Little Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight. Children wrote the company eagerly to get toys such as the iconic “secret decoder ring” that would help them decipher codes given during the programs.

Have you ever tried Ovaltine?

K is for kaffeeklatsch

Yesterday’s Sparkling Vintage moment was a French concept, joie de vivre. Today we’re thanking the Germans for kaffeeklatsch, a term that dates back to 1888, from kaffee (coffee) and klatsch (gossip or chitchat).

The website etymonline.com quotes Mary Alden Hopkins from a 1905 cooking magazine: “The living-room in a German household always contains a large sofa at one side of the room, which is the seat of honor accorded a guest. At a Kaffeeklatsch (literally, coffee gossip) the guests of honor are seated on this sofa, and the large round table is wheeled up before them. The other guests seat themselves in chairs about the table.” Although any beverage, coffee or tea, can be consumed, a kaffeeklatsch carries a less formal connotation than a tea party.

Here in North America throughout much of the 20th century, kaffeeklatsches were enjoyed by homemakers, who might take a break from household chores mid-morning or midafternoon to gather with neighbors around one of their kitchen tables for coffee and chitchat. Now, with many women working full-time and those at home too busy to sit and chat for an hour, the kaffeeklatsch tradition has pretty much fallen by the wayside (although there’s a loose workplace approximation–the coffee break). Perhaps the modern equivalent is the playdate, where parents chat while their children play together. It doesn’t seem like quite the same thing, though.

Perhaps we need a kaffeeklatsch revival–well, maybe not the gossip part, but certainly the caffeine and conviviality. And the coffee cake. Here’s a recipe from a 1950s church cookbook to inspire you.


1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tb. butter, melted
1/2 c. milk
1 well beaten egg

Sift all dry ingredients together, then add the melted butter, milk and egg. Put in wide shallow pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar and cinnamon. Bake 20 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees F.).

The recipe writer notes with brutal honesty, “This is good with morning coffee but should be made just before eating. It isn’t good after it stands.”

Do you think the kaffeeklatsch is a tradition worthy of reviving? Why or why not?

I is for Ice Cream Cone

My Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the term “ice cream cone” to 1909, but I’m sure I’ve heard the confection itself first appeared at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. Or maybe I just remember that scene from Meet Me in St. Louis, one of my favorite movies of all time, or images like this commemorative stamp, below.

Wikipedia dates the concept of the cone back way back to an 1888 cookbook that included “Cornet with Cream,” a similar concept to the familiar cone.

(Did you know there’s also an “ice cream chair,” armless with a circular seat, for use in ice cream parlors? It’s a wonder what turns up when scanning the dictionary. )

Anyway, back to the cone. The specifics vary. It can be conical in shape, or more bucket-like with a flat bottom (sometimes called a cup or a cake cone). It can be sweetened (sugar cone) or unsweetened. The waffle-like or cake-like texture pairs well with the rich cream and helps soak it up as it melts. In any case, the point of the cone is that it allows ice cream to be eaten on the go, without dishes or utensils. You still have to be quick about it, though, to avoid your fingers getting coated in melting ice cream.

My personal favorite is mint-chocolate chip ice cream in a sugar cone. What’s your favorite kind of cone, and your favorite flavor of ice cream to put in it?

Bake an Apple (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 28)

baked apple2When the weather’s dreary and chilly, nothing beats a baked apple for comfort. In her book One’s Company, author Barbara Holland describes a baked apple as the perfect remedy [f]or October, when the days are getting shorter and your coat smells of mothballs.” While she mentions that an apple (with butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar) can be baked in the microwave in four minutes, she notes, correctly, that “it smells better that way and warms up the kitchen” to bake it in a 350-degree oven for an hour.

If you want to do it great-great-grandma’s way, here’s a baked-apple recipe from 1917:

Baked Apples

4 apples
8 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Select apples of uniform size. Wash and core. Place in a pan; cover the bottom with water. Fill each cavity with sugar, a dash of powdered cinnamon, and a tiny lump of butter. Bake for thirty minutes in a hot* oven, basting occasionally. Serve around a platter of pork chops.

I suppose you could add raisins to it, as the photo suggests, or chopped nuts, or even a piece of caramel candy to make sort of a hot caramel apple. But I’m a purist and like mine with the ingredients above, plus nutmeg, plus a dollop of real whipped cream. Yum!

*(Note: A “hot” oven would be about 400-425 degrees Farenheit or 200-220 degrees Celsius.Back in 1917, much baking was done in a wood-burning oven without precise temperature controls. My Grandma Ruby, an accomplished baker, could tell when an oven was ready by opening the door and thrusting her hand into it. I don’t recommend this method, but for Grandma, the way the heat felt on her skin told her what she needed to know.)

Make a Pear-Apple Compote (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 27)

pearsI love pears even more than apples. I remember how, as a thrifty college student studying in France, I would buy a bag of the most delicious, juicy pears at the market and practically gorge on them back in my tiny, cell-like room. To this day, the distinctive flavor of pears transports me back to that time and place.

I was thrilled to stumble upon this extremely simple compote in French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano. (Compote dates back to Europe in the Middle Ages, and can either refer to either a dessert of fruit soaked and/or cooked in syrup, or to the dish that holds such a dessert.)

Mireille Giuliano’s Pear-Apple Compote

1 lb. apples
2/3 lb. pears
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey

Peel, core, and dice the apples and pears. Pour lemon juice over them and toss. Into a heavy pan pour 1/2 cup water and the fruit mixture. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from sticking or burning.

With a fork, crush the fruit coarsely while continuing to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the excess water evaporates. Remove from the heat, add the honey, and mix gently. Serve lukewarm or cold (if you store it in the fridge, take it out 30 minutes before serving.)

Autumn in a Mug: Apple Cider (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 16)

apple cider label“Cider on beer, never fear; beer upon cider, makes a bad rider.”

~ English Proverb

For many of us, the taste of apple cider is the taste of autumn. Available in both both nonalcoholic and alcoholic (hard cider) varieties, cider-drinking has been a hallmark of harvest time for centuries.

The making of cider dates back to Roman times, and became especially popular in England following the Norman conquest in the eleventh century. In areas where the climate was less than ideal for growing grapes, fermented (alcoholic) cider was often a replacement for wine. Cider was also easy and inexpensive to make, thus a well-loved harvest-time drink of the common people. Even the humblest farm boasted one or two apple trees. Colonists brought cider-making to America. and it was a very popular drink among the Founding Fathers and their contemporaries. In a letter to a friend, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Malt liquor and cider are my table drinks.”

What’s the difference between apple cider and apple juice? Experts hold various opinions on the exact distinctions, but most agree that juice has been strained of pulp and solid matter, while cider has not.

Cider served plain is delicious, but spiced cider is a sip of heaven. You can buy spiced cider ready-made, but for real cider-power (and a house that smells heavenly), it’s easy to make it yourself. Heat a gallon of cider over low heat (or in a slow cooker) with cinnamon sticks and cloves mixed in, and even a bit of brown sugar if you like it very sweet (I leave the sugar out). You can also drop in a cut-up apple or orange for extra zip.


…and More Pumpkins! (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 14)

october image bettinaMost American home cooks have a favorite recipe for pumpkin pie, perhaps handed down through generations. I confess (gulpingly) that I’ve never made one from scratch. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, making the pie has always seemed to be someone else’s job. But this year, I’m planning to try my hand at it, perhaps using this old-fashioned (1917) recipe from A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband. As with all the recipes in this charming vintage cookbook, the pumpkin pie recipe comes with a little story about newlyweds Bettina and Bob, who served individual pies (placed on doilies)  at their Halloween party–an extravaganza that included bobbing for apples, making popcorn balls, and roasting marshmallows over candles!

Bettina’s Pumpkin Pie (makes 8 individual pies)

For the Crusts:

2 cups flour
2/3 cup lard
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt

Cut the lard into the flour and salt. Add sufficient water to make a stiff dough on a floured board. Roll into shape one-fourth inch thick. Place in tin muffin pans, making individual pies, filling with the following mixture and baking 30 minutes in a moderate oven [I’m thinking “moderate” means 350 degrees F. jl].

For the Filling:

1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin (or pumpkin puree)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Mix the ingredients in the order given, and fill the pie crusts two-thirds full. Bake as above.

Pumpkins, pumpkins . . . (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 13)

All hail the Great Pumpkin! (with a hat-tip to Charles Schulz and Linus)

Autumn’s signature symbol is in its full orange glory this month. Cultivated in the Americas for at least 6,000 years, the pumpkin is very versatile and adapts well to both sweet and savory dishes. It also has delicious seeds to roast and snack on, and makes a wonderful home decoration, indoors or out. What’s not to like?

If you have a hankering to create a pumpkin-flavored edible, don’t automatically reach for the can on the pantry shelf. Try slow-roasting a fresh pumpkin in the oven (after slicing it in half and removing the seeds and “innards”). When the flesh is soft, scoop it into a blender to make a puree to

Miniature pumpkins in my garden

Miniature pumpkins in my garden

use in your favorite recipes.

Did you know that the best carving pumpkin is the Howden variety? It only dates back to the 1970s, when a farmer named John Howden developed a pumpkin that was ribbed, smooth, deep orange in color, and durable. So if carving a jack-o-lantern or other decorative use is your goal, that’s the variety to choose. Be warned, however, that it’s not made for eating. If a great pie is what you’re after, choose a different, and perhaps less photogenic, variety.


Here’s a simple recipe for Harvest Pumpkin Soup that we’ve enjoyed. Makes about 10 cups.

6 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1-1/2 cups chopped carrots
5-1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. salt

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and shallot. Cook for 4-5 minutes until onion is translucent.
Add carrots and stir well. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender (about 10 minutes). Add pumpkin and salt, stirring to blend. Cover and cook 10 more minutes. If you like your soup really smooth (we prefer ours a bit chunky), you can puree it in a blender. I use my favorite soup bowls, but I imagine this soup would be darling served in little hollowed-out mini-pumpkins.

Candied apples (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 11)

Source: allrecipes.com

Source: allrecipes.com

“She’s candy-apple red with a ski for a wheel…” Those lyrics to an old Beach Boys song refer to Santa’s sleigh, but I’m talking about the real thing here…candied apples!

source: pinterest.com

Candy-apple red truck, 1953. Source: pinterest.com

I used to wonder why “candy-apple red” was a description of a brilliant, shiny red paint for cars and trucks (and electric guitars–who knew?), until I realized I was mixing up “candied apples” with “caramel apples.” Candied apples are, indeed, a brilliant, shining red, while caramel apples are, well, caramel-colored and dull (but delicious in their own right).

This recipe for candied apples comes from my recent favorite resource, Olive Landers’ Modern Handbook for Girls (1933). (I’ve been quoting from it a lot lately because it’s frankly fabulous and chock-full of simple ideas for vintage fun!).

(Please note that I have not tried making this recipe yet, as I am presently on Day 5 of the Whole 30 food plan and thus not eating sugar. Poor me! If you try it, I’d love to hear your results, especially with a photo!)

Candied Apple on Sticks

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
Red paste coloring
Oil or essence of cinnamon
Peppermint or clove
10 or 12 apples

Make a syrup by boiling sugar, water, and corn syrup until it is brittle. Test by dropping a little in cold water. Add a few drops of red paste or liquid coloring while this mixture is cooking. When it is done, remove from the fire and set in a pan of hot water. It may be flavored by a few drops of oil or essence of clove, cinnamon or peppermint.

Select red apples of about the same size and not too large. Insert a wooden skewer into the blossom end of the apple. Hod the apple by the skewer and plunge into the syrup. Remove it quickly and twirl it until the syrup coats the apple and spreads smoothly. Dip the apples the day they are to be used, for the coating is likely to get sticky if it stands. It is not advisable to make a smaller quantity of this syrup, and this quantity will cover from 10 to 12 apples.

An Apple a Day (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 5)


Nothing evokes the taste of autumn like the first bite of a fresh, crisp apple. Experts say the mellow days of October produce the sweetness, while the cool nights produce the tartness, and the combination is extraordinary. One of my very favorite ways to eat a delicious apple is the following recipe for Jarlsberg, Apple, and Mushroom Salad, from French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano.

Jarlsberg, Apple, and Mushroom Salad

1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced (Crimini recommended)
1 medium Golden Delicious apple, cored and cut into thin slices
3 Tb. lemon juice

For the dressing:

2 Tb. red wine vinegar
2 Tb. Meaux mustard
9 Tb. walnut oil
2 Tb. freshly chopped parsley
Pinch of curry
Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 oz. Jarlsberg cheese cut into strips
1 large head lettuce, rinsed and dried, leaves torn

Sprinkle the mushroom and apple slices with the lemon juice. Mix all the dressing ingredients together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add the mushroom-apple mixture and cheese to the dressing. Toss gently with the lettuce. Serve immediately. (Serves 6)