Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband

…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.

31 Days of Summer, Day 29: A Motor Picnic

picnic-3We’ve met Bettina before, from the 1917 book A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, in which newlywed Bettina learns to cook and keep house for herself and her husband, Bob. In this excerpt,

“Hello, Bettina; this is Bob. What are you having for dinner tonight?”

“It’s all in the oven! Why?”

“Couldn’t you manage to make a picnic supper of it? One of the men at the office has invited us to go motoring tonight with him and his wife, and of course, I said we’d be delighted. They’re boarding, poor things, and I asked if we couldn’t bring the supper. He seemed glad to have me suggest it. I suppose he hasn’t had any home cooking for months. Do you suppose you could manage the lunch? How about it?”

“Why, let me think. How soon must we start?”

“We’ll be there in an hour or a little less. Don’t bother about it–get anything you happen to have.”

“It’s fine to go, dear. Of course I’ll be ready. Good-bye!”

Bettina’s brain was busy. There was a veal loaf baking in the oven while, on the table, a fresh loaf of Boston brown bread stood cooling. Her potatoes were cooked already for creaming, and although old potatoes would have been better for the purpose, she might make a salad of them. As she hastily put on some eggs to hard-cook, she inspected her ice box. Yes, those cold green beans, left from last night’s dinner, would be good in the salad. What else? “It needs something to give it character,” she reflected. “A little canned pimiento–and, yes–a few of the pickles in that jar.”

Of course, she had salad dressing–she was never without it. Sandwiches? The brown bread would be too fresh and soft for sandwiches, but she could keep it hot, and take some butter along. “I’m glad it is cool today. We’ll need hot coffee in the thermos bottle, and I can make it a warm supper–except for the salad.”

“How lucky it is that I made those Spanish buns! And the bananas that were to have been sliced for dessert, I can just take along whole.”

When Bettina heard the auto horn, and then Bob’s voice, she was putting on her hat.

“Well, Betty, could you manage it?”

“Yes, indeed, dear. Everything is ready. The thermos bottle has coffee in it, piping hot; the lunch basket over there is packed with the warm things wrapped tight, and that pail with the burlap over it is a temporary ice box. It holds a piece of ice, and beside it is the cream for the coffee and the potato salad. It is cool today, but I thought it best to pack them that way.”

“You are the best little housekeeper in this town,” said Bob as he kissed her. “I don’t believe anyone else could have managed a picnic supper on such short notice. Come on out and meet Mr. and Mrs. Dixon. May I tell them that they have a fine spread coming?”

“Don’t you dare, sir. It’s a very ordinary kind of a supper and even you are apt to be disappointed.”

But he wasn’t.

Bettina’s picnic supper that cool day consisted of:

Warm Veal Loaf
Cold Potato Salad
Fresh Brown Bread
Butter
Spanish Buns
Bananas
Hot Coffee

Bettina’s Boston Brown Bread (six portions)

1 cup rye or graham flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 cup sour milk or 1-1/4 cup sweet milk (if sweet milk is used, 1 T. vinegar to 1-1/4 c, milk will sour the milk)
2/3 cup raisins

Mix and sift dry ingredients, add molasses, liquid, and raisins. Fill well-buttered moulds (sic) two-thirds full, butter the top of the mould, and steam three and one-half hours. Remove from moulds and place in an oven to dry ten minutes before serving. Baking powder cans, melon moulds, lard pails or any attractively shaped tin cans may be used as a mould. Two methods of steaming [may be] used: (a) Regular steamer, in which the mould is placed over a pan of boiling water. Buttered papers may be tied firmly over the tops of  uncovered moulds, or  (b) Steaming in boiling water. The mould is placed on a small article in the bottom of a pan of boiling water. This enables the water to circulate around the mould. Care must be observed in keeping the kettle two-thirds full of boiling water all the time of cooking.

(From A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron.)

Retro Recipe Wednesday: Bettina’s Baked Eggs

bettina1Baked eggs are a wonderful and often overlooked treat. My own personal recipe for baked eggs, fine-tuned on hectic mornings during my office-worker-on-a-budget days, went something like this:

“Melt some butter in a little dish. Swish it around. Break in an egg or two. Stick it in a 350-degree oven. Go take a shower. When shower is finished, eggs will be, too. Don’t forget. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Eat. Then finish getting dressed.”

The fictional Bettina’s recipe for baked eggs (from A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband) is a little more complicated than that, but not much more. Each recipe in this sweet book is accompanied by a little story that is meant to teach the new bride of 1917 how to run a household. The stories generally feature know-it-all Bettina instructing one of her fluttery, airhead friends about some aspect of homemaking. The story that accompanies the recipe for baked eggs is called, “Alice Practices Economy.”

“‘Oh, Bettina,’ said Alice, delightedly, as she opened the door. ‘I’m so glad to see you! I’ve just been thinking about you! What do you suppose I’m doing?’

‘Getting dinner? That is what I must be doing very soon. I stopped in only for a minute on my way home.’

‘I am getting dinner, and I want to tell you that it is a very economical dinner. And it’s going to be good, too. I thought about your advice and decided to practice it. So I searched through all my cookbooks for the recipes I wanted, and finally decided on this particular menu. But Bettina, now I can tell you the flaw in your system of economy!’

‘What is that? Harry doesn’t like it?’

‘Goodness, no! Harry was delighted with the idea! My argument is this: It’s going to take me an endless amount of time to plan economical meals that are also good, time that I ought to spend in polishing silver and making calls, and sewing on buttons, and–‘

‘I don’t believe it’ll be as bad as you think, Alice, dear,’ laughed Bettina. ‘For instance, if this meal tonight is good and economical, and Harry is pleased, don’t forget the combination, but write it down in a notebook. You can repeat the menu in two or three weeks, and you have no idea how soon you will collect the best combinations and ideas of economy! Tell me what you are having tonight.’

That night Alice served baked eggs, potatoes escalloped with bacon, head lettuce salad, baking powder biscuits with butter, peach cup with peach sauce, and tea.”

Alice’s recipe for Baked Eggs:

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. soft bread crumbs
1 Tbs. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika

Butter two individual molds and break an egg into each. Mix the salt and paprika in the milk, and pour half of the mixture over each egg. Melt the butter and add the crumbs. Place the buttered crumbs on top of each egg. Bake in a moderate oven twenty minutes. Serve in the molds.

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