I’ve been at North Dakota State University for a long time, but not that long.
NDSU was known as NDAC (North Dakota Agricultural College) in 1927. The Cooperative Extension System had only been in existence for 13 years when the cookbook was printed. In fact, North Dakota has been a state for only 38 years.
Now I wanted to see this cookbook by Dorothy Ayers Loudon. However, I was skeptical that I would be able to track down a 95-year-old cookbook.
I love a good puzzle, though. I have emailed a couple of my colleagues on campus at NDSU, including the library.
Within a day, I received a scan from my entire cookbook library in my email. I almost got out of my seat.
I could easily read it on my computer screen, but I went “old school”. I downloaded it and printed out a copy of the 136 page document. I was intrigued as I was browsing the doc while watching a Food Network cooking show at home and browsing the internet on my phone.
In the 1920s, computers, televisions, and cell phones did not exist. Many modern conveniences are beginning to appear that we take for granted. According to one source, 80% of the rural population did not have indoor plumbing in the 1920s.
Depending on access to electricity and financial resources, some people had labor-saving innovations such as washing machines, refrigerators, radios, vacuum cleaners, and phonographs in the 1920s. These innovations speeded up the process of food preparation and cleaning, while others provided home entertainment. Travel has become more and more complex with improvements in cars and planes.
Housewives groups led community mentorship classes nationwide. Volunteers helped home supply agents (now “extension agents” or “educators”) bring innovations from land-grant colleges into the communities. In fact, some modern-day housewives groups (now “Family and Community Education” groups) continue to meet in North Dakota and other states.
The women who put the cookbook together may not have imagined that it would be explored nearly a century later. The book included Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, New England, Scandinavian, Scottish, and Southern recipes.
Of course, none of the recipes contain pictures, serving sizes or nutritional information, as we strive to do now. Many recipes assume that you are not a “newbie” in the kitchen.
In most cases, recipes require simple ingredients without a lot of spice. Most people at that time had one or two chickens. Butter, cream, milk and eggs were plentiful ingredients.
I could see the personality of some of the contributors shine through through the photo pages.
One recipe contributor commented that a large fruit cake recipe could provide dessert for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s as well as all the Sundays in between.
I think the fruitcake itself remains.
Although most recipes use traditional measurements such as teaspoons and cups, the measurements have sometimes been ambiguous: “Add butter the size of a duck egg.” Other recipes were complex, set temperatures and used a candy thermometer.
Some homes did not have electric stoves. They regulated the temperature of their wood stove by adding more wood. Then they can determine the temperature of the oven by inserting their hands for a few seconds.
So, what’s the point of a history lesson inspired by an old cookbook? Ancient recipes are a wonderful link through time. We all need food to survive, but food is a source of pleasure beyond nutrition.
The unique aroma, flavor and texture of foods bind generations together. You can keep your legacy alive with future generations by sharing Grandpa’s Favorite Bread. Try sharing your own family stories by making videos or scanning favorite recipe cards to make a book.
You can appreciate other cultures by learning how their food is made. Dozens of recipe contributors in North Dakota were promoting cultural diversity and culinary skills when they created the Food From Many Lands cookbook nearly a century ago.
If you want to check out the 1927 cookbook for yourself, you can access it through the NDSU Institutional Repository at library.ndsu.edu/ir/handle/10365/32257.
In recent times, we are keeping the food and culture traditions alive. So far, we have established at NDSU Extension”Exploring North Dakota’s Food Routes: Germans from Russia “and”Scandinavian Cuisine (Past and Present)” with some nutrition and health updates. Look online for those titles and NDSU Extension.
On a cold, snowy day, I made this comfort food recipe contributed by Ms. Noreen of Cheyenne, North Dakota. I felt like I was cooking with her. We enjoyed this recipe on my great-grandmother’s about the same era cream chinaware near his great-grandmother’s era buffet in 1870. I took a picture with my cell phone.
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground pork (I used pork sausage.)
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (“pinch”)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (“pinch”)
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 lightly beaten egg
Flour (for rolling meatballs)
2 tablespoons oil (as needed for frying)
2 cups whole milk (I added more milk)
Mix them together and form small balls. Roll in flour and fry until brown. Put the lid on and let it cook slowly for 15 minutes. Pour in the milk and cook slowly until slightly browned and thick. Salt and pepper broth as desired.
Makes six servings. Each serving contains 330 calories, 22 grams of fat, 26 grams of protein, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, and 530 milligrams of sodium.
To read more of Jolly Garden Robinson’s Prairie fare, click here.
(Julie Garden-Robinson is a dietitian and nutritionist at North Dakota State University, and a professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Science. Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed.)