Thanksgiving Past

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Herein is gathered for your amusement, or boredom, tidbits from the last century which may or may not have worth. It depends on your frame of mind and whether or not history of little consequence is on your trivia plate.

Plate is mentioned because much of the following words have to do with food and the person responsible for getting it to the table.

The tone is set with this jingle from November 1913 in Wood County, Ohio.

“Said a young and tactless husband,
To his inexperienced wife:
If you would but give up leading
Such a fashionable life,
And devote more time to cooking
How to mix and when to bake
Then perhaps you might make pastry
Such as mother used to make.

Later we’ll look at the woman’s response. But in the meantime, let’s look at how cooks in Mahoning County, Ohio, in 1912, used potatoes to make snow. Which of course, they served on that big holiday table along with a very solid cranberry sauce.

Potato Snow — “Wash the potatoes. Pare them, being careful to remove every blemish. (We don’t want ‘dirt’ in the snow.) Place in cold water for an hour. Drain, then cover with boiling water and cook until done. Drain and wash again. Season with salt, butter and milk. Press through a wire sieve into the dish in which they are to be served.” Do not place that proverbial pat of butter in the top of the potatoes as a garnish. It might be construed as something else that sometimes appears in snow.

To make a very solid cranberry sauce: “Use one quart of cranberries, two cupfuls of sugar, a pint of water. Put the berries on the fire with the water, in a covered sauce pan. Simmer until each berry bursts open. Remove cover, add sugar, stir, let boil twenty minutes. Do not stir during this cooking time. Makes a firm jelly.”

While cooking, the housewife has time to muse over her life and the state of the marriage. Here is some wifely advice from Wood County, Ohio, circa 1916. (Mind you, it is not the response our young housewife gave in beginning jingle.)

“To Preserve a Husband: Choose carefully. Choose not too young from such varieties as a good moral Christian atmosphere produces. When once you have chosen, let that part remain forever settled and give plenty of time to thought of preparing your choice for domestic use.

Do not insist in keeping him in a pickle, neither constantly in hot water. Even poor varieties are somewhat made sweet and tender by garnishing with patience, sweetened with smiles and flavored with kisses.

Wrap well in a mantle of charity. Keep warm with constant flow of toothsome edibles. When thus prepared they are warranted to keep for years.”

Notwithstanding the husband of the novice cook mentioned at the outset, the following menu might have been served to single gentlemen who found themselves without the goodness of a wife just described, if they were living in Fulton County, Ohio in November of 1921.

Roddy’s Restaurant saw fit to cook an exceptionally substantial dinner menu on the twenty-fourth. First course was oyster cocktail. Second course was chicken soup with salad. Third course included: roast turkey with chestnut dressing, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and coffee. Fourth course was pumpkin or mince pie, ice cream and cake. Mints were available to all.

The price of this princely meal was a paltry fifty cents. It is a wonder that the whole county of housewives didn’t insist on going to Roddy’s for their dinner, with much thanks and gratitude.

The tactless husband of the jingle might have appeased his wife with such a gesture. But as it turned out she had an answer that set him straight without mincing words.

“And the wife resenting, answered
If you would but give up horses
And a score of clubs or so
To devote more time to business
When to buy and what to stake
Then perhaps you might make money
Such as father used to make.”

Finally, a menu is on the mind of most people this last week of November. It has been that way for decades. In November of 1913, children of Wood County, Ohio, were asked to plan what they would think a good Thanksgiving dinner would include. One small boy seemed to sum it up quite well.

“First Course: mince pie. Second course: pumpkin pie and turkey. Third course: lemon pie, turkey and cranberries. Fourth course: custard pie, apple pie, mince pie, chocolate cake, ice cream and plum pudding. For dessert the lad chose to have PIE.”

Give that boy a rolling pin. He surely will be one of those husbands preserved carefully, prepared for domestic use and warranted to keep for years.