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Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
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Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Posts Tagged ‘eating’

Cooking Frozen Vegetables

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

add water and cookI have a dirty little secret ~ I love instant mashed potatoes and frozen peas. I never imagined I would need such detailed instructions for cooking them, however. These important tips are from a home economics book called How You Plan and Prepare Meals, written by Byrta Carson and MaRue Carson Ramee. Read carefully, then go whip up a tasty meal for your family! They won’t be sorry.

1962: Cooking Frozen Vegetables

All frozen vegetables, except corn on the cob, should be cooked without being thawed. The best method of cooking a frozen vegetable is stated on the package. Use only the amount that will be served at one meal, and keep the rest in the freezer. Cook frozen vegetables in the same way as fresh vegetables with the following exceptions.

1. Use a pan that is large enough for the vegetable to lie flat.

2. Use slightly less boiling water than for fresh vegetables because defrosting supplies some water.

3. Break the vegetable with a fork when it starts to defrost so that all parts will be cooked evenly.

4. If the vegetable has been defrosted, less cooking time is required.

Preparing Canned Vegetables. Because canned vegetables have already been cooked, they only need to be heated and seasoned. Drain the liquid from the can into a saucepan, and boil it rapidly to reduce the amount. Then add the vegetable, and cook 3 or 4 minutes. Some of the vitamin value of vegetables is lost in canning, but there is little loss of minerals. To retain vitamins and flavor, do not open canned vegetables until you are ready to use them.

Preparing Dehydrated Vegetables. To prepare dehydrated vegetables, add water and cook according to the directions on the package.

Dehydrated vegetables are fresh vegetables that have been cleaned, trimmed, and cut into pieces. The water is removed from the vegetables before they are packaged. There is no waste in dehydrated vegetables, and most of them are inexpensive and easy to use.

Source: Carson, Byrta, and MaRue Carson Ramee. How You Plan and Prepare Meals. St. Louis, Mo.:
Webster Division, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1962.
~ pp. 189-90 ~

What Should I Cook Him?

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

ego, libido, and feedoQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Any tips on what to cook a guy for a romantic meal? I am thinking of his birthday. Thank you!


A Dear Katie:

I do believe I’ve located some fabulous advice for you in Robert Loeb’s She Cooks to Conquer. It should help you plan your dinner. I’m sorry I have no room to include the complete recipes, which are actually illustrated (see “The Man Who Stayed for Breakfast” for an example), but I think the menu ideas will be enough to set you on the right path.

Oh, and you’re welcome.

1952: The Man Who Came for Dinner

Classical Circe, when ensnaring Odysseus and his crew, had to employ her magic wand upon occasion, and could not merely depend on her vintages and victuals for complete enchantment. The reason for this was that, like pilots who formerly had to fly without benefit of electronic devises and radar, Circe too had to cook by the seat of her panties.

But you Circes today, with the aid of the latest scientific findings, will not have to cook on a hit-or-run basis. By putting to use the results of surveys and information gleaned by psychologists in their minute studies of the male (and with special thanks and all due apologies to Doctor W. H. Sheldon), I am about to furnish you with a fool-proof guide. This will make as certain as possible that the luring dishes you serve your Odysseus will be the exact food of his choice. For, by grading him for type, you will approximate the yearnings of his own particular ‘feedo.’

It has been found that the male animal comes in thress basic sizes and varieties, each bearing a very complicated name that actually is easy to explain: the somatotonic, the viscerotonic, and the cerebrotonic!!!

Each of these varieties will be both illustrated and decribed briefly. All you will have to do is to determine into which category your own Odysseus belongs and then serve him a menu recommended for his type. Thus, in one fell ‘soup,’ you will have combined the magic of psychoscience with the enchantment of twentieth-century culinary savoir faire. What manner of male exists who will be able to resist such witchery?

~ ~ ~

Here is the male SOMATONIC: he’s the muscle man with paleolithic instincts, more likely to flex his biceps than his brain; he’s quick of decision, prone to passion, which he demonstrates in immediate action. He’s probably the club athlete, prefers the locker-room to the salon or boudoir, and his tastes in food run chiefly to red meat.

So here are two menus to choose from, graded for type and taste, when this muscled Odysseus arrives for dinner:

Muscle-Man Menus

No. 1:
Oeufs Riants
Steak Circe
Pommes de Ciel
Asparagus, Sauce Odysseus
Wine to Serve: Red Bordeaux ~ room temp.

No. 2:
Fruit Cup Cyclops
Lamp Chops Ajax
Spuds à la Maison
Peas Penelope
Wine to Serve: Rosé ~ chilled

And here we have the male VISCEROTONIC ~ a man of guts, if we ever saw one. He’s usually more balloon-shaped than streamlined, copiously equipped with avoirdupois and tummy. He’s accoutred with a jovial disposition, his emotional font being chiefly centered about his abdominal region. With a bird in one hand and a bottle in the other, he’s in a Falstaffian kind of heaven. Of the trio, he’s the one most vulnerable to your culinary wiles ~ he’s the gourmand, if not the gourmet.

Man-of Guts Menus

No. 1:
Soup Hades
Veal Vulcan
Pommes Aphrodite
Salad Athena
Wine to Serve: Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc ~ room temp.

No. 2:
Hors d’Oeuvres Hermes
Chicken Scylla
Potatoes Charybdis
Artichokes Artemis
Wine to Serve: Chablis ~ chilled

And here ~ the third of this trio of male ‘tonics’ ~ the CEREBROTONIC no less. Sometimes tall, dark, and handsome ~ or not handsome and not tall (he could be short and blond) ~ or just tall ~ but always lean and thin (you pick him for color and length). He is more apt to be a Casanova than a caveman. His approach is subtle and hidden; his ego, libido, and feedo are swathed in the skin in the sheep but beneath which pulsates the drive and appetites of the wolf. His taste-buds should be subtly titillated, but once aroused are rewarding.

Lean-Man Menus

No. 1:
Zeus Soup
Shrimps Poseiden with rice
Salad Persephone
Wine to Serve: Graves ~ chilled

No. 2:
Clam Juice Calypso
Lamb Laertes
Pommes Polythemus
Salad Telemachus
Wine to Serve: Red Bordeaux ~ room temp.

Source: Loeb, Robert H., Jr. She Cooks to Conquer. New York: Wilfred Funk, Inc., 1952.
~ pp. 29-31, 45, 59 ~

Cooking Breakfast

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

the water must be boiling madlyIn the preface to 2002 Household Helps, editor Janet D. Myers wished the book would “be called upon many times to shorten the labors of those who are responsible for the welfare of our American families.” Since I’ve mostly been cooking breakfast these days (who needs lunch or dinner, when there are so many sugared cereals to indulge in?), I thought I’d pull out some helpful tips to share. Pouring the milk over the cereal sure is laborious, and my singlular American family deserves only the best!

1942: Cooking Breakfast

CRISPING BACON ~ Try laying your thin slices of bacon in a shallow pan and putting them in the oven. They will be uniformly crist and moderately browned. When you take them out of the oven lay the pieces on oiled paper until you are ready to serve. The fat that has been cooked out can be used in frying hashed brown potatoes or chops.

MILK INSTEAD OF CREAM ~ Two quarts of milk added to one quart of heavy cream makes cream sufficient strength when serving coffee to 100 people.

SODA IN OMELET ~ A half teaspoonful of soda added to a cup of sour milk and used instead of sweet milk in preparing an omelet makes it light and fluffy.

‘NEW’ CEREAL IDEA ~ When tired of breakfast cereals try cooking two or three kinds together. They will give a new flavor to the breakfast.

BETTER COFFEE ~ Many people use too little coffee when they make the drink. Put more of it into the coffee pot and you will have a better beverage.

COOK CEREALS LONGER ~ Breakfast cereals cooked for long periods of time will have a better flavor and be more digestible than those cooked only a short time.

MAKING SAUSAGE ~ In making sausage or other things calling for ground meat, it is desirable to have the seasoning evenly mixed with meat. Cut meat in strips, lengthwise, for grinding. Weigh meat for same. Put layer of meat in pan, sprinkle seasoning over, then another layer of meat and seasoning until all is used. Then feed into grinder. The sausage will be uniform in flavor.

FRYING SAUSAGES ~ When frying pork sausages invert a colander over the frying pan and you will find that you will not be bothered with the grease spattering the stove and yourself.

JELLY OMELET ~ A dab of tart jelly is very good with the breakfast omelet.

FRYING ON OIL STOVE ~ Use an aluminum frying pan for pancakes when frying them over an oil stove.

CHOICE GRAPEFRUIT ~ Grapefruit uniform in size, with smooth thin skin and small pores, are the choice ones.

BEATING EGG WHITES ~ Never beat whites of eggs in an aluminum pan. It will always darken it and make it ugly. Use a china or porcelain bowl.

POACHING EGGS ~ Don’t try to poach an egg by putting it in lukewarm or slightly boiling water. The water must be boiling madly, so that the albumen is cooked at once, otherwise the egg spreads all through the water.

LEFTOVER TOAST ~ Dip leftover toast in egg and milk, and brown in a small amount of fat. This is French toast and may be served for breakfast with powdered sugar or syrup.

KEEPING DOUGHNUTS ~ If doughnuts are put into a covered dish while still warm they will keep fresh for some time.

BETTER TOAST ~ Bread a day old makes better toast than fresh bread.

AVOIDING LUMPY CEREALS ~ If you have trouble with cereals lumping when you are pouring them into the boiling water, stir vigorously with a wire cake spoon.

Source: Myers, Janet D. 2002 Household Helps. Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1942.
~ pp. 27-45 ~

Eat More Vegetables

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

That is Nature's rule!Q Dear Miss Abigail:

How can I get my my boyfriend to eat vegetables?


A Dear Matthew:

I searched high and low for some good advice to pass along about the value of eating vegetables, and found many standard references in home economics books teaching young women how to plan menus for their families. But I think we all know that vegetables are good for us and that we should eat more of them (didn’t your mom teach you right?).

So I thought a different approach might work better for your sweetie. How about the following from Victor H. Lindlahr’s 1940 book titled You Are What You Eat? Lindlahr was a lecturer on health and nutrition “on radio stations from coast to coast” and president of the National Nutrition Society in his day. He’s quite serious about nutrition, and I think his words will help scare your boyfriend into eating his veggies.

1940: What Foods Can Do For You

Your body is composed of, and lives on, certain basic chemical substances. To be healthy, it must constantly receive new supplies of these. If replacements of these essential materials are not provided, in correct proportions and amounts, by the food you eat, then you are in trouble! Your body tissues cannot behave as they should. The result will be abnormal conditions ~ you call them symptoms of disease. That is Nature’s rule!

Providing the necessary chemical substances for your body, in proper amounts and proportions each day, with foods, means choosing a balanced diet! What is a balanced diet?

On every hand we hear people talking about ‘proper eating’ and ‘balanced diet.’ Your best friend’s little girl did not eat a balanced diet ~ did not get enough fruits and vegetables containing Vitamin A. So, the doctor explains, that is why she was unhealthy, an easy victim of measles, mumps, whooping cough, and frequent colds.

Your mother’s Cousin Joe did not eat a balanced diet ~ he ate too much meat and bread and rich food. And his joints became gnarled and twisted with rheumatism.

That lady down the street, your neighbor explains, did not eat a balanced diet. Her doctor has her on a strict one now, and follow it she must, or have her gall bladder removed. The penalty is severe.

Most health authorities, including scientists, doctors and specialitsts whose articles appear in daily newspapers throughout the country, agree that a balanced diet or dietary changes will help cure a host of the ills to which the human flesh is heir.

Source: Lindlahr, Victor H. You Are What You Eat: How to Win and Keep Health With Diet. New York: National Nutritional Society, 1940.
~ p. 8 ~

Meals Out-of-Doors

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

know how to plan and prepareAh, summertime. Hooray for our Red, White, and Blue, and for the season of hot dogs, lemonade, and popsicles. Here’s a few tips about the fine art of eating outdoors, from Mary Lockwoods Matthews’ somewhat repetitive Elementary Home Economics.

1928: Meals Out-of-Doors

Most boys and girls like to go on picnics. A picnic lunch may consist entirely of cooked foods that are ready to serve, or part of the foods may be prepared at home and others cooked over a camp fire on the beach, in the woods, or wherever the picnic is to be held. When all the foods are to be prepared at home, they must be carried in suitable containers, so that they will be in good condition when it is time to serve them. Thermos bottles or jugs may be used for carrying hot cocoa, milk, water, or any other cold or hot drink, and bottles having a large mouth may be used for hot or cold foods. One may use a picnic basket equipped with knives, forks, spoons, plates, cups, and containers for various types of food. In some of these baskets there are compartments for ice, so arranged that foods may be kept cold. These baskets are quite elaborate, expensive, and heavy to carry, and often thermos bottles or jugs can be used for foods which must be kept hot or cold, while other foods may be packed as you would pack a school lunch. . . .

In planning a picnic it is important:

1. To plan a menu which requires few dishes for serving, and which does not contain cooked foods that are spoiled with standing or jarring.
2. To make a list of all utensils and dishes and of the amounts and kinds of foods needed, so that none will be forgotten.
3. To pack these so that foods will not be crushed or exposed to dust or flies, so that dishes will be kept free from dust and flies, and so that thermos bottles or other glass or china containers will not be broken.
4. To pack the lunch in such containers as can be conveniently carried or placed in the available space in an automobile. It is better to pack the lunch in several light-weight baskets or boxes when it must be carried some distance by hand.
5. To take several tea towels, hand towels, and cloths to be used for emergencies, or when clearing up after the meal. . . .

To plan and prepare a picnic lunch for a number of people requires considerable work, and many times picnics are not a popular pastime because of this fact. An easy way to arrange a picnic is to make the menu, estimating the amount of each food needed, then to assign to each person a certain amount of one food to be prepared. Each person may then take her own dishes and the one prepared food, and the work of preparation is not difficult. Often the menu for a picnic is too elaborate and makes the work of preparation too difficult. Since touring has become such an important pastime in this country, it is desirable for each girl to know how to plan and prepare a picnic lunch, and to cook out-of-doors.

Source: Matthews, Mary Lockwood. Elementary Home Economics. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company,1928.
~ pp. 173-74, 177-78 ~

The Birthday Cake

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Blow! Blow! Blow!Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me! Yes, it’s that time of year again. Although it would seem that I should be mature and respectable in my old age, I’m not about to give up my birthday party. I decided to do a bit of research to learn more about one important aspect, the cake, expecting to find tips about cutting and serving and what type to bake your loved one. But wouldn’t you know, the first thing I came across was the following from party-pooper author Sophie Hadida. It’s from her Manners for Millions. I sure am glad my mom never read this book!

1950: The Birthday Cake

Breezes and Showers. ‘Now it’s time to eat the birthday cake. Let’s all blow out the candles.’ Blow! Blow! Blow! They’re all out, and so are the germs from all the guests ~ out traveling on the cake. Whoever originated this joyous birthday sport ~ well, never mind him; but don’t let’s do it any more.

This act, you can see the moment it is brought to your attention, is a vile one. It is amazing that you mothers have for years been permitting the guests of your children to put out candles on birthday cakes in this unhealthful manner.

From now on supply yourself with a snuffer. Allow each child to take it in his own hands and put out one light. That will give as much pleasure and will not endanger the health of anyone.

I hear you say, ‘Strange! I never thought of that before.’

Source: Hadida, Sophie C. Manners for Millions. New York: Permabooks, 1950.
~ pp. 54-55 ~

Tea, Anyone?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

fresh bread with butter and jamQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What can you tell me about the proper way to serve tea? If this is too general, would you kindly address afternoon tea service in the home? Still too general? Perhaps you might look at the question of accompanying food service (e.g., pickled jellyfish, toast points, hot buttered brioche &c.).

With my keen appreciation,
Allow me to attest myself most sincerely,

Chauncy Rutherford Phipps Delaney Smutte

A Dear Sir Smutte:

Here are a few bits of advice about afternoon tea ~ hosting, attending, and what food should be served. That should cover the basics for you, and help in your quest for proper tea etiquette. So settle in ~ pull up a comfortable chair, grab a biscuit, and chat with the other guests while I pour you a lovely cup of tea.

1938: Tea for Callers

When you have only a few guests, it is pleasant to serve tea in the living room, or library, or on the porch when the weather is favorable. Or perhaps your own room is a cozy and suitable place for entertaining. Is it fixed up as a sitting room, with a studio bed, gay-colored sofa cushions, comfortable chairs and window seats? If so, add a cupboard in which to keep cups and saucers and a teapot. Lay in a package or so of tea biscuits or cookies, a tin of tea balls, and a box of loaf sugar. And there you are ~ all ready to produce impromptu refreshments whenever friends drop in to see you!

Another way in which to gain experience that will help you when you come to give a really big tea party is to serve tea to your mother’s friends when they come to call on her. She, and they, will appreciate your thoughtfulness and courtesy; and you will soon become expert in the serving of tea and in the arranging of tea tables and trays.

Source: Pierce, Beatrice. The Young Hostess. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938.
~ p. 65 ~

1963: Attendance at a Tea

The one thing to do before attending a tea is to eat in order that you will have very little appetite to do that same when you arrive at what is truly a feminine setting. Approaching the tea-table, we greet the person who is “pouring”; exchange a few pleasantries; tell her if you prefer cream or lemon in your tea. Then, regardless of how much we would like to try each variety of sandwiches or cookies, we do not laden the plate with more than a total of three or four of the delicacies.

Source: Culkin, Anne. Charm for Young Women. New York: Deus Books, 1963.
~ p. 85 ~

1967: The Food

Tea refreshments are quite different from those served at a cocktail party, and it is not wise to try to combine the two. People who love tea begin with some simple, bland thing like thin, very fresh bread with butter and jam. (For this plain bread and butter the crusts are left on, for sandwiches they are removed.) They may pass on to more complex combinations, such as watercress sandwiches, chopped candied ginger and cream cheese sandwiches, little hot, toasted cheese rolled sandwiches, open-faced rounds or crab or lobster mixture on soft white or graham bread ~ the tea kind of food, not the cocktail appetizers.

Source: Vanderbilt, Amy. New Complete Book of Etiquette: Guide to Gracious Living. Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967.
~ p. 289 ~

Odoriferous Food

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

its odor may disturb othersThis week, I’ve pulled out something completely frivolous. Let’s just say it’s in the spirit of getting back to normal. This is from Manners for Millions, which was penned by Sophie C. Hadida, who instructs her readers in the introduction to “take notes upon the points which reveal to you your own shortcomings.” While you’re doing that, I’m going to grab a banana and head to the train station. Bye!

1950: Odoriferous Food

I once heard a young man say, ‘I should care whether my girl friend likes onions or not. If I want to eat onions, I eat them. If she doesn’t like it, she knows what she can do.’

Such a person is the personification of selfishness. The poor girl may be helpless. She has no other boy friend at the present time, and is forced to go out with Jack, who chooses to eat onions that evening. No one wants to be accused of having halitosis. Eating onions is courting a form of halitosis which is really more objectionable than the unavoidable kind, because the implied discourtesy irritates.

It is discourteous to order at a restaurant any food which through its odor may disturb others at table. Such foods are strong cheese, onions, chives, garlic.

It is inconsiderate for the same reason to eat oranges, bananas, and certain other foods on trains or boats around neighboring passengers who may be ill by their odor.

Source: Hadida, Sophie C. Manners for Millians. New York: Permabooks, 1950.
~ pp. 83-84 ~

Fingers ~ Chicken ~ Good?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

table cutlery ... perfection!Q Dear Miss Abigail:

Can I eat chicken with my fingers?


A Dear Cat:

I’m glad you brought up this important topic. It’s about time for a little review on dinner etiquette and the proper use of forks, knives, and other utensils. Shall we dig in?

1897: Dinner-Parties

As little noise as possible. The knife, fork, and spoon are handled as noiselessly as possible. Scraping the edge of the knife against the plate is unpardonable. It produces a grating noise that is excessively unpleasant. In sending a plate away to be replenished, the diner leaves his knife and fork or his spoon as the case may be, upon it.

Bread must be broken. In dealing with bread, use neither knife nor fork. It must be broken with the fingers. There is a story of an absent-minded and short-sighted prelate who, with the remark,’My bread, I think?’ dug his fork into the white hand of a lady who sat beside him. He had been badly brought up, or he would not have used his fork, and the white hand would have experienced nothing worse than a sudden grasp.

The moustache and soup. It requires some expertness and practice for a man with a moustache to take soup in a perfectly inoffensive manner. The accomplishment is worth some trouble.

The mouth. Some men, who should know better (and some women, too) forget that the mouth be should be kept closed while mastication is going on. This is a very important matter. Nature teaches us to keep the mouth open, as any one may see from the way in which children and uncultivated persons eat, but good manners enjoin upon us that to adopt the natural mode is to disgust and annoy those with whom we sit at meat. If these little things have not been learned in childhood, it is difficult to master them afterwards. Mothers should teach their boys (and girls) never to speak while food is in the mouth, and never to drink until it is quite empty. Who would not be mortified if he were to choke ignominiously at the dinner-table?

Foods touched with the fingers. Bread, biscuits, olives, asparagus, celery, and bonbons are the forms of food that may be touched with the fingers. There used once to be a rule that a bone might be picked, if only the finger and thumb were used in holding it. But that was in the days when table cutlery was far from having been brought to its present condition of perfection. There is now no excuse for handling bones ~ knives and forks suffice; and it is only in the lowest grades of society that they are found inadequate.

Source: Humphry, Mrs. “Madge.” Manners for Men. London: James Bowden, 1897.
~ pp. 67-69 ~

A Quick Lesson in Table Manners

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

keep your elbows at your sideQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Please tell me ~ have simple table manners like holding cutlery properly and keeping elbows off the dining table gone out of fashion?


A Dear Nicole:

I don’t know about you, but table manners in my house have only improved with the advent of the TV. When leaning back on the couch, I never have to worry whether or not my elbows are on the table.

But I suppose a little refresher wouldn’t hurt. This from Decorum: A Practical Treatise on Etiquette and Dress of the Best American Society, published in 1880, still seems relevant for the most part. Now if I could just find my table under the piles of junk, I’d be all set.

1880: General Rules for Behavior at Table

Tea and coffee should never be poured into a saucer.

If a person wishes to be served with more tea or coffee, he should place his spoon in the saucer. If he has had sufficient, let it remain in the cup.

If anything unpleasant is found in the food, such as a hair in the bread or a fly in the coffee, remove it without remark. Though your own appetite be spoiled, it is well not to spoil that of others.

Never if possible, cough or sneeze at the table. If you feel the paroxysm coming on, leave the room. It may be worth while to know that a sneeze may be stifled by placing the finger firmly upon the upper lip.

Fold your napkin when you are done with it and place it in your ring, when at home. If you are visiting, leave your napkin unfolded beside your plate.

Never hold your knife and fork upright on each side of your plate while you are talking.

Do not cross your knife and fork upon your plate until you have finished.

When you send your plate to be refilled, place your knife and fork upon one side of it or put them upon your piece of bread.

Eat neither too fast nor too slow.

Never lean back in your chair nor sit too near or too far from the table.

Keep your elbows at your side, so that you may not inconvenience your neighbors.

Do not find fault with the food.

The old-fashioned habit of abstaining from taking the last piece upon the plate is no longer observed. It is to be supposed that the vacancy can be supplied if necessary.

If a plate is handed you at table, keep it yourself instead of passing it to a neighbor. If a dish is passed to you, serve yourself first, then pass it.

Source: Ruth, John A. Decorum: A Practical Treatise on Etiquette and Dress of the Best American Society. New York: Union Publishing House, 1880.
~ pp. 213-214 ~