Cooking Techniques · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Cooks Frizzled Beef

When Sue Began to Cook, one of the books in the Bettina’s Best Recipes series, tells the story of Bettina’s young daughter Sue and her adventures in the kitchen. On her first Saturday lesson, she and her friend Ruth Ann made Cocoa Drop Cookies. You can find that post here. For Lesson 2, Sue cooks Frizzled Beef on Toast. This recipe is known over the midwest and southern United States as chipped beef, SOS, S— on a Shingle, as well as by other names.

Basically, Sue and Ruth Ann are learning to make a white sauce. Many Twenties recipes used a good white sauce as gravy over a main dish course. Or perhaps mixed into left over meat and bread crumbs to make timbales or patties. A good white sauce also forms the base for some cream soups. All in all, learning to make white sauce is a good beginning step for any cook, because it’s a skill utilized in the kitchen over and over again.

Sue’s thoughts on the lesson

Here are Sue’s comments on the recipe, from her cooking class notebook:

When Mother said at breakfast this morning that she was going to let us make frizzled beef for our cooking lesson today, Robin butted right in and said, “Jinks! I don’t call that anything to make! Why don’t you make cream puffs or fudge or something folks really like?” (Meaning by “folks,” himself and Ted that always hangs around anytime there’s any cooking going on. Especially doughnuts or candy or frosting.)

“Maybe you and Teddy think we’re doing this cooking just for your benefit!” said I scornfully, looking as sarcastic as I could. [At times Sue could be a nicer older sister.] “Ruth Ann and I are learning to be practical cooks, and we aren’t planning our lessons just to suit two silly little boys that can’t even do their arithmetic problems without help!”

I had him there, as Father says. Even though he is a boy, I’m lots better at mathematics than he is and many’s the time Mother has to help him in the evenings.

Frizzled beef for lunch

“Don’t quarrel, children,” said Mother, not noticing that as usual it was Robin who was doing all the quarreling. “This frizzled beef is going to be just as good as doughnuts or fudge or icing. And we’re going to have it for lunch today, too. So if Sue and Ruth Ann are willing, you may ask Teddy to stay, Robin.”

Robin seemed quite pleased at that. Just as pleased as if he hadn’t said anything about the frizzled beef. And he went off whistling.

The frizzled beef was so easy to make — lots easier than the Cocoa Cookies. And it was awfully good, too, all brown and creamy and curly just the way it ought to be. I had thought mine would be enough for us all (Father doesn’t come home at noon). But the boys were so hungry that Ruth Ann very generously had us eat hers too. (Of course she stayed to lunch.) We had big baked potatoes with the frizzled beef, and big glasses of milk, and cookies and applesauce. After Robin had been served three times at least, he was polite enough to say that it was the best meal he had in a long time. But not one bit of the beef was left for Father!

Continue with the series

You can find Sue’s first lesson and recipe at When Sue Began to Cook.

Make the Recipe

Not only Sue cooks frizzled beef. You can make it, too. Here’s the recipe, directly from the pages.

Frizzled Beef on Toast

From When Sue Began to Cook, 1924.
Course: Breakfast, Luncheon
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, When Sue Began to Cook


  • ¼ pound dried beef
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour Leveled off smooth with a knife
  • 1 tsp salt Also leveled off with a knife. Nearly everything has salt in it if it's really good.
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 slices nice fresh toast I cut mine in triangles and it looked so nice and partified.


  • We tore the beef all up in tiny little pieces. Then we each put the butter in a frying pan over the fire (not too hot a fire!) and when it was all melted and bubbling, we added the dried beef. Then we let it cook, and kept stirring it around all the time till the edges began to curl up. Then we added the flour and mixed well. We let the flour get light brown (we kept stirring it all the time!) and then added the salt, pepper, and milk (still stirring!) and cooked it slowly till it was all thick and creamy.
  • Mother had us make our toast first, so it was all ready waiting on two hot little platters. We poured the frizzled beef over it as neatly as we could, and then decorated it with little sprigs of parsley from Mother's parsley box in the kitchen window. It looked almost too pretty to eat!
Cooking Techniques · The Vintage Kitchen

When Sue Began to Cook

Illustration from When Sue Began to Cook

On a rainy, dreary November afternoon, Sue complains to her mother that there’s nothing to do. Her brother is at a friend’s house, As for her best friend Ruth Ann — well, she cries all the time now that her mother has been sent away for her health. This is the beginning of When Sue Began to Cook, the last book in the Bettina storybook trilogy by Louise Bennett Weaver.

The complete title of the book is When Sue Began to Cook with Bettina’s Best Recipes. Bettina’s Best Recipes became the brand name of a whole line of cookbooks in the 1920s. Bettina was an authority on cakes and cookies, desserts, sandwiches, and salads. And each topic found its way into one of the Bettina’s Best Recipes cookbooks.

Like all the Bettina books, Sue’s story begins with some really bad poetry:

To every other little maid
Who longs to learn like Sue,
But feels a tiny bit afraid
It’s all too hard to do,
To all the little girls who sigh,
“I need a simple book
To help me!” “Here it is!” we cry,
When Sue Began to Cook

Dedication, When Sue Began to Cook, Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron

Bettina suggests that Sue invite Ruth Ann over for weekly cooking lessons. Then Bettina will teach them both to cook. The plan will occupy Sue at the same time that it gives Ruth Ann something to think about besides her sick mother. (In 1924 when the book was written, Ruth Ann’s mother probably has tuberculosis and was sent to Arizona for the dry air in hopes that it would cure her. The book, however, never says.)

Sue loves the idea, and runs to tell Ruth Ann about the new Saturday plans. The girls’ story unfolds from the notes that Sue keeps after each cooking session. Here are her notes from the first day:

I found Ruth Ann crying, as usual, but it didn’t take her long, after she heard about the Cooking Class, to hustle into a clean dress and hurry over. And oh, the cookies were delicious! 

I intended to save mine for dinner tonight, but of course Robin and Ted came in perfectly ravenous and teased so hard that I had to give them ten or twelve apiece and that doesn’t leave many for Father when he comes. But how proud he’ll be to try his daughter’s first cookies. That is, the first ones I’ve made entirely alone, even to lighting the oven and washing the dishes afterwards.

When Sue Began to Cook, page 14.

As a first recipe, Sue and Ruth Ann make Cocoa Drop Cookies. Then the next week they start at the beginning and learn to make Frizzled Beef over Toast. This recipe is known regionally under many different names in the United States. Chipped beef, SOS, and S—- on a Shingle are but three of the ways people refer to this dish.

Each week Sue and Ruth Ann tackle a new recipe or cooking method, and they build a nice repertoire of recipes through the year. A winter Wheat Cereal with Dates progresses to gingerbread. Then spring brings Baked Ham with Browned Potatoes. The heat of summer brings recipes for Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce, Fruit Sherbet, and a Fruit Gelatin. Then the autumn rolls around again, with its traditional Twenties recipes for doughnuts, peanut brittle, and popcorn balls.

In Chapter 52, the last week of the year’s lessons. the girls present a party for their friends. They cook an entire meal from recipes in the book, and proudly present the fruits of their yearlong course.

When Sue Began to Cook makes a good beginning cookbook for teens interested in cooking history, for cookbook collectors, and for people who want to learn to cook simple recipes. Currently this book is unavailable in any free downloadable format, so you’ll have to search out a 1924 copy yourself.

If you’re new to the world of Bettina cookbooks, I wrote about the first one in the post A Cookbook Worth Reading.

Cocoa Drop Cookies

Taken from When Sue Began to Cook, 1924.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, cookies, Twenties


  • ½ cup lard Mother says butter makes them too rich.
  • 1 cup light brown sugar No lumps, remember!
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2⅓ cups flour
  • 4 tbsp cocoa Leveled off with a knife blade.
  • tsp baking powder Leveled off with a knife, too. This is important.
  • ¼ tsp salt All good cookies have salt in them.


  • Mother had us each put the lard in a nice round-bottomed yellow bowl and cream it. (That means mash it down with a big spoon until it is very soft.) And then add the sugar and keep on creaming until the mixture looked all one color. Then we broke the eggs into a little dish and added them one by one to the sugar mixture. (Mother said to break and add them one by one so as to be very sure they were good.) Then we kept on stirring with the big holey spoon for two whole minutes. Then we added the water and the vanilla.
  • We put a little more than two and one-third cups of flour through the flour sifter and after it had been sifted once, we measured it out and took exactly two and one-third cups of it. Then we put it back in the empty sifter and added the cocoa, the baking powder and the salt. We sifted them through twice all together.
  • (Mother says we must always be very sure about the level spoonful. She had us take a knife and level the filled spoons off very carefully. This is important.)
  • We dumped the flour mixture into the bowl with the other things, and stirred just enough to be sure everything was well mixed.
  • Then we each greased our cooky-sheet with a clean piece of paper that had been dipped in a little lard. (Several pie pans will do instead, Mother says.) Then we took up a little of the cooky-dough on the end of the mixing spoon and scraped it oiff on the cooky-sheet with a knife. (She told us to be sure these little cooky mounds weren't too large; they oughtn't to be more than an inch across.) We dropped these bits of dough about three inches apart on the greased sheet and flattened each of them down a little with a knife that had just been dipped in warm water.
  • Then we baked the cookies in a moderate oven for about fifteen minutes. [Moderate oven: 350-375º F] Mother had us light the oven a few minutes ahead of time, and then turn it down so it wouldn't be too hot when the cookies were put in.
  • Chocolate or cocoa cookies burn easily, she said, so we looked at them often. Sometimes those on the edge of the pan got done first and had to be removed carefully and slipped onto another flat pan to cool. All our cookies couldn't be baked at once, so we kept the dough in a cool place (not near the stove!) until the oven was ready again.
  • As soon as the cookies were all finished and cool, we each packed them carefully away in a stone jar.


This recipe is taken directly from When Sue Began to Cook, copyright 1924, by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron.