Cooking Techniques · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue’s Cream of Tomato Soup

One of the fun parts of learning to cook well is that we can create favorite dishes for favorite people. In Cooking Lesson 12, Sue’s Cream of Tomato Soup hits the spot because it’s a soup her father loves. This is part of the series of lessons from When Sue Began to Cook, a 1924 cookbook in the Bettina’s Best Recipes series of cookbooks. If you’re just tuning in, you can click the book title to visit Lesson 1 and start from the beginning.

Even though the lessons take place on Saturdays, Sue’s father is at work at the office. This book was written two years before Henry Ford introduced the five day work week. Through the early part of the Twenties, working on Saturdays was normal after working all week. Some people worked half days on Saturday. Others worked all day and only took Sundays off.

This recipe is unusual because it takes two pots to make. Modern tomato soup recipes only require one pot, but this one requires making a white sauce in one pan while heating the tomato puree/broth to boiling in the other. It’s nice to know yet another way of combining ingredients — especially if you don’t mind washing two saucepans at the end of the experiment.

Let’s visit Sue’s notebook to see how the lesson, and the day, went.

Sue’s notes on Cream of Tomato Soup

Probably we wouldn’t have tried anything so hard as Cream of Tomato Soup if it hadn’t been Father’s birthday today. But it is his favorite soup and when I asked him yesterday what he wanted me to give him for a present, he said, “well, you can make me some Cream of Tomato Soup at your cooking lesson.”

“Then,” said Mother, “you’ll have to come home at noon. You know the cooking lesson comes in the morning, and tomato soup ought to be served just after it is made. Even old experienced cooks have trouble with it sometimes and it will be a little hard for beginners like Sue and Ruth Ann.”

“But we can do it, Mother! Please let us!” I begged. It seemed so nice to me to be able to cook just what my father wanted on his birthday.

“I’d like to bring a man home to luncheon with me,” Father said. “A friend of mine who will be in town just for the weekend.”

Mother said we could try the soup, and Father could bring his guest. I tell you, we were excited! Mother had made the birthday cake yesterday, thank goodness, and she let Robin put on the pink candles. Robin felt so important that he acted as if the cake was the main part of the meal, but of course I knew that the soup was the principal thing since Father had asked for it and it was one of his favorite dishes.

Well, Ruth Ann and I were so afraid that the soup would curdle, but it didn’t. (Mother had said that it would if we weren’t very careful.) And what do you suppose? The man Father brought home with him for luncheon was Uncle Harry, Ruth Ann’s father! Ruth Ann was so surprised and happy to see him (you know he gets to town only about once a month) and he was so surprised and happy to know that his only daughter was really learning to cook that poor Father’s birthday was almost forgotten after all.

The Cream of Tomato Soup recipe

Try this one and learn to stir the puree into the hot cream soup. It’s a worthwhile skill for your cooking toolbox.

Cream of Tomato Soup

from When Sue Began to Cook


  • 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp onion, chopped fine
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt may need less
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¼ tsp soda


  • Mother had us each mix our tomatoes, onion, cloves, bay leaf, and water in a small kettle. She had us simmer it for fifteen minutes. That means cook it very slowly, with only a little heat so that it just bubbles now and then but doesn't really boi.. Then we poured it through the strainer, the coarse-meshed one. Mother had us press the cooked tomato through with a spoon. She said we must ust all of it that could be strained. [Strain the mixture into a bowl. You keep the strained liquid and toss the spent vegetables.]
  • Then we each took a clean saucepan and put the butter into it. We melted that over the fire very slowly and then added the flour, salt, and paprika. We mixed it very carefully with a big spoon so that there wasn't a single lump in it. And then we added the milk and cooked it all toggether, stirring it all the time till it was creamy and a little bit thick. After it began to bubble (the fire was low so it wouldn't burn) Mother had us cook it one minute more by the clock.
  • We each put our strained tomato mixture back in the first kettle we had used and heated it till it boiled. Then Mother had us add the soda. This made it fizz up all of a sudden, but we stirred it around for a minute and then emptied all of the tomato part right into the hot creamy milk mixture. Mother says all good cooks know that tomato souo is likely to curdle if the milk is emptied into the tomatoes. The tomatoes must be emptied into the milk. Then we let the soup get very hot for just a minute, and then we dished it up into hot soup plates and served it with crackers that had been put into the hot overn for a few minutes to make them crisp.
Cooking Techniques · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Cornbread

Welcome to the 11th Lesson of When Sue Began to Cook, a cookbook in the Bettina’s Best Recipes series of cookbooks from the Twenties. Today, Sue makes cornbread. These recipes contain common ingredients, solid preparation techniques, and a whole lot of opinion to create customary 1920s food. If this is your first exposure to the series, you can start here or click the book title to jump back to Lesson 1.

For this Saturday morning cooking lesson Sue makes Cornbread. This lesson explains how to grease a baking dish with melted fat/oil before pouring the batter into it. This cornbread contains sugar, which I believe makes it a northern cornbread recipe. Throughout all the books in the series, Sue and Bettina’s location is never mentioned. However, mention of cold in the winter and warmth during the summer months makes their location Some Town in a Northern State. Somewhere.

The directions call for pouring the batter into a drip pan. Drip pans fit into the stove underneath something that could boil over. Or they fit into the icebox (refrigerator) to catch water drops from melting ice. The recipe uses less than two cups of flour/meal, so a regular 8×8 or 7×11 pan should work quite well. Really, any pan that’s a bit more than 1.5 inches deep and about the dimensions of the two pans listed should work quite well. My cornbread always goes into a Pyrex 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Thirty years later than these directions, but it works well.

In this lesson Sue mentions Aunt Lucy and Uncle John, who we first meet in A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes. Bettina adores her aunt and uncle, so it stands that Sue would love them as well. Of course, they visit just in time for inclement weather to hit. And Uncle John still likes to tease. To learn the particulars, let’s peek at Sue’s cooking lesson notebook.

Sue’s notes on making cornbread

Aunt Lucy and Uncle John came in from the farm today to do some shopping. They always come to our house first and just as they arrived, a big blizzard arrived too. I like nothing better than a blizzard myself, but Aunt Lucy’s rheumatism was bad so Mother persuaded her to stay here all day and let Uncle John do the shopping. [This lesson takes place in February.]

“Just think, Aunt Lucy,” Mother said, “Sue and Ruth Ann are going to make cornbread today, and if you are here to lunch you can have some.” (Mother always is as enthusiastic as a girl.)

“Cornbread? That’s good news!” said Aunt Lucy. “With sour milk and soda?”

“No, with sweet milk and baking powder,” said Mother. “But it will be good just the same. You’ll see.”

“Cornbread?” said Uncle John looking out from behind the newspaper I thought he was reading. “I used to know a little girl who could make the best cornbread there ever was! Better, oh much better than yours, Susie!”

“How do you know it was better than mine, Uncle John?” I said indignantly. “You never ate mine in your whole life. And you go and talk that way about it, I won’t give you any this noon. So there!”

“This little girl’s cornbread,” Uncle John went on, just to tease me.

“What little girl? Mother?”

“No; a much littler girl than your Mother.”

At that I knew he meant Aunt Lucy, because he always jokes that way about her. “How old was she when you first ate her cornbread?” I asked him.

“Not a bit older than you,” he said. “But it isn’t only cornbread that she made. She could get the whole meal!”

“When she was only eleven?”

“Now John,” Aunt Lucy said. “Of course I couldn’t. I may have known how to make doughnuts and bread and a few common things like that, but I wouldn’t have dreamed of making Drop Cookies or Stuffed Potatoes or any of the hard things Sue can do.” (I could see Mother had been talking.)

“This noon,” I said firmly, “you will both have a chance to eat some of the best cornbread that ever was made, and if you’re very good, I may send some of it home with you. Uncle John,” I went on, “you’re going to see the day when I’m every bit as good a cook as Aunt Lucy.”

Uncle John gave me a big kiss when I made that rash statement, and Aunt Lucy said that just as soon as Spring came she wanted Ruth Ann and me to come out to the farm and do some cooking on her big “country stove.” Go? Well, I guess we will! There’s no place on earth as nice as the farm!

The recipe

Twenties Cornbread

from When Sue Began to Cook


  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp lard or butter


  • We put the cornmeal, white flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder all together in the flour sifter and sifted them twice. (Mother said once was enough, but both Ruth Ann and I wanted this cornbread to be specially good.) Then we each broke our egg into a bowl and beat it up with the egg beater. Then we added the milk to the egg and beat it for a minute longer. Then Mother told us to put the egg and milk right in with the cornmeal mixture and she had us stir this all up together for about three minutes.
  • We were each going to bake our cornbread in a nice little square dripping pan, and of course these had to be greased so the cornbread wouldn't stick. So Mother told us to measure out the lard we were going to use, right into the dripping pan and set them in the oven for a few minutes to melt. When the lard was all melted, she had us move the pan around so that all of the bottom and sides were greasy. Then she had us pour the lard out into the cornbread batter (that means the unbaked cornbread) and stir it up again. And then we poured the batter into the pans. (You see, the pans were all greased and ready.) The batter was about an inch and a half deep in the pans. Mother says it always ought to be just about that deep to make good cornbread.
  • Then we baked our cornbread in a moderate oven [350º F] for about twenty five minutes. Mother says sometimes it takes thirty minutes. It ought to be a lovely "hungry brown" [golden brown] on top when it is done. Ours was.
Cooking Techniques · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Baked Apples

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. We’ve all heard it, and by the 1920s it was a common saying. During the autumn and winter Twenties cooks attempted to keep the family healthy by providing a variety of foods. Since variety lessens with the wintertime if you eat local or regional foods, fruits like apples take on importance. Today Sue makes Baked Apples designed to tempt jaded appetites.

This is Lesson 10 of a 51-lesson cooking course from 1924 called When Sue Began to Cook. Click the link if this is your first exposure to the series and it will take you back to Lesson 1.

In the book this recipe is actually called Ruth Ann’s Baked Apples. Sue’s mother Bettina spends lots of time trying to devise a way to get Ruth Ann to eat more. She thinks of naming a food after Ruth Ann as an enticement. We’ll see how that works out in Sue’s notes from the day’s class.

Sue’s notes on Ruth Ann’s Baked Apples

It seems to me Mother is a good deal more interested these days in what Ruth Ann eats than in what I eat, and ever since she gave her the blue bowl she has tried and tried to improve her appetite. (Ruth Ann’s appetite, of course.)

“We must teach her to cook the things she ought to eat,” Mother said to me this morning. “Her grandmother doesn’t realize what a thin little thing she is. We’ll have to make her rosy and strong before her Mother gets home.”

Baked apples was one of the foods Mother thought Ruth Ann ought to eat, and of course it was one of the things she ‘specially disliked. But Mother told us she had invented a new dish called Ruth Ann’s Baked Apples, a kind that every child — girl or boy — was sure to like.

“Mmm,” said Robin. “Make enough for me, too!” But I guess he doesn’t need any new dishes to make him eat.

These baked apples were good, much better than the common ones. And Ruth Ann really liked them. In fact, she ate two which was as many as Robin had.

While they were baking, Mother talked to us about oven meals. And about learning to plan, when you were using the oven for one dish, to make it a whole oven dinner. Of course with our two pans of baked apples there wasn’t a lot of room left in the oven. But Mother popped a little casserole of escalloped salmon in for our lunch so it could be cooking at the same time. “By the time this year is up,” she said, “I want you girls to be able to plan meals as well as cook them, and plan sensibly, too.” And I want you to help me do the marketing this summer.”

“Goodie!” said Robin. “I’ll go along with my wagon and haul the things home.”

“Fine,” said Mother. “And we’ll all learn to keep account of the money we spend.”

“Can I go marketing too?” Ruth Ann asked. “Will I be in the way?”

“In the way? Of course not!” replied my darling Mother. “Why, I want you to learn how so you can be the housekeeper when you’re back in your own house again.”

“If that time ever comes!” sighed Ruth Ann. But her eyes were shining and I knew she was feeling happy.

Make your own Baked Apples

Baked apples can be as simple as hollowing out apples, filling them with butter and a little brown sugar, and baking them. This recipe adds a little more flavor to make them special.

Ruth Ann’s Baked Apples

From When Sue Began to Cook, 1924.


  • 4 large red apples all about the same size
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 4 marshmallows
  • 4 halves English walnut meats
  • 8 raisins
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp butter


  • First of all we washed the apples and then Mother showed us how to get the core out with the corer. We did it by digging a hole right around the core but not clear through the apple. You see we had to make a cup of each apple to hold the filling, so it had to be a hole and not a tunnel. Then we washed the apples again and we each set ours (open side up, like a cup) in a little whte enamelled baking pan.
  • Next, Mother had us each take one third of our cup of light brown sugar and mix it with the cinnamon. We put this into the cavities of our apples and then stuffed a marshmallow, a nut-meat, and two raisins in on top of it. On top of that we put half a level tablespoon of butter in each apple. Then Mother had us mix the rest of the sugar (we each had two-thirds of a cup left, of course) with the water and pour that over the tops of the apples.
  • Then we put the baking dishes in the oven, just a moderate oven, Mother said [350º F]. And baked our apples 40 minutes. Oh yes, I forgot to say that Mother had us baste the apples several times while we were cooking. I had heard people talk about basting a turkey, and I always supposed that meant sewing it up with a thread. It doesn't at all. Basting means to take a big kitchen spoon and dip up the juice in the pan and pour it over whatever is cookihg. Well, we basted our baked apples several times to make them juicy and good, and it surely worked. They were the nicest, fattest, juciest baked apples you ever saw.