Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Tuna Timbales

Timbales found their way onto many a Twenties dinner table. They were relatively easy to make. Better yet, they used canned or leftover cooked meats in an inviting way. Today Sue makes Tuna Timbales with Ruth, but you could also make this recipe with leftover chicken or salmon.

This is Lesson 34 of When Sue Began to Cook, a 1924 children’s story cookbook by Louise Bennett Weaver. If you’re just joining us, click the book title to see Lesson 1, where the story begins. Actually, the story begins several books before this one, in A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband (with Bettina’s Best Recipes.) That too is a storybook cookbook, and it tells the story of Bettina as a young bride and her friend Ruth who became Ruth Ann’s mother. The link will take you to the Internet Archive’s copy, where you can read or download it.

But back to Sue and Ruth Ann. Timbales sound difficult to make but they’re a simple concoction of baked bread crumbs, cooked or canned meat, seasonings, and a little egg and milk to hold it all together. And they are delicious. You may know of it from the 1960s onward as tuna patties or salmon patties. It’s basically the same recipe prepared in a different shape.

Sue’s Notes on Tuna Timbales

Take the tuna out of the can just as soon as you open it. Mother told us both to write it down again so we would never, ever forget.

We don’t have any timbale pans at our house, so Mother had us bake the timbales in muffin pans. When they were done, we let them stand for about five minutes. Then we carefully loosened the little timbales and helped them out onto a hot platter without breaking a single one.

While the timbales were baking, we each made a creamy sauce. Just like the creamy sauce for Cheesed Creamed Potatoes, only without the cheese. We used four tablespoons of butter, four tablespoons of flour, two cups of milk, one teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon paprika. [You may want to reduce the salt to 1/2 tsp. A full teaspoon of salt is a lot of salt for two cups of white sauce.] When this was all done, and was creamy and hot, we poured it over the timbales on the platter.

A little timbale reassurance

“Tuna Timbales may seem hard to make,” Mother said to us while we were stirring our Creamy Sauce. “But it’s a good recipe to know. Instead of tuna, you can use any kind of leftover cooked meat or chicken, or turkey, or salmon. And people will like it exactly as well as they did the first time it was served.”

The little timbales did look delicious. We had them for lunch, with little hot biscuits and jam and iced milk and some of Robin’s lettuce. And we ate out on our little porch table. (Meals always taste better out there.)

Ruth Ann is already planning lunches she and her mother will have next summer on their porch table, and she says she is going to have us over very often.

Tuna Timbales

from the book When Sue Began to Cook by Louise Bennett Weaver, 1924
Course: Luncheon, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, Ruth Ann, Sue, tuna, When Sue Began to Cook


  • 1 muffin pan or individual timbale pans if you have them


  • 1 ½ cups tuna canned, drained
  • 1 cup bread crumbs soft
  • 1 tbsp parsley cut up very fine
  • 1 tsp onion cut up very fine (minced)
  • 1 tsp salt or less
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp celery salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup milk


  • Place the drained tuna in a mixing bowl. Mother had us flake it — break it apart with a silver fork. Then add soft breadcrumbs, parsley, onion, salt, paprika, celery salt, lemon juice, beaten eggs, and milk. Stir it all together.
  • Butter the compartments of a muffin tin and fill them 2/3 full with the tuna mixture. Then place the muffin pan into a shallow larger pan, like a 9 x 13 pan. Fill the larger pan with hot water so that it comes up the sides of the muffin tin, about 1-inch deep. Then bake the timbales in a moderate oven (350℉) for 30 minutes.
  • When they're done, let stand for five minutes and then loosen them from the pan. Serve plain or with a cream sauce.
Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches

An illustration from the Twenties that shows two young girls, one blonde and one with short dark hair, standing by a table in front of a window. Between them sits a pile of cheese sandwiches, and they are wrapping them with a napkin.
In this illustration from When Sue Began to Cook, Sue and Ruth Ann wrap their sandwiches to keep them from drying out.

For some reason, Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches were a picnic staple for families from the 1920s through the 1960s. I’ve seen many recipes for these sandwiches, but none that only used cream cheese and roasted red peppers (pimientos). that is, until now. Today Sue makes Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches along with her friend Ruth Ann. Sue and Ruth Ann are cooking their way to kitchen prowess in When Sue Began to Cook.

When Sue Began to Cook was a Twenties cookbook for kids by Louise Bennett Weaver. This is Lesson 33 in Sue’s year of 52 cooking lessons. If you’re just joining us, click the linked book title above to visit the first lesson and start at the beginning of the story (and recipes).

Sandwiches were easy and popular fare in the Twenties. Grab some white bread (or nut bread for tea sandwiches.) Spread the bread with anything handy plus a little butter and you have a feasible sandwich. Chopped nuts, celery, onion, cheese, and even little bits of roasted red peppers made their way into the Twenties sandwich.

This recipe calls for Creamy Salad Dressing, which Sue learned to make in Lesson 26. Click the link to see that recipe.

Sue and Ruth Ann make a dozen sandwiches, each of them working with twelve slices of bread. Although the recipe below calls for softened butter, Sue and Ruth Ann use butter right out of the icebox. Here’s how she explains it…

Sue’s Notes from Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches

After the cheese mixture was ready, we each cut twelve slices of bread very thin, and arranged it in pairs that matched so they could be fitted together. We softened the butter by mashing it down with a spoon. Then we spread one piece of bread of each pair with butter and the other slice with our cheese mixture. We used a silver knife for the spreading. Mother said that was best.

As soon as all the bread had been spread, we pressed the sides together to make sandwiches. Then we piled three big sandwiches on top of each other and cut them all across in half with a sharp knife to make smaller three-cornered sandwiches. Then we cut the other three in half. Then we each had twelve sandwiches. [Actually, they each had twelve half sandwiches, cut diagonally.]

When all the sandwiches were made, Mother gave us each an old clean napkin and had us dip it in cold water and then wring it out as dry as we could. Then she had us wrap up our sandwiches with it and put them away till we were ready to use them. [This is to keep the sandwiches from drying out in an age before plastics.]

Picnic time!

“We’re going on a picnic in the car tonight,” Mother said. “Yes, you too, Ruth Ann. I’ve already asked your grandmother and she says you may.”

“Goody!” I said, that being my favorite expression. “Are you going to let us get the lunch ready now? Oh, Mother, let us do it all!”

“Not all, just the sandwich part,” said Mother, laughing as she always does when I act very enthusiastic. “I want to have th whole lesson on sandwiches. Just one kind. You see, not many people know how to make very good sandwiches, and I want you girls to learn a few simple rules about sandwich making and never forget them.”

Here are some of the rules:

  • 1. Always use bread that is at least a day old, but don’t cut it until you are ready to use it.
  • 2. Cut the bread as thin as you can, but be sure the slices are very even.
  • 3. Always soften the butter by creaming it, but don’t ever melt it on the stove.
  • 4. Wrap your sandwiches in a damp (not wet) cloth till you are ready to use them.

Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches

A recipe from When Sue Began to Cook, by Louise Bennett Weaver
Course: Luncheon, Picnic
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, Ruth Ann, Sue, Twenties recipes


  • 12 Slices white bread, cut thin
  • cup butter, soft
  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp pimientos, cut fine
  • 2 Tbsp Creamy Salad Dressing
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp paprika


  • First we put our cream cheese in a bowl and creamed it by pressing it with a spoon till it was very soft and creamy. We cut the pimientos very fine with the kitchen scissors, and put them in with the cheese. Then we added the salad dressing, salt and paprika, and stirred it all together until it was well mixed.
  • After the cheese mixture was ready we cut 12 slices of bread very thin, and arranged it in pairs that matched so they could be fitted together. Then we spread one piece of bread of each pair with butter and the other slice with the cheese mixture.
  • As soon as all the bread had been spread, we pressed the slices together to make sandwiches. Then we cut them in half to make 3-cornered sandwiches. (You are cutting the sandwich in half diagonally.)
Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Sugar Cookies

Sue and Ruth Ann get ready to cream butter with their “holey” spoons.

When I turned to Lesson 31, where Sue makes Sugar Cookies, I was a little surprised at how filthy the pages were. This recipe from When Sue Began to Cook was spattered with 100 year old flour stains. They sported a dot or two of grease, and even a little splash of age old vanilla extract. Apparently this is an excellent sugar cookie recipe.

This is our 31st lesson from this cookbook, and we’re a little over halfway through the year. My copy of the book was actually missing one of the earlier lessons on walnut fudge. The pages were ripped right out of the book. That must have been a sacred family recipe. If this is your first adventure with Sue and her friend Ruth Ann, click the linked book title in the first paragraph to be transported back to the beginning. A whole story goes along with these cooking lessons and you don’t want to miss any of it.

Last week Sue and Ruth Ann learned how to make a sponge cake and fold egg whites into a batter. This week they cream fat and sugar together. And Sue has lots to say about it…

Sue’s Notes from Sugar Cookies Day

“You may each get out one of the yellow mixing bowls,” Mother said, “and one of the holey spoons.” Ruth Ann and I were both glad because we knew that meant “creaming,” and we like to cream things.

We have a porcelain topped table at our house. It’s just the thing to roll cookies on. Mother had us sprinkle some flour on the clean table so the cookies wouldn’t stick. Then she had us take up half the dough in our hands and roll it together. (Of course, we washed our hands just before we began to make the cookies.) Then we put the dough on the floured table top.

Next we dusted the rolling pin with flour. Mother showed us how to roll out the dough as evenly as possible till it was about an eighth of an inch thick. Then we took the cooky cutter, dipped it into the flour and cut the cookies out. We really took several cooky cutters before we were through. We made our cookies in the shape of stars, ducks, and hearts.)

After we had cut out all the cookies we could, there was still some dough left. Mother had us make a ball of it and roll it out again and cut out some more cookies.

The Neighborhood Cookies

We made “neighborhood cookies” today, and at the time I write this, there isn’t a single one left!

There has been a regular epidemic of painting and yard cleaning in this neighborhood lately. I wrote about the McCarthy’s sudden interest in window washing. Well, after that was all finished they began to paint their house. It was so much fun with everybody standing around and giving advice that Robin and Teddy began to tease to paint something too. Of course, they are much littler than Clarence Patrick and Clyde. So Mother bought them some paint and let them paint the back fence between our yard and Teddy’s.

So today Ruth Ann and I announced that after our cooking lesson we would treat every real “neighborhood worker” to cookies. Everybody, that is, who had spent the whole morning in painting or gardening. Or cleaning up a back yard. Or doing something useful outdoors. It was a wonderful day for work and our cookies melted away like snowballs in August, as Father says. But it was worth it! This is getting to be the cleanest, neatest, shiniest, paintiest neighborhood in town!


And that is how Sue made Sugar Cookies during her Saturday cooking class.

Note: While I correct most of Sue’s atrocious spelling, her spelling of cookie as cooky, when talking about only one, is correct through the 1950s.

Sugar Cookies

From When Sue Began to Cook, by Louise Bennett Weaver
Course: Dessert, Snack, Tea time
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baking, Bettina, cookies, dessert, Ruth Ann, Sue, teatime


  • ½ cup lard Any solid shortening should work here
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2⅓ cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp powdered nutmeg
  • 2 tsp baking powder


  • Measure out the lard into a bowl, and cream it with a wooden spoon (mash it down over and over) until it is very soft. The cookbook suggests using a spoon with a hole in the middle if you have one. Then add the sugar slowly, creaming all the time, until it is all added and well mixed.
  • Break the eggs into a smaller bowl, and add the water and vanilla. Beath this egg mixture up all together with a Dover egg beater and then add it to the sugar mixture. Beat it all up very had with the same spoon until it is well mixed.
  • Now take the dry ingredients and mix them up together, and then stir them into the wet mixture. (Or you can use a sifter, if you have one, and sift the dry ingredients over the bowl.)
  • Roll out until about one-eighth inch thick, and then cut out with a cutter dipped in flour. Grease a cookie sheet and bake in a moderate oven (350-375℉) for fifteen minutes.
Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Sun Drops

Welcome to Lesson 30 of When Sue Began to Cook. We’re working our way through a year’s worth of cooking lessons from the children’s cook book by Louise Bennett Weaver. If this is your first time tuning in, click the book title link to visit Lesson 1. This week Sue makes Sun Drops with her friend Ruth Ann.

Never heard of Sun Drops? Not a surprise. I’ve been reading Twenties recipes for years and this is the first time I’ve heard of them as well. Basically, Sun Drops are cupcakes made with a sponge cake batter. A cake sponge is made from eggs that are separated, with the stiffly beaten egg whites folded in last to give them volume. Many cake recipes from the 1910s through the 1930s were sponge recipes, simply because they required few ingredients, no expensive fats (like butter), and they looked and tasted great when they appeared at the table.

In today’s lesson, Sue learns how to create a cake flour substitute at home instead of buying a box of Swan’s Down. Ingredient storage space was at a premium in Twenties households. So anything that could be whipped up easily as a substitute was welcome, compared to yet another open box. As usual, Sue (or rather, her mother Bettina) has some opinions about the day’s activities:

Sue’s Sun Drops Diary

The Sun Drops looked so good we could hardly wait to try them.

A good sponge cake recipe is a useful thing for a housekeeper to have, Mother says. And she also says that she likes this particular one so much better than any other that this is the only one she uses any more. It doesn’t have to be baked in muffin pans. Very often she makes it in a square cake pan lined with waxed paper. When it’s baked that way, it takes about twenty-five minutes in a moderate oven instead of twenty. [Note: A moderate oven is 350 – 375ºF.]

Sometimes we have sponge cake like this, cut in squares and served with whipped cream, for dessert. Father loves it that way.

Mother says some pleasant day Ruth Ann and I may have a porch party and serve Sun Drops and lemonade for refreshments. They’re fine for an afternoon party or tea, Mother says.

Ruth Ann and I are feeling like grownup cooks today. We’ve learned to make sponge cake!


Sun Drops

Sponge cake cupcakes from When Sue Began to Cook, by Louise Bennett Weaver
Course: Dessert, Tea time
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, cake, Ruth Ann, sponge, Sue


  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp cold water
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 7/8 cup all purpose flour (a full cup minus two tablespoons)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • tsp baking powder
  • tsp salt


  • We took four eggs and separate them. We put the yolks into one bowl and the whites in another. Then we beat the egg yolks until they are light and lemon colored. We measured the cold water and lemon extract into the egg yolks, and then added sugar little by little, stirring all the time until it was all added.
  • Then we measured out one cup of flour. We took two tablespoons of the flour from the cup. This left exactly 7/8 of a cup. Mother had us add the cornstarch and put it in the cup with the flour. This makes a level cup again. [Note: What you are doing here is making cake flour from regular all purpose flour. This is a great process to memorize, because Twenties recipes used a lot of cake flour!]
  • Then we measured out the baking powder and the salt and carefully piled them on top of the flour and cornstarch. We sifted the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda right into the egg yolk mixture. Then we stirred it up very gently but thoroughly.
  • Next we beat up the egg whites until they were very stiff. After they were stiff we let them stand in the bowl for one minute. We emptied the egg whites into the other things and folded them in with a knife. They ought not to be beaten in, but they have to be mixed, so folding them over and over gently with the flat side of a knife is the best way.
  • We greased a muffin pan and then added a little flour to each compartment and shook it around so the pans would be both greased and floured. Then we dropped cake batter in the little compartments with a spoon, filling them about two-thirds full. We had already lighted the oven and it was warm. We baked the little sun drops in a moderate oven (350℉) for about twenty minutes. When they were dont they were a lovely golden brown color.
  • Mother told us not to take them out of the pans right away, but to let them stand for five minutes to cool. Then we helped them out very gently.
Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

How We Made Veal Birds

Welcome to Lesson 29 of When Sue Began to Cook, a Twenties story cookbook for children. This book continues the story of Sue and her best friend Ruth Ann. They learn to cook under the watchful eye of Sue’s mother Bettina. This week she showed them how to make Veal Birds. Bettina is herself a central character in a set of cookbooks by Louise Bennett Weaver. If you’re new to the series, click the book title to be transported back to Lesson 1.

This week Sue and Ruth Ann tell how they made Veal Birds. Veal steaks are no longer available in my local grocery stores, so if I were going to make this I would probably use chicken breast. First I’d cut it to 1/2-inch thickness, and then follow the recipe to see what happens.

Since this is the first time Sue learns to make a stuffed and tied piece of meat, she is quite chatty in the recipe. The recipe itself isn’t long, but the descriptions are. A highlighter might be useful to mark the important parts if you find yourself getting lost in the story of how Sue made Veal Birds.

Notes from Sue’s Diary This Week:

Veal Birds are a company dish at our house. We wanted to make them today because Uncle John and Aunt Lucy were coming in to shop this morning and take Robin and Ruth Ann and me out to the farm to stay over Sunday. School’s out, and we can do lots of nice things we’ve planned to do.

But we’ll go right on with our cooking lessons. I intend to practice the dishes I’ve learned to make over and over, so I’ll never forget them!

I am writing this while we’re waiting for Uncle John and Aunt Lucy. The table is all set, and our Veal Birds are in the oven keeping hot.

Mother says Veal Birds are very convenient to have for company. She says they can be prepared and cooked in the early morning and then reheated. Some people serve them cold in very hot weather. Here come the folks so I must stop.

Veal Birds

From When Sue Began to Cook by Louise Bennett Weaver
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, frying, meats, Ruth Ann, Sue, veal
Servings: 4


  • 1 Oven safe frying pan with oven-safe lid


  • 1 lb veal steak cut 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs (soft, not hard)
  • 2 tbsp salt pork chopped very fine
  • 1 tbsp parsley chopped very fine
  • 1 tbsp green pepper chopped fine (minced)
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp celery salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp water, cold
  • 4 tbsp bacon grease
  • ½ cup water


  • We wiped off our veal with a clean cloth dipped in cold water, and then cut it into four nice pieces. Then we made little cuts across each piece of meat both ways with a knife. Mother told us this would make it lie flat. In cutting, we hammered it down good. Then we sprinkled the salt on both sides of the meat.
  • Next we cut the salt pork and the parsley and the green pepper in quite small pieces so that we could measure it, and then we put it all in the chopping bowl and chopped it up quite fine.
  • Then we each put our fresh bread crumbs, salt pork, parsley, green pepper, paprika, celery salt, melted butter, beaten egg and two tablespoons of water in a mixing bowl and mixed it all up with a spoon. We put a fourth of this mixture on top of each piece of meat. Then Mother showed us how to roll up each piece and tie it with a nice white string so that the dressing would stay inside.
  • The birds were all ready then, so we each put the bacon grease in a deep frying pan and let it get good and hot. Then we put the birds in and let them brown on all sides. After they were good and brown, we poured the water in the pan. Then we covered the pan with a lid and put it in the oven. We let the birds cook in the oven (350 – 375℉) for about forty-five minutes. Mother showed us how to try them with a fork to see if they were good and tender. They were, so she had us take them out and cut the string with the scissors and take it off. Then we put the birds back in the frying pan to keep hot till they were needed.
Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Butterscotch Pudding

In Lesson 28 of When Sue Began to Cook, Sue and her best friend Ruth Ann learn to make butterscotch pudding. This takes place long before the days of boxed puddings. The only way to get a butterscotch flavored pudding was to follow a recipe like this one. If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you’ve seen the girls’ progress in the kitchen. If you’re new to the series, click the linked book title and it should take you to the beginning.

A recipe like Butterscotch Pudding required the cook to be able to beat an egg until it turned light yellow, no easy feat. These days, using an electric mixer or whisk does the job in a fraction of the time. It also requires much less effort. This recipe is made in a double boiler, which is a metal bowl made to fit over a pan. Don’t have a double boiler? Simply use a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat and keep an eye on the mixture.

Sue’s Notes from the Butterscotch Pudding lesson

When our pudding was done, Mother had us pour it into our nice little glass sherbet cups. We set these on the ice-box to cool, and after they were cold enough not to melt the ice, we put them inside to get very cold. Mother says we must remember never to put hot or warm things into the ice-box. It waastes ice.

Butterscotch Pudding is good with either thin cream (which we know as Half & Half, light cream, or coffee cream) or whipped cream. We used thin cream because we didn’t have any that was thick enough to whip.

The little boys come to lunch

Mother allowed Robin to invite Teddy to lunch today, and so Ruth Ann and I decided to make Robin’s favorite dessert, Butterscotch Pudding. Robin and Teddy have really been unusually good to us this Spring, making us each a bird house and all, and we wanted to reward them. Mother said it was a very good idea.

“Will it take all the pudding — both Sue’s and mine — for lunch, Aunt Bettina?” asked Ruth Ann when both our double boilers were bubbling away.

“Why, dear?” Mother asked.

“Well, Grandmother has a headache today, and I thought perhaps she would like one dish of it.”

“There will surely be plenty for that,” Mother said. “I’ll tell you, we’ll fill my pretty little pudding mould with some, and when it is very cold, we’ll slip the pudding out and you can take it home on a pretty plate. Do you girls know what to do to the mould before the pudding is put in, so it will come out easily and smoothly?”

I remembered because I’ve helped Mother fix gelatine in a mould. She dips the mould in cold water just before she adds the pudding. Then when it’s time to serve it, the pudding or gelatine slips out just as easily, with only a little helping!

Butterscotch Pudding

From When Sue Began to Cook by Louise Bennett Weaver
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Bettina, pudding, Ruth Ann, Sue
Servings: 4


  • 1 double boiler pan set or use a heavy pan and keep an eye on it


  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 egg, beaten until it is light yellow
  • ½ tsp vanilla


  • Put sugar, flour, and salt into the upper part of a double boiler and mix it all together until it is lump free. Pour in the milk a little at a time, stirring all the while so it doesn't lump. When all the milk is added, set the upper part of the double boiler over the lower part which is filled halfway with water, and turn on the heat. After the water begins to boil, cook the pudding for 25 minutes by the clock. Every few minutes give it a stir to keep it smooth and even.
  • At the end of the 25 minutes, add the beaten egg and the butter, and cook the pudding two more minutes. Then remove it from the heat and beat it with a spoon for one minute. Add the vanilla and mix it in well. Pour into serving cups and refrigerate.
Cooking Techniques · Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sue Makes Date Nut Bread

In Lesson 27 of When Sue Began to Cook, Sue and Ruth move from salad dressings to quick breads. Date nut bread was a staple of the Twenties household. It provided energy, carbohydrates, something sweet, and a little bit of fruit all in one serving — a Twenties ideal! When Sue makes date nut bread she is learning to make a recipe she will use her entire life.

This recipe uses Graham flour, which is whole wheat flour named for Dr. Sylvester Graham who invented the Graham cracker. This was unsifted wheat with the bran and the germ still in it for nutrition. It also spoiled faster than white flour. You use whatever you like for this receipe. I’ll be using a gluten free one-for-one flour blend.

Sue’s diary for Date Nut Bread

After we carefully took the loaf out of the oven, Mother had us moisten a clean cloth with a little milk and brush it over the top of the loaf. “To soften the crust,” she said.

We didn’t put the bread away till it was cold, and Mother said it outghtn’t to be cut till the next day, or even the day after. Then it will make delicious sandwiches.

There isn’t any doubt in Ruth Ann’s mind as to what she is going to do with her date bread. She is going to make it into sandwiches for the McCarthys! Because the unexpected has happened, and Ruth Ann and I are to blame, or rather, it’s all to our credit.

We coaxed Mother and Mrs. Rambler to let Clarence and Clyde McCarthy wash their windows on the outside, and said we would be around all the time to see that it was well done. And we were. Every time the boys seemed to “slack up” a little bit, we would say, “Oh, what a beautiful piece of work this is!” And we would praise them for a shining pane. Then they would try all the harder.

And the funny part of it is that the very next day after Clarence and Clyde finished at Mrs. Rambler’s house they began to wash the McCarthy windows on the outside! That actually inspired Mrs. McCarthy and Maxine and Muriel to begin to wash windows on the inside, and really, it makes such a difference! Now Clarence and Clyde say they are going to paint the whole house if they can get their older brother Gerald, who lives in Omaha, to lend them the money.

I guess I’ll make some of my date bread into sandwiches for the McCarthys, too.

Date Nut Bread

From When Sue Began to Cook by Louise Bennett Weaver
Course: Dessert, Luncheon
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baking, fruit, nuts, quick breads


  • 1 loaf pan 9 x 5 preferred


  • 2 cups Graham flour (whole wheat)
  • cups white flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped, seeded dates
  • ½ cup nut meats broken up fine
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1⅔ cups milk


  • Mix the white flour, baking powder, soda, and salt together and sift it with the flour sifter. Empty this into a big mixing bowl and add the Graham (whole wheat) flour, dates, and nuts.
  • Add the brown sugar, the molasses, and the milk. Stir it all up with a big spoon until it is well mixed, and then pour it inot a well greased bread pan.
  • Put the loaf into the oven at 350℉ for 50 minutes. When it's done, take it from the oven and let stand for five minutes, then carefully turn it out of the pan. Let the bread cool completely before cutting.
Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

A Christmas Dinner from 1924

Large metal bowl filled with unshelled and half-shelled walnuts. A metal nutcracker sticks out of the nuts at an angle. In the background we see part of a large Victorian style window and a small portion of a huge blazing fireplace.

Traditional meals look really big to us today. For those raised on hamburgers and french fries, or pizza and a soda, the multi-course meal seems huge. To give you an idea, here’s a Christmas dinner from 1924 along with a few recipes. Here you’ll find recipes to make Oyster Cocktail, Chestnut Stuffing, and Frozen Maraschino Pudding.

Why were these meals so lavish? Why did they contain so many courses? Well, for one thing, these big meals hearken from a time when they were cooked by servants and served by servants. Therefore, the person in charge of the meal only cooked. He or she wasn’t engaged in working full time outside the home. Actually, the cook also needed to complete no other housework or errands. The food could be delivered to the house. As a result, the cook could focus completely on turning out dinners like this one, night after night.

Given all that, why do we put forth all this effort? If you want to emulate the habits of the wealthy of old, what better time to go all out than the holidays? Plus, feeding a houseful of people really does take more food. One way to stretch the turkey, or whatever you plan to serve, is to include extra sides and an extra dessert. Even though this creates more work, in the long run it’s easier than making a second turkey or a second main dish.

This Christmas dinner from 1924 was designed to be carried out by one young cook in her early twenties. The magazine touted it as the “new bride’s Christmas dinner.” Can you imagine? This would take a lot of advance planning to pull off well as a solo cook.

Christmas dinner men

Oyster Cocktail
Tomato Bouillon, Whipped Cream
Toasted Saltines
Roast Turkey, Chestnut Stuffing
Giblet Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Baked Onions Squash Soufflé
Jellied Cranberries
Endive French Dressing
Cheese Sticks
Frozen Maraschino Pudding
Sponge Cake
Nuts Bonbons

The courses

This dinner would be served in five or six different courses, one after another. No normal Twenties dining table contained the space for such a repast if served all at once. So, to give you an idea what this looks like, here’s a possible breakdown of the meal:

Course 1: Oyster Cocktail. This is the appetizer.

Course 2: Tomato Bouillon with Whipped Cream. This is the soup course. The whipped cream is unsweetened. It’s just cream, whipped. The saltines accompany the soup.

Course 3: Roast Turkey, Chestnut Stuffing, Giblet Gravy. Accompanied by the vegetables, which are Mashed Potatoes, Baked Onions, Squash Soufflé, and Jellied Cranberries. This is the main course.

Course 4: Endive with French Dressing. This is the salad course, and it appears at the end of the meal. The Cheese Sticks listed under it accompany the salad.

Course 5: Frozen Maraschino Pudding, Sponge Cake, and Coffee. This is the dessert course.

After dinner: Not really considered a course, nuts and candy or mints sit in bowls on the table for nibbling after the completion of dinner. Perhaps guests enjoy them with a second cup of coffee.

If you want to undertake this or a meal like it, most of the items above are easy enough to replicate. Perhaps you already have recipes in your file. Maybe some of them you’ve committed to memory, like Mashed Potatoes. Really, you only need to roast a turkey once to know how it’s done. The next time, and after that, you only need to check to make sure the oven is set, look on the wrapper for hours to cook, and you’ve got it.

If you’d like it vegetarian

Or maybe you’d prefer to replace the turkey with a great nut roast, and make the meal vegetarian. If so, the best nut roast recipe I’ve ever made is the Cheese and Nut Loaf from the Greens cookbook. While this recipe isn’t vintage, it is really good! To help you find your own copy, I’ve linked to a slightly modified recipe from Epicurious in case you don’t have the cookbook on your shelf.

Oyster Cocktail


  • 3/4 cup tomato catsup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • few drops Tabasco sauce, optional
  • 3 dozen oysters
  • 1 stalk celery, for garnish
  • 1/2 green pepper, for garnish

To the catsup add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and celery salt. If you want to add a few drops of Tabasco sauce, do it now.

Add the oysters to the mixture and chill. Serve in cocktail glasses, garnished with finely chopped celery and strips of green pepper.

If you like, you can replace the oysters with clams, lobster, crabmeat, or shrimp.

Recipe makes six servings.

Chestnut Stuffing


  • 3 cups chestnut puree
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup cream

To prepare the chestnut purée, boil a quart of large French chestnuts until tender. Let cool until you can touch them safely. Remove the shells and skins and rub through a sieve. (A food processor would probably also work.)

To the puree add the bread crumbs, butter, and seasonings. Moisten with the cream and mix lightly.

Use this to stuff the turkey, or bake in a casserole dish. To bake in the oven separately, turn the mixture into a buttered or oiled baking dish. Cover the dish with foil. Bake the dressing at 400ºF for 30 minutes. Then, if you want a crispy topping, remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes or so until the top is golden brown.

Frozen Maraschino Pudding


  • 1/2 cup candied pineapple
  • 1/2 cup maraschino cherries
  • 1/4 cup juice from cherries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup cream, whipped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cut the pineapple into small pieces and halve the cherries. Add the cherry juice and let stand several hours.

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff.

Boil the sugar and water together until the syrup spins a thread (238ºF). Pour the hot sugar slowly onto the stiff egg whites. Add salt and beat until cool. (This will cook the egg whites. If you are concerned, you can use pasteurized egg whites in this dish.)

Fold in the cream, which has been whipped until stiff. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and fruit mixture.

Freeze for three hours before serving.

Recipe makes six servings.

An alternate fluffy dessert

If you like the idea of the whipped cream and fruit dessert but the egg whites give you pause, here’s an alternative. This recipe for Fruited Cream Dessert contains many of the same ingredients, minus the egg. You can substitute candied pineapple and cherries for the fruit in this recipe, if you like. Be sure to soak the pineapple in the cherry juice before using. The soaking softens the pineapple.

Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sunday Sandwiches

Twenties recipes are known for their common, everyday ingredients. Most cooks created meals by the season. Unless it was canned from the home garden or available on a grocer’s shelf, all foods appeared within their season of freshness. You would not see asparagus, for instance, outside of spring meals. Even given all that, these Sunday sandwiches appeared a bit odd.

I found them within the pages of The American Needlewoman, an inexpensive magazine (some reports say subscriptions were 25¢ per year). These sandwiches are touted for Sunday evenings, after-theatre snacks, and hurried lunches. I’ll leave you to decide.

These recipes aren’t long enough to warrant their own recipe cards. They are ingredients assembled from the refrigerator and leftovers, placed on bread to form sandwiches.

An odd note

One strange thing about these sandwiches is that they seemed to be topped with a layer of mayonnaise or a slice of cheese. Normally we would put those things inside the sandwich itself. No notes describe whether these were supposed to be eaten by hand, or with utensils.

Creamed Egg Sandwich

You will need:

  • large baking powder biscuits, one per serving
  • butter
  • hard boiled eggs, one per serving, made earlier and chilled
  • white sauce (2 Tb butter, 2 Tb flour combined with 1 cup milk and 1/4 tsp salt to make a sauce)
  • bacon, cooked, probably in 1/2 or 1/3 slices

Split large baking powder biscuits. Brown the cut sides in butter. Spread one side with fresh butter.

Make your white sauce, “well seasoned.” In addition to the 1/4 tsp salt you might add the same amount of pepper. Slice the hard boiled eggs into the white sauce and warm them in the sauce. (If they are cold they will retain their shape better than if freshly boiled.)

Cover the bottom biscuit half with the warm creamed eggs. Set the top on, and cover generously with more of the sauce. Place two thin slices of bacon on top for added flavor.

Rye Sandwich

You will need:

  • rye bread, sliced thin
  • butter
  • cooked ham
  • onion slices
  • cooked bacon slices, 2-3 per sandwich
  • firm ripe tomato
  • mayonnaise
  • whole small dill pickle

Each sandwich requires 3 slices of thin rye. Spread all three sliced with butter.

Mince the ham and onion together. Spread that on the first slice.

Place enough slices of cooked bacon to cover the bread on the second slice. Two to three half slices should do it. Top the bacon with two slices of tomato, and spread mayonnaise over the tomato.

Top with the third slice of bread, butter side down. Slice almost all the way through the small dill, and lay it on top the sandwich as garnish, with the slices fanning out across the top of the bread.

Club Extraordinary

You will need:

  • three slices of toast per sandwich
  • sliced chicken
  • cooked bacon slices
  • sliced tomato
  • melted cheese, cheddar, American, or colby
  • canned lobster, 1 small can
  • mayonnaise

Spread a slice of toast with melted cheese.

Lay one slice of chicken, 2 slices bacon, and a tomato slice or two on the first slice. Cover with mayonnaise and another piece of toast.

On this second toast, spread with melted cheese again, and top with chopped canned lobster. Spread with a layer of mayonnaise, and top with the remaining slice of toast.

Combination Sandwich

You will need:

  • rye, wheat, and white bread slices, one of each per sandwich
  • chopped pickle, dill
  • cold sliced pork
  • minced ham
  • cheese slices, either cheddar, colby or American
  • butter

Take one slice of each kind of bread. Butter one side of all.

Spread one slice with chopped pickle, one with sliced pork, and one with minced ham. Put them together (presumably with the pickle and one of the meats facing. Or not.)

Top the sandwich with a slice of cheese.

Olive Sandwich

You will need:

  • two slices bread per sandwich
  • cold lamb
  • cold pork
  • olives
  • mayonnaise
  • butter

Make a filling by chopping together the lamb, pork, and olives. You might use 1 cup lamb, 1 cup pork, 1/2 cup olives, or a similar combination. Blend the chopped ingredients with mayonnaise until it holds together.

Spread the white bread with butter on one side. Top the bottom piece generally with the mixture.

Set the top slice on the sandwich, butter side down. Spread a layer of mayonnaise on top of the bread.

Final notes

See? These Sunday sandwiches are… unusual. They would be great for an off-beat picnic luncheon, with sandwiches safely packed in a cooler. These contain a lot of eggs and mayo. If you have the ingredients on hand, or can easily get ahold of them, they also might make an interesting after-holiday supper. After the turkey or ham is devoured and we’re all a wee bit hungry, bring out these sandwiches for a complete change of pace. Who knows? One of them might become a family favorite.

If you’re looking for something a bit more standard, but still unusual, this Tea Sandwiches article might be the thing.

Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Homemade Christmas Candies

1920s illustration. Blue bowl sits on a table surrounded by red and green holly. The bowl is piled high with candy of all different shapes and colors. Pink, green, white, and brown squares and rounds fill the bowl.

The candy counter was a popular destination for shoppers. Chocolate Hershey bars, Teaberry gum, and a host of other sweets kept everyone’s sugar-loving tooth happy. For a nickel you could take home a small candy bar, if you made it that far without devouring it. Even so, one of the most popular Christmas gifts continued to be homemade Christmas candies.

Friends and far-flung family alike anticipated the arrival of the yearly candy box. Special homemade Christmas candies such as taffy, fudge, hard peppermints, and even gumdrops nestled happily against one another in the small tin. Some looked forward to the arrival of the tin all year. Homemade Christmas candies were a gift to treasure, and few turned up their noses at such an offering.

This worked to the candy maker’s advantage as well. For the price of a little sugar, chocolate or cocoa, and flavorings (some of which lasted for years on the pantry shelf) a home cook turned out enough candy for the family at home as well as friends and family local and far. A candy recipe makes a huge amount of sugar-laden food for one or two people. Fitting two or three of each kind of candy into a box made a beautiful presentation, and enough filled boxes left the candy maker with just enough of the sweets for home use.

Today I offer some of the old recipes so you can get a start on your home homemade Christmas candies box. Or platter. Or however you want to serve it, send it, or eat it. These recipes for Persian Sweets, Christmas Fudge, Boston Cream, and Frosted Gum Drops are only a few of the candy recipes available.

Note: If you are making candy, and boiling sugar of any kind, you will need a large, deep saucepan. A three to four-and-a-half quart pan should work well. Sugar will boil up and over the top of a pan, creating a burn hazard. The large pan helps to safeguard against this. Please be careful.

Persian Sweets

This recipe is uncooked and easy to throw together if you have the ingredients and a few holes in your candy box. Why this is called Persian Sweets, I have no idea. Other variations of this, with different fruits added, are known as Fruit Rolls. You will need:

  • One cup chopped raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar, or enough to cover the candy
  • waxed paper

Mix the raisins, dates, and nuts together. This will be sticky. Knead on a board that you’ve covered with powdered sugar. Knead it until the mass sticks together well.

Roll the candy with a rolling pin, also coated with powdered sugar so it doesn’t stick. Roll until the candy is 1/2-inch thick.

Cut into small squares, no more than 1-inch square. One-half inch squares would make nice cubes, somewhat like Kraft caramels.

Roll the cut squares in powdered sugar until well covered. Wrap each square in waxed paper.

This will keep quite a while if packed in a tin or airtight container. It would be a good candy to send long distances.

Christmas Fudge

This is a chocolate-flavored fudge with a little molasses. It also contains no cream. You will need:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 rounded Tablespoons butter (each Tbsp would be about 1 1/3 Tbsp, so 2 2/3 Tbsp total)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, bar form, grated (Lindt and Ghiradelli both offer baking chocolate)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Large, deep saucepan
  • pans for holding the fudge: 8 x 8 baking pan, loaf pans, etc.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, but do not let it brown.

Remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the sugars, molasses, and water.

Boil the mixture 2 minutes. Add grated chocolate and boil for 5 minutes. Always count the time from the point that bubbling begins.

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Cool. Then beat vigorously and spread into pans.

Mark into squares. When the mixture is cold, cut the pieces apart with a sharp knife.

Boston Cream

This is reminiscent of the Boston Cream Pie, without the cake.

You will need:

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup white syrup (Karo or another brand corn syrup)
  • 1 cup sweet cream (whipping cream, whole cream)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate (Lindt or Ghiradelli baking chocolate)
  • Large, deep saucepan
  • Buttered pans for cooling the candy. A loaf pan would work well, or even several miniature loaf pans.

Boil the sugar, syrup, and cream to a soft ball. In other words, you bring the mixture to a boil. Take a tiny bit on the tip of a spoon and drop it into a glass of ice cold water. The mixture should form a ball in the water but squish when you bring it out of the water. That is a soft ball. It is also 238ºF on a candy thermometer.

Once it reaches soft ball stage, remove the pan from the heat. Beat until the candy is white and smooth. This is going to take a while if you do it by hand.

Beat in the nuts and the flavoring. Turn into deep buttered pans to cool.

When cold, melt the chocolate and pour the chocolate over the top of the candy. Let it stand for several days to ripen.

Cut into slices to serve.

Frosted Gum Drops

These red and green jewels will brighten any candy plate.

You will need:

  • 4 level tablespoons gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • red, yellow, and green food coloring
  • wintergreen or peppermint flavoring oil
  • clover flavoring oil
  • lemon flavoring oil
  • rose oil or flavoring extract
  • granulated sugar for rolling
  • Large deep saucepan for candy making

Soak the gelatin in the cold water for five minutes. Stir in the boiling water until completely dissolved.

Add the sugar and boil for 25 minutes from the time boiling begins, stirring constantly. If you don’t keep it moving it will stick and burn.

Pour the syrup into 4 heatproof containers. When it cools, flavor and color them. Use a drop or two of lemon oil for the first container. Do not color it. For container 2, use a drop or two of green and flavor with wintergreen. For container 3, use yellow coloring and rose flavor. If you use extract rather than oil, you will need a bit more than a drop. For container 4, use red and flavor with clove.

Pour each candy into a small pan that has been dipped into cold water. Loaf pans or other small pans would work.

Refrigerate overnight. Cut into cubes with a knife dipped in boiling water. Roll each piece in granulated sugar until well coated.

Set aside for two days to crystallize.

Note: These flavor and color suggestions are very vintage. If you’d rather use blue food coloring and blackberry flavoring, do so.

More options

Once you get started, candy making can become an obsession. It’s fun to do and generally popular. Taffy pulls bring people together. For that matter, so does a big plate of fudge surrounded by fresh cups of coffee!

Every candy box has a hole where you can tuck just one more thing. If you find yourself in that position, take a look at this no-cook recipe for Easy Fondant Cream Mints. They were a huge hit at my house.