Sue Makes Potato Salad

Lesson 32 of When Sue Began to Cook finds Ruth Ann and Sue making Potato Salad. Once the ingredients are cooked and chilled, putting together the salad requires little effort. Sue’s mother Bettina has already cooked the potatoes and the eggs and refrigerated them. Everything is ready for the girls’ lesson. If this is your first foray into When Sue Began to Cook, click the linked title to see the first cooking lesson. That’s where the story begins, as Sue and her mother Bettina concoct the idea of cooking lessons to help a grieving young friend.

As always, we peek into Sue’s notes for the day’s lessons and her plans for the finished food…

Sue’s Notes as she makes Potato Salad

Ruth Ann and I both know how to boil potatoes. We have done it lots of times lately when we weren’t having a lesson. So Mother excused us from that this morning. We used some cold ones left over from dinner last night becuase the potatoes ought to be very cold when you make potato salad out of them.

We didn’t boil the eggs ourselves, either, but it wasn’t cheating because we already knew just how and Mother said they had to be cold, too.

Fourth of July

Ruth Ann and I are a committee of two — a secret committee — to promote a Harmless Fourth of July in this neighborhood! [This particular lesson is dated June 30, so the Fourth is on Sue’s mind.]

It was all Mother’s idea in the first place. You see, Robin came home with his head full of exciting stories about the fireworks that Teddy and Clarence Patrick and Clyde and all the other boys were going to buy — big cannon crackers and everything. He wanted to take the money out of his tin bank right away and go down and buy fireworks too.

Mother managed to make him put it off for a few days while she talked to Ruth Ann and me. “Can’t you get the boys interested in a Harmless Neighborhood Fourth? A parade and a picnic lunch and a ball game and other things? We won’t have any fireworks except evening ones, and the fathers will manage those. If you girls can make it all seem really interesting, I’m sure the boys will agree.”

Well, it wasn’t a bit hard after the idea was once launched and today Ruth Ann and I have been learning to make Potato Salad. Because we’re going to make al lteh Potato Salad for the Neighborhood Picnic on the Fourth, and it must be the best salad there ever was.


Note: The recipe calls for Creamy Salad Dressing. Click the link to see that lesson.

Sue Makes Potato Salad

Recipe from When Sue Began to Cook.
Course: Luncheon, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American


  • 2 cups boiled potatoes, diced cold
  • 2 eggs, hard boiled, diced cold
  • ¼ cup sweet pickles cut up fine
  • ¼ cup celery cut up fine
  • 1 Tbsp onion cut up fine
  • tsp salt
  • tsp paprika (a rounded ¼ tsp is ⅓ tsp)
  • cup Creamy Salad Dressing thinned with a little cream
  • Lettuce to put under the potato salad in a serving bowl


  • We diced the potatoes very carefully, and we also diced the hard cooked eggs. The potatoes and the hard boiled eggs both need to be cold.
  • We cut up the celery with the kitchen scissors, and also cut the sweet pickle and the onion with them. The onion had to be snipped very fine.
  • When the food was all cut up we added the salt and paprika and mixed it in a big bowl. After it was well mixed we stirred in the salad dressing.
  • We lined a bowl with cold crisp lettuce and put our salad in it. Then we set the bowls in the icebox to keep cold until they were needed.


Note: The Creamy Salad Dressing used in this recipe is also from When Sue Began to Cook. It is from Lesson 26.
Cooking Techniques · The Vintage Kitchen · Uncategorized

Sue Makes Spanish Rice

This is Lesson 16 from When Sue Began to Cook, a cookbook in the Bettina cookbook series by Louise Weaver and Helen LeCron. Sue and her friend Ruth Ann are learning to cook from Sue’s mother Bettina, a 1920s master of the kitchen. If this series is new to you, click the link to be transported back to Lesson 1.

This week Sue and Ruth Ann learn to make Spanish Rice. The recipe for Spanish Rice has changed quite a bit over the past 100 years. I don’t make it now like I made it in the 1980s, even. And this recipe is older still.

Once in a while you will find a recipe for Spanish Rice in an antique periodical, but not often. Of the three 1920s cookbooks I consulted from the shelf, the recipe appeared in only one of them, and it was similar but a different version and a completely different preparation. You may find Sue’s comments and description of cooking rice a bit hilarious. I know I did. Unless you want to recreate this for historical purposes, please don’t cook rice like pasta. The rice will thank you.

Sue’s Spanish Rice Diary

We had Jean and Aunt Alice here to lunch and Mother let us serve the Spanish Rice we made this morning! And they each had two helpings of it!

Mother doesn’t believe in making company of people. She says the very nicest way of all is to have things simple and dainty and good all of the time, and then you don’t mind who happens in — you’re always ready. (But of course Mother keeps her Emergency Shelf stocked with extras, so she always knows there is plenty of food in the house.)

But to get back to my story. Mother told us this was a good time to have a lesson in table setting and she said she would make it a company meal, so that it would be more interesting. “We’ll ‘phone to Jean and Aunt Alice and see if they can’t come over.”

“But will Spanish Rice be enough to give them?” I asked.

“Spanish Rice and hot chocolate, and a good fruit salad,” said Mother. “And for dessert we’ll have some burnt sugar cake with whipped cream. That’s enough for anybody. You girls can make the Spanish Rice and set the table, and I will attend to the rest.”

Of course I knew in a general way how a table should be set, but Ruth Ann didn’t, and so Mother gave us a regular lesson on the subject and the table really did look lovely. (We used a tablecloth this time and not doilies.)

Spanish Rice from When Sue Began to Cook

Sue and Ruth Ann learn to make Spanish Rice in 1924
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: lesson, rice, Twenties
Servings: 6


  • cup rice to make 1½ cups cooked instructions for cooking in recipe
  • ½ cup bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion we cut it very fine with the chopper in the wooden bowl
  • 2 tbsp green pepper also chopped fine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 2 cups tomato pulp This can be pureed tomatoes or diced tomatoes pureed in a blender or food processor, with part of the juice


  • Mother said this was a good time for us to learn to make good boiled rice. (She doesn't think very many people make it right.) She had us each wash two-thirds of a cup of rice by putting it in a fine meshed sieve and holding it under the faucet till the rice was clean. Then we each put five and a third cups of boiling water in a saucepan and added the rice. (Rice ought to be cooked in eight times as much water as there is rice.) Then we added 2/3 of a level teaspoon of salt. (There ought to be a level teaspoon of salt for each cup of rice.) I forgot to say that Mother had us put the rice in the saucepan slowly so the water wouldn't stop bubbling.
  • We boiled the rice (the water bubbling all the time) for twenty minutes by the clock, and stirred it with a fork every once in a while during the cooking. (A fork is better than a spoon because a spoon mashes it down and makes it mushy.)
  • When the rice had cooked long enough, we poured it into a strainer and let the liquid drain off, and then we let cold water from the faucet run through the cooked rice to wash off the extra starch. Then our boiled rice was ready to be used.
  • To make the Spanish Rice, we put the pieces of bacon in a frying pan (of course I mean that Ruth Ann and I each had a frying pan) and when the pan was hot we added the onion and the green pepper. We cooked it all, stirring around all the time with a fork, until the onion was brown.
  • Then we added the salt, paprika, and boiled rice, and kept on cooking and stirring until the rice was light brown. Then we added the tomato pulp and cooked it together for about ten minutes more. It was quite thick by that time. Then it was ready to be poured into hot dishes and served.


The 2/3 tsp salt in cooking the rice is in addition to the 1 tsp salt that goes into the finished Spanish Rice recipe. Omit the salt from cooking the rice if you like. 

The American Needlewoman’s December Calendar

A toddler in one-piece pajamas touches a low hanging glass ball on a Christmas tree while his older sister sits in front of him, her hands raised in delight at the sight of a new doll. The girl is dressed in a white nightgown and a red flowered house robe. From 1924, The American Needlewoman magazine.
December dreams in 1924.

The American Needlewoman started its life as The American Woman. This magazine came from Augusta, Maine. The Maine magazines publishers produced magazines primarily so they could sell a product. Many of these magazines cost nothing, or next to nothing. Their point was advertising. The American Needlewoman only lasted from 1923 to 1927. Today I introduce one of this magazine’s unique features: The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar.

First, a little more about the magazine. This magazine was cheap. Its paper is so bad that it makes old newsprint look good. The cover is made from paper the publisher used for the interior pages of its more expensive and popular magazine. If not the same paper grade, it is very close. The covers of this magazine show rather plain illustrations. A large portion of the December 1924 cover appears as the photo for this post. I couldn’t include the entire thing because the copy I received has a badly water stained cover.

A rural magazine

The American Needlewoman was designed to sell to rural housewives. It contained some needlework, not a lot. Readers found several stories and a few regular departments as well. Although the stated subscription price was $0.50 per year, subscription “deals” brought the price closer to $0.25. For the last half of the magazine, advertisements fill at least half of every page.

This gives you a bit of background into the magazine. While paging through I found a section called the December Calendar. The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar was not really a horoscope. Sometimes those appeared in magazine pages. Other magazine monthly calendars specified a particular meal or food to serve each day. This served as a meal planning calendar. It was designed to help the busy home manager.

The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar did neither of these. It was more like a calendar of encouragement. Sometimes they appeared in poetry, other times prose. Here are some excerpts.

December 1, Monday

There’ll be plenty of good things to see to-day,
Plenty of chances to smile and be gay;
Let us all keep so busy these blessings to spy
That the glooms and the grouches will all pass us by.

December 4, Thursday

Thought is creative. I do not mean to say that
what you wish for timidly and doubtingly you will
always get; but what you will, what you strive for,
what you aim at, will certainly lead to the goal as
surely as a rifle-bullet seeks the target it is aimed

December 5, Friday

A blot upon the paper
Is surely out of place,
But it isn’t half so ugly
As a frown upon the face.

December 8, Monday

Keep busy; there is always something that
needs you. No matter though it does seem
insignificant and “not worth the powder” ––
do it, and to the very best of your ability. Then
take the next thing in line; you will find every
duty a stepping-stone if you put love into
your work.

December 11, Thursday

It matters not though you plod along
And cannot keep abreast
Of those who lead––if you sing a song,
And sincerely do your best.

December 18, Thursday

Bear in mind that you draw to yourself the conditions
that you persist in talking about, and that you have
the power to make your conversation what you will.
You can talk about prosperity or poverty, health or
sickness, happiness or sorrow. The choice is yours.

December 24, Wednesday

The very best gift you can bestow upon your friend
is the resolution that henceforth you will see only the
good qualities in him, closing your mental vision to
all others. For thus you bring the good more and more
into expression, and that which is not good falls away.

December 25, Friday

All trees are Christmas-trees that bear
The care of love and love of care.
To cultivate a Christmas-tree
Plant it in love and let it be.
Gold for misfortune it will keep,
Light in the darkness it will give:
Its truth will blossom while you sleep,
Its happy kindness while you live.

December 29, Monday

The little tasks that throw their shade across each working day
Are like the darning we must do before our hands can lay
The gentle stitches in a bit of fragile, whisplike lace––
For each task has its bit of life––each fragment has its place!


While these seem to be encouraging, many of them contain the positive platitudes common in the Twenties. The you can do it attitude stood in stark contrast to actual happenings in the cities and villages of the nation.

  • Don’t worry about the rising prices of everything! — If you simply think about peace, there will be peace.
  • Be not concerned that you can’t sell your wheat and make ends meet! — Think of yourself as a world-creator.
  • Losing the farm because you can’t make this year’s payment? — Believe in joy until it comes.

The italicized comments are drawn from this month’s inspirational calendar.

Not a new invention, the magazine’s calendar carried over from its time as The American Woman. Issues from the early Twenties show the same type of upbeat, inspirational, get-it-done type of daily readings. I can imagine a farm wife turning to these writings day after day, and wondering why she feels depressed.

I think these were designed to truly bring inspiration to readers. And maybe they did. However, I wonder if the publishers Vickery and Hill took their knowledge of Maine farms and tried to apply it to others. Like farmers who lived through the Dust Bowl experience.

The American Needlewoman was renamed once again in 1927, to Modern Homemaking. The editors reduced needlework to two articles and filled the pages with stories, fashions, and miscellaneous articles. The monthly calendar survived the name change once again.

See it for yourself

If you would like to see a copy for yourself, The April, 1926 issue of The American Needlewoman lives at The Internet Archive. Download it and see what you think.

The Vintage Bookshelf · Uncategorized · Vintage Entertainment

Daddy-Long-Legs: novel and commentary

Cover of Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Cover of the original release.

Jerusha Abbott has a problem. She is about to age out of the orphanage where she’s spent her entire life. As far as she knows she’s never been anywhere else. The orphan home’s director even gave her name to her: Jerusha was out of the Bible, and Abbott from the telephone directory.

Thus begins the story of Jerusha “Judy” Abbott. She learns that her college board and tuition will be covered by one of the orphan home Trustees. Her main requirements are to work hard and to send her benefactor a letter every month. There’s only one problem. She doesn’t know his name.

The orphanage director tells Jerusha to address her letters to Mr. John Smith. Jerusha saw the man’s shadow in passing on Trustee Visiting Day, so she knows he is tall. She names her new friend Daddy-Long-Legs.

A commentary in the novel

This month I’m reading Daddy-Long-Legs, by Jean Webster. She was Mark Twain’s grand-niece. This book is an epistolary novel, meaning that its action unfolds one letter after another. An enduring favorite, this is my fourth time reading it. One of the things I love about Daddy-Long-Legs is that it is a sweet novel, but also a commentary on the world it portrays.

Daddy-Long-Legs tells the story of Jerusha growing up and experiencing the world. We see her world only through her letters to her benefactor. But the book also tells much more. Beyond the mysterious millionaire and his protégé, the book speaks of the frustrations and culture of its time. Jerusha reaches adulthood, but she cannot vote. The book’s publication date is 1912, and women didn’t vote until the presidential election of 1920. That’s eight years away from the world of Jean Webster.

Jerusha marvels at her roommates who grew up in luxury. Then she contrasts it to her own upbringing, and the differences become apparent. She muses on the social class differences in her world, and gives us a look at the very poor. She has a dream of social progress and of making her own way, but to see if she succeeds at either you will have to read the book.

Webster uses Daddy-Long-Legs to discuss the current (1912) place of women in society and life. In this, Daddy-Long-Legs is both novel and social commentary. Because the subjects come from Jerusha as she discovers life, the topics seem natural and not preachy. For that reason alone the book is worth the time to read it. Webster wrote other books, including a sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs, but this is her best known.

Because the book dates from 1912, it contains conventions and ideas of its time. However, I was surprised at how forward-thinking it was in several areas. You can enjoy Daddy-Long-Legs as a novel, as social commentary, or as both.

Experience it yourself

Daddy-Long-Legs saw several movie adaptations, beginning with the 1919 Mary Pickford version you can watch on YouTube here. In 1955 Fred Astaire starred in Daddy-Long-Legs, but the Astaire version differs considerably from the book. If you are an Astaire fan, read the book first. It will only a take a few hours.

You can read Daddy-Long-Legs online at Wikisource, or download a copy from the Internet Archive.