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 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!