Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lucile Isenberg's OSU textbook from Cooking Class 1920's

My review today is courtesy of Sarah Myers who has graciously given me her mom's vintage cookbook to share with you. Sarah's mother, Lucile Isenberg (formerly of 111 West St., Stillwater, Oklahoma), used the Textbook of Cooking for a class she attended at Oklahoma State University in the 1920's, however, the book's copyright is 1915! The textbook was written by Carlotta Greer and published by the Curtis-Johnson Printing Company.

I was very careful while reading this fragile article of cooking history, and taking notes for the review. It's easy to see that the book has been taken care of, but just because of its age,the pages are dry and the glue on the binding is starting to give way.

This cookbook has a unique style because it's written as a scientific book on cooking. As most textbooks, it's matter-of-fact tone is evident from the beginning. Every cooking method, type of food, and its composition are discussed in a very basic way. Greer states that the book's aim is, "to lay the foundation for skill in cooking by directing the pupil to follow established recipes and to treat processes of cooking as experiments in a scientific study." That is precisely the way the chapters are put together: presentation of subject matter (for example, root vegetables) , methods of preparation, recipes, experiment, questions.

As with any old book, some of the information on dietary matters and such have changed over the years, but as an article of the history of cooking and food, this book is a piece of Americana. You can see how our cooking methods have changed since 1915. It has a picture of a fireless cooker, and talks about wood stoves and the "modern" gas and electric ranges. I found the chapter on the dietary needs of children especially fascinating:

p. 385 Meals for One Day

Child 2-4 years old

breakfast: 7:30 a.m. oatmeal mush, milk, stale bread, orange juice

lunch: 11:00 a.m. milk, stale bread, butter

dinner: 1 p.m. baked potato, boiled onion ( mashed), bread and butter, milk, baked apple

supper: 5:30 p.m. boiled rice, milk, bread and butter

Fuel value, 1313 calories; protein, 191.2 calories cost,$o.13
Substitutions or additions: rolled wheat, wheaten grits, farina, hominy and corn meal
prune pulp or applesauce

My, how times and ideas have changed! This cookbook had many interesting items. I will treasure it, because I'm honored that a reader gave it to me so that I might share some of its contents with you. I'm sure that her mother, Lucile, became a great cook. The sample recipe today will be one that she wrote in the front of this book's cover:

Grandma's Boiled Custard
4 C milk
6 egg yolks
5 TBSP sugar
1 tsp vanilla or rum extract

Scald milk. Add sugar and vanilla to lightly beaten egg yolks. Pour milk over egg mixture a little at a time. Place in double boiler. Cook only til mixture coats spoon. Beat 6 egg whites stiff; fold into custard while hot from stove. Sprinkle nutmeg over top, if desired.

I will be linking to: Grocerycartchallenge for today's recipe swap. Also Designsby Gollum and FoodonFridays.


  1. Oh how interesting!! I loved reading about this. :) We have chickens and are abundantly blessed with fresh eggs...I may just give this a try.

  2. Your custard is lovely. Do you have any suggestions as to how and use the egg whites?

  3. That cookbook is a treasure. I'd love to own something so great. I had to click over from Gayle's blog as soon as I saw Boiled Custard. My Grandma made it every holiday. It was our tradition to drink it while we strung the lights on the Christmas tree. Our recipe is a bit different...a dozen eggs...and a secret ingredient that I've not seen on any recipe site yet. A true family tradition. =0)Thanks for sharing the kids daily diet. We've been trying out meals from different eras as part of our homeschooling. I'm not sure my kids would like this for a whole day...

  4. I haven't had boiled custard in a LONG time! Happy Foodie Friday! Have a great weekend ~ Susan

  5. that cookbook is a treasure, although I'm not too sure about the emphasis on "stale bread" for kids! How funny.

    But the custard is classic; remember Jo and her sisters bringing Blanc mange to Laurie in Little Women? I remember making my Mom prepare some for us so we could taste it!


  6. Some of the old recipes are still the best!

  7. Thank you for the review of Mother's book. I am not ashamed to say I cried a few tears. Yes she was a good cook,much better than I.
    A little note: It was believed that stale bread was eaiser for children to chew and wouldn't wad up and choke the child. I learned that in my Home Ec classes in the 40's. Thank you Marcia for a excellant review. Sarah

  8. Boiled custard is my favorite!! I have several really old cookbooks from my great grandmother--one has a chapter titled "recipes for for the frail"! They sound awful!! :) Thanks for sharing this heirloom with us.