Column: No shortage of food for the 1930 holiday season

Editor's note: This column originally appeared in the Nov. 17, 2007, edition of the Daily Globe. WORTHINGTON -- Thanksgiving. Food. Let's talk about this. Herbert Hoover was not popular when he left the White House. I wondered lately if that unpo...

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in the Nov. 17, 2007, edition of the Daily Globe.

WORTHINGTON - Thanksgiving. Food.
Let’s talk about this.
Herbert Hoover was not popular when he left the White House. I wondered lately if that unpopularity might be due, in part, to the fact that his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, urged people to eat caramel tomatoes. You know caramel apples. Now we are talking caramel tomatoes.
Some time ago I came on a cook book “compiled by the ladies of the Methodist Church of Worthington, Minnesota, December, 1930.” We are more than three-quarters of a century beyond that date. This is a fascinating book.
Mrs. Hoover sent the Methodist ladies her favorite recipe. That’s how I got started on caramel tomatoes. Calvin Coolidge was a popular president. Calvin’s wife, Grace, sent a recipe for doughnuts. I guess everyone likes doughnuts, although the first ingredient in Mrs. Coolidge’s doughnut recipe seems strange: one cup mashed potatoes.
The Methodist ladies’ cook book is from a time before refrigerators. Everything must be taken out of or put into an ice box. They were dealing with a lot of sour cream and a lot of vegetables straight from their gardens. This is why there are more than a dozen recipes for pickles, plus sweet pickle carrots and green tomato catsup. This is why they consider even Potato Cake.
I know marshmallows could be bought in 1930 but the ladies offered several recipes for marshmallows. Recipes for noodles. Recipes for ice cream.
You might know there are things that set saliva flowing just reading names: Peanut Butter Bread. Pineapple Skillet Cake. Fluffy Ruffles Lemon Pie. Butter Scotch Pie. Orange Sponge Cake with orange juice and grated orange rind. Orange Sponge Cake had to be, “Wow!”
Some unusual salad suggestions: tomato stuffed with asparagus; grapefruit with French dressing; apple, celery and green pepper salad.
There also are practical suggestions:
“Wash your hands in milk after handling fish to remove odor. To prevent new clothes pins from splitting, let them stand in cold water a few hours. Paint the bottom cellar step white.
“The table may be bare wood or covered with oil cloth … it must be clean.”
Although the ladies all are gone, there are names which still are found in Worthington directories. Sather, Rickbeil, Hansberger, Shore, Habicht.
Mrs. Ed Miller and Mrs. George Goodrich were ahead of their time. They offered Worthington residents a recipe for Hot Tamales. Mrs. Carl Kall had a spaghetti dish which she called Dago.
There are recipes so novel they require explanation. Mrs. Ira Pickett explained: Hot Chocolate Sauce (It’s For Ice Cream).
I do some manner of cooking nearly every day but I am not a cook. (You know the difference between cook and cooker.) No matter. I decided if I am going to get caught up in a cook book from more than three-quarters of a century gone by, if I am going to write about a vintage cook book, I need to test at least one recipe.
I decided on Date Roll because Date Roll requires no cooking.
You take (no matter that you don’t cook) - you take:
Fifteen graham crackers. Fifteen marshmallows. Smash the graham crackers to crumbs with a rolling pin on a piece of wax paper. Cut the marshmallows into pieces.
Now pour out a half-cup of peanuts. Dry roasted are fine. Take one package of pitted dates. Cut the dates into pieces. (Don’t use the whole package.) One more ingredient: one-half cup milk.
Put everything in a bowl and mix it up. Graham crackers, marshmallows, peanuts, dates, milk.
When you get it mixed, put it on another sheet of wax paper and shape it into a roll. I shaped a thing that looked like my rolling pin without handles. Directions say, “Let sit overnight in the ice box.” Then slice the roll into cookie-shaped pieces about one-inch thick.
What I ended up with is - well, not bad. Maybe a healthy kind of thing; marshmallows, but no sugar.
I stumbled onto something. I froze those round slices. Wrapped each slice and froze it. I put a frozen slice in the microwave for about 40 seconds. Things improve. The microwave melts the marshmallows. This really takes the cake.
I tell people they are getting a popular American dessert from a time even before the Great Depression. They say, “Not too bad. Really.”

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.

What To Read Next
Virtual author talks offered every Tuesday in February.
Welcome Corps is geared to fast-track refugees, many of whom have waited years to be resettled. The goal is to welcome 5,000 refugees to the U.S. this year, the first to arrive as early as April.
Professional researcher Debbie Boe will give an introduction to family history research for new genealogists.
Parga and fellow SWIF staff will lead the foundation’s Grow Our Own framework, focused on helping southwest Minnesota kids and families reach their full potential from cradle to career.