Saturday, December 05, 2009

Holiday Menus Circa 1927

Weekend Cooking is a meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads. It is so loosely structured that even a non-cooking curmudgeon like me can join in. If you'd like to see what others are contributing, click on the Weekend Cooking graphic at the top of this post to be taken to the heart of the action.

I'm still having fun reading my grandmother's "go to" book on cooking and housewifery, the 1927 edition of Everyday Foods. I imagine I'll be sharing other goodies from the book, but this weekend I wanted to provide a glimpse into typical holiday menus from that era.

Here's a scan directly from the book showing an elaborate Thanksgiving menu, and a simple Thanksgiving dinner menu:

The menus contain items that I'd never heard of before, and the authors go on to say

The Christmas menu is not unlike that of Thanksgiving. Turkey is usually the main course, but roast goose also has a time-honored place on the Christmas dinner table. Sometimes a whole roast pig with a red apple in its mouth may be the main dish for the Christmas dinner.

Plum pudding with hard sauce, or fruit cake frequently displaces the pumpkin or mince pie. Ice cream is also a favorite dessert. Candies of all kinds are in high favor, and much is made of appropriate table decorations.

How do these menus compare to your holiday menus? Are they very similar or very different? This book places emphasis on table linens and decorations, but the people in my family were all farm folk who placed more importance on the food on the table than the decorations. Table linens only get dirty and have to be washed. Table decorations mean less room for food. Now that I have my own house, I tend to blend the two as much as possible: lots of food on a table set with linens and special china, glassware, flatware and serving pieces. What are some of the holiday meal traditions that have been handed down in your own families?


  1. Cathy - These menus are really cool! Really gives a good perspective on the culture of the time, too. Trust me, nothing I put together is ever that elaborate : ).

  2. The simple meal is none too simple! I love the addition of mints -- just to fancy it up a bit, I suspect.

    I love to set a really pretty table, but I usually don't have much of a centerpiece -- just candles. I like more room for the food, too!

    I'm wondering about that frozen punch in the middle of the elaborate menu -- does that mean it is served after the main mean and before the salad?

  3. actually, they are quite similar to our Thanksgiving and Christmas goose though. I do have a vague memory of a goose once..I wonder if my mother really made one.

    but the turnips..creamed shrimp for the scallops..
    plum pudding..check
    fruitcake (as a posted on my Christmas cake post)..check

    now if I could just get someone to roast a pig!

  4. I think holidays evolve with time for families. We used to set the table with the china, crystal, silverware and best linens. It was a huge amount of work as I insisted that the linens be ironed (by me)the day before and everything was always home made. Now we are the "old folk" who travel 1300 miles just to be with our kids and grandchildren. We are down to plastic plates and paper napkins. This year one of my daughters bought (gasp) the pies. but we were all together and that's what mattered. Actually, I don't think i would go back to the old days.

  5. I bet that book is a lot of fun to peruse. I love that both the elaborate and simple menus include olives!

  6. I love looking at these old menus! I can see how current holiday menus have evolved from here. I do haul out the good china, crystal, linens, etc. for the holidays - but Kaye's sentiment rules for us, too. It's being together that is the most important!

  7. Everytime I see goose on a menu it makes me want to give it a try, but I never have the courage for it. I keep telling myself one of these days.....

  8. How fun to look at this old menu. Some things ring a memory bell for me - the turnips and onions. I hope you will share more from this book. I like looking back to see how things used to be.

  9. Margot K-- Don't worry. I'm not much on elaborate either!

    Beth-- I'm wondering if that means it's not served at room temperature and has ice in it?

    Caite-- I have a friend in the UK who roasted a pig today. She sent a photo of it in the pan having just been put in the oven, and the poor thing looked as though it had just settled down for a nap.

    Kaye-- You're definitely right: being together is what counts, not linens or paper plates. I've celebrated both ways, and I will say that the fancy table setting way is always better with some help!

    Kathy-- I noticed that, too, especially since I don't care for olives at all!

    JoAnn-- Precisely!

    Ryan-- My grandmother cooked a Christmas goose once I'd moved away and didn't celebrate Christmas with them. I just didn't like the taste. Your taste buds may vary though.

    Margot JR-- I'm glad you're enjoying it because there are a few more things I'd like to share from the book.

  10. Those holiday menus are very different to our Christmas menus now. We are just as likely to go to the beach, unless it's too hot, and eat prawns and salad!

    When I was a child, Christmas dinner was always more traditional. Despite 40 degree C heat, Mum would roast a leg of pork, vegetables, make gravy etc. Dessert was always plum pudding with hidden threepences and sixpences.

    The part I loved most was our centerpiece. It was white Tupperware, divided into segments, and each segment would have treats: cashew nuts, muscatel grapes, chocolates, glace fruits, candy. There was always a spray of fake holly on the handle. Mum kept an eagle eye on it, but my brother and I found creative ways to sneak treats before the big meal.

  11. That Thanksgiving menu looks great! It's very similar to ours except we don't do any seafood during Thanksgiving. We do have the same thing at Christmas, however, which I think most people don't.

  12. This is soooo interesting! It's funny...just this Thanksgiving, my sister and I were quizzing my grandmother on where some of our traditional (to us) dishes came from, and it was so great to hear the stories behind the recipes. Great post!

  13. We never do elaborate -- and scallop cocktails sound more like fancy shaped feathers than food to me. We have had roast turkey and dressing, pumpkin pie, whipped cream, and jellied cranberry sauce from that list. This year we did roast pork, dressing, baked winter squash, cabbage and pineapple salad, roasted potatoes, fruit salad, peas, and a choice of pumpkin, cherry, or lemon merangue pie. I'm thinking turkey can just be for looking at from now on. We were thankful for pigs.

  14. Susan-- Thanks so much for sharing your memories!

    Aarti-- I know we didn't. We always had turkey for Thanksgiving and then steak for Christmas. After Mom and I left, my grandparents would have goose for Christmas.

    Jill-- Thanks. I've always enjoyed hearing the stories behind traditions.

    Marty-- You did a lot more elaborate this year than I did! LOL


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