Children’s Gastronomy: 1960s style

I have been re-reading Christine Ripault’s Children’s Gastronomique (1966), and was struck by the advice of M. Alex Humbert, chef at Maxim’s. He advised Ripault’s readers thus,

The cardinal piece of advice that I give to parents who understand the reason for making their children precocious gastronomes is this: Don’t abuse your power. Take the tastes of your children into consideration, just as you take your own. (173)

M. Humbert went further, noting that children place great importance upon what they eat and how it is prepared. He urged parents to be inventive and to honor their children’s individual preferences when composing menus and preparing their food.

The dishes the chefs and Ms. Ripault dreamed up for budding gastronomes were a far cry from both the bland nursery foods of the past and the overblown, “my little boy just loves duck feet,” style of today’s tiny foodies.

The French gourmet child of the 1960s feasted on farina and vegetables, savory tarts, pate and Roquefort cheese. She might breakfast on chocolate malted instant food (like Carnation Instant Breakfast), and devour Moroccan Fish Croquettes for lunch.

All of this has made me wonder what the average American child was eating c. 1966. My own early foods were mostly bland and clean foods such as vegetable sticks and cheese…although an old Greek sea captain who lived on our block shared olives and feta with me.

According to an article from the New York Times in 1963 cited on the Food History Timeline most school lunches were meatless (schools could request frankfurters, bologna, and other lunch meats). They seem to have included a lot of boiled eggs and jam and butter sandwiches. They cost 25 cents. By 1968 the LA Times noticed kids’ “growing acceptance of such ethnic and foreign fare as pizza, lasagna, chili and enchiladas” and said that kids liked “meats and sweets” and disliked vegetables (also from the Food History Timeline).

Has anyone seen a source for what Toddlers were eating in America in the 1960s? Do you remember what you were fed?

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Early Tomato Sauce

Since I have been making and remaking Becky’s Roasted Tomato Sauce I thought I should share some of the history of Tomato Sauce.

But before we get to history, a few more pictures of recent versions of Becky’s Sauce…

IMG_4336 IMG_4335IMG_4337IMG_4349

These late summer Romas are small, their skins imperfect. They capture the heat of late summer perfectly. The sauce they made was more tangy and acidic than the earlier sauces made with variously colored heirlooms and beefsteak style fruit. This late season sauce has also been a wonderful addition to the first beef braised in red wine of the season. The sauce lends a complexity to a simple braise that our household adores.

Of course I won’t be focusing on tomato sauce in Italy. To read about the beginnings of tomato pasta sauces in Italy see the Food History Timeline, here. British cooks took to tomato sauce as well, although they were slow to adopt the New World nightshade as a regular menu item.

Recipes in manuscripts from the 1850s are similar to Becky’s Sauce in that the tomatoes are roasted first and then reduced to some type of sauce. However, the recipes I have seen in these books all add vinegar and sometimes chilies. Thus, they are rather like ketchup without sugar or the hot chili vinegar sauces that were more familiar to English cooks and eaters.

Tomata Sauce (Mrs. Trevelyan)

Take the tomatas when ripe, pick out the green stems—wipe them well with a cloth—place them (so as not to touch each other) in dishes. Put them into the oven with the bread to take 4 hours—then scrape out all the pulp with a tea spoon throwing away the skins and seeds—To a pound of Tomatas put a quart of chilli vinegar—three spoonfuls of salt, one ounce of garlick & an ounce of shallot thinly sliced—boil the whole till tender & skim it well, then put it through a sieve & add half an ounce of white pepper pounded & sifted & half a pint of chilli vinegar. Boil it again ten minutes—if your chilli vinegar do not make it hot enough add Cayenne to it—bottle it close and keep it in a cool place—protect it from the air well rosined it will keep for years. (Mrs. Hill of Henbury)

Tomata Sauce

2 oz of garlic

2 oz of Eschalot cut fine

3 oz white bruised pepper corns

1 oz mace

3 oz allspice

¼ lb salt

Six capiscums to 7 ½ of Tomatas. Boil all together hard an hour in a quart of strong vinegar. Strain though a sieve rubbing all through & rendering to a pulp thro’. Let it stand till quite cold then bottle for use, diving the thickness with care. Resin the corks.

Make colouring & keep in a bottle

Dr. Colson

Lydford (Sarah Pease) c. 1857

These are all taken from manuscripts held by the Wellcome Library in London and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes without the permission of the Wellcome.

All of these tomato sauces are meant to be served as piquant accompaniments to meat. They are not meant to coat pasta, which for the English at this time was invariably served with cheese and butter or olive oil. Perhaps this old fashioned spicy tomato condiment is a project for this long weekend…

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Sorry for the long silence, we have been traveling, camping, and getting the new semester underway. In lieu of a food history post, I have a fabulous roasted tomato sauce. Thanks to a friend of a friend in Iowa City for this recipe!

Becky’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

Find the tastiest bunch of nice ripe tomatoes you can…I used a selection of heirlooms and beefsteaks…cut them into large chunks and pile them in a roasting pan, thus


Then add a bunch of minced garlic, I used about eight cloves, and a bunch of shredded fresh basil. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Stir it all up and roast at 300F for about three hours. You are looking for caramelized tomatoes like these…


If you have a lot of juices, you can reduce them on the stove top. I had nice, syrupy juices so I roughly blended it all in the food processor. A larger amount might require an immersion blender.

With about five pounds of tomatoes I ended up with just under a quart of the best sauce ever!


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Conversation at Tea

In her Home Manual Everybody’s Guide in Social, Domestic, and Business Life (1889) Mrs. Logan makes the following suggestion for an awkward social moment:

At an afternoon tea. Strangers have been introduced, and exhausted the convenient subject of the weather, one remarks:

“What beautiful hair that little girl has.”

“Yes, and the present style of wearing it is so becoming to children; it is very picturesque.”

“Yes, and the Kate Greenaway costumes carry out the illusion; the little people look as if they have just stepped out of a Christmas book.”

From this it would be easy to pass on to books in general, artists, or pictures, as the speakers’ tastes might lead them. (59)

Hopefully none of us have ever had to resort to this rather stiff version of the old improv “Yes, and” exercise. It did make me wonder, however, about children dressed in Kate Greenaway costumes. Kate Greenaway was a children’s book illustrator and author active in the last decades of the nineteenth century. She is remembered for her Regency Revival fashions for children. Her “girlies” were dressed in mob caps and huge straw bonnet, along with white muslin, empire waist, gowns tied with colorful sashes. Image

These fashions became popular enough to spark a number of offerings from Liberty of London. While some of these appeared in their fancy dress catalogue, many of their children’s clothes were clearly inspired by Greenaway’s illustrations. There is some controversy about whether or not Greenaway was actively involved in the design of Liberty’s offerings. To learn more about this read here and here.

Liberty and the parents who dressed their children in this style were trying to encourage girls to become adults whose fashion sense would be aesthetic rather than driven by trends. The fashion for children’s clothes in the 1880s and 90s was generally to reproduce adult clothing. This would have meant a very restrictive, bustled garment that would not have allowed much freedom of movement for the girl. ImageImage

Parents who chose the Greenaway style also may have been encouraging a vision of childhood innocence similar to that in Greenaway’s books where children play outdoors and enjoy freedom to engage in childish pastimes. Image

I have not been able to learn as much about children’s hairstyles. In Greenaway’s books the hair is usually obscured by a hat or bonnet. In general, girls of the time seem to have worn their hair braided, with bangs, or pulled back at the front and then loose down the back. Familiar styles to those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 70s. When girls reached their mid-teens they probably wore their hair in adult styles, such as the many up-dos familiar from paintings of the time, examples can be found here.

We should close with a recipe, so that we may not drift too far from our usual food history focus. This is for a seed cake, a very popular English tea cake in the 19th century. As Nicola Humble points out in her annotations to the 1861 edition of Mrs. Beeton, the strong taste of caraway seed is not likely to appeal to most modern eaters…

1776 A very good seed-cake.

Ingredients– 1 lb. of butter, 6 eggs, 3/4 lb. of sifted sugar, pounded mace and grated nutmeg to taste, 1 lb. of flour, 3/4 oz. of caraway seeds, 1 wine-glassful of brandy.

Mode–beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour; add the sugar, mace, nutmeg, and caraway seeds, and mix these ingredients well together. Whisk the eggs, stir to them the brandy, and beat the cake again for 10 minutes. Put it into a tin lined with buttered paper and let it bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This cake would be equally nice made with currants, omit the caraway seeds. (811)

This was suitable for all seasons. Enjoy!

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Two quick summer meals from the farmers’ market

Here are two quick dinners from the farmers’ market. With a sick baby and a hot kitchen, I haven’t had much time to cook this week, and I am sorry to say no time to include pictures, but here are a couple of simple and delicious recipes…

Eggplant and Tomato Stew with Farro

1 cup Farro, quick cooking.

Two medium very ripe tomatoes, diced.
One large shallot, diced.
One Japanese eggplant, large, diced.
Vermouth or dry white wine, a good glug.
1 teaspoon dried basil, or some nice fresh, chopped.
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or fresh, chopped.
Salt and black pepper to taste.

3 chicken sausages, I used sun dried tomato flavored ones. (Optional). Tofu or another veg such as mushrooms or zucchini would be a great alternative.

Olive oil.

Cook Farro according to package directions.
Sauté chicken sausage until it is week browned, set aside.
Sauté eggplant for a couple of minutes, then add shallot, cook a bit more, add herbs, then wine and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until eggplant is tender. Add sausage back in and heat through.
Serve vegetable and sausage mixture over Farro.

Spaghetti with Bacon, Zucchini, Pattypan, Lemon and Parmesan

1/2 pound regular or whole wheat spaghetti, or more if you are hungry!

1 large zucchini, not crazy big like end of summer, about eight inches long, cut into shoelaces with a grater or mandolin. Set in a colander with a bit of salt, squeeze lightly before adding to pan.

2 pattypan squash, cut into matchsticks
I shallot, sliced
6 oz applewood smoked bacon, or some other type that is really tasty, cut into 1/4 wide strips
1 lemon, zested and then cut into quarters
Parmesan to taste
Pepper, maybe a bit of olive oil, depends on your bacon.

Cook spaghetti the way you like.

While water is boiling, sauté bacon. Once bacon is brown, when you add the spaghetti to the water, add shallots to bacon and sauté. Add zucchini and pattypan to son, sauté. Add lemon zest at the end of cooking.

Add spaghetti to squash pan, along with a couple of large spoonfuls of spaghetti boiling water, toss to combine all. Squeeze lemons over all, toss. Serve with Parmesan grated or shaved on t of each plate.

The baby had a ball with this one, threw it all over the place and even ate some…

Happy cooking!

Oh, yes, rose would be a lovely wine with either of these, or a nice crisp Pino Grigio with just a hint of sweetness.

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New Cookbook for Summer

I just received Clotilde Dusoulier’s wonderful new cookbook, The French Market Cookbook. Dusoulier is best known for her blog, Chocolate and Zucchini. The recipes are vegetarian (I know, French vegetarian, sounds odd), and feature seasonal produce. I am planning to make the Tian ratatouille tonight.


I am working on a food history post, look out for more on Martha Washington Tea parties in the next few days.

Hope you are eating well!

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Ice Cream Parlor as Front for Brothel

When I was working my way through some material on ice cream parlors the other day I found this…The New York State Senate appointed a committee to investigate police corruption in New York City in 1895. Nestled among over 5,000 pages of investigation was an exchange about a brothel masquerading as an ice cream parlor. Given their wholesome image, ice cream parlors would have made a great front for a variety of unsavory businesses.

It appears that various local policemen were not only taking bribes of $5-10 from brothel-keepers, but that in the case of the supposed ice cream parlor, a policemen was actually in partnership with the owner of the house. Located at 32 Stanton Street, it was just off of Houston and east of the Bowery. Bowery b’hoys and their girlfriends were fond of ice cream and no doubt a number of shops serving fashionable working-class clientele were located in the neighborhood.

The senators apparently thought that such establishments were common, although the brothel-keeper they questioned only knew of one such establishment, the other that ran under a front was supposed to be a restaurant.

I wonder what other sorts of nefarious businesses were operated under the guise of ice cream shops…

Today Stanton Street is in the heart of hipster New York, full of bars and restaurants (probably a lot like it was in the past, only with wealthier people). The Bluestocking Bookstore is there.

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Food for Children

Two books I have been reading recently have me thinking about food for children and how ideas about nutrition and proper diet have changed. From the 19th through the mid-20th centuries, for example, people thought about food in terms of nutrition, but they thought about nutrition in very different ways than we do. For example, as late as WWII Americans thought of sugar as an “energy food.” It was good, not bad. (See Amy Bentley, Eating for Victory for more on sugar and WWII).

Similarly, sweet foods were often given to children, along with foods thought to be more easily digestible than, say, the ubiquitous dinner of roasted meat. In Charles Elme Francatelli’s cookbook for the working classes he made several suggestions about food for children that illuminate mid-nineteenth century ideas about nutrition. Francatelli was a celebrity chef, at one time chef to Queen Victoria, and when he offered advice to working class cooks he was sometimes less than strictly economical, suggesting foods and preparation methods that would have been beyond the reach of his supposed audience.


In the easy to digest category he offered “No. 180. Meat Pananda for Invalids and Infants.”

First, roast whatever kind of meat is intended to be made into pananda, and, while it is yet hot, chop up all the lean thereof as fine as possible, and put this into a small saucepan with an equal quantity of crumb of bread previously soaked in hot water; season with salt (and, if allowed, pepper), stir all together on the fire for ten minutes, and give it in small quantities at a time. This kind of meat pananda is well adapted as a nutritious and easily-digested kind of food for old people who have lost the power of mastication, and also for very young children.

This is certainly not too far off from today’s baby food where wheat or rice flour are often added along with ground meat. But Francatelli also recognized that families with many children might have trouble feeding them all sufficiently. “No. 52. Norfolk Dumplings,” made from flour and milk “are most excellent things to eke out an insufficient supply of baked meat for the dinner of a large family of children.”

Another alternative for those on a short budget was

No. 8. Thick Milk for Breakfast

Milk, buttermilk, or even skim-milk, will serve for this purpose. To every pint of milk, mix a piled-up table-spoonful of flour, and stir the mixture while boiling on the fire for ten minutes; season with a little salt, and eat it with bread or a boiled potato. This kind of food is well adapted for the breakfast of women and children, and is far preferable to a sloppy mess of tea, which comes to more money.

Women and children did often eat tea or perhaps tea and bread for breakfast (and often for all of their other meals as well). At least the Thick Milk might have had some fat! Meat and cheese, if there was any, was usually eaten by adult men.

Luckier children might be given Francatelli’s baked apples or pears, which, “with bread, form a cheap, wholesome, and proper kind of supper for children.” But in my book the very luckiest would have either Plum Broth or Plum Porridge, Cold. Each of these preparations involved plums cooked down with sugar and cinnamon. This Broth was sieved and eaten with bread, the Porridge was sieved, cooled, and mixed with milk, and also eaten with bread. Neither of these, involving fresh fruits, four ounces of sugar, and cinnamon, strike me as things that would have been fed to working class children in England in the 1850s. On the other hand, I bet children would like them. They are both rich in carbohydrates, exactly the kinds of food that children of all classes were fed in Victorian society.

I close today with another children’s food suggestion taken from Arthur Knapp’s 1920 Cocoa and Chocolate: Their History from Plantation to Consumer.


Knapp recommends a cup of cocoa, on the authority of Dr. Hutchinson, a dietetics authority, who wrote, “Tea and coffee are also harmful to the susceptible nervous system of the child, but cocoa, made with plenty of milk, may be allowed, though it should be regarded, like milk, as food rather than a beverage properly so called.” Since cocoa was very nutritious, it was a superior food for children in a world where many did not get enough calories. In the early 19th century a comparison in heights of boys at Sandhurst military academy and the Marine Society, a charity for poor Londoners, showed that the working-class boys were nearly 30cm shorter than their upper-class counterparts.


Poor Boys in Lambeth in the 19th century

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Tea Room Menu, 1921

Browsing the New York Public Library’s amazing menu collection online, I found the menu from the Tea Room, Hochschild, Kohn, and Company, in Baltimore. On March 22, 1921 their daily specials included “Lenten Specials” with fish and egg dishes, and Cold Roast Beef with Spicy Tomato Jelly (65 cents). This last, while certainly not a Lenten dish, sounds like a great meal for today, where the thermometer is expected to break 100F in my neighborhood.

I looked for Tomato Jelly in Fannie Farmer’s cookbook from 1896 (the closest thing I have to 1920 American cookery on my shelves), no luck. There was, however, this nice recipe for

Tomato Preserve

1 lb. yellow pear tomatoes

1 lb. sugar

2 oz. preserved Canton ginger

2 lemons

Peel tomatoes, cover with sugar, and let stand over night. In the morning pour off the syrup and boil until quite thick; skim, then add the tomatoes, ginger, and lemons which have been sliced and the seeds removed. Cook until tomatoes have a clarified appearance.

This would, I expect, be excellent with cold roast beef. When the heirloom tomato varieties start coming in this summer I shall give it a try.

Or one could buy some here


Tea Rooms were known for bringing lighter fare to the restaurant menu in America. Tea rooms were women’s spaces, the first to serve women not accompanied by men (and children, incidentally). While rather substantial looking items such as Lamb Chops and Planked Steak were also served, there was an emphasis on salads and lighter entrees. Tea Rooms were also associated with the rise of car culture after the turn of the century. College women opened tea rooms in the summer in old houses all over New England and the Mid Atlantic states in the 20s. To learn more about tea rooms, read Jan Whitaker’s Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America (here), or see her website on Vintage Tea Rooms.

For Dessert I would have chosen the Fresh Strawberry Sundae or the Strawberry Shortcake (40 cents each). Fannie Farmer offered no fewer than three versions of strawberry shortcake. The first was baked in a cake tin and looks like a biscuit-type item. The second contains one additional teaspoon of sugar, not much of a change…so, I give you the third option…

Rich Strawberry Short Cake

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Few grains nutmeg

1 egg

1/3 cup butter

1 1/2 tablespoons lard

2/3 cups milk

Mix dry ingredients and sift twice, work in shortening with tips of fingers, add egg well beaten, and milk. Bake as Strawberry Short Cake II [ie. put in round buttered tin, and shape with back of hand to fit pan. Bake twelve minutes in a hot oven]. Split cake and spread under layer with Cream Sauce II. Cover with strawberries which have been sprinkled with powdered sugar; again spread with sauce, and cover with upper layer. (84)

This recipe is credited to “Hotel Pastry Cook.”

Cream Sauce II

1 egg

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup thick cream

1/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat white of egg until stiff; add yolk of egg well beaten, and sugar gradually; dilute cream with milk, beat until stiff, combine mixtures, and flavor. (340)

The raw egg might not be acceptable to some modern cooks. One could simply use stiff whipped cream instead…or may ice cream?


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Preserved Pears

While this is not a seasonal recipe, it sounds like it would be delicious.

For to make wardens in Conserue.
Fyrste make the syrope in this wyse, take a quarte of good romney and putte a pynte of claryfyed honey, and a pounde or a halfe of suger, and myngle all those together over the fyre, till tyme they seeth, and then set it to cole. And thys is a good sirope for manye thinges, and wyll be kepte a yere or two. Then take thy warden and scrape cleane awaye the barke, but pare them not, and seeth them in good redde wyne so that they be wel soked and tender, that the wyne be nere hande soked into them, then take and strayne them throughe a cloth or through a strayner into a vessell, then put to them of this syrope aforesayde tyll it be almost fylled, and then caste in the pouders, as fyne canel, synamon, pouder of gynger and such other, and put it in a boxes and kepe it yf thou wylt and make thy syrope as thou wylt worke in quantyte, as if thou wylt worke twenty wardens or more or lesse as by experience.

This is a Tudor recipe from A Proper Newe Booke of Cookery published in 1545. The warden is a type of pear, preserved in honey and sugar with spices it must have been versatile and apparently it kept well. I have been on a fruit and ice cream kick, this word be fantastic, although anachronistic.

At a Tudor feast it probably would have been served on its own, or perhaps it was a sweet snack with wine. See this site for more the wholebook.

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