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?



About Cooking with Clio

I am a historian. I teach at a large Southern California University. I love to cook and garden and I have recently taken up sewing.
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