Behold! The Power of Cheese

The American Dairy Council’s slogan from the late nineties — “Behold! The Power of Cheese” — would have been the perfect title for the one-hundred-year old Farmer’s Wife article below. Home cooks from the 1920s were well aware of the ability of cheese to elevate any meal through both flavor and nutrition. During WW I, just a few years prior to this issue’s publication, the U.S. government promoted using cheese as a meat substitute on the home front so that beef could be made available to feed the US troops. By then American cheddar cheese was readily available even in rural areas and a good value for money. So common was cheddar, in fact, that it was referred to rather casually in old recipes and cookbooks as “cheese”, “American” cheese (not meaning the processed cheese of today), “store” cheese, “dairy” cheese or “yellow” cheese. Softer cheeses were available as well, with cream cheese being wildly popular during the 20s and 30s. Dairy women frequently made their own cottage cheese (recipe below) and often served it as part of a salad with fruits and/or vegetables. (It was not until reading the article below that I heard of garnishing cottage cheese with conserves or marmalade). For special occasions, such cheeses as Camembert, Roquefort, Edam and Swiss would have been available, but were a luxury most rural folk could ill afford.

I hope you enjoy reading “Cheese Is Choice”

Dutch or Cottage Cheese

Cheese Is Choice — It Should Be Used As A Staple Food

By Edith M. Barber

Cheese for “trimming” other less savory foods and for making leftovers go farther is indeed a boon to the cook. How often it helps answer that ever-present question “What shall we have for supper?” Sometimes it serves to flavor a white sauce to pour over hard-cooked eggs on toast or to cover raw eggs in a baking dish which is set in the oven until the eggs are firm. Sometimes cheese sauce is used with vegetables such a cauliflower or cabbage, which are then covered with crumbs and baked until brown. Escalloped vegetable with cheese has a certain “body” which makes it satisfying as a main luncheon or supper dish.

A dish of fresh cottage cheese on the table will supplement the summer vegetables and fruits which we like to use lavishly in their season. It occasionally may be varied by mixing with cut chives or chopped onions, or surrounded with preserves or garnished with jelly.

The fancy cheeses which have more distinct and individual flavors lend themselves to occasional use but for every day, the plain American or cottage cheeses are the most satisfactory. Cottage cheese in its own form can be digested easily by children, as well as by the older members of the family, but the richer cheeses which contain more fat should always be diluted for the children and often for the rest of the family. Mixed with other blander foods such as white sauces, vegetables and rice or macaroni, cheese should appear often on the table.

Toasted Cheese with Bacon

Slice bread one-half inch thick and cover with thin slices of cheese. Sprinkle with salt and paprika and lay two slices of bacon on each piece. Place in dripping pan and bake in hot oven (400 degrees F.) until bacon is crisp and cheese is melted. If you have a use for hard bread crumbs, the crusts may be removed from the bread, dried and ground.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Cheese

  • 6 tomatoes
  • 3 c. bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. chopped onion
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Cheese

Remove the pulp from tomatoes and mix with crumbs. Cook onion in butter one minute and mix with crumbs and seasonings. Stuff tomatoes and bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) ten minutes. Remove from oven and cover with slices of cheese. Return to oven until cheese is melted and serve at once. This same recipe may be used for peppers.

Corn and Cheese Souffle

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Paprika
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 ½ c. canned corn
  • ½ c. grated cheese
  • 3 eggs

Melt butter and blend with flour. Add milk and seasoning and cook until smooth and thick. Mix egg yolks, cheese and corn and add to sauce. Fold in beaten whites and bake in greased dish in pan of hot water in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) about twenty minutes until set. One-half cup chopped ham may be used instead of corn.

Quick Supper Dish

  • ½ lb. soft cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. mustard
  • Black pepper
  • Paprika
  • 1 c. milk or more

Cut or break cheese into large greased pie pan. Break eggs on top and sprinkle with mixed seasoning. Add milk to cover cheese and mix all together with fork. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) about fifteen minutes until cheese is melted and mixture is set.

Cheese-Tomato Rice

  • 4 c. boiled rice
  • 1 small can tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 tbsp. bacon fat
  • Pepper
  • ¼ lb. cheese

Cook onion in bacon fat one minute and add to rice, mixing lightly with fork. Add tomatoes, season to taste and place in greased baking dish. Cut cheese in thin slices and place on top. Bake on hot oven (450 degrees F.) until cheese is melted.

Pinwheel Cheese Biscuit

  • 3 c. flour
  • 5 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp. fat
  • ¾ – 1 cup milk
  • 1 c. grated cheese
  • Paprika

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder, rub in fat and add enough milk to make dough soft enough to roll. Roll into oblong one half inch thick and sprinkle with cheeses and paprika. Roll like jelly roll and cut into inch pieces. Place close together in pie pan with cut side up. Bake in hot oven (450 degrees F.) about fifteen minutes until brown.

Grape Conserve

  • 4 qts. grapes
  • 6 oranges
  • 3 lbs. raisins
  • 1 lb. nuts (not peanuts)

Pulp the grapes, cook until soft, put through colander and add skins, oranges and raisins. To every cup of mixture add a cup of sugar and cook to desired consistency. The nuts are added just before removing from fire.

Grapefruit Marmalade

  • 2 grapefruit
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • Sugar
  • Water

Slice fruit very thin, removing seeds but not rind. It is easier to slice on a board. Fruit may be put through food chopper if preferred; this saves time but the product is not so perfect. To each pound of fruit, add three pints of water. Place in an enamel bowl and let stand for twenty-four hours. To each pound, add one pound of sugar and cook slowly until thick and clear. Test by chilling a little on a saucer. Do no overcook. Pour into sterilized glasses or jars, and seal.

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine For Farm Women, October 1926, Page492; by Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota

Sunday Dinner 1926 — Good But Easy

A witty subscriber from California writes The Farmer’s Wife to share her go-to family meal for the Sabbath – the classic pot roast dinner. She states that with some advanced preparation, she can have a meal on the table twenty minutes after getting home from church, a feat of which her Scottish ancestors would be proud. She also expresses her thankfulness for the wholesome, plentiful and affordable produce available in this country. Her family’s favorite winter dessert is home-canned fruit and a simple cake. In the summer they enjoy fresh fruit and/or jello. This century-old menu reminds me very much of the Sunday dinners that my mother would prepare when I was growing up. I appreciate the sentiments of this God-fearing, hardworking woman. Happy Sunday!   


To The Farmer’s Wife:

As a descendant of Scotch Covenanters – the people who “keep the Sabbath – and everything else they lay their hands on,” I do almost no cooking on the Day of Rest. Yet we consume more then because the family is together and at leisure. The choice of foods and a bit of preparation accomplishes it. Here is a sample meal:

A pot roast with gravy, bread and butter; coffee in winter, iced tea in summer; a vegetable salad, a glass of marmalade, olives or celery, perhaps sliced tomatoes or potato chips and always dessert. In winter the latter is usually a dish of home-canned fruit and a simple cake; in summer, fresh fruit or melon or jello enriched by fruit juices. Our favorite dessert is chilled cantaloupe with a portion of lemon jello in each half, delicious on a hot day.

The pot roast has been cooked Saturday afternoon and the cake prepared or bought. The other dishes are quickly done early Sunday morning, placed in the cooler and ready for placing on the table. The table is set before leaving for church. The roast, left in its kettle, (and large enough to provide cold slices for supper) is reheated while I remove my church-going attire; the gravy is thickened in a jiffy, and we are ready to eat in twenty minutes after we reach home.

This menu omits vegetables. They require last-minute cooking and much preparation; besides, we use them liberally through the week. As fruits are plentiful, cheap and wholesome in this country, we make the most of them, canning a variety in summer for the sake of these Sunday dinners and unexpected company. It pays.

This meal is simple yet meets the family taste; no dishes are there merely for looks, and each dish is as good as we can make it. Not how much but how good is the rule of my people. Never would I make a pie on Sunday! My Scotch fore-mothers would disown me at the pearly gates! Besides, pies, elaborate foods and steaming hot dishes are not necessary to family happiness or health. – L. McC., California

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine for Farm Women, October 1926, Page 481 Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul Minnesota

Mission Statement & New Beginning

The publication The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine For Farm Women was published from 1897 through 1939 boasting a readership of over one million at its peak. In opposition to “pretty” magazines for women. In October 1926, The Farmer’s Wife’s proclaimed mission was to be the voice of and for farm women in politics, women’s suffrage, community development, improved formal education for rural children, agrarian and homemaking education for rural women, family recreation, and healthcare.

As with any periodical, advertising was a very large part of the printed material. Nearly all products featured in The Farmer’s Wife, from dress patterns to oil stoves, were available through mail-order, much like the online shopping of today, thereby making a wide variety of products accessible to rural buyers. Perhaps because of this advertising, a four-year subscription of twelve magazines per year cost one dollar a hundred years ago.

The community created through The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine For Farm Women, much like Facebook, Instagram and TicTok communities of today, made meaningful contributions to the magazine through Letters to the Editor, article submissions, reports of club and community work, and last but not least, recipes. It was about women connecting with women when many lived in isolated areas with a uniquely rural, labor-intensive set of circumstances.

Being a farmer’s wife with a driving curiosity of agrarian and domestic history, I find the articles in The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine for Farm Women captivating and informative. I also find it unfortunate that this wonderful glimpse into the lives of our fore-mothers is hidden away in the pages of these century-old magazines and newspapers never to really see the light of day. As a way of showing appreciation for the path that was paved for me by strong, hardworking women, it is my quest to breathe life into some of these forgotten treasures by transcribing the most in-depth and inspiring pages and posting them here on my blog, The Farmer’s Wife, where others like me can celebrate the capable women that came before us. Please join me.


Hot Food for Rural School Children

A century ago parents had the same concerns for their children’s health and nutrition as parents of today. Printed in the October 1921 volume of The Farmer’s Wife – A Magazine for Farm Women is an article sharing a community’s success in providing a warm noon meal for their school children through the help and industry of the children themselves. The summer-long project involved students in gardening, canning, cooking and donating their produce to the warmth and well being of their fellows.

Neighborhood Activities

Stories Of Accomplishments By Rural Groups, Here, There And Everywhere

COMMUNITIES all over the country are appreciating more and more the need and value of some hot food for school children at noon. Many who have long since passed the school attendance age can look back and recall very vividly how unappetizing the cold lunch became after a few weeks of school and especially in the latter part of the winter. The cities have long since organized a system to provide this hot noon meal but in the rural districts the problem has been much more difficult and it was not until comparatively recently that any attempt was made to solve the problem.

It may be of interest to those who are working on this question to know how one community in Chester County, Pa., has organized to care for the health of the children in this way. Sconnelltown school is situated in the historic Brandywine country.

The children in this school have their own vegetable gardens in the summer. These gardens were very successful and some of the produce, corn, string beans and tomatoes, was contributed by the producers to the school. Eight of the school girls under the supervision of a progressive woman in the community canned these vegetables. As a result, they had at the end of the season, 36 quarts of beans, 59 quarts of tomatoes and 27 quarts of corn. This made a very nice supply with which to start the years. As lunches are served to 27 pupils each day, purchased cans will have to be added to the supply of tomatoes. Other supplies are provided by the Home and School League which meets in the school. This makes it possible for all pupils, whether they have any pennies to spend or not, to have the hot food. The older girls of the school prepare the food and serve it to the other children as they sit at their desks.

This organization serves many purposes. It stimulates interest in the school gardens and canning and gives a definite aim for both; it partially provides for the school lunches during the winter months; and it provides the nourishing hot food which is so much needed by so many of the pupils.

Many other schools in Chester County are doing similar work with the hot lunches but not all are as well organized as in this community. – Mary Palmer, Chester County, Pennsylvania

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife – A Magazine for Farm Women, 1 October 1921, page 566; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota

News from Washington — October 1921

National News of Interest to Farm Women

By Alice Gram, Washington Representative of The Farmer’s Wife

News from Washington was a monthly column published in The Farmer’s Wife. Below is a bulleted list of topics covered in this article:

  • The value of a college education in 1921 is spelled out in dollars and cents by the National Bureau of Education in the “Schooling Pays” piece posted below.  
  • The Bureau also projects a crisis in education for children in rural areas because the schools are so poorly financed. Consolidation of smaller districts seems to be the buzzword in an effort to meet budget constraints of schools. A shortage of teachers nationwide and the level of education of country school teachers is cause for concern as well. See “For Our Rural Schools.”
  • Colorado, Nevada and Utah have recently passed legislation against the sale and use of the drug known as “peyote”. Representative Hayden of Arizona has also introduced a bill into the House prohibiting the trafficking of “dry whiskey” in the report below titled “A Bad Drug.”
  • Access to information leaflets and bulletins regarding caring for babies and children, as well as, recipes and directions for making fruit butters and canning meat and seafood in a steam canner is listed below.

For Our Rural Schools

JOHN JAMES TIGERT, the new United States Commissioner of Education, made sweeping and significant statements in a recent interview with The Farmer’s Wife Washington News representative:

“Sound educational progress is based on sufficient revenues for the schools, and you can’t solve the economic problem of rural schools until you have a solution for the economic and industrial status of the farmer.

“The farmer has got to have a square deal economically; he is then in a logical position to finance his public school. The only reason that the rural schools are not what they should be is because they are so poorly financed. Rural school teachers are poorly paid because they are poorly trained. They are poorly trained because they are poorly paid.

“This vicious circle will form the basis of our next years’ study here in the Bureau, and I hope to signalize my administration by helping to meet the problem.

“The country has been facing a financial crisis, an industrial crisis and a social crisis. It has also to face an educational crisis. During the war, 68,000 teachers left their professions to enter other fields of work. In one state, there were 2,000 schools closed because of the teacher shortage.

“Today because of the apparent large percent of unemployment, these teachers have returned to their old profession and according to newspaper reports every schoolroom is supplied – but the sad part of it is that only one out of five are adequately trained to their job; the rest are rated as eleventh-grade pupils, which means that the majority have not had a high school education. Think what that means to the coming generation!

“Unfortunately, but quite naturally the majority is to be found in the rural schools, because the financial support is lower than in the cities.

“Out of the meager appropriation allowed the Bureau of Education for the coming year, $50,000 will be devoted to the rural division. Although this is ridiculously small it takes on some importance compared with a mere $9,000 allotted for the city school work.”

A study of the financial problem of the rural school will comprise better methods of raising school funds, better systems of support and better results with less expenditure. To help him in this study, Commissioner Tigert has organized the rural division of the Bureau into an independent unit. One assistant will make a study of schools housing fifteen or less pupils, another the one-room school and so on.

This work will be started almost immediately or as soon as the Bureau has completed its report on Consolidated Schools which will be available to the public in a few weeks. Commissioner Tigert urges the rural districts to welcome the standardization of the one-room school. He believes that perfecting results in this direction paves the way for the next step of consolidation which has proved its own efficacy, as the coming report will show.

Commissioner Tigert comes to his new position from a long and full experience in educational work in the United States. He was occupying the chair of psychology at the University of Kentucky at the time of his appointment. Educators will watch his activities with keen attention, as the whole school situation needs concentrated care.

A Bad Drug

A NEW and dread word has loomed up in Washington legislative circles which carries with it what should be a telling appeal on behalf of the Indian under the jurisdiction of American civilization.

That word is Peyote, the name of an intoxicating and slow-poison drug which is derived from certain cacti native to northern Mexico and frequently called “dry whiskey.”

Representative Hayden of Arizona has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives prohibiting the traffic in this drug and the Indian Rights organizations are asking the women of the nation particularly to use their legislative influence in having this bill enacted into law.

Mrs. Gertrude Bonnin, recently introduced to readers of The Farmer’s Wife, on this page, says:

Since the use of peyote is spreading rapidly and is undermining the work of the churches and our benevolent Government; since it is an American principle to protect helpless peoples from the ruthless hand of the oppressor and to restrain the unscrupulous greed of those who traffic upon ignorance and superstitions, we do implore all earnest citizens of America for federal law to protect us against the traffic in and the indiscriminate use of peyote.

The states of Colorado, Nevada and Utah have, by recent legislation, prohibited the use and sale of this poison.

Tab On The Babies

“BOOKKEEPING of babies” is one of the important functions of the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Labor. Miss Julia Lathrop has directed the work of the Children’s Bureau from its inception.

It is because this baby ledger, as it may well be named, has been kept to faithfully that the Children’s Bureau is able to produce statistics and facts to support the need for greater facilities in extending federal co-operation to the nation’s motherhood. Comparative figures from this ledger covering a five-year period, are given for eighteen large cities in a brief report entitled Infant Mortality in Pittsburgh which has recently been issued by the Bureau and is now available to the public.

For Mothers’ Study

KEEP WELL SERIES prepared by the United States Public Health Service includes a number of instructive health leaflets on the care of babies and children and other important health subjects. Write to the United States Public Health Service, Washington, D.C., for:

  •                Motherhood: No. 8: Keep Well Series.
  •                Breast Feeding for Baby: No. 9 Keep Well Series.
  •                Bottle Feeding for Babies: No. 10 Keep Well Series

The following leaflets are also available:

  •                The Care of The Baby: No. 10 Supplement to Public Health Reports
  •                The Summer Care of Infants: No. 16 Supplement to Public Health Reports
  •                A Home-made Milk Refrigerator: No. 102 Public Health Bulletin

Fruit Butters

THE housewife who is planning for homemade fruit butters this fall can obtain a splendid collection of fruit butter receipts which are easily made and which have been tested in the Home Economics Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture. Send for Farmers’ Bulletin No. 900, Homemade Fruit Butters, to Division of Publications, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. The bulletin is free.

Canning Meat

FROM the Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, United States Department of Agriculture, comes the splendid bulletin, Home Canning of Meats and Seafoods With The Steam Pressure Canner. This circular represents one of the most important steps in the development of home canning. It outlines clearly the various steps in the canning of meats and seafoods with the aid of the steam pressure canner. Write to address given above for S.R.S. Doc. 80, Washington, D.C.

IT IS very convenient to have on hand a file of Farmers’ Bulletins on those subjects pertaining to the particular activities on your farm. A list of all Farmers’ Bulletins in print is sent out monthly to all who apply. Write for the list to this address: Editor in Chief Division of Publications, United States Agricultural Department, Washington, D.C. The bulletins are free.

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife – A Magazine for Farm Women, October 1921, Page 557; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota

In The Dairy

Imagine being able to sell your high-quality, homemade butter for a dollar a pound when the going rate at the local grocer was fifty to sixty cents. That’s what Mrs. Foster was able to do in 1921 giving her a little extra “pin money”. She even took home first prize in the county’s Better Butter Contest — a purebred heifer named Blue Fobes Olive.

Better Butter Contest

Bernice H. Irwin

NINETY-SIX representative Spartanburg County, S.C. women entered last year’s Better Butter Contest, which ended at the county fair with the award of eighteen prizes. To bring up the standards of butter in their county was the aim of the contest conducted under the leadership of Mrs. Harriet Johnson, Home Demonstration Agent. Mrs. R.W. Foster of Roebuck made the highest score and lead off the purebred heifer – “Blue Fobes Olive”. Mrs. D.A. Stewart came second and Mrs. R.C. Burnett third.

In preparation for the judging, butter demonstrations were given in sixteen communities by Mrs. Harriet Johnson, Home Demonstration Agent and Miss Elizabeth Forney, State Dairy Specialist from Winthrop College. Printed instructions were distributed covering such practical topics as: Production Of Clean Milk And Cream, Care Of Cream, Ripening And Souring Of Cream, Churning Temperature, Preparing The Churn, Straining And Coloring, Kind of Churn, Churning, Washing Butter, Salting and Working Butter, Printing The Butter, Washing The Cream.

Study of equipment resulted in the installation of many square molds, butter workers, thermometer and barrel churns. Study of methods resulted in such improved butter that the grocery men of the county commented most favorably upon butter brought to them for sale even when the producer did not enter the contest. So wide did their fame spread that Mrs. Foster was surprised one morning to have a stately stranger for the city drive up to her door and offer her a dollar a pound for her butter, this at a time when butter was selling for fifty and sixty cents.

Once a month for six months a pound of butter from each contestant was sent or brought to the Chamber of Commerce building and there scored by experts. Points on score cards were: Flavor 45, texture 25, color 15, salt 10, package 5. The average score of butter entered was 91%. These meetings were attended by from fifty to one hundred women from all parts of the county and some special feature each time made them doubly interesting. A trip to a model dairy was very much enjoyed but the real day was the Saturday when the women of Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce entertained at a luncheon for all contestants. The same spirit of cooperation and friendliness between town and country people which has brought good roads, good industries and good homes to town and county prevailed at this crowning event of the contest and everyone voted their six months of work and play together an unparalleled success socially as well as educationally.

The above article was originally printed in The Farmer’s Wife – A Magazine for Farm Women, October 1921, page 586, Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota