In today’s society, people have developed a sense of what the world looked like 100 years ago thanks to the Internet, old movies, books, and of course, photographs. It is only on a rare occasion that one gets to discover what it actually smelled and tasted like.
The Bayside Historical Society located at Fort Totten in Bayside, offered its members and guests a rare treat on June 11 when it prepared nostalgic recipes from the 1920 Bayside Woman’s Club Cookbook. The program entitled, “It’s So Tasty Too” revisited the culinary labor of love that was compiled into a series of cookbooks by the Bayside Woman’s Club almost a century ago. Written by the affluent women of Bayside, these books were originally intended for use by community groups and housewives. Some of the contributing women were descendants of the Bell family after which Bell Boulevard was named.
Associate Professor of History at Queensborough Community College Megan Elias made a presentation about how representative the cookbook was of the lives of women from this social class at the turn of the 20th century in Bayside.
“Each item in these cookbooks is special because they represent the identity of each individual woman who created them,” Elias explained. “In the cookbook each recipe is followed by the name of the woman who created it.”
Elias also compared how the foods differed from that of contemporary Bayside, and also discussed the role that women play in food preparation today.
“Most of the recipes in the old cookbook included milk, eggs and sugar and today could be made quickly, but in those days took longer to prepare without modern day appliances,” she said. “The recipes also mainly consisted of lighter foods because that is what these women preferred to eat, where as men desired heavier and filling meals.”
Although full meals like Lobster Newburg were featured, the majority of each book consisted of sweets. For example, a typical cookbook would contain two pages of dinner recipes but 12 pages of cake recipes and six pages dedicated to pie and ice cream.
Some of the sweets featured included Egg Crisps, created by Mrs. L.S. Hauck, Liberty Coffee Cake, Molasses Layer Cake and War Cake that contained cinnamon, cloves, raisins, lard and water. The recipe claimed that it tasted just as good three weeks after preparation.
At the end of the lecture guests enjoyed coffee and selected sweets that included the Liberty Coffee Cake and the War Cake.
In addition to teaching a food history course and American history at QCC, Elias wrote Stir it Up: Home Economics in American Culture in 2008 and Food in the United States, 1890-1945 in 2009.
The Bayside Woman’s Club was founded in 1916 by a group of eight women interested in contributing to the community through philanthropic endeavors. They began as a sewing circle and made items for donation to Flushing Hospital. During the course of these sewing circles they elected their first president, Mrs. Bramwell Davis and developed a list of objectives. These included the promotion of community spirit and civic improvements, the development of mental and social growth, and the allowance for “the provision of aid for any just cause”. In 1917, the organization helped mobilize the Red Cross chapter in Bayside and provided women with home nursing courses during the influenza outbreak of 1918. The club originally met at the Ahles Building on the corner of 41st Street and Bell Boulevard.
Committees were officially established in 1924, and the club later included a garden, literary, music and drama department. In later years welfare and civics departments were also established. In 1961, the group established a Junior Woman’s Club. The Bayside Woman’s Club gave its time and money to a variety of organizations, including monthly donations to the Bayside Ambulance Corps. The club was dissolved in 2002.
For more information, visit www.baysidehistorical.org.