Curry Mushroom Toast – A vintage 1908 recipe from Cooking Club Magazine
I have a few different February issues of Cooking Club magazine in my collection; I chose to share from the 1908 edition today because I love the cover so much. Like the January 1905 issue I previously shared, most of the content is hilariously out of date; and yet, a few of the editorials are surprisingly ahead of their time. Below are some of my favorite excerpts, though I’ll admit I would have loved to include every page of this issue.
1908 was a year of significant firsts. It was the first time New Year’s Eve was celebrated by the famous ball drop in Times Square. Driver George Schuster won the first “around-the-world” car race from New York to Paris, and the first long distance radio message was transmitted from the Eiffel Tower. It was also the year that the Wright brothers brought their mechanic, Charles Furnas, aboard as the first passenger on an airplane flight. Bette Davis, Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Rockefeller were born that year, as well as one of my favorite Golden Age actors, Jimmy Stewart.
As for the food served in 1908, we can surmise from the Cooking Club Menu Suggestions that folks were indulging in dishes like baked bananas with rice, boiled sauerkraut with dumplings, baked stuffed heart (oh my!), flannel cakes, jellied veal and orange snow. Click on the menu below to see all of Cooking Club’s suggestions for February!
The cover story of the magazine, entitled “The Ever Present Maid Question,” discusses the increasing difficulty in finding a good maid. Apparently in 1908 decreasing numbers of women were entering the service industry. Mr. T. B. Rubinow of the department of commerce lectured on the subject at the department of Domestic Science at the Teachers’ College in New York City. “He quoted from official statistics to show that in 1870 one-half of the women earning their own living, were employed as house servants. In 1880 the proportion had decreased to one-third, and in 1900 to one-fourth.” It seems that working as a maid had an increasing social stigma during that time period, and women were leaving the service industry because of it. Rubinow suggests several potential remedies to this stigma, including giving the maid a set eight or ten hour work day, payment of wages entirely in money, allowing the maid to sleep in her own home, and feeding the maid her own meal rather than making her eat the “remains of the family feast.” Times have certainly changed, and this article is a terrific reflection of the women’s movement towards independence. Only 12 years after this Cooking Club issue came out, women were granted the right to vote.
An article called “No More Middle Aged Women” also caught my eye. It discusses the society world’s belief that women of the early 20th century were divided into two groups – young married women and great grandmothers. “Modern mothers look as young as their daughters, and we are now familiar with a race of juvenile grandmothers.” The writer believes this is owed to the “modern health craze” which included a vegetarian diet, plenty of sleep and abstaining from alcohol. There is also mention of rest cures, massage, deep breathing and exercising. Every once in a while, Cooking Club proves to be wise beyond its years!
A nearly five-page article, quite long by the magazine’s standards, examines “Curiosities in Food Stuffs.” It seems like something that might appear on the pages of a modern culinary publication. Included are Asian preserved ripened eggs, Chinese chestnut flour macaroni and black tea crackers, Italian-style drinking chocolate and Mexican sugarcane candy, among other interesting and exotic offerings.
I love this photo, captioned “Class in Cookery, Domestic Science School, Battle Creek, Mich.” Aren’t the uniforms great? Battle Creek is now known as the cereal capital of the United States thanks to John Harvey Kellogg and his Battle Creek Sanitarium. I wonder if this cookery class was part of the Sanitarium, which promoted a sparse, simple and vegetarian diet?
I also had fun reading through “The Housewife’s Domain,” a series of cooking and household tips. Here is my favorite:
“One of the best ways to eat bananas, which are so common a diet, is to crush them with a fork, squeeze a lime or lemon over them, and sprinkle with sifted sugar. They are often eaten this way in the tropics.”
Never tried bananas that way before… now I’m tempted to do so!
Coincidentally, among the ads that fill the back pages of the magazine I came across this order form for a free book about the “Evils of Corset Wearing” by J.H. Kellogg, M.D.– interesting that it appears in the same issue as the Battle Creek Sanitarium photo. Kellogg had many strong beliefs about diet and health. If I fill out the order form, do you think I’d receive a copy? Had I been forced to wear a corset myself, I can imagine this free book would have appealed to me greatly. Even Spanx give me the heebie jeebies.
Did you know that watches were once cleaned with bread? According to a short column included in the back pages of the magazine, “From the earliest times it has been the custom of watchmakers to reduce fresh bread to the form of dough.” The baked bread was steamed and kneaded, then used to absorb any oil or small chips from the manufacturing process. Who knew?!
As an incentive for selling subscriptions of Cooking Club, women were offered prizes of silver plated flatware. I absolutely love vintage cutlery; the patterns were so beautiful. Wish I had this full set!
For this cold winter month I wanted to make something comforting, and a simple recipe for Curry Mushroom Toast fit the bill. It reminded me of a cream of curry chicken that my dad used to make for dinner when I was young– a simple dish made with cubed chicken breasts, cream of mushroom soup and a touch of curry powder. He served it on top of buttered, toasted English muffins. Simple as it was, I adored this meal; it was so yummy and cozy, especially in winter. Cooking Club’s “A Curry of Mushrooms” recipe took me right back to my childhood.
Fortunately this was one of those vintage recipes that needed very little tweaking. Here is the original recipe:
I subbed sauteed fresh mushrooms for the canned and adjusted the seasoning amounts to taste. The recipe didn’t specify a particular type of cooking stock so I used vegetable stock to keep the dish vegetarian. I also garnished it with a little fresh parsley. Apart from that, the dish was quite tasty as written. Enjoy!
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Curry Mushroom Toast
- 1 baguette, cut into 12 slices
- 1 lb button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 tsp curry powder (or more to taste)
- 2 tsp flour
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and black pepper
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the sliced bread and toast for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Transfer the toast to a baking sheet and place in the oven at 200 degrees F to keep warm.
- Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add about 1/2 of the sliced mushrooms. Cook until brown, about 8-10 minutes. Then add remaining mushrooms and continue cooking for an additional 5-7 minutes.
- Sprinkle curry and flour over the mushrooms and stir to evenly coat.
- Add vegetable stock to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until the liquid thickens and is reduced by half.
- Reduce heat to medium and add cream. Cook until thickened. Stir in salt and black pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of black pepper-- your amount may vary based on the saltiness of your stock). Remove from heat.
- To serve, place 2 slices of toast on a plate and spoon the curry mushroom sauce over the top. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley if desired.