I've actually touched on that several times since, including in an area that will appear again tomorrow, that being how domestic implements, and not wartime labor requirements, are what really caused the change in women's employment roles in the 20th Century. That links in with what I think is one of the better posts on the website, that being:
Women in the Workplace: It was Maytag that took Rosie the Riveter out of the domestic arena, not World War Two
In that post, I noted:
Cooking the food was a long process also. Nothing existed that was already prepared. People didn't have frozen food to prepare. Canned food, of course, did already exist. But by and large people had to prepare everything that day, whatever meal was being considered. And part of that was due to the fact that modern stoves were only coming in during this period.
Today we have gas and electric stoves everywhere. But up to at least 1920, most people had wood or coal burning stoves for cooking. They didn't heat the same way. Cooking with a wood stove is slow. It takes hours to cook anything with a wood stove, and those who typically cooked with them didn't cook with the same variety, or methods, we do now. Boiling, the fastest method of food preparation, was popular. People boiled everything. Where we'd now roast a roast in the oven, a cook of that era would just as frequently boil it. People boiled vegetables into oblivion. My mother, who had learned to cook from her mother, who had learned how to cook in this era, used the boiling into oblivion method of cooking. She hated potatoes for this reason (I love them) but she'd invariable boil them into unrecognizable starch lumps.
Wood burning stove in Denver. Typical pre 1920 stove. Heck, typical pre 1930 stove. Heck, typical pre 1940 stove.
Turn of century advertisement for stove polish. Cleaning a wood burning stove would be no treat.
Even something as mundane as toast required more effort than it does not. Toasters are an electric appliance that most homes have now, but they actually replaced a simple device.
Indeed, if you think of all the electric devices in your kitchen today, it's stunning. Electric or gas stoves, electric blenders and mixers, microwaves, refrigerators. Go back just a century and none of this would be in the average home. And with the exception of canned goods, which dated back well into the 19th Century, nothing came in the form of prepared food either. For that matter, even packaging was different at that time. If you wanted steak for five, you went to the butcher, probably that day, and got steak for five. If you wanted ground beef, you went to the butcher and got the quantity you wanted, and so on.
World War Two era propaganda photograph, trying to depict an inattentive woman letting toast burn, and therefore wasting resources. Note how complicated this electric toaster is.
You'll still occasionally see old fashioned toasters in sheep and cattle camps, and probably elsewhere. They just hold the bread so that the toast can be toasted over a burner. Pretty simple, and not much of a labor saving device, right? Well, consider the totality of it. To toast you had to watch the toast, rather than just slip the bread down into the toaster.
For that matter, everything was relatively labor intensive save for boiling and roasting, which is probably why things tended to be boiled or roasted.
Man cooking in a cow camp for cowboys. He's using two cast iron dutch ovens (I still use one routinely) to cook over a fire. This photo first appeared on this blog in 2009 in a very early entry on cooking changes.
An interesting example of how this change impacts things appeared recently on the excellent A Hundred Years Ago blog
Steamed puddings are a traditional holiday food which once were slow-cooked on a wood or coal stove that was used for both heating and cooking. They are less popular now that our stoves aren’t constantly operating;
I've mentioned how wood burning stoves such as noted on A Hundred Years Ago impacted how food was cooked, but I've never really thought of it in terms of recipes such as this. Mostly what I've considered is how it impacted main meals, not in terms of how recipes were designed for the cooking conditions.
That's really a pretty notable omission on my part, probably impacted in part by the fact, as noted elsewhere, that my mother had learned to cook from her mother, who cooked with such stoves, and my mother was an awful cook. So I've sort of naively assumed that all food cooked that way must be bad.
That's probably a wildly erroneous assumption.
It makes me wonder how many other recipes and foods that were planned out for cooking in this style aren't really made much anymore, indeed if at all.