Patriotic Peanuts: A Fourth of July 1920s Menu

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Photo Source: Pinterest

When you think of “patriotic” American foods, do peanuts come to mind? How about Washington Pie? Or cream cheese sandwiches? While many of the food served at a 1920s Fourth of July celebration wouldn’t look out of place on a table today, there are some menu differences that may surprise you. Check out the recipes below. Maybe you’ll find a new vintage dish to add to your holiday repertoire! 🙂

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~ T H E   A R T   O F   T H E   P I C N I C ~

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The time period is off—based on the dress I’d say this was taken in the early 1900s—but it’s still a Fourth of July picnic, dang it! Photo Source: Pinterest

Earlier Fourth of July meals were mostly big community outdoor affairs, full of campfires and big tubs of boiling food. A 1922 Tribune article sums up one such earlier celebration nicely:

“for country or small village people, the picnic…has been considered the best kind of Fourth of July celebration…a whole village often empties itself out onto a picnic grove by some lake…and while the men fish and set up tables and benches, the women cook gallons of fish chowder in the church wash boilers, and the most public spirited fill fireholes [sic] with pots of baked beans in the early morning. Breads, pies, and cakes are brought from home and a new wash tub of lemonade is compounded on the spot. Everybody works except small fry, and certain young women. Swings are put up and seesaws built to keep the youngsters out of the way or out of the water.”1

While community celebrations like this still existed, more and more families packed their own picnic baskets to take to parks, beaches, riverbanks, and forest preserves to celebrate on their own.

Because of this, food that was easy to make, carry, or cook outside was heavily favored. And for picnics, that largely meant one thing: sandwiches! 🙂

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sandwich and thermos

Photo Source: Chicago Tribune Archives

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V I N T A G E   S A N D W I C H   F I L L I N G S :

“The sandwich basket…is capable of some interesting variations,” notes Jane Eddington, and that is in no small part thanks to the variety of fillings one could put inside them.2 Popular 1920s period fillings included minced ham, peanut butter, cheese, potato, liver, sardines, and various cream cheese fillings. The cream cheese ones were particularly popular, since they could be combined with “chopped nuts, chopped dates, chopped red or green sweet pepper, jellies, etc” to make many different kinds of sandwiches.3 Even butter sandwiches were encouraged. Here are a few vintage recipes for your perusal:

FANCY FILLING WITH CHICKEN:

Eddington says that this filling is meant for “small automobile picnics,” i.e. ones with a small party and “a rather dainty collection of things” to be served, as it takes more time and effort to prepare than some other fillings.4

1 cup cold cooked chicken

3 ounces unsalted butter

1 or 2 tbsp cream, “according to need” (see directions)

1 tbsp grated “piquant” cheese of your choosing

salt and pepper to taste, or “just a grain or two of cayenne pepper,” or “a dot or two of dry mustard”

  1. Grind or pound chicken into a “smooth mass.”
  2. While grinding chicken, work in the butter and cream as needed, then add seasonings.
  3. Work the chicken mixture until it is thin enough so “that it can be spread as that on a true canape” and mixed enough until it is “smooth as butter” and “smooth enough to pipe.” If it cannot be made this smooth, then it can be put through a sieve until it is.
  4. Spread on slices of bread or crackers.5

CHEESE FILLING:

This cheese spread is meant to be made at the picnic over a campfire, but can also be made at home, stored in a “small glass jar that can be covered closely,” and kept in the refrigerator “for a week” to “use as needed.”6

1 pound soft American cheese

2 or 3 beaten eggs

1/2 cup cream

salt and pepper to taste

paprika to taste

  1. Cut the cheese into small bits.
  2. Beat the eggs into the cream in a pot over the fire, then add cheese. “Stir constantly over a gentle fire until the cheese has melted.”7
  3. Take off the fire to season. Add salt and pepper, but “temperately.”8 Paprika can be added at this point as well. In fact, says Eddington, “a bit of red pepper or paprika is better than black pepper for the seasoning.”9
  4. If it curdles while cooking, run the mixture through a sieve.10
  5. Let cool until it has “the consistency of soft butter.”11
  6. Spread on plain slices of bread with butter.12

LIVER FILLING:

In a 1928 article, Eddington says this recipe “is an old one, yet up-to-date in interest because of the present wide use of liver diets,” which was found to help treat anemia at the time.13  If you like liver, this recipe really doesn’t sound half bad!

1 cup cooked calves’ liver

1 whole onion

1 bay leaf

1 blade of mace

dash of peppercorns and cloves

1 small onion, chopped

1 heart of celery, chopped

2 hardboiled eggs, chopped

1 tbsp butter

salt and paprika to taste

  1. Combine hot cooked liver, whole onion, bay leaf, mace, peppercorns and cloves in enough “water to cover” and let sit until cool. 
  2.  Once cool, drain liver and chop, mixing it with small onion, celery and eggs until paste as formed.
  3. Mix paste with butter, salt, and paprika, then spread over thin slices of rye bread.14 

POTATO SANDWICH FILLING:

Eddington called this an “old-timer” recipe, i.e. one certain to satisfy the older set.15

1 large potato, boiled

2 tbsp oil

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp vinegar

1 tbsp onion juice or grated onion

salt and paprika to taste

  1. Boil the potato and sieve it or rice it while it’s still hot
  2. Mix in other ingredients and cool
  3. Serve with a lettuce leaf between slices of rye bread.16

FOURTH OF JULY “SUPPER” CREAM CHEESE SANDWICH:

This colorful sandwich is made by combining cream cheese with bright holiday colors. Eddington says it “does not pretend to be rabidly patriotic, but just unique.”17

1 block of cream cheese, softened and split into two parts

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup pitted cherries

  1. Soften and mash cream cheese, then split into two parts.
  2. Add blueberries to one half of cream cheese and smash to apply color, then mix into cheese.
  3. Add cherries to the other half and smash to apply color, then mix into cheese. If cherries aren’t available, “chopped and drained tomato without the seeds” can be added instead to create the proper red tinge.18
  4. Spread onto bread.

 


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T H E   P A T R I O T I C   P E A N U T :

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This guy RULED the Fourth of July. Photo Source: Pintrest

Besides sandwiches, another extremely popular and “patriotic” outdoor food was peanuts. I’m not really sure why (perhaps it’s a nod to the Civil War?), but a large amount of articles about Fourth of July menus involved peanuts. One particularly bizarre article insisted that peanuts could be added to almost any holiday foodstuff, automatically making that food more “patriotic”:

“…nor if we choose to put them in our menus need we stop anywhere, for we may use them from soup to nuts…almost any nut salad can have peanuts…peanut bread…peanut cakes and candies are easy to make…hashes, stews, breakfast gems, and all muffins, and even pancakes. Raw peanuts can be cooked in exactly the same way as beans…mak[ing] an excellent basis for a puree for a cream soup…There are a good many other things made with the raw peanuts, including a sausage and some vegetable dishes.”19

Articles offered recipes for homemade peanut butter, peanut bread, peanut sandwiches (which really just involved mincing peanuts and mixing them with cream to form a sort of paste), and peanut brittle.

PEANUT BRITTLE

2 1/2 cups sugar

2/3 cup cold water

1/2 cup corn syrup

2 tbsp butter

1/2 lb. raw Spanish peanuts

1 tsp soda (baking soda?)

1 tbsp cold water

  1. Add sugar and water to pot and stir until dissolved.
  2. Put pot back on oven and add corn syrup, stirring “somewhat until it boils.”20
  3. Cook mixture until it has reached 270 degrees Fahrenheit, or “until the syrup is brittle when dropped in cold water.”21 
  4. Add butter and peanuts to mixture, and stir until “thoroughly cooked–they are quickly roasted at such a heat.”22 It should take about “ten minutes” in order to “roast them sufficiently.”23
  5. Mix baking soda and cold water together separately until soda is dissolved, then add to peanut mixture.
  6. Once mixture has foamed, turn it out onto an “oiled platter or other dish” and “let it cool somewhat,” then “turn it with a spatula and pull it out into as thin a sheet as possible.”24

 


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WHERE’S THE MEAT AND BEER?

Besides sandwiches and peanuts, the most popular Fourth of July meat seems to have been ham. Eddington extolled its virtues: “Boiled or baked ham has been variously extolled. It may be made elegant by the way it is cooked and set up, but it is quite as likely to be too commonplace. Yet for picnic use there is hardly any meat which will give such universal satisfaction.”25 Besides being served directly, it was also popular in sandwiches, and seen as very economical as every part could be used. Even the fat of the ham itself could be used to make a sandwich filling according to Eddington: “…it is more economical to chop fat and lean alike and use it for filling…When a ham is deliciously seasoned in the cooking the fat of itself is just as good a filling for a sandwich as butter is on bread.”26

Chicken was a close second. While not “indispensable,” it “has been the conventional meat for the picnic basket for several generations,” probably because it can be served both hot and cold without much complaint.27 There were different ways to cook it as well. Making “Maryland Fried Chicken,” for example, could encompass everything from frying the chicken in lard to cooking it in a Dutch oven and serving it with a cream gravy sauce made from the drippings.28 It was all about how elaborate you wanted to be, really.

Oddly enough, no meats were barbecued. While “a  meat barbecue” was served during “grandmother’s time,” according to the Tribune’s food writer Jane Eddington,  barbecue seemed to have fallen out of favor during the 1920s.29 Of all the food articles I read, barbecue was only mentioned in passing, if at all, and there were never any recipes for it. I’m not sure when barbecue started becoming a common summer thing (I suspect it was the 1950s when personal grills became a thing), but back then it simply wasn’t a part of the holiday culinary landscape. Food could still be cooked over campfires outdoors, however, so baked beans, baked potatoes, and boiled corn, coffee, and anything else you could throw in a pot and cook over a fire was fair game—just not grilling!

Beer, of course, was supposed to be absent during Prohibition. That didn’t stop some people, though, from making a foamy substitute. A recipe for something called “foamy drink” came up in more than one article that I read. Flavored primarily with hops, I suspect it may have been a stand-in for a cold beer on a hot day.

FOAMY DRINK RECIPE:

“Some people like to drink cold foam,” says Eddington in a 1921 article.30 This recipe “is a base for a slightly bitter, foamy drink, which may be made exceedingly mild with some cream, as root beer is.”31

1 bottle of seltzer water

1 pint cold spring water

1/2 ounce hops

1 tbsp ground ginger

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup cold water

whipping cream

  1. Boil spring water, hops and ginger for 30 minutes.
  2. The hop leaves will expand with the water, leaving about 1 cup of water behind. Strain this water off and add brown sugar, then cook about 10 minutes until it has reached “syrup stage.”32
  3. Once the mixture has cooled, add the cup of cold water.
  4. To serve, fill a glass one fourth of the way with the syrup. Add cream if desired. Then add seltzer water until the foam reaches the top of the glass.33

 

 


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~ D I N N E R   P A R T I E S ~

 

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An African American family celebrates the Fourth of July, c. 1925. You can check out more cool vintage 4th of July photos here at It’s About Time

Private dinner parties were another option for those who didn’t want to pack a picnic. While the foods served tended to mimic popular outdoor refreshments, greater care could be given to presentation and flare. For example, one could follow a “color menu” and highlight red, white and blue foods. A table could be made pretty and festive by offering each guest “clusters of cherries tried with blue and white ribbon.”34 A “handsome pile of cherries” could also act as the “central decorative feature for a small Fourth of July dinner party.”35 “Fancy” red, white, and blue papers could be used to wrap foodstuffs.36

Besides decorating the table in festive colors, however, there was an attempt to capture the outdoor spirit of the day in food as well. Here are two sample menus for a private dinner party, circa 1921:

Menu 1: “True to the day”

Maryland Fried Chicken  with Cream Gray

Baked Potatoes

Buttered Beets

Baking Powder Biscuits

Garden Lettuce Salad

Raspberry Mousse

Sponge Cake

Roasted Peanuts in Little Bags

Foamy Drink

Menu 2: “A fish dinner”

Red Sweet Pepper Relish with Water Cress

Boiled Salmon with Butter Sauce

Boiled Potatoes

Cucumber Cutlets

Green Peas

Fruit Salad

Cherry Tarts

Lemonade37

Entertaining at home opened up other food options as well, particularly regarding dessert. A shiny new refrigerator could be used to make all kinds of things, from ice cream to mousse to parfaits and sherbets. Cakes, sweet breads, pies and other treats were equally popular, however. Washington Pie was an old Fourth of July standby. A simple yellow cake with a raspberry jam filling, it was “used to an unwholesome extent in the old days” according to Eddington, and “so appeared at the picnic on the Fourth.”38

Here is a recipe card for a Washington Pie:

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An old recipe card for Washington Pie. Photo Source: Rainbowgr.com

Eddington, however, encouraged fun, playful takes on old standbys, such as a “firecracker pie,” which consisted of a cherry pie with “a stick of red candy in it, with a little string on the end” to simulate a firecracker.39 She also championed an old “colonial” recipe for Branbury Tart, an English pastry that was “brought along” by our “old English ancestors” and “not discarded when the liberty bell rang out.”40 Declaring them “most satisfactory,” she felt they were “spicier than cake and as independent as a sandwich in its own paper.”41  Here is her recipe:

BANBURY TARTS:

1 cup chopped raisins

3 crackers rolled into a fine powder

1 cup currants

1 orange, with skin zested and juice put aside

1 egg, with yolk and white separated

various spices “to taste”

  1. Make the filling by combining raisins, crackers, currants, orange juice, orange zest, and “several spices or not, to taste.”42
  2. Roll pastry thin and cut into little rounds or squares (no directions are given regarding making the pastry dough, but pre-made pie crust might work, seeing as she lists both “fine puff paste” and “pie crust” as options).43
  3. Place a ball of filling onto one half of the pastry, then wet edges with egg white. Fold over and press edges together, then run a “pastry wheel around the closed edge or pinch it” shut.44
  4. Glaze each tart with egg yolk and bake in hot oven until golden.

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But whatever you guys eat today, I hope you have a safe and sane Fourth of July!!!! 🙂

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Unlike this child, who looks really excited about his giant fireworks. You can see more adorable photos of children celebrating the Fourth of July in the past here at Victoriana.com

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Footnotes:
  1. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Out of Doors Refreshments.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jul 02, 1922. http://search.proquest.com/docview/175003564?accountid=3688.
  2. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Sandwich Making Is A Marked Activity in Fourth of July Catering.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 01, 1928. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180933110?accountid=3688.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Eddington, Jane. “The Tribune Cook Book: Our Patriotic Feast Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963). Date unknown.
  5. Ibid
  6. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Sandwich Making Is A Marked Activity in Fourth of July Catering.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 01, 1928. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180933110?accountid=3688.
  7. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Cooking for the Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 04, 1926. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180761382?accountid=3688.
  8. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Sandwich Making Is A Marked Activity in Fourth of July Catering.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 01, 1928. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180933110?accountid=3688.
  9. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Cooking for the Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 04, 1926. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180761382?accountid=3688.
  10. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Sandwich Making Is A Marked Activity in Fourth of July Catering.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 01, 1928. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180933110?accountid=3688.
  11. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Cooking for the Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 04, 1926. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180761382?accountid=3688.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Sandwich Making Is A Marked Activity in Fourth of July Catering.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 01, 1928. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180933110?accountid=3688.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Cooking for the Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 04, 1926. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180761382?accountid=3688.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK:  Community Fourth of July Dinners.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),Jun 28, 1925. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180656497?accountid=3688.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Eddington, Jane. “THE TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Food Patriotism Has Been But Slightly Developed, Though Foods Beginning with the Letter P Have Prestige.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 03, 1927. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180835976?accountid=3688.
  20. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK:  Community Fourth of July Dinners.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),Jun 28, 1925. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180656497?accountid=3688.
  21. Eddington, Jane. “THE TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Food Patriotism Has Been But Slightly Developed, Though Foods Beginning with the Letter P Have Prestige.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 03, 1927. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180835976?accountid=3688.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK:  Community Fourth of July Dinners.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),Jun 28, 1925. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180656497?accountid=3688.
  24. Ibid
  25. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK:  Community Fourth of July Dinners.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),Jun 28, 1925. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180656497?accountid=3688.
  26. Eddington, Jane. “The Tribune Cook Book: Our Patriotic Feast Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963). Date unknown.
  27. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Out of Doors Refreshments.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jul 02, 1922. http://search.proquest.com/docview/175003564?accountid=3688.
  28. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Fourth of July Menus.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jul 03, 1921. http://search.proquest.com/docview/174836611?accountid=3688.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK:  Community Fourth of July Dinners.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),Jun 28, 1925. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180656497?accountid=3688.
  35. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Cherries Make a Gay Decorative Feature for a Small Fourth of July Dinner Party.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),Jun 30, 1929. http://search.proquest.com/docview/181012669?accountid=3688.
  36. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Out of Doors Refreshments.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jul 02, 1922. http://search.proquest.com/docview/175003564?accountid=3688.
  37. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Fourth of July Menus.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jul 03, 1921. http://search.proquest.com/docview/174836611?accountid=3688.
  38. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK: Out of Doors Refreshments.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jul 02, 1922. http://search.proquest.com/docview/175003564?accountid=3688.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Eddington, Jane. “Tribune Cook Book: Banbury Tarts.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 03, 1928. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180942928?accountid=3688.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Eddington, Jane. “The Tribune Cook Book: Our Patriotic Feast Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963). Date unknown.
  43. Eddington, Jane. “Tribune Cook Book: Banbury Tarts.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jul 03, 1928. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180942928?accountid=3688.
  44. Ibid.

 

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About lupachi1927

My name's Megan. I'm a writer with an interest in history. While I might not be a real historian, I'm a very thorough researcher! :) This blog is my place to post about all the interesting historical tidbits I find that can't use in the novel I'm working on, which takes place in Chicago in 1927.
This entry was posted in 1920s vintage recipes, holiday post and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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