Simple, Spiritual, Outdated Living in a Vintage New England Home on the Southern Coast of Maine

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Who does whipped cream better? The 1950s or today? (It's a whipped cream smackdown!)

This is a friendly competition between two similar products from two different Maine dairy companies. One of these containers of cream has many more additives--things that weren't added to milk in the 1950s and earlier--and has had more processing than the other. I wanted to know which would produce a prettier (and some would say healthier) whipped cream.

I used to live next to an Oakhurst dairy farm.

Oakhurst really stuck it to Monsanto when they first decided to not use bovine growth hormone (a Monsanto product) and added that fact to their milk packaging labels. Monsanto sued them but Oakhurst prevailed. I respect that immensely along with their support of local family farms.

Smiling Hill is a family farm that produces, processes and bottles(!) their milk in my town. They do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or artificial hormones. I just love that they still use bottles! This is where they accept returned bottles in their farm store where I brought mine earlier today. 

Two great companies, but things get ugly with the whipped cream:

Oakhurst Whipping Cream 

Ultra-Pasteurized: Kills bacteria and lasts longer before opening as stated on package.

Homogenized: A process to help bond water and fat together (emulsify).



Carrageenan: Used as a thickener and an emulsifier. Seems redundant, no?

Mono-Diglycerides: Synthetic fat added as an emulsifier. Really? I guess they want to make sure their whipping cream is fool-proof?

Cellulose Gum: Another emulsifier?!

Polysorbate 80: A mixture of polyoxyethylene ethers of mixed partial oleic acid esters of sorbitol anhydrides and related compounds. Or simply, yet even another emulsifier.

Smiling Hill Farm Heavy Cream

Pasteurized: Kills bacteria.


Cream, milk.

I've used Oakhurst's whipping cream many times, then decided to buy "organic" Horizon brand heavy cream but even they add carageenan. I wondered if something disastrous would happen without adding emulsifiers. How did our grandmothers ever survive making whipped cream without it?! I needed to know. Then I learned that Smiling Hill farm produces emulsifier-free heavy cream and sells it at their local store! Joy!

So, onto the smackdown!


I used the same size and shape bowl to whip one level cup of cold cream from each along with the same hand-held electric mixer that was washed and dried between each whipping. Each was whipped on medium then high speed until medium stiff peaks formed.


The Oakhurst Whipping Cream took about four minutes.

Smiling Hill took a little less than three minutes!

Then I did a dollop test. I simply placed a tablespoon in each bowl, scooped out some whipped cream and plopped it on a dish.

The Oakhurst dollop is nice but ever so slightly slightly runny at the base.

The Smiling Hill Farm dollop appears airier and shows no evidence of being runny. It emulsified beautifully without any chemical "help" or homogenizing.

As far as flavor there is no discernible difference between the two. 

The winner, in my opinion, is Smiling Hill Farms. I feel comfortable saying based upon my little experiment that not only is it healthier to leave the additives out, but that they appear entirely unnecessary. They seem to even possibly detract from the cream doing its natural thing when whipped.

So here's another little piece of my diet that will go retro!

Saturday, February 27, 2016


I've been very busy working on Thrifty Vintage Gluten-Free Recipes. This slice of apple pie made with an oat flour crust will be included.

My next blog post will be posted very soon. I'm facilitating a smackdown! You'll see...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Pumping Iron in the Waffle Lab, or, Another Day in the Vintage Test Kitchen.

I have this sexy early 1920s Griswold cast iron waffle iron that makes a beautiful hearts and star waffles.

I wasn't sure that it would work with an electric coil stove. It took me many tries to get this right, not just because of the iron, but I was also testing my own whole grain gluten-free waffle batter adapted from a 1920s recipe. As you can see, I had many fails:


Still a big fat NOPE.

Was I tempted to order a non-stick waffle iron via my Amazon Prime for something non-stick and new? No way!

This waffle iron is a beauty, and it's also very heavy. I got an EXCELLENT work-out yesterday. You don't just place it on the stove-top, pour in the batter and then wait. You have to keep flipping the waffle irons to ensure even heating on both sides, and when you do so you have to clamp down on the handles very tightly. I did test waffles for about six hours straight, so I'm not sure how many reps that equals but I loved it and looking forward to more! I am totally serious about old-fashioned cookery and housework being good exercise.

I learned a lot yesterday and it wasn't without lots of smoke and even a FLAME on the electric coil of my stove but I finally got both the waffle iron usage and batter right. So, for those who are interested: 

What I learned from a full day of trial and error with making waffles with a 1920s Griswold No. 18 low frame/base cast iron waffle iron on an electric stove-top.

Before you cook, make sure there is enough seasoning to make the irons non-stick. Then, for extra good measure, spray some cooking oil on both sides.  However, don't apply too much oil, even via spray, or else it may leak out as you flip the irons over and that will cause a smokey mess or fire! I always keep a fire extinguisher under my kitchen sink as well as baking soda handy which can be used to put out very small grease fires.

The outer coils on the irons do not get hot but the rest is VERY hot. Be very careful and wear mitts as needed.

Use medium heat (#4 on my electric stove).

Pre-heat both sides! If you don't you may have a perfect-looking waffle on one side and a disaster on the other. Allow about six minutes on each side for preheating in three minute increments. When drops of water sizzle it's ready for the batter.

When the irons are open and you are getting ready to put in your batter, recognize that there is no safety lock holding the iron upright. There was no such thing as the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1922. To be safe, keep one hand on standby, not exactly "holding" it in the upright position but by the iron handle to prevent the hot and heavy iron from crashing on your other hand as you pour in the batter.

Don't overfill! Fortunately there is a spill guard around the base, but it's not a perfect fit so you want to avoid batter dripping onto the heat source and causing a smokey mess.

Don't underfill! If you do you won't be able to gently lift the edges of the waffle to release and remove it in one piece.

Keep flipping this baby! I give about three minutes on each side before flipping again. You will need to hold the handles tightly as you do. As I already stated, this truly is pumping iron.

Don't peek! If you lift too soon you will break the waffle apart.

You will see steam coming out from the sides of the irons for the first couple of minutes. It takes about twelve minutes on my stove for each waffle to be ready at which point it will separate from the iron easily if you take a fork and gently release it along the edges.

Oh! And my gluten-free whole grain waffle recipe along with the original will be in my book Thrifty Vintage Gluten-Free Recipes!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How people took a stand for weight in the 1950s

Here are more scans from my 1952 Spring and Summer Montgomery Ward catalog, this time sharing some bathroom weight scale options. How do they compare to today?

These scales only go up to 250 pounds! I took a quick glance at amazon best selling scales, and the trend for top sellers seems to be a max of 400 pounds.

This "doctor's type" scale goes up to 300 pounds, still below today's equivalent that goes up to 400 and up.

Also check out: Weigh Cool Ideas.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day! My own recipe for fancy bittersweet chocolates filled with marshmallow and coconut!

I made these from scratch and they are fun to make and eat for a special Valentine's Day treat and/or gift. Everything tastes better when it's homemade with love, especially when you can control the sweetness and use minimally processed ingredients. The end result isn't machine-perfect, but food wasn't meant to be that way! 

Averyl's Fancy Coconut Marshmallow Bittersweet Chocolates

1.5 bars of 4 oz Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Bar, 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate: 960 calories
1/2 cup unrefined coconut sugar: 430 calories
1/4 cup organic non-fat dry milk powder: 120 calories
2 tbsp organic butter: 200 calories

Combine and blend ingredients in a double boiler, stirring until melted.
Spoon melted chocolate into a candy molds (twenty candies worth) filling each halfway, then divide the following ingredients into each, using slightly more filling for larger pieces:

27 Dandies mini Vanilla marshmallows: 135 calories
2 tbsp Bob's Red Mill's unsweetened shredded coconut: 70 calories

Spoon the rest of the melted chocolate into the molds. Let cool completely, release and enjoy! Makes twenty chocolates with about 95 calories each when averaged out; the larger pieces will have more calories than the smaller ones.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Were women thinner in the 1950s and earlier because of smoking?

Click here for the 1930 ad image source and to see more in this collection of "keeps you slim" cigarette ads  from The Stanford School of Medicine.

In my book American Women Didn't Get Fat in the 1950s I debunked the claim that the reason women weren't obese in the 50s is because "they all smoked" as some have commented in response to my book (but apparently didn't read it.) In the Beta version of STAT: Reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine, Sharon Begley does a "gut check" of Fewer American Smoke. More Are Obese. Is There A Connection? What did her research reveal?

Given all the epidemiological evidence that quitting smoking causes weight gain, and the solid biological explanation of it, this paper’s finding of an 11- to 12-pound average gain is plausible. But it doesn’t prove that the decline in smoking was a significant contributor to America’s obesity epidemic. 

This isn't surprising, and I encourage you to read her article in full. As a former smoker who started at age 13, quit 19 years later, gained weight and then later lost and kept it off, I am comfortable disputing the claim from personal experience in addition to what my research and current statistical data reveals.

Let's cut the nonsense and go snopes on this folklore, OK?

Nicotine is an appetite suppressant.

Ok, but that's not the entire story. Nicotine isn't the only appetite suppressant nor is it the most effective. When we learn to have a healthy relationship with food and eating, we learn the difference between appetite and hunger. No one starves to death or even feels faint from not feeding their appetite

The majority of people who quit smoking gain weight.
As reported by Begely, any weight gain attributed to quitting smoking isn't enough to push the majority from a "normal" BMI to overweight to obese. 

Still not convinced? According to the paper, Consequences of smoking for body weight, body fat distribution, and insulin resistance published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008:

1) Heavy smokers are more likely to be obese than lighter smokers! 

2) Waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio is higher in smokers than in nonsmokers! 

And what about the vintage 1930 ad I shared and the hundreds of others? While advertising influences consumer behavior, influence does not equate control, mandate or preclude independent thinking and decision-making.

As I reported in my book, the majority of women in America did not smoke in the 1950s!

The real issue for me is this: Why are so many invested in looking for evidence to support that there is really nothing we can do to lose weight unless we take up smoking, drugs or a starvation diet? By taking up that kind of logical fallacy then we can take "comfort" in defeat with the rationalization that by overeating and being overweight we're actually making sound decisions about what's best for us. The only thing to gain from that level of denial and self-deception is weight, and we stand to lose good health and the chance to learn to eat delicious nutritious food in moderation.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My 1924 Lemon Sponge Pie is a success!

This gluten-free lemon sponge pie recipe will be in my Thrifty Vintage Gluten-Free Recipes book. It's been a long day in my test kitchen. This was one of three recipes for today!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New for Spring & Summer 1952: Cool, Sunfast, Washable Skips

As inspiration for not just spring, but beautiful classic fashions that would look great worn today, I'll be scanning style picks from my 1952 Montgomery Ward catalog. I'll begin the series with these cotton braid "vamps":

"Summer casuals, no matter what their color. On in a jiffy, off in a jiffy. Elastic straps that fit snugly about ankles for comfort. Matching cotton twill covered platforms and arch wedge heels. Long-wearing rubber soles." $2.79 

"A riot of gay colors, perfect for summer beach play wear. Perfect companions for light cottons." $2.89

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The "Why I Failed Department" Weight Loss Edition

I love this 1913 solicitation for The Country Gentleman magazine! What a great idea! I was thinking it can be applied to many things, not just problems of the gentleman farmer. "Crops that grew and flourished but yielded little" made me think of when I had lost weight on a gimmicky diet. It felt like winning but success was always fleeting. "Extensive plans that were intensive failures" is so epic-sounding! I can think of some examples in my own life; I'm sure we all have them. Sticking to weight and eating healthily, I'm thinking of everything I tried up until my success that I've shared extensively in my blog and book. It's very true that my past failures are complete motivators and indicators of what can never work for me.

What about you? What would you submit to a Weight Loss Edition of the "Why I Failed Department" as an example of what led (or can lead) to a more informed and successful next attempt?

Monday, February 1, 2016

What a peek into my closet reveals about my weight and self-image, past and present

Those of you who have weight to lose or who have lost and gained more than once understand the expense and challenge of maintaining a wardrobe that fits. By fits, I don't just mean in size, but what also matches our self-perception.

As you can see, the little black dress and the novelty linen skirt above both still retain their original Talbot's price tags. Are they new? No; I purchased them about fifteen years ago! They are both a size 6. When I originally bought them they didn't fit because I was a size ten. These pieces were my inspiration to take the excess weight off but by the time I did, I kind of forgot I had them, nor did I have a fitting occasion to wear them. Then I foolishly thought I was too old!

These are two size eight Ralph Lauren skirts I bought during a time that I was losing and gaining before I went retro with my eating. They fit for a while, then they didn't. Then they did. Etc. I love them a lot so I will see if I can get them tailored to fit me now.

What isn't pictured is all of my size ten clothing I sold on ebay and the schlubastic rest I threw away. I once spent a year wearing nothing but sweatpants! I didn't want to face my growing girth so it was easier to deny it with a drawstring and elastic. 

I've begun to think of the idea of hanging onto our "fat" clothing as potentially undermining:
“When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home." -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I have zero hankering for size ten. I also have no plans to once again be able to wear this:

It's an L.L.Bean belt I bought in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I was very tiny around my waist:

I held onto it for all these years as inspiration and for sentimental reasons, but I am happy with my current weight and it's Ok that I may never be able to wear that belt again. 

Speaking of leather belts, have you noticed how many are now made of "bonded leather" which is like flexible particle board and falls apart after you wear it once??

Another belt:

The peace sign brass buckle belt was an estate sale find some years ago. It was way too large, even at my heaviest, so I never wore it until last year when I took it to a local leathersmith who trimmed it to the correct size. That, too, felt like a commitment to myself and my health since "your belt line is your life line."

I have #tallgirlproblems when I go clothes shopping, along with the challenge of finding tailored, tasteful clothing for us ladies over forty.

Disco pot-luck party?  Retirement home Bingo night?

Chico's shimmery tops, "statement" pieces and vanity-sizing scheme where everyone is a size zero or close to it isn't for me. 

I drove up to Freeport yesterday morning, home to L.L.Bean and many outlets and was thrilled to discover that Brooks Brothers (a very retro brand!) Factory Store sells tailored, form-fitting women's clothing! I bought some pretty tops made from beautiful fabrics like all-cotton and merino wool in flattering styles like this super-soft turtleneck sweater:

I have a lot of black in my wardrobe and love this sweater that fits me perfectly even though I'm a tall gal:

And button down blouses! I haven't tucked anything in ages! I wear a lot of tunics because the "regular" lengths are too short on me and much of the clothing available for us mid-life ladies is all about hiding and covering up!

I took a selfie to show you that even on me, I'm 5' 9", that these Brooks Brothers all-cotton "miracle" shirts are long enough to tuck but most importantly have a feminine fit. They are not designed to deny size and hide your body.

I spent the same or less per piece there than I would have at the mall!

I'll conclude this post with a kooky 1960s robe that looks like Wonderbread packaging:

I bought it at the estate sale of a former lingerie sales rep. It was in the original plastic wrapping in a suitcase filled with other lady things. I don't think I'll ever wear it but it's too groovy to give away. I'm OK with a few quirky or sentimental pieces taking up real estate in my closet, but otherwise I'm working on making it fit for who I am today.