This the third in my series of monthly projects that I hope will get you excited about In the Kitchen With Laura. I’m running late, but hopefully I’ll be back up to speed after this post.
Today I want you to take a look at measuring. In the modern kitchen people have a wide assortment of things that they use to measure. Liquid and Dry ingredients have separate styles of measuring cups (although they both share measuring spoons). Having specific utensils for measuring is a relatively new concept. In colonial times measurements for cooking were often done by weight and descriptions in written recipes would assume the cook would have an idea what they were cooking should look like, that the basic form at least would be a familiar dish. Recipes of the time would say things like “Add enough flour” or colloquial expressions like “butter the size of an egg.” As oral tradition was replaced by printed recipes in the second half of the 19th century, cooks (both then and now) struggle with exactly what they meant. Finally in the 1896 Fannie Farmer – Boston Cooking School Cookbook, measurements were standardized using familiar things around the house making it much easier to understand and at least approximate the original recipe. Farmer used a teacup, a teaspoon, and a tablespoon (familiar to cooks then and in every kitchen) to give her measurements. With the rise of the home economics movement in the early 20th century more formal measuring equipment was created, but it was not until they started to be used as premiums for Betty Crocker and other companies that they came into the average home kitchen in the 1940s and 1950s.
In the Kitchen with Laura is set in the late 1930s so she isn’t using purchased measuring cups. Instead she is using Fannie Farmer’s system of teacups, teaspoons, etc. I have collected china and glassware, in the patterns we know Laura Ingalls Wilder used, but what I have is mostly best dishes and not things that would be used for measuring. So it the meantime I’m using a fairly modern cup I picked up (although it’s in the very old Blue Onion pattern), but hope to replace it with a closer to period cup soon. The silverware is not one I know for sure that Laura used in the 1930s, but the pattern is one of the earliest Onedia patterns used as a Betty Crocker premium starting in 1931. It’s called Friendship. Laura certainly could have had a set of these which she replaced with better silverware later on. Dating silverware patterns is not an easy task. Look for more on what I’ve found in another In the Kitchen post.
For your activity this month, you will need a liquid measuring cup, a dry measuring cup, a cup of flour, a cup of water, and three cups out of your kitchen or dining room (not of the same set). Try to measure out a cup full of flour in each one and then pour it into the dry measuring cup to see how close you are. Next try to measure a cup of water in each one, pouring it into the liquid measuring cup to check accuracy. How far off were you? Do you know the pattern name for the one that was the closest?
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.