A Modest Christmas Dinner

A Modest Christmas Dinner
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It's Christmas of 1917, our country is in the midst of World War I and many of the men in the United States have shipped off to the war. The December 1917 issue of Modern Priscilla magazine advices homemakers:

"We may, without the least reproach, seek in the inner circle of home such happiness as good fare and good fellowship usually imply, if we have done everything within our means to bring a little joy into the lives of others at Christmastide."

Many families have sons, daughters, wives or husbands away in the military in 2012 and though we have the internet, they are still missed and the holidays aren’t the same without them. It’s still important to participate in the festivities for the sake of everyone’s morale. If you know someone who is missing a loved one, for any reason, consider helping them out, or inviting them to your home. It will make all the difference.

I thought I would share the menu they suggested back in 1917, which is fascinating as a look back at what was considered “modest”.  I also share recipes, which use simple ingredients. The Spiced Grapes have a lengthy process, but I wanted to share the recipe because it was rather unusual, at least in 2013.

The magazine suggests a stuffed, roasted goose, which was much easier to obtain during that time, and certainly less expensive than it is now. They also suggest the following side dishes and appetizers:

Oyster Bisque
Salted Peanuts
Apple Rings
Brussels Sprouts
Mashed Potatoes
Spiced Grapes
Orange and Celery Salad
Plum Pudding
Mince Pies
Scotch Shortbread
Mulled Cider

I'm sharing recipes that I converted to a regular recipe format. They were in paragraph form, rather than a list of ingredients and directions. I didn't share the goose recipe which was extremely involved, plus turkey is more of a “modest” meat in today’s times.

Mulled Cider

8 cups
1 stick cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1/2 cup sugar

Pour the cider into a pan, add the spices and sugar and cook slowly for one hour. Serve hot.

Spiced Grapes

6 pounds grapes
2 1/2 cups vinegar
4 pounds brown sugar
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. ground mace
1 tbsp. ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. ground cloves

Pick the grapes from the stems, wash and slip the pulp from the skins, put the pulp into a preserving kettle and cook gently until softened, then rub through a sieve. Put this pulp into a sauce pan add the vinegar, sugar and spices. Cook until very thick or about 2 hours.

Orange and Celery Salad

Sliced oranges
3 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped English walnuts
2 chopped gherkins
Lettuce leaves
Mayonnaise dressing

Arrange orange slices on crisp lettuce leaves; sprinkle over with the celery, and nut meats, and gherkins. Serve with mayonnaise dressing.


4 cups flour
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg

Cream the butter, sugar and egg together, and then gradually knead in the flour and salt. Make into a smooth round cake; pinch the edges neatly with the fingers, perforate all over with a fork, lay on a papered tin and bake in a moderate over (350 F.) for forty minutes. Allow to cool on tin, then break into pieces and serve in a cake basket.

Oyster Bisque

25 oyster with liquor
2 quarts fish or other stock
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
4 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
12 tsp. pepper
1 cup hot milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup cream
Lemon juice

Put the oysters with their liquor into a small pan, heat them gently until the edges curl and the oysters begin to plump up. Then take them from the fire, halve them and strain the liquor. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour, mix it in and stir it over the heat for two minutes, cut do not let it color. Add the stock, oyster liquor and seasonings. Stir all these until the soup boils, and let is simmer for forty minutes. Strain the soup through a sieve. Return to the pan, reboil it; add the milk and strain in the egg yolks beaten with the cream; let the soup cool a minute or two before adding this mixture or the eggs with curdle. Reheat the soup without boiling; add a few drops of lemon juice and, just before serving, the pieces of oyster.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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