Lilian Tingle Recipes

Parasocial Pickles

First, a warning: you should never make a historical pickle recipe (yes even if it is your great grandma’s). We know a lot more about food safety now and it is very important to use tested recipes when fermenting, and especially when canning. Now, you might be wondering how I plan to follow my own safety advice when the conceit of this blog is making historical recipes. The answer is, I’m making a modern recipe, straight from the well tested pages of the University of Wisconsin’s food preservation series. I think Tingle would approve of using new science to improve food preparation, but more importantly I don’t really feel like risking botulism over a blog post. 

So why am I writing about pickles if I’m not even going to use a proper Tingle recipe? Well, even though I’m not using one of her recipes, pickling and canning were a large part of the column. Pickling is an ancient method of food preservation, dating back to at least 2030 B.C., but industrial canning was new in the early 19th Century and home canning was just emerging.2Avey, Tori. “History in a Jar: Story of Pickles | The History Kitchen.” PBS Food (blog), September 3, 2014. It was scientific, and particular, not something young women could learn from their mothers and grandmothers who didn’t grow up with home canning. It was also hugely popular, an inexpensive way to preserve food when it was plentiful and inexpensive. It was just the kind of thing that people had a million questions and worries over.

Tingle and her Audience

Pickles also highlight the ongoing tension between Tingle and her correspondents. It raises questions about how Tingle’s correspondents viewed their relationship to Tingle, how they influenced the column, and how Tingle responded. In addition to her correspondents column, Tingle often published articles on specific topics or dishes. These articles weren’t wholly separate from the columns, she often referenced correspondents’ questions, or wrote long form articles upon receiving an overwhelming number of requests. In September, 1912 Tingle wrote an article about Pickles:

“This article is about pickles and relishes. I thought it was to be about “Cooking for Diabetics,” for I have had such a lesson promised for a long time. But this week brings requests for so many pickle receipts that no ordinary correspondence column will hold them, and so a sort of “overflow meeting” will have to be organized. I was planning a nicely classified series of “lessons” on pickles and such seasonable matters; but, today, I feel that it is wiser to give some few recipes ‘as they come,’ regardless of classification or general principles, since people tend to ‘want what they want when they want it.” and I don’t want to be besieged (as I have been lately) by phone, by letter, and in streetcars by passionate demands for dill pickle directions, or requests for relishes. Let me say again, however, that it is not possible for me to give information by telephone, or by letter, and that streetcars were not really intended by Providence as theaters for cookery lectures.”3Lilian Tingle, “Nine Ways of Making Pickles,” Sunday Tingle, Lilian. “Pickle Recipes Asked by Many Housewives” Sunday Oregonian, September 1, 1912, sec. Five. Historic Oregon Newspapers.

Newspaper headline. "Pickle Recipes Asked By Many Housewives. Information by telephone or by letter cannot be given and streetcar talks on cooking are not considered."
Sunday Oregonian, September 1, 1912, section 5, page 6.

This is one of many examples of Tingle’s correspondents shaping the column, insisting it meet their needs rather than conforming to Tingle’s domestic science agenda. It also illustrates the strength of the bond between Tingle and her correspondents, and the sense of urgency and even entitlement some of her correspondents had. Especially in the early years, Tingle was constantly reminding correspondents that she couldn’t answer questions by phone or send personal letters.  Her frustration mounted over the years as correspondents continued to expect personal replies, and even, according to this article, accost her on the streetcar. Just a few years before her 1912 pickle article she wrote an article decrying pickles, claiming they were dangerous for children and young women: “the craving for pickles is almost always a danger signal with growing girls.” Still, she continued to publish pickle recipes year after year. In fact they were one of the most popular requests. In the end, Tingle caved to the pressure of her correspondents, giving them what they wanted instead of what she thought was best. She concluded, “I must remember that I am not writing a sermon on dietary sins, but simply trying to answer requests for pickle recipes which have been pouring in lately.”4Lilian Tingle, “This Is Open Season for the Deadly Pickle,” Sunday Oregonian, August 21, 1910, sec. Six, Historic Oregon Newspapers,

A parasocial relationship (PSR) is traditionally defined as a one sided relationship between audiences and celebrities. Audience members form emotional connections to people or characters that do not know they exist. Online creators have increasingly and explicitly discussed parasocial relationships publicly. The internet has undeniably intensified these relationships by giving audiences more intimate access to creators. While audiences also form parasocial relationships with traditional celebrities, the internet intensifies them. Tingle and her audience are an interesting juxtaposition. In many ways Tingle’s correspondents did have a parasocial relationship with her. She was more available than any traditional celebrity, and entered the private kitchens of thousands of women. But that relationship was mediated by letters and a newspaper, not social media.

In “The one-and-a-half sided parasocial relationship: The curious case of live streaming” internet and communication researchers Rachel Kowert and Emory Daniel Jr. argue that live streamers (on Twitch or YouTube, for example) represent a slightly new twist on the traditional PSR. Rather than a one-sided relationship, live streamers and their audiences have a one-and-a-half-sided relationship because of the increased opportunity for reciprocal communication. Unlike traditional celebrities, live streamers interact constantly with their audience, responding to chat messages and talking live on air, making the audience feel even more connected to them. The authors argue that the increased accessibility of streamers creates the, “potential for reciprocal communication, a stronger sense of community affiliation, wishful identification, greater emotional investment, fandom cultures, and an increased sense presence than traditionally experienced in parasocial relationships.”5Kowert, Rachel, and Emory Daniel. “The One-and-a-Half Sided Parasocial Relationship: The Curious Case of Live Streaming.” Computers in Human Behavior Reports 4 (August 1, 2021): 100150. While Tingle’s column is very different from live streaming, it shares the increased potential for reciprocal communication, strong community affiliation and wishful identification. Tingle responded to thousands of letters, was a role model viewed by many as the peak of female domesticity, and through the column helped facilitate a community of cooks. Her correspondents expressed many of the positive emotions and outcomes expressed by people in parasocial relationships. They felt supported, like they had someone to help them, and a community to lean on, just like many people in live streamers’ audiences. Tingle often referenced personal parts of letters, thanking her or telling her personal stories that she didn’t print. Correspondents felt close to her, close enough to tell her their stories, ask after her health and about her travels, miss her when she took a break, and let her into their personal struggles in the home.

Tingle also dealt with some of the drawbacks online creators face today, including fans who constantly tried to access her and sometimes crossed her boundaries. She also experienced some of the joys. In 1922 she wrote, “I find I have a number of ‘unknown friends’ of many years standing. I have learned to recognize certain handwritings and initials with pleasure as old friends even though I know neither the names nor faces of the writers. One such friend wrote recently that she had been reading my column regularly for 12 years! I felt very much pleased and very grandmotherly.”6Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” Sunday Oregonian, March 12, 1922, sec. Five, Historic Oregon Newspapers, Maybe even more than live streaming, Tingle had a truly one-and-a-half sided relationship with her correspondents. She personally read and responded to their letters over years and decades. However, the pace and degree of emotional connection was undoubtedly very different. The internet facilitates much faster, and more intense communication especially through the medium of live video. The column was an analog anonymous forum, run by a proto-micro-celebrity. Many of the trends we see today in online cooking spaces were present in Tingle’s column and have only been intensified by the internet. 

But Back to Pickles

Home canning started to gain popularity in the early 1900s, and the USDA released its first pamphlet with instructions for safe home canning in 1909.7Andress, Elizabeth, and Gerald D. Kuhn. “Early History of USDA Home Canning Recommendations.” In Critical Review of Home Preservation Literature and Current Research. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 1998. Every summer and fall, Tingle’s column with questions about canning, from pickles to deviled crab. Jams and preserves were hugely popular, as well as whole vegetables, and meat, canned for the winter while ingredients were cheap and fresh.

A poster, two class jars full of peas and olives, a tray full of dried apples. "Can, Dry fruits and vegetables. Don't let good food spoil. Send for free bueeletins. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
A 1914 poster encouraging food preservation.8U. S. Department of Agriculture. “How Did We Can? | Fruits and Vegetables: Don’t Let Good Food Spoil.” U. S. Department of Agriculture, 1914.

Food science didn’t quite keep up. Today we know that certain high acid foods may be canned using a water bath canner, essentially submerging cans in boiling water for set lengths of time. But low acid foods may only be canned safely using a pressure cooker. Without a pressure cooker there is no way to heat an entire jar of food to the proper temperature and botulism and other poisonous bacteria can survive. By 1917 the USDA started to recommend pressure canning for low acid foods, but home pressure cookers were still fairly new, difficult to use, and potentially hazardous. So it took a while for the general public to fully make the switch.Andress, Elizabeth, and Gerald D. Kuhn.9“Early History of USDA Home Canning Recommendations.” In Critical Review of Home Preservation Literature and Current Research. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 1998. When Tingle started writing the column in 1908 the USDA hadn’t even released official home canning recommendations, women turned to her for the most up-to-date scientific advice, and to learn about government reports and recommendations. Food science of canning and recommendations for home canners developed over the course of Tingle’s column and her recipes changed to reflect the new science. Home canning is a perfect example of the ideal of domestic science. It requires precision, specialized knowledge, and expertise. Young women had to turn to experts and “rationalize” their cooking. 

Tingle’s correspondents were excited about canning, but many were apprehensive. One genre of letter Tingle regularly received was women describing their canning process in intricate detail and begging Tingle to ease their mind and tell them if their food was safe. This “young bride” from Clackamas, OR wrote a typical letter: “I canned some frozen beef last winter. Now, I wonder if there would be anything poisonous in it. Boiled it in jars for four hours. I always have good luck with meat, but since canning this have wondered about it. It was killed about 10 days before canning (during cold weather).”10Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” Sunday Oregonian, May 7, 1922, sec. Five, Historic Oregon Newspapers, Tingle assured her correspondent  that the sterilization period should be sufficient but never to eat anything that looked or smelled off. Today, experts would never recommend eating any canned meat not made in a pressure cooker, but this was 1922, the scientific consensus wasn’t in (or hadn’t quite reached Oregon), and home pressure cookers were less available. 

Pickles, on the other hand, don’t need a pressure cooker. The acid in pickles comes from either added vinegar or fermentation. For fermented pickles, the cucumbers are put in a salt brine for several weeks and, “salt-tolerant bacteria convert carbohydrates (sugars) in the vegetables into lactic acid.”11Ingham, Barbara. “Homemade Pickles & Relishes.” Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series. University of Wisconsin, 2002. Then the fermented pickles are canned. The other option is quick pack pickles: the cucumbers are packed in jars with a pickling solution containing vinegar and canned immediately. For either method, exact ratios are very important to ensure the correct PH and safe canning. That’s why it is so important to use a (modern) tested recipe. Sure, lots of people used Tingle’s old pickle recipes, but lots of people also died of botulism poisoning. 

Making the Pickles

I decided to make two types of quick pack pickles: dill and bread and butter. Dill pickles would usually be fermented and then canned, but I wanted to do all my canning in one day, so quick pack it was. The most challenging factor was getting the ingredients and equipment. It is not quite pickling cucumber season, really I should have waited until at least July, but I settled for waiting until mid-May. I was able to get some small organic cucumbers from Sundance, which are at least better than the huge cucumbers from the grocery store.

My mom canned her homemade raspberry jam every summer, so I have a little bit of experience, but not a ton. I also don’t own a proper water bath canner, or canning tongs. Instead I used the biggest pot I own and a rack to keep the jars off the bottom so water could circulate. Luckily my friend had some brand new jars and lids so I didn’t have to buy those (you can reuse jars, but it is very important to buy new lids each time you can). Making the pickles was pretty easy. After a lot of research I chose two recipes from the University of Wisconsin’s Safe Food Preservation Series: Pickles and Homemade Relishes.12 Ingham, Barbara. “Homemade Pickles & Relishes.” Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series. University of Wisconsin, 2002. The bread and butter pickles were thinly sliced, kept on ice for three hours, and then canned in a pickling solution of sugar and vinegar (heated to boiling). Getting the jars in and out of the canner was a challenge without canning tongs, but I only splashed boiling water into my face once.

The dill pickles were supposed to be canned whole, but since I was using pint jars, and big cucumbers, I decided to cut them into spears so I could get more than two into each jar. The pickling solution for the dills was similar: vinegar, water, salt and sugar. I added dill, mustard seed, and red pepper flakes to each jar. 

My favorite part of the process was watching the cucumbers go from a fresh, vibrant green, to the muted green of pickles as they cooked in the canner. After I removed the jars and they started to cool, the lids popped down which means they sealed properly. I can’t help but feel some of the anxiety Tingle’s correspondents expressed. Even though I followed the recipe as best I could, I still have a few lingering doubts. What if the water wasn’t boiling enough? What if I contaminated the jars? What if spearing the cucumbers breaks the recipe? I can see why canning was such a popular source of questions. I guess my best recourse is more googling, or perhaps leaving a comment on a blog post about pickle making. 


I used recipes from the University of Wisconsin’s Safe Food Preservation Series. Quick pack bread and butter pickles (page 20) and quick pack dill pickles (page 21). 

Click on in-text citations for references or go to this page for a full list.

Special thanks to A. McNamee for help with the canning and the jars.

Lilian Tingle Recipes

Rose Bead Fever

A bouquet of pink roses and a bouquet of red roses.

“When the rose bead fever seizes a victim nothing can be done but provide the necessary recipes and materials and wait in patience for the attack to pass.”1Tingle, Lilian. “Rose Beads Popular and Are Easily Made.” The Sunday Oregonian. June 30, 1912. Historic Oregon Newspapers. In 1912, when this rose bead epidemic swept through Portland. Tingle’s column, previously full of recipe requests, descended into a glorified rose bead column, with an increasingly annoyed Tingle exasperatedly providing recipes and answering the same questions week after week. 

Newspaper headline: "Rose Beads Popular and Are Easily Made: Directions for Making Ornaments Must Be Followed Implicitly to Get Satisfactory Results--Various Colors May Be Produced

The first few times I read about rose beads I had no idea what they were, I assumed they were some type of food, maybe a dessert? Since Tingle’s column focused almost exclusively on food. But in fact they are decorative beads, made from rose petals as the name suggests. The fad is somewhat incomprehensible from a modern standpoint. The beads are usually black or grayish, sometimes dyed red or pink, somewhat shriveled and decidedly homemade. And yet, the column was overrun with requests, on July 21st 1912 alone 6 out of 8 correspondents wrote in with questions about rose beads. In June, Tingle wrote, “a warning to those not yet infected,” claiming, “it is chiefley sentiment (anything made from roses must be beautiful) and an exultant sense of making something for nothing that spreads the fever.” And it wasn’t just young girls making rose beads, “careful housekeepers and busy mothers have been known to neglect every ordinary duty while they made rose beads.”2Tingle, Lilian. “Rose Beads Popular and Are Easily Made.” The Sunday Oregonian. June 30, 1912. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Like silly bands or whipped coffee, this trend seemed to have an iron grip on Portland women in 1912. The trend resurfaced in 1914 and even briefly in 1924, but at least in Tingle’s column, 1912 was the peak. The trend was also much more common in Portland than elsewhere, while only just over 50% of Tingle’s correspondents were from Portland almost all of the questions about rose beads were from Portland correspondents. 

Many people at the time were just as confused by the frenzied popularity of rose beads as we might be today. Men rarely wrote in with questions, but in July of 1912 one “puzzled bachelor” reached a peak of curiosity:

Portland, OR., July 17–As you seem to be an authority on all things feminine and most important things masculine, may a mere man come forward with a question? Why is it that so many women of all ages seem at present irresistibly impelled to mangle, dry and mummify the corpses of what were once beautiful roses, and to string these atrocious remnants round their necks? While the roses from which they are made were no doubt at one time lovely, surely no one can say the same of these horrid relics. Many babies are also beautiful; why then should not the dear little dried fingers and toes of dead infants be stung in necklaces of “baby beads?” I have heard that such a custom is followed in some countries. It would puzzle me to say which of these two species of necklace would be the less attractive to the masculine eye. 

A Puzzled Bachelor

I shall evidently have to start a separate “bead column” if this goes on, and even mere men ask me bead questions. As far as I know the reason for making and wearing rose beads is, in the words of Lord Dundreary, “One of those things no feller can understand;” You have my sympathy. The rose bead epidemic is one which recurs every few years in different places as “something new.” Actually of course, it is not “new” at all; but it is “more easily caught than the plague, and the taker runs presently made.” The only thing is to have patience, let them make and wear the beads, and “get it out of their systems,” as it were. Already I observe signs of abatement. One sees just as many beads on the streetcars; but I notice also a tendency to get rid of strings, formerly prefixed, by sending them “back East,” in the hope that they are not so common there. One girl who proudly displayed her rose beads a year or two ago told me recently that she “wouldn’t be found dead in them.” So cheer up. I don’t think many women will adopt your other gruesome suggestion. At least I hope not, because I like babies even more than I like roses; but I have a lingering suspicion that there are women to be found who would wear even “baby beads,” if these were “imported” (form the countries you refer to), if the price was sufficiently high, and if they were assured that “baby beads” were “the very latest exclusive novelty.” If you think I am too hard on some members of my own sex, just consider the matter of aigrettes, Persian lamb, and many other examples of heartless adornment that have been worn by some of us without a shudder.

Lilian Tingle, July 19124Tingle, Lilian. “Answers to Correspondents.” Sunday Oregonian, July 21, 1912, sec. 5. Historic Oregon Newspapers.

Both Tingle and the puzzled bachelor are somewhat dismissive of women and their hobbies. Men also participate in seemingly frivolous fads and trends, but generally aren’t judged as harshly by society. Tingle adds a critique of consumerism and tasteless wealth. As a domestic scientist Tingle was part of the class of middle/upper class female reformers, and one of the many targets of critique was over consumption and wastefulness. Rose beads wasted time rather than money, and like many popular trends, were seen as gouache and cheap by certain segments of society.

Two baking sheets, covered in parchment papers, covered in pink rose petals.

Making The Rose Beads

Tingle published many rose bead recipes. Many included specialized ingredients like gum tragacanth and orris root powder.5Tingle, Lilian. “Rose Beads Popular and Are Easily Made.” The Sunday Oregonian. June 30, 1912. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Other beads were made using only rose petals ground into a smooth paste and cooked over low heat for hours. Today, most rose bead recipes that I find use the latter method. It is very slow, messy and uses an enormous amount of rose petals. I decided to make rose beads using one of the cheaper methods. Rather than specialized gums this recipe called for cornstarch, water, salt, and dried powdered rose petals.

I used the first method described here, I guess I draw the line at buying gum tragacanth. From the June 21st, 19126Tingle, Lilian. “Answers to Correspondents.” Sunday Oregonian, June 21, 1914, sec. 5. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Full alt text here.

My first stop was Safeway where I bought a bouquet of roses that was starting to wilt. I used the pink/purple flowers for the beads because I wanted to try to make colored beads. Red roses end up very dark or even black when processed.

On a kitchen table and counter: four baking sheets covered in pink rose petals.

I dried all the petals in the oven. Tingle suggested sun drying but in classic Oregon style it was raining and I was on a deadline. After drying the petals I crushed them and then used a blender to powder them completely before pushing them through a sieve.

The rest was easy. I made a thick paste with cornstarch and water by cooking it for about five minutes, then mixed in the salt and powdered rose petals. Tingle’s recipe was a bit unclear. It called for equal parts cornstarch and water added to equal parts salt and powdered rose petals. I wasn’t sure if that meant 25% each or 33% cornstarch, 33% water and a combined 33% rose petal and salt. I had enough rose powder to try both ways, and while I can’t be sure what Tingle intended, the 25% each method was very dry and hard to work with, while the wetter mixture formed a smooth clay like dough. I added some powdered food coloring to some of the rose clay (Tingle suggests fruit coloring or vegetable dye), formed them into beads, stuck safety pins through them, and left them to dry. 

As far as I can tell, one of the appeals of rose beads is their fragrance. Unfortunately I think the method I used didn’t preserve the fragrance as well as it could have. After I dried and powdered the rose petals, instead of smelling like roses they smelled freeze dried. And that’s not just my opinion, as usual I coerced a friend into helping me and they agreed. It didn’t smell like freeze dried strawberries, or blueberries it just smelled freeze dried. I added some rose water to the rose clay, so hopefully they will still have some scent once they dry. It’s been about a day since I made them and while they’re not fully dry they have started to get lighter and grayer as they sit. I can see how this could have been a fun project in 1912, but I mostly found it tedious and I can’t say I like the look of the beads. I think I have to agree with the puzzled bachelor, the roses were far more beautiful before being mangled and mummified.

Light grey and purple beads, impaled on safety pins on a drying rack.
After several hours, the beads started to develop a white/grey patina, probably thanks to the cornstarch.

**Update: after about two weeks the rose beads look essentially the same, but definitely drier and lighter in color. They have a patina of white powder on the outside and I don’t know how it would be possible to polish them. I can’t say I’m leaping at the chance to turn them into a necklace but if I do I’ll post a picture. I should probably do something soon though, I can’t imagine my roommate is enjoying the amount of counter space they’re monopolizing.


Click on in-text footnotes for citations, or visit this page for full references.

Lilian Tingle Recipes

Tomato Jelly Salad

In mainstream U.S. culture today “salad” evokes leafy greens and fresh vegetables, maybe some cheese, a walnut or even the occasional fruit. The general consensus is that gelatin will not be involved. In the early 20th Century, however, jellied salads were a new, exciting way to contain otherwise messy salads, and turn them into a perfectly controlled, feminine delicacy. 

A recipe for spinach salad. Full alt next linked in caption.
A 1902 recipe for a fiddly spinach salad in a popular cookbook written by Sarah Tyson Rorer, a prominent early domestic scientist.1Rorer, Sarah Tyson. Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book : A Manual of Housekeeping, 1902. Full alt text here.

Domestic scientists, like Lilian Tingle, wanted to transform American cooking by rationalizing and intellectualizing middle class kitchens. Domestic scientists obsessed over ‘dainty,’ ‘clean’ foods. During this period people strongly associated salads with delicate femininity. Even housewives who employed a cook would often prepare salads themselves. But salads were messy, so many salad recipes went to great lengths to transform the salad into a dainty, uniform dish.2Shapiro, Laura. Perfection Salad Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century. North Point Press, 1986. Sometimes that meant individually arranging every lettuce leaf, or drowning everything in white sauce. Gelatin offered a means of containment. 

A recipe for perfection salad.
A 1905 recipe for perfection salad, as represented in the zine the Jell-O Pages

A Brief History of Gelatin:

Before the 19th century, making gelatin was similar to making stock. It required 8+ hours of boiling a pot full of hooves and hides3Kristin Holt (blog), April 7, 2021, Anyone could make and eat gelatinized dishes, after all, gelatin is made from scraps. But for elites, chefs perfected gelatin to create elaborate free-standing molded centerpieces. Starting in the early 1500s, increasingly elaborate gelatinized desserts were status symbols in England, and later the U.S. In the 1840s, industrialization brought store-bought gelatin sheets (of varying reliability), and then powdered gelatin.4Peter Brears, Jellies & Their Moulds (Prospect Books, 2010) Instead of homemade calves-foot jelly, powdered gelatin became the norm, as companies marketed it to consumers as an early industrialized food product. In the early 20th century, many recipe writers and domestic scientists adopted gelatin and it became a common ingredient in desserts and salads.5McNamee, A., and A. Service. “Jell-O Page.” A. Service, January 2022.

Making the Aspic

This week I made a tomato aspic, or jellied tomato salad, as requested by Mrs. R.E.C. in 1925. Tingle gave Mrs. R.E.C. upwards of six recipes for both tomato jellies and fruit salads, and a lot of general advice. The aspic was by far the simplest recipe I’ve made so far. The only ingredients were: tomato puree, beef broth, chili sauce, salt, paprika with chopped celery and grated cheese to garnish. The results were quite unpleasant.

A wooden counter with beef broth, gelatin, canned tomatoes, sriracha, paprika, and salt.
The ingredients assembled.

I set some of the tomato aspic in a pan to cut into cubes, as Tingle suggested, and the rest in a silicone ice cube tray, in a vain attempt to make cute gelatin flowers. However unmolding proved more difficult than I’d anticipated. The gelatin didn’t pop easily out of the molds, and instead I created a massacre of tomato and celery that looked hauntingly like raw meat.

The aspic set in the pan released much more easily. Tingle’s suggested presentation was serving the ‘salad’ on a bed of lettuce, cut into cubes, sprinkled with chopped celery and grated cheese. Once cubed, the aspic looked a lot like raw sushi fish, and the overall presentation, while not the most appetizing, was very striking. Unfortunately, there was nothing left to do but try the aspic. For our first bites we each took a cube of aspic without the garnish. The taste was overwhelming, intensely tomatoey and strangely spicy (because of the chili sauce e.g. sriracha). The beef broth left a distinctly meaty aftertaste. I wasn’t expecting to love it, but it really was worse than I could have imagined. The flavor was so strong, combined with the cold, slimy texture of the gelatin. After our first bites, we tried the aspic again, this time with the celery and cheese. Against all expectations, it was much better with the garnish. The cheese cut the flavor somewhat, the celery gave it texture, and in the end it tasted sort of like a bad cold chili, not entirely unpleasant. Out of the four of us who tried it, no one liked it at all. Even with the garnish it was only barely tolerable. 

A white plate, with cubes of red gelatin on a bed of lettuce, surrounded with chopped celery.

So what does this say about Americans’ taste in the early 20th Century? Well, savory gelatin salads were certainly more widely eaten, and it would be naive to think that no one genuinely enjoyed them. Of course we don’t know if people enjoyed this salad. It could have been a recipe that few people made or enjoyed. We also weren’t eating it in the larger context of a meal. Tingle says that tomato jellies are a good accompaniment to other foods, especially leftover meats. Putting meat in the jelly might stretch leftovers to another meal while still preserving the family’s expectation of a fresh home-cooked dinner prepared every night. Eating the salad more like a relish or a garnish might significantly improve it, and eating it during a time when savory gelatin was all the rage would also help. While I think of the group of friends who tried the aspic as adventurous eaters, none of us have the same cultural contexts as Tingle’s correspondents. But I don’t want to overstate the case. There were probably a lot of Oregonians in 1925 who would have hated the tomato aspic. Just because a recipe was in the paper doesn’t mean everyone likes it. 


If you’d like to learn more about the fascinating history of gelatin and Jell-O check out this zine I co-wrote with A. McNamee!

Thanks to Audra, Haley, Kira, and Max for their photos and willingness to try tomato aspic. 

For references, click on in-text footnotes or visit this page for a full bibliography.

Lilian Tingle Recipes

Sugarless Lemon Pie

Recipes that accommodate deprivation have many origins. Poverty is one form of deprivation, but you might also face food shortages or ingredient shortages based on season, location or transportation. War is another driver of food shortages. During World War I, much of Europe starved. Food shortages affected civilian morale, but also government stability and the legitimacy of the state.1Davis, Belinda J. Home Fires Burning Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. The U.S. had it much better, but in 1917, the U.S. National Food Administration (NFA) led by Herbert Hoover introduced a rationing program designed to reduce U.S. consumption of certain key goods so they could be shipped to the Allies in Europe.2National Archives. “In Freedom’s Name: Food Conservation Efforts During World War I,” August 15, 2016. This program was almost entirely voluntary and relied on peer pressure and publicity for enforcement. Domestic scientists like Lilian Tingle were key in developing and promoting the rationing program. Through newspapers, pamphlets, and cooking classes domestic scientists helped spread the word about rationing and cajole, berate, and shame consumers into complying. Women were a main target of the NFA’s campaign because they were seen as responsible for buying and preparing food for their families. As consumers, women had the power to support the war.3Davis, Belinda J. Home Fires Burning., Google Arts & Culture. “The U.S. Food Administration, Women, and the Great War: The Pennsylvania Food Conservation Train – U.S. National Archives.” Accessed January 11, 2022. This was one form of political action available to women, who were still denied the national vote in 1918.

Sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, oats, salt, lemon, an egg and butter sit on a counter.
These limited ingredients were expected to mimic a traditional lemon meringue pie.

In 1918, Tingle filled her columns with war recipes, helping housewives cope with rationing and giving them ideas for alternative meals. The rations primarily targeted white flour, sugar, butter, meat, and eggs. They were replaced with alternative flours, syrups (like corn syrup), shortening, nuts, and going without. Tingle’s tone in her columns was fiercely patriotic and duty oriented. During the war she relocated to Eugene, OR to teach classes in war rationing and war cooking at the University of Oregon. Hoover himself urged women to attend Tingle’s classes.4Oregon Emerald. “Food Talks Continue,” January 28, 1918. In her columns, she refused to print recipes that she deemed too indulgent or that used too much of a rationed ingredient, instead filling the columns with substitution recipes, and troubleshooting her correspondents’ questions about substitutions and rationing. 

Deprivation Pies:

In March 1918 Mrs. E. H. from Portland asked for a “sugarless lemon pie” recipe. Tingle provided a lemon pie filling recipe, instructing her to use a wheatless pastry shell, or use the filling on fruit salads, sweet sandwiches, or war cakes. The filling used only: one cup of water, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, five tablespoons corn syrup, one tablespoon sugar, one egg, one lemon, and one teaspoon shortening (like Crisco or butter).5Tingle, Lilian. “Answers to Correspondents.” Sunday Oregonian, March 24, 1918, sec. 5. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Syrups like corn syrup were a popular sugar substitute because they were not rationed, and were cheaper, and easier to produce. 

Newspaper clipping. Correspondent requests a sugarless lemon pie recipe which tingle provides.
Tingle, Lilian. “Answers to Correspondents.” Sunday Oregonian, March 24, 1918, sec. 5. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Full alt-text here.

Rationing is only one reason people may experience deprivation. In 1924 Mrs. E.B.B. requested a “water cinnamon pie” recipe using just water, cinnamon, flour/cornstarch and sugar. Tingle responded derisively. She didn’t have a recipe for a pie like that and it sounded “uninteresting” to her.6Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” Sunday Oregonian, September 7, 1924, NewsBank, 25. A few months later, a different correspondent from Eastern Oregon wrote in and provided a water cinnamon pie recipe. Correspondents regularly submitted recipes when Tingle didn’t have one, creating the feeling of a reciprocal community of home cooks. The Eastern Oregonian correspondent included some comments with her recipe chastising Tingle for calling the pie uninteresting, “just ask my small children if ‘sugar pie’ is uninteresting.” It was a family recipe and very popular in her house. Tingle thanked her for the recipe but wrote,“I stick to my opinion. Children are poor judges of food, though I have known parents who consulted them as if their opinions and tastes were necessarily the “last word” in nutrition and gastronomy. Even though they enjoy the pie you describe it is not particularly good for them.”7Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” Sunday Oregonian, November 16, 1924, NewsBank, 83. While sugar pie probably isn’t “particularly good” for anyone, I’d argue that neither her lemon pie nor the Brother Killer fruitcake I made last week could be described as health food. They’re dessert recipes.

Crucially, water pies are a traditional deprivation pie, especially on farms. They use cheap ingredients that are always available. In fact, the water cinnamon pie and the sugarless lemon pie have nearly identical ingredient lists. The only deviation is cinnamon instead of lemon and the addition of an egg in the lemon pie. The real difference was in Tingle’s attitude toward the pies, and the context of deprivation. During the war, Tingle enthusiastically embraced voluntary deprivation and the creative cooking solutions it required. And while she was often cognizant of thriftiness and food prices in her columns, she clearly didn’t extend that consciousness to the cinnamon water pie. Neither correspondent explicitly said that they made the pie when they didn’t have access to other ingredients, but these pies originate from deprivation conditions, and Tingle seemingly never considered that a correspondent might have a need for a water pie in a context outside of war. 

Making the Pies:

The first step to a good pie: a good pie crust. Unfortunately the pie crust I chose was a no-wheat, (almost) no-fat crust. All you need is two cups of finely ground oats and a cup of boiling water. I used a blender to grind my oats because the recipe didn’t specify a method and I just really didn’t want to hand-grind oats. The crust was very easy to make, as soon as the hot water touched the ground oats the overwhelming bland scent of oatmeal filled the kitchen. After a couple minutes of stirring and kneading, the crust came together and it was easy to roll out. Since there is no gluten in oats, you can knead the crust as much as you want without it getting tough like a wheat pie dough. Unfortunately, the oat crust comes with bigger issues. After rolling it out, my friend Max (who helped me cook this week) and I transferred the crust to a pie plate and rerolled the scraps to fill two miniature tart pans. Instead of making two full sized pies we decided to make one large lemon pie and fill the tiny tart pans with water cinnamon pie filling. The recipe did not include a baking temperature, just “a hot oven” so I decided that 400 was about right and we put the crusts in to blind bake. Sadly, they shrank and cracked a bit in the oven but overall they came out alright, and the oatmeal smell dissipated as they cooked. 

The filling was also very easy to make. For the lemon pie we just cooked the water, sugar, corn syrup and cornstarch until it thickened into an epoxy-like gel, then added the lemon juice and zest and the egg yolk. Max and I took turns hand beating the egg white until we got stiff peaks, then folded the egg white into the lemon mixture. We were left with a pleasant smelling lemon foam, that…didn’t quite fill our overly ambitious pie shell. The water cinnamon pie was even easier, there were no cooking instructions but we decided to cook the filling like the lemon pie to thicken it, then add the cinnamon and bake. The recipe called for a full Tablespoon of cinnamon which seemed extreme, once we added it, the mixture looked like a dark caramel. It turned out to be a good choice to make tiny water cinnamon pies, because the recipe only made enough filling for about two and a half mini pies. We baked all the pies at 250 F for about 20 minutes until they were mostly set. Then all that was left was convincing people to eat them!

The promise of fruit cake (from last week’s post) had lured 12 unsuspecting friends to my house. So after softening them up with the fruit cake, I brought out the deprivation pies. The reception was mostly positive, at least to the fillings. The oat crust was not a winner. It did have one fan though, who said, “it’s yummy in a communion wafer way.” Others were not so kind, saying “it’s like cereal that was wet and is now dry cement,” “it hurts to swallow and I can still feel it in my throat,” “I mean…I didn’t like it.” The fillings went over much better. Everyone agreed that the lemon filling was pretty good and would have been fine in another crust. The cinnamon filling mostly tasted like sweet cinnamon toast syrup. It was good, but a full pie slice of it would have been impossible to eat. Even with thirteen people in attendance, we did not finish the pies, but we got close!

Deprivation cooking is just as necessary now as it was when Tingle was writing her column. War, displacement, poverty, location, and inflation continue to impact how people cook and eat. And food content creators continue to exist in tension with deprivation cooking. Some creators tailor their content to people living on a tight food budget, helping them find creative solutions and feed their families, and profiting off of their need. Other creators don’t think about class or access, writing recipes that are out of reach for large swathes of their audience, either because of price or the inaccessibility of their ingredients. Class, location, politics, and geopolitics have always been intimately connected to food, not just in theory, but in daily practice. In the groceries we buy, the meals we cook, and the ways we think about food. 


Special thanks to Max, Audra, Haley and Kira for providing photos, and Anna, Paulina, Colin, Witch Hazel, Jared, Veronica, Laura and Tess for their willingness to be tasters. Laura, Paulina, Colin and Witch Hazel are quoted above.

For references, click on in-text footnotes. Or visit this page for a full bibliography.

Lilian Tingle Recipes

Brother Killer (update)

Last week I made two fruit cakes from Lilian Tingle’s columns (you can read about it here). But I had to let them age in the fridge for a week before we could try them. So this week I recruited 12 friends to do a taste test, and now the results are in.

Before the tasting could begin I had to make almond paste. It’s very simple, equal parts powdered sugar and almond flour moistened with an egg white and flavored with a hint of almond extract, kneaded until smooth. Tingle recommends an inch thick layer of almond paste, but that is a truly inconceivable amount of almond paste. Instead, I rolled mine out to about a quarter inch thickness and used it like fondant to cover the cakes. With the help of my roommate’s adorable tiny cookie cutters we decorated the tops of the cake with the excess almond paste, and after a full week they were done!

The Tasting

As you might remember, I baked the round fruitcake and steamed the loaf. Tingle was a steaming advocate, so one goal of the tasting was to compare the methods. Everyone agreed on the differences between the cakes, but disagreed about what they liked better. The steamed cake was stickier and the fruit was less texturally distinct because it was more similar in texture to the cake. The baked cake was lighter, drier, and the fruit was more “jarring,” less homogeneous. When the votes were cast steamed won 9 to 4 (although two steamed voters defected to “paste” because they liked the almond paste on its own the best). And despite the fact that, in the past, at least two people in attendance had tried and disliked fruit cake, everyone said they enjoyed this version. That said, no one wanted more than a single small piece. It is very dense and overwhelmingly sweet, but well spiced and the dried fruit combination is the right balance of sweet and sour, giving it a rich flavor and satisfying texture. 

Despite my best efforts and 12 guests we only ate about half of both fruitcakes, so I guess my roommate and I know what we’ll be eating for the rest of the term. Luckily it keeps well!


Special thanks to Max, Audra, Haley and Kira for providing photos, and Anna, Paulina, Colin, Witch Hazel, Jared ,Veronica, Laura and Tess for their willingness to be tasters.

Lilian Tingle Recipes

Brother Killer

blue tray covered in a mix of dried fruit: dark raisins, golden raisins, cranberries, apricots, currants.

The brother killer is not some kind of blood-boiling poison used by second sons to claim the throne, as the name suggests. It’s a fruit cake. In the early days of her column, sometime around 1910, Lilian Tingle mentioned her family’s inside-joke-name for their favorite fruit cake: “the Brother Killer.” Over the following 15 years readers regularly asked her about it. In February, 1925  Tingle retold the story of the Brother Killer for a new generation of correspondents:

“The cake was a great favorite with my brothers when I was a school girl…My brothers used to pass the cake with the remark ‘Do try our sister’s patent brother-killer.’ This was intended to discourage the guest so that the brothers might have a better opportunity for attempting suicide with the cake after the party. It was very popular in our young circle and I had great glory in making it. Many years ago, about 14 I think, I told this story and gave this recipe in these columns and ever since every year, has come inquiries ‘for that cake called “brother killer.”’ Once someone asked for a cake called ‘kill father,’ but I think she meant this same one.”1Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” February 8, 1925, NewsBank.

Tingle’s personal stories, along with her quick responses and dependable recipes, made her extremely popular with her correspondents. Tingle was a dedicated teacher, always trying to explain why food behaved as it did and problem solve for her correspondents. 

Today, when baking questions come up for me, I turn to the internet and often find an answer on a food blog or recipe site. In early 20th century Oregon, women were less likely to live with or near their families than they had been previously, which made it less likely that they had someone to teach them to cook or a community to help them with problems.2Harvey A. Levenstein, Revolution at the Table : The Transformation of the American Diet (New York : Oxford University Press, 1988), P. 79. In addition, middle class women were increasingly expected to feed their families without the domestic servants that their mothers had employed.3Zoe Helen Veit, Modern Food, Moral Food Self-Control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013). p . 79. This made Tingle a valuable resource, not only for recipes, but also for answers to the specific questions housewives had about their ovens, recipes, and other problems. In 1922, R.E.M. from Fresno, CA asked “how do you steam fruit cake and finish in oven.”4Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” Sunday Oregonian, May 21, 1922, sec. 5, p. 4. Historic Oregon Newspapers, R.E.M. already had a recipe, and turned to Tingle for details her recipe didn’t address. As I made the fruit cake, it was helpful to look not only at the recipes Tingle provided, but also at Tingle’s answers to readers’ clarifying questions.

Why Fruit Cake?

Over the years of Tingle’s column that I analyzed, questions about ‘cake’ were the most common. Within the cake category, fruit cakes were the most popular overall. Historically, fruit cakes were expensive desserts, often served at weddings or during holidays. Dried fruit was (and still is) a costly luxury item. Often people kept fruit cakes for months after baking so they could mature. To keep them from going bad, the cook “fed” the cake alcohol (usually brandy or rum) every week. Like many socially involved Progressive era women, Tingle was a prohibitionist. In 1919, the 18th amendment banned the “production, sale or transportation” of alcohol, and threw a wrench into traditional fruit cake baking.5“United States of America 1789 (Rev. 1992) Constitution – Constitute,” accessed April 9, 2022, Luckily for Tingle, her fruit cake recipe already mostly excluded alcohol. She didn’t give instructions for feeding (although most housewives probably knew how to feed their cakes), and even in her pre-1919 fruit cake recipes she tended to make alcohol an optional addition. I chose to add 2 Tablespoons of dark rum to my cakes because I don’t have brandy or spiced fruit syrup, Tingle’s suggested substitute.

I made fruit cake referencing two Brother Killer recipes, one from 1916 and one from 1925.5 6Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” Sunday Oregonian, October 22, 1916, sec. 5, Historic Oregon Newspapers,, Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” February 8, 1925, NewsBank.The recipes had essentially identical ingredients but they had different levels of detail about the process. I halved the recipe: the original called for a pound each of butter, brown sugar, flour, eggs, dark raisins, golden raisins, currants, citron peel, and almonds, which would give you a massive 9 pound cake. I also slightly modified the ingredients. I don’t like nuts in baked goods, so I left out the almonds and I couldn’t find citron peel, so instead I used half a pound of cranberries and chopped dried apricots to replace citrus peel’s tang.

I bought the dried fruit I used at Albertsons and Sundance Natural Grocers. I don’t have a car, or unlimited time, so I had to buy what they had, and I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted. It was expensive. In total, the dried fruit cost $24, the rest of the ingredients cost about $12. For middle class women in the early 20th century a fruit cake was an investment. They couldn’t afford to choose a bad recipe. When women wrote to Tingle, they trusted her with an important part of their holiday or wedding.

Making the Cake

Newspaper Clipping: Tingle's 1916 recipe for the Brother Killer fruit cake
Lilian Tingle’s recipe for the “Brother Killer” fruit cake from 1916. Lilian Tingle, “Answers to Correspondents,” Sunday Oregonian, October 22, 1916, sec. 5, Historic Oregon Newspapers,

Once I finished all the shopping, recipe hunting, and planning, the cake-making process went relatively smoothly. First, I beat the butter and sugar by hand, the only labor intensive part of the process. The cake is equal parts fruit and cake batter by weight, so mixing in the fruit feels somewhat comical, but ultimately I was happy with how the mix came out. As it turns out, five pounds of cake batter is too much for one cake, so I made a loaf cake and a round cake.

I baked the round cake, and decided to steam the loaf. Tingle preferred to steam fruit cakes, and I had never steamed a cake before. I’m planning to age the cakes for a week in the fridge, to get the best flavor. When we try them we can compare the baked versus steamed cake. Steaming cakes and puddings is popular in traditional British cooking, but is less fashionable now than in the early 20th century. As far as I can tell, both the baked and steamed cakes came out well. The baked cake took about an hour in the oven whereas the steaming process took 4 hours. Tingle points out in her columns that steaming was less fuel intensive and required less active work since the cook didn’t have to manage a temperamental coal burning oven. For a fuel conscious person with a lot to do around the house, or someone who wasn’t confident about maintaining a steady oven temperature, steaming was probably an attractive option. I don’t actually own a steamer so I had to balance the loaf pan on a steam tray on top of a ramekin in my dutch oven, the only pot I had that was large enough. The steamed cake has a distinct look, with lots of air bubbles and holes on the top, but otherwise they seem quite similar. Check out this update post to hear about the results!


Special thanks to A. McNamee for taking most of the photos and keeping me company through the baking process. 

For references, click on in-text footnotes, or visit this page for a full bibliography.


Cooking on the Internet For Fun and Credit

Food content on blogs, YouTube channels, TikTok, etc are a popular (and profitable) genre online today, but in the early 20th century Lilian Tingle was a trailblazer for approachable, personalized cooking content. Tingle was a “domestic scientist” (think home economics) in the early 20th century and wrote a popular cooking correspondence column in the Sunday Oregonian between 1908 and 1929. Unlike the better known celebrity chefs of the mid-late 20th century, Tingle was what we might now call a micro-celebrity. She had a small(ish) but dedicated niche of followers and, crucially, she was accessible to her audience. If you sent her a letter, odds are she’d respond.

On this blog I will be recreating, documenting and writing about some of the most popular recipes from Tingles’ columns. For my historical research on domestic science in Oregon and the reach and impact of Tingle’s columns, I read and recorded Tingle’s columns from 1909, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1918, 1920, 1922, 1924 and 1925. In this case, the “most popular” recipes are an (almost) entirely subjective group. I’ve identified popular categories, but since this was a correspondence column people often didn’t ask for specific, quantifiable recipes. Who decides whether chocolate cake and mocha fudge cake count as the same recipe? Instead of trying to apply some arbitrary metric, I’m using my knowledge of the data and personal interest to choose the recipes I’ll recreate. 

Cooking on the Internet:

Cooking content is an obvious money maker in pretty much every online ecosystem. After all, everyone eats. Who gets to make (and profit) from that content, however, is not simple. Food media companies like Bon Appetit have an advantage. They have large, industrial kitchens that look good on camera and the budget to pay for expensive ingredients and professional film crews. These media companies also have the power to choose who gets to do the cooking and what kinds of foods and cuisines are represented. The barrier to entry is lower for bloggers or people creating content on platforms like TikTok. But these creators still need to be able to film or photograph their food and kitchens. Most people’s kitchens don’t look good on camera: the light is terrible, the stove is never pristine no matter how much you clean it, and there are dishes in the drying rack. Cooking is messy, and stopping to clean between every step is time consuming. Filming yourself or even photographing yourself is challenging, and slows down the whole process. Class is built into online cooking content. Luckily for me my kitchen has okay light, I don’t care if it’s messy, and I have friends who will take pictures in return for baked goods. I also have the time to spend on long cooking projects because I’m getting college credit for this blog.

Affluence, race, and morality were important subtexts of Lilian Tingle’s food columns, just as they are of modern cooking content. Her recipes assumed a middle class lifestyle and defaulted to whiteness, labeling non-Anglo American food exotic. By exploring her recipes and historic attitudes toward food and cooking through a food blog, I hope to put the two mediums in conversation with each other. What kinds of relationships did correspondents form with Tingle over the anonymous forum of the column, and how do they compare to modern relationships between content creators and consumers? How much power did Tingle’s correspondents have over the column? How did Tingle’s correspondents adapt the rigid ideals of domestic science to meet their needs? And how have the ways we apply moral value to food and cooking changed or remained the same


Dan Olson, Cooking Food On The Internet For Fun And Profit, 2020,