Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)

I recently published an article filled with Halloween cooking and decorating tips from the October 1913 edition of Armour’s Monthly Cookbook. Today, I return to the cookbook for a second fun article. A prior issue of the monthly cookbook invited women who read the magazine to submit their menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Armour’s then chose one winner from each of the 48 states (I extend apologies to Alaska and Hawaii, neither of which were states in 1913), Washington D.C., and Canada. The winners received $5 apiece for their “nourishing, economical meals.”

"Prize Story" banner featuring the text and a mother opening a letter in the kitchen with her daughter looking on - from the October 1913 edition of Armour's Monthly Cookbook.
Image clipped from a different section of the magazine.

While the magazine selected 50 winners, it did not choose the best of the best from those 50 winners. I undertake that project 108 years later. Below, you will find my choices for the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner recepies submitted to the magazine, along with three honorable mentions for each meal. It is a tough competition, so one need not interpret my omissions as slights. If you have your own opinions, feel free to use our Contact Form to give us your take.

You can follow along with the list, which starts on page 14 of the magazine.

Breakfast

We saw many similar items on the breakfast itineraries submitted by the 50 women who were selected by Armour’s. Most breakfasts included coffee – a few had tea. The majority included fruit in some form. Ham, hot cereals, eggs, and biscuits or hot cakes of one variety or another were also common items. In the midst of the reoccurring items, you will also note some regional choices from several of the State winners.

Banner image of two women working in their kitchens framing an outdoor scene from a window - October 1913 edition of Armour's Monthly Cookbook.
Clipped from the magazine. The image came with the following caption: “All true work is sacred; in all work, were it but true hand labour, there is something of divineness.—CARLYLE.” That Carlyle quote reminds me of the story of Lysander and Cyrus the Younger’s garden.

Unlike some other cooking articles I have written based on Project Gutenberg finds, the Armour’s women submitted no abominations. Choosing a winner was not easy – a matter of taste to be sure. But there can only be one, and I made my choice.

Best Breakfast Submission: Connecticut

My winner for the best breakfast is Connecticut’s P. Curtin. She hailed from Edson House, Plantsiville. She submitted one of the simpler breakfasts, but there is beauty in simplicity.

P. Curtin’s breakfast: Fruit, buckwheat cakes with Armour’s star bacon, rolls, and coffee.

I like buckwheat, and P. Curtin was the only one to use buckwheat for breakfast. With a good fruit selection, she covered many breakfast bases. While I am not sure if I would have the rolls after enjoying the buckwheat cakes with bacon, this is certainly a well-balanced breakfast.

Breakfast Honorable Mentions

While P. Curtin is my winner for breakfast, I will note three women who warrant honorable mention.

First, Mesa Arizona’s Mertie R. Jones submitted cereal with cream and sugar, broiled star bacon, poached eggs, graham gems, and coffee. The cream and sugar may be a bit much for the hot cereal, but it would be good. Graham gems add a nice early twentieth-century flavor to the recipe. It is worth mentioning that Ms. Jones barely made the list not because of the quality of her cooking, but because her native Arizona had only become the 48th State about 20 months before the publication of the October 1913 issue of Armour’s.

Second, Mrs. Elanor Everts from my native New York merits honorable mention. for her breakfast consisting of sliced peaches, cream of wheat, broiled star ham, baked potatoes, graham gems, ginger cookies, and coffee. Mrs. Evans was the only one to submit ginger cookies for breakfast. Those are good, as is cream of wheat.

The third honorable mention goes to Mrs. M.E. Scovill from Kenedy, Texas. She submitted fruit, oatmeal with sugar and cream, frizzled star ham and eggs, delmonico potatoes, raised biscuits, and coffee. This is an all-around solid breakfast.

Lunch

I found the lunches less appetizing on the whole than breakfasts. This is perhaps owed to my not liking tomatoes, mayo, and the idea of beef tongue. For that reason, the competition to win my approval was less tight, but I still came out with a list of appetizing entries to follow up the Connecticut breakfast.

Best Lunch Submission: South Dakota

Mrs. Walter Yorker, who submitted her menu from Box 471 in Beresford, South Dakota, takes the honor for best lunch submission.

Mrs. Yorker’s lunch: Veribest baked beans, apple sauce, rye bread, angel food cake, cocoa.

This is a light lunch, but good. Baked beans and rye bread are hardy. Apple sauce is good. Angel food cake and cocoa make for a nice and light dessert. I am not sure that the apple sauce is a perfect fit (perhaps she intends it to go with the bread?) – but if all the parts are good, we have a good meal.

Lunch Honorable Mentions

I had five candidates for three honorable mention slots. I narrowed the field down on review. The two non-state entrants in the competition both made my cut.

Illustration of a table setting from the October 1913 edition of Armour's Monthly Cookbook.
Image clipped from the magazine.

First, Mrs. E.W. Sillings from the District of Columbia, submitted one of the heavier lunches: Veribest boned chicken, sweet potatoes, gravy, apple sauce, white bread, cookies, milk shake. Every part is good. I would probably only get through half of it, but I would not be wanting for choices.

Second, we have Lillian Hudson from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She submitted: Cold sliced Armour’s star ham, cheese fondue, bread and butter, sliced peaches, cookies, and coffee. Cheese fondue was a unique submission. Coffee was not a popular lunch choice, so I credit Ms. Hudson for the bold and wise selection (I note that she also serves coffee for breakfast and dinner).

Finally, Mrs. Ge. Poste from Victoria, British Colubmia, gives our list Canadian flair. She served Verbiest tomato soup, baked stuffed (star) ham, mashed potatoes, creamed cauliflower, pickled carrots, chocolate pie, and tea. A few of her selections were unique – and there is certainly plenty to choose from here.

Dinner

My dinner ranking ran into similar difficulties to my lunch ranking. Many strong recipes, but many included components that do not suit my fancy. But once again, there was no danger of my not finding enough strong dinner recipes to fill my list.

Best Dinner Submission: Tennessee

Connecticut won breakfast, South Dakota won lunch, and Tennessee wins dinner. Miss Roberta Fry of Columbia, Tennessee, submitted the following dinner: Veribest tomato soup, mashed potatoes, Veribest pork and beans, baked Star ham, creamed peas, hot rolls and sweet pickles, Armour’s grape juice, sherbet, cake, and coffee.

Illustration of a Star ham from October 1913 edition of Armour's Monthly Cookbook.
What I think is Star ham, clipped from the magazine.

Every part of her submission is good. Perhaps more than the breakfast and lunch winners, Tennessee stood head and shoulders above the dinner competition in my estimation.

Dinner Honorable Mentions

Much like lunch, I narrowed the list to five candidates for the dinner honorable mentions before deciding on three.

The first honorable mention goes to Miss Gretrude Jones of South Portland, Maine (she was one of the last cuts for both breakfast and lunch). She submitted: Stuffed baked ham, Irish potatoes, baked onions, Armour’s grape juice sherbet, cake, and coffee. I would pass on the baked onions, but the rest sounds appetizing.

Leaving the northeast, we visit the kitchen of Miss Sophia Gordon of Columbia, Missouri. She submitted: Cold broiled Star Ham, asparagus on toast, French fried potatoes, sliced tomatoes, hot biscuits, Armour’s grape ice, cake, coffee, and mints. Asparagus on toast was an oft-seen dinner submission. Other than the tomatoes, I would look forward to this dinner.

Illustratn of a woman placing a baking sheet in the oven from October 1913 edition of Armour's Monthly Cookbook.
Clipped from the magazine.

Finally, we have our only repeat-appearance on the list – we again travel to visit Mrs. Walter Yorker of South Dakota for dinner. Her dinner menu consisted of: Veribest tomato soup, Veribest roast beef with cream gravy, baked sweet potatoes, pickled pears, rolls, cream pie, coffee, and after dinner mints. Were it not for the Tennessee dinner menu, Mrs. Yorker may have won two of three meals.

Conclusion

Having read through all the economical and homely menus from 1913, I do believe that Mrs. Walter Yorker was deserving of the highest honors for three excellent menus (her breakfast menu was not too far off from my list). But there were a number of excellent submission ideas, and careful readers may find some individual dishes to consider trying for one of their meals of the day.