From 1923: Fudge Squares

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When I saw The College Woman’s Cook Book, I knew I had to take a look. The title really called out to me. I mean, I’m a woman, and I’m about to start a PhD program (next week… eek!), so I know a little bit about college. It just makes sense, right? I thought so. I wasn’t sure what to expect: Would this be a book of recipes for women to take to college to cook with friends? Was it convenience recipes for busy students?

Turns out, this is a book that was put together by women who attended college, most at Northwestern University, who then went on to be housewives and test and use recipes themselves. There had to be some kind of old-fashioned, old-timey twist, right? But, in any case, these women did go to college in a time when very few women did.

What I found most shocking as I read more about this subject, though, is that women didn’t actually even go to college in equal numbers to men until 1980… 1980! I feel almost lucky that I was born so recently that that’s a foreign thought to me. Nowadays, no matter your gender, the expectation is that you go to college. How things change!

So, what are we cooking? Fudge squares from The College Woman’s Cook Book published in 1923.

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So, since we’re talking about college, I have to admit something: I’m terrified about starting my PhD program next week. It’s the biggest things I’ve ever done, and it’s brand new, so I’m just kind of freaking out a little. But, you know what makes me feel better when I’m out of sorts? Chocolate. And, luckily, these fudge squares fit that bill – warm, sweet, gooey, delicious chocolate.

So, let’s go into the kitchen to make some history!

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Here are our ingredients: Butter (I’m using salted), sugar, one egg, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, flour, milk, vanilla, and walnuts.

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Step 1: Melt the butter and then pour it into a mixing bowl that’s you’ve measured the sugar into.

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Step 2: Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer (technology!) until they mix together enough that they look like snow.

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Step 3: Add in the egg, and beat it with the mixer.

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Step 4: Add in the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

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Step 5: Add in the milk. At this point, using an electric mixer got too messy, so I just used a rubber spatula the rest of the way!

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Step 6: Then, add in the flour!

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Step 7: Add in the vanilla and stir everything together. You should have a nice, rich batter by now. And, here’s where you’d add in the walnuts if you aren’t me. I forgot. They were sitting right in front of me on the counter, and I completely forgot to put them in. I didn’t even realize until the fudge squares were nearly done baking. So, sorry about that. This is one of the many reasons I’m a historian, not a cook. Optional walnuts for all!

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Step 8: Butter an 8×8″ baking dish. You can see that I always use foil. It’s inexpensive, and it makes cleanup a breeze! Once your dish is buttered, pour in the batter and spread it out so it’s flat.

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Step 9: Bake the fudge squares in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Then, let them cool nearly completely before cutting them and devouring them!

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Final step: Go ahead, devour them. We did. My husband and I ate nearly the whole tray in one sitting, and then I went back and polished off the rest later. I’m nervous about starting school, so it was okay for me to do that. And, don’t you tell me any differently!

I’m doing this for me, though. Learning, reading, and writing have always been my passions, and now I’ll be doing those every single day on my way to publishing books or being a professor at a university. The process will be long and hard, but it will be worth it through and through.

As I’m thinking about it, I’m also doing this for the women I read about through history each and every day. Take the women in The College Woman’s Cook Book, for example. They went to college, but the expectation for them afterward was to stay at home and care for a family. And, they were in an incredibly small minority of women who went to college, at all! Education wasn’t “wasted” on most women long ago. But, look at us now. Look at me now. Oh boy… deep breath… I can do this!

From 1923: Fudge Squares

  • Servings: Makes one 8x8 pan
  • Time: 45-50 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8″ square baking dish.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the melted butter and the sugar. Then, add the egg and beat everything together.
  3. Mix in the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Then, mix in the milk.
  4. Stir in the flour until a smooth batter forms. Then, add in the vanilla and the optional walnuts.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool before cutting into squares.

From 1895: Orange Water Ice

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I mentioned before that when I was a kid, my brother and I were really interested in the Titanic. So, my parents took us to see the traveling Titanic exhibits that made their ways up and down the east coast. One summer in particular, we went to Atlantic City, New Jersey to see a traveling exhibit that included a piece of the Titanic’s actual hull that was brought up from the ocean floor! And, of course, since we were in Atlantic City for that exhibit, we spent some time on the beach and the boardwalk, too.

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From 1855: Cold Slaw

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Okay, so remember back when I made cherry jam and I told you we’d talk about 1855 another day? No? That’s okay. But, let’s talk about 1855 now!

I think it’s important when talking about history to understand that remembering the bad things is just as important as remembering the good. Sometimes, people or cultures or countries don’t want to remember the bad parts of their histories. Maybe there was a lot of violence. Maybe there is embarrassment over how and why horrible things were allowed to happen. Maybe people just feel like forgetting is the best way to move on. It’s so important, though, to learn about, discuss, and debate about the bad parts of history so we can understand how to keep them from happening again.

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From 1851: Macaroni Au Gratin

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Have you ever eaten or smelled something that immediately reminded you of something you’ve done before – like a sensory déjà vu, if you will? That’s what happened when I ate this macaroni au gratin, which is just a fancy name for macaroni and cheese! As soon as I took a bite, I knew I’d tasted it before – the creamy, saltiness of the parmesan; the way its cheesy cream sauce coated every noodle; the warm touch of the nutmeg… traditional gratins have a touch of nutmeg – don’t be afraid! And, then, as I closed my eyes, my other senses filled in the blanks. I could feel heat. I was sitting in the sun. I could hear people all around, and then a cuckoo clock. A cuckoo clock? You know where I tasted this dish before? It tastes EXACTLY like the Nudel Gratin from Germany at EPCOT! I love food and how it has the power to harness the senses and tap into memories!

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From 1912: Cream of Carrot and Onion

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The year was 1912, and you know what I want to talk about? The Titanic. My brother and I were obsessed with the Titanic when we were little. My parents took us to traveling Titanic exhibits in Ocean City, New Jersey and Orlando, Florida to see artifacts brought up from the ocean, and in one case a piece of the hull they’d recovered. We had books on the Titanic, and we watched all of the documentaries about both the history, as well as the dives to the wreckage. We even had a computer game – Titanic: Adventure Out of Time – that we obsessed over. And, since we were little and we couldn’t really figure out strategy, we sent away for the game manual… through the mail!

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