As you may or may not know, I do a lot of cooking from scratch. Not so much because I love to cook but out of necessity due to my wonky immune system. While I am doing much better these days and having less food reactions thanks to the miracles of modern mast cell stabilizing medicines and natural supplements like quercetin, I still err on the side of caution and avoid as much premade and processed foods as possible.
Which may come in handy if SHTF and we find ourselves having to cook everything from scratch when the Spam and other store-bought things run out. 😄
The other day I was cooking dinner and my mind started to wander, as it usually does. I was admiring all the antique cooking implements we’ve collected that decorate our kitchen (and are in dire need of a good dusting!) and began to wonder what life was like before measuring spoons and cups. How were recipes laid out when there were no measuring cups, or teaspoons or tablespoons and such? I wondered to myself.
Which naturally led me to do a bit of research on the subject.
Did you know that this cookbook by Fannie Farmer in 1896 pretty much set the standard for measurements in cooking that we use today?
Before that ingredients were typically measured by weight or using everyday kitchen items such as mugs, teacups, regular teaspoons and saucers.
“Mug” measurements were used to replace the cup measurement. As long as you use only mugs to measure and adjust the recipe for size, then you should come up with a perfect result. This is also sometimes called a “coffee cup” and equates to just under one regular measuring cup.
A “saucer” of flour meant a rounded portion on a small saucer and equates to a heaping measuring cupful.
A “teacup” is just under 3/4 cup.
Some cooks are so confident that they can measure ingredients just by eyeballing them (I am not one of those people). 😄
One blogger even put the theory to the test that a regular teaspoon and tablespoon from her silverware drawer equals a corresponding measuring spoon.
For a long time, I wondered if my silverware at home were accurate in terms of measurement. I have two sets, one cheap-o set my husband had in college, and one nicer one that we got as a wedding gift. So I used both sets of spoons to compare against a set of kitchen measuring spoons.
The verdict? The big spoons equaled exactly–to the drop–a tablespoon. Same thing with the smaller spoons: exactly a teaspoon.
I’ve heard that spoon sizes can vary (just think of those enormous spoons you’ve seen at restaurants), so this made me feel good my measurements of guacamole and cream cheese in the past few weeks (at least I know that mine are accurate!). But remember, a heaping tablespoon is not a true tablespoon–that would be a tablespoon and a half.
That was something I always wondered about myself. I think I’ll try my own cutlery out later to see if this holds true in my kitchen, too. Just for fun.
At some point in my research I came across this forum on Reddit dedicated to old recipes and found a few that made me chuckle, like this one for Tuna and Waffles:
Ugh. No thanks. 🤮
I did find a few that looked more appealing there that I might try out, but none from the era of pre-standardized measuring implements.
It should be interesting reading, if nothing else and who knows? Maybe I’ll add a few more tasty dishes to my repertoire. 🙂