scorecardresearch Skip to main content

These century-old recipes from the Boston City Archives are intriguing. But boiling vegetables for hours?

Shutterstock / DUSAN ZIDAR

For a Thanksgiving meal that will really take you back, try the century-old recipes unearthed by Boston’s archives and records management department.

Or just be thankful you don’t have to eat some of them — such as the string beans that have been boiled for two hours.

The department Wednesday tweeted selected recipes from its collection of cooking textbooks from the Boston Public Schools. Some of them would give modern-day chefs and foodies, obsessed with freshness, a case of indigestion.

“Still putting the final touches on your #Thanksgiving menu? Maybe you’ll get some inspiration from the vintage recipes in our collection of Boston Public Schools cookery textbooks!” the department tweeted, showing the cover of “Household Science and Arts” by Josephine Morris, which was first published in 1913.


Vegetables apparently took quite a beating back in the day, with the cookbook calling for boiling times that would be extreme compared with current standards.

One page called for boiling string beans for two hours, boiling cauliflower for up to 55 minutes, and boiling old beets up to five hours.

“Round out the meal with some vegetables. You have a choice of boiled turnips, boiled parsnips, boiled carrots, boiled . . . onions? Or consult this boiling timetable for another vegetable! (But take a look at those times first. Do you really want to boil asparagus for an hour?)” the archives tweeted.

Or maybe try the sardine salad? the archives suggested.

On another page, the cookbook author warned of the dangers of pastry, while dispensing some health advice at the same time.

“Pastry . . . is not a food to be recommended as it is hard to digest, and for that reason should not be eaten much by children or by people with delicate digestion,” the cookbook said.

A recipe for the famous Parker House roll also appears.


Someone penciled in the last page of a book a “quick-method” recipe for the traditional puffy rolls, which were reportedly originally created in the 19th century at Boston’s Parker House hotel.

Alas, what the department tweeted was only a partial recipe, ending, “Mix sugar, salt, shortening and butter.” But it’s enough to make you hungry for Thanksgiving dinner.

Alyssa Lukpat can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaLukpat.