1920s Summer Tea with Recipes from the Great Gatsby Era

Illustration by unknown artist for “Porch Teas” July 1926 issue of “Women’s Home Companion” at thegildedtimes.wordpress.com

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby did not receive the greatest reception when it was first published during April of 1925. Perhaps that’s because the words hit just a little too close to home for many readers back then. Yet, today, we love Mr. Gatsby and romanticize about an era when people took the time to breathe and relax on a warm summer’s day…a time when friends and newly made acquaintances shared food, ideas and news during conversations amongst themselves…and in person.

Pleasantries and polite teas were required for healthy socializing, according to the article entitled Porch Teas, written by Woman’s Home Companion food editor, Alice Bradley, July 1926.  Bradley was a respected chef and taught alongside Fannie Farmer for most of her career. At this time, she was Principal at Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, located at Huntington Chambers, 30 Huntington Avenue, Boston.

After Fannie Farmer suffered a fatal stroke, aged 57 during 1915, Alice Bradley purchased the business and continued in Farmer’s footsteps. She worked to inspire every day housewives and nurses about the importance of nutrition and cookery arts. She taught women chefs until the school closed during the mid-1940s.

These are some of Alice Bradley’s recipes….

Rhubarb Frappé is served when it is icy cold, slushy. There's not a strawberry in sight! It's that small amount of freshly squeezed orange juice that brings out the strong, fresh rhubarb color and flavor. Recipe from July 1926 "Woman's Home Companion". Photograph by J. Henri
Rhubarb Frappé is one of summer’s joys when served slushy, and icy cold in frosted glasses. There’s not a strawberry in sight! Instead, a small amount of freshly squeezed orange juice brings out the strong, fresh rhubarb flavor and color. Recipe from “Porch Teas” by Alice Bradley, July 1926,  “Woman’s Home Companion”. Photograph by J. Henri @thegildedtimes.wordpress.com

Frappés were highly favored, frosty beverages served during the Roaring Twenties. Everyone had ice boxes or if you were wealthy enough, you might even afford one of the very first electric, domestic refrigerators sold during 1926 for a mere $285.

So this slushy, frozen, fruity concoction was relatively easy to create and certainly welcomed by anyone. If you were not temperance minded, then these flavorful drinks could easily cover the taste of otherwise bristling home-made alcohol, which was also quite illegal then.

After testing Alice Bradley’s specialties in our studio kitchen, we discovered that her 1920s recipes are surprisingly simple to make, inexpensive and require few ingredients…and each recipe is uniquely flavorful…downright delicious, in fact.

We also found that the iced tea drinks, usually made with a powerful brew of black India Assam tea, gives an especially strong, caffeinated kick. After all, one doesn’t need alcohol to experience a buzz!

See the recipe for Black India Assam tea drink
called India Frappé in this week’s first post, dated July 20, 2014.
Iced "India Frappé" (right) is made from a dark brew of black India Assam tea mixed with pureed strawberries and citrus juices. Served over crushed ice, this outstanding drink is even better when slightly frozen in slushy 1920s frappé style.  The drink is perfectly paired with ginger nutmeat tea sandwiches (foreground) accompanied by fresh coconut cakes. Historical recipes dated 1920 and 1926 are found at thegildedtimes.wordpress.com.  Photograph by J.Henri.
Iced India Frappé (right) is made from a dark brew of black India Assam tea mixed with pureed strawberries and citrus juices. Served over crushed ice, this outstanding drink is even better when slightly frozen in slushy 1920s frappé style. The drink is perfectly paired with ginger nutmeat tea sandwiches (foreground) accompanied by fresh coconut cakes. These historical recipes from 1921 and 1926 are found at thegildedtimes.wordpress.com. Photograph by J.Henri.

According to Alice Bradley, “Tea on the porch is one of the most delightful ways of repaying social obligations. Then too, it makes a pleasant ending for a club meeting or a bridge party.”

“With the tea, pass cream and sugar, quartered slices of lemon garnished with bits of candied cherry and whole cloves, or a spiced sirup (sic).”

Cream Cheese and Ginger Sandwiches

Mix cream cheese with
chopped Canton ginger and chopped nuts.

Spread on bread and cut in finger-shaped strips.
Garnish with watercress.

Editor’s Note:
These amazingly simple nutmeat with ginger finger sandwiches
are inexpensive to make and surprisingly tasty.
The recipe makes about 12 sandwiches or 4 servings.

Here’s a few helpful hints from our kitchen:

•We finely grated about 3 inches of fresh ginger root 
and added this, along with its juice, to soft cream cheese.
•We used 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts for this recipe.
•The sandwiches stay together perfectly when the
cream cheese mixture is spread over both slices of tea bread.
•Place a single layer of fresh watercress leaves
on one slice before closing the sandwich.
•Be sure to trim off the crusts, then slice again into 4 long, thin strips.

Coconut Cakes

1 fresh coconut          7 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn sirup
Rose color paste
1 egg white
Grate sufficient coconut to make 2 cups.
Put with corn sirup (sic) and sugar in top of double boiler, add color to make a delicate pink.

Stir and cook until mixture clings to spoon.
Add white of egg and cook until mixture
feels sticky when tried
 between fingers.
Spread in wet pan, cover with wet paper, and cool.

Then chill by setting pan on ice in refrigerator.
Shape into balls, first dipping hands in cold water.
If 1-1/2 tablespoons of mixture are used for each,
10 cakes can be made.

Heat a tin sheet slightly and rub with white wax,
paraffin or cooking oil.

Place balls on sheet and bake in slow oven about 20 minutes, being careful that they do not lose their color.

Editor’s Note:
•To simplify the process, we used finely grated, organic coconut from the baking section of our local grocery. To this, we added 2-3 tablespoons of water to moisten the coconut so that it was refreshed.
•We used superfine Baker’s sugar instead of coarse table sugar.
The measurements for both are the same.
•Inexpensive food coloring will create a lovely pink shade.
You should take time to mix this thoroughly. Please only use 1 drop.
•We baked this in a convection oven at 285 degrees for 20 minutes.
Coconut cakes should be removed *before* they turn golden brown.
•The recipe makes 10 bite sized cakes…but you’ll wish you had more!

Rhubarb Frappé

1 quart rhubarb      3 pints water
1/3 cup orange juice  4 tablespoons lemon juice
1-1/2 cups sugar
Few grains of salt

Cook rhubarb, cut in small pieces, with water until soft.
Squeeze through double thickness of cheesecloth, add sugar and
boil until sugar is dissolved. Add fruit juices and salt.
Mix thoroughly and chill in freezer, surrounded with equal 
parts ice and salt. Turn crank intermittently, freezing 
to a mush. Serve in glass from punch bowl with a
large block of ice, garnished with mint leaves.
This recipe will serve 8 people.

Editor’s Note:
•This is an unusual and very delicious, easy recipe!
•A fine mesh strainer or chinois will work
if you’re out of cheese cloth.
•Simply place drink mixture in a stainless steel bowl,
and leave it in your freezer until mushy consistency.
This recipe will make an amazing sorbet!
•And about that pinch of salt…
it’s true you only need a pinch…
those tiny grains will make that
fresh rhubarb flavor burst in your mouth!


Original text & photographs ©2014 Julia Henri
Please use citations and references to The Gilded Times.

Published by

The Gilded Times

Journalist. Photographer. Illustrator.

4 thoughts on “1920s Summer Tea with Recipes from the Great Gatsby Era”

  1. your blog is wonderful; when reading it one already tastes the wonderful flavors you describe even without trying them. yummm… thanks for sharing!!!

    1. What a great compliment, sg! Your words make my day…and it’s comments like yours that will keep all of us working hard
      to come up with even more interesting stories from the past. Please pass the word, if you would! Thanks again, very much!

  2. The Rhubarb Frappe sounds fantastic! What would you suggest would be good to add to this if I wanted an alcoholic beverage?

    1. Hello Mary…thanks for the compliments! The infused vodkas work very well. We tried this recipe with lemon infused vodka by Grey Goose called Le Citron and it was utter perfection. This milder vodka doesn’t over power the rhubarb flavor. In fact, it is almost too good so drink responsibly as they say…because the Grey Goose blends in such a perfectly mellow way that the alcoholic taste isn’t obvious at all. Thanks for trying this as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. You should also know that we discovered that this 1926 beverage freezes so well…in fact, you could easily make a double batch (sans alcohol) especially with all the fresh rhubarb available now. With this in mind, you can have a quick mixer stashed away for use at picnics or bbq’s through the rest of the summer!

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