“What New York Women Eat When They Shop”

Among Bessie’s papers in the Archives is a full-page article that she carefully cut out from the Ladies’ Home Journal, June 1909. Reading it now, 109 years later, we might think that the article was written to amuse, but I suspect it was dead serious. Bessie was an incurable shopper and New York was her favorite hunting ground. She was apparently cautious about “imprudent lunching” and probably noted the author’s warnings about eating the wrong combinations of sugar, starch, and salt meat.

The author suggests that women needed to keep up their energy and good humor while shopping, and offers as illustration a woman she had observed eating unwisely and later “boxing the ears of her small child vigorously, both the victims of a foolish luncheon and disordered stomachs.”

Examples of Good Luncheons and Bad Luncheons are given, along with the reasons for their strict classifications. Who knew that the ubiquitous chicken sandwich could fall into either column depending on what accompanies it? A ‘bad’ chicken sandwich would be one eaten with ice cream for dessert: “The starchy white bread needs a warm fluid or solid to stimulate digestion.” A better choice is a chicken sandwich with a glass of milk (“If the milk is hot it is even better.”) And if a woman MUST have hot chocolate, “let her take it with plain bread and butter – whole wheat bread if possible.” By way of explanation, the author adds “This is a French luncheon and is simple, because the chocolate provides the fat and sugar needed to supplement the starch of the bread.”

And don’t even THINK of ham (“never very digestible”), Oyster Patties, Fried Oysters, or Lobster Croquettes: Far better to opt for a Cress or Lettuce Sandwich, a Cup of Consommé With a Poached Egg in it, or Hot Tomato Soup with Whipped Cream and Crackers. Women Who Shop were advised to avoid water completely, and not to chill the warm stomach with ice cream or cold dishes. And whatever you do, “Don’t eat pastry, because you are tired and can’t take care of it.”