How bout a little mince meat with a dash of Brandy

In 1890 our local newspapers were firmly on the WCTU bandwagon.  Editors, therefore, were aghast when a popular and otherwise admirable farm magazine published a recipe for mince meat that contained a dash of brandy.  The following editorial appeared in February, 1890.

We were greatly surprised and pained at the position taken, in a recent issue of The Prairie Farmer, in its household improvement department.  This is a farm and home paper of wide circulation and many excellencies, but after its utterances of Jan. 11, in regard to the use of brandy, it deserves to be put out of every home as untrustworthy and misleading, if not absolutely dangerous.  Its place can easily be filled by some other farm journal of equal general merit, but that is not so shaky in its temperance sentiments.  The Prairie Farmer’s disturbing avowal of opinion in this matter was brought about by a courteous letter from a subscriber because the use of brandy was recommended in preparing mince meat.  

The magazine responded at some length, writing that the abuse of liquor must be overcome individually and that there is a better way to help those cursed with a taste for strong drink than to not print such recipes, as “each individual must decide how much temptation they can stand.”  She also talks about the alcohol used in mince meat being “burned out” in the baking.  

She is obviously an inexperienced cook if she believes this to be the case.  Nothing like the heat required to volatize and drive out the brandy is used in baking a covered mince meat pie.  If this were the case where would be the “improved flavor” claimed by this advocate of hard liquor?

One of our readers fears her mince meat would spoil without the addition of a small amount of wine or brandy.  Such fears can be set at rest by heating and canning the mince meat in tin cans, where it will keep indefinitely.  The same contributor then says “I see no more harm in the proper use of small amounts of brandy in cooking than in the proper use of money, which is also subject to abuse.”  

This fine abstruse and psychological proposition may be supported by a course of metaphysical arguments, but the fate of the child suffering from alcohol poison is just as bad whether the evil be in the poison itself or the one who administers it. 

The final sentence offers a fine example of attacking a rational position with a jumble of words that sound erudite but aren’t, an art finely honed by today’s politicians and their sycophants.      

There is also a hint of hypocrisy in the fact that at the time the above article was printed our paper was among those featuring regular and prominent ads praising Lydia Pinkham’s fabulous formula for female problems, which ran about 36 proof.  Ask your pharmacist.        

Regardless, when it comes to mince meat, with or without brandy, I’m one of those individuals who can withstand a lot of temptation.         

Roy Marshall is a local historian and columnist for the Red Oak Express. He can be contacted at

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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