World War I in Lawrence: Home Economics department serves mess hall-style dinner

In late September and early October of 1917, festivities such as dances and concerts were held for the soldiers temporarily stationed in Lawrence before they were sent to Fort Sill for further training. Among these parties was a dinner prepared and served to Company M at the University of Kansas. The Lawrence Journal-World on Oct. 1, 1917, described the event:

“The Home Economics department of the University of Kansas was converted into a scientific army kitchen Friday when students and teachers prepared and served a farewell chicken dinner to Company M, a unit of the First Kansas Infantry that has been quartered in the University gymnasium since August 5. Recipes were expanded from grams to pounds, vegetables were cooked by the tubful instead of the panful, loaves of bread were cut by the dozen, and all came out with such success as to prove that young women from the home economics department are prepared right now to do their bit and do it well. ‘We have followed the army manual for quantity, not quality,’ said Miss Elizabeth Sprague, head of the department, ‘and we find our results as good as those of experienced mess cooks. The students really have outdone them on quality.’

“The dinner was paid for by popular subscription. The menu was: Chicken pie with Irish potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, hot rolls, nut bread, strawberry preserves, tomato salad with Thousand Islands dressing, caramel ice cream, spice cake and candies. The chickens were cooked in pressure cookers and were thoroughly done and tender in half an hour. All of the more difficult cooking, such as making the nut bread and the chicken pie, was done by the advanced students. To the freshman and beginners fell the making of the candy. Practically all of the girls of the department helped in the serving.”