Ellen G. White: The Later Elmshaven Years: 1905-1915 (vol. 6)


The Dietary Program

It was shortly after this that Ellen White wrote to Edson, “My appetite is good, and I eat the most simple food. Lately I have been enjoying the sweet corn; it is delicious.”—Letter 11, 1913. 6BIO 393.6

As to the dietary program in the home, Sara McEnterfer and the cook usually consulted together in deciding on the menus, Sara knowing well what Ellen White would prefer and what she could and could not eat. At the time Ellen White wrote the above, Evelyn Grace White, 13, was a part-time helper to the cook, and she has provided quite detailed information on the meals served. 6BIO 394.1

According to Grace, the large dining table was always nicely set for the meals, breakfast and dinner. There was no formal evening meal. At the center of the long table, which was covered with a white linen cloth, there was either a bouquet of flowers or a bowl of fruit. In addition to the regular setting of silverware, there were silver napkin rings at each place setting, holding the rolled-up linen serviettes. Each regular diner had his individual ring, which marked his place; visitors, who at the first meal were assigned a ring, would find their places without oral directions. Ellen White sat at the head of the table, with Sara McEnterfer at her right around the corner. 6BIO 394.2

Breakfast would consist of some hot cereal, usually a whole-grain cereal—cracked wheat, millet, corn meal, oatmeal, and sometimes homemade hominy, or boiled wheat that had been cooked overnight in the “fireless cooker.” “Breakfast was one of the fruit meals,” Grace reports. “We had sometimes four kinds of fruit. We just used lots of fruit. Fresh, canned, dried.... We never put sugar on our cereal.”—DF 129e, “Dinner at Elmshaven,” an interview with Grace Jacques, June 8, 1978. 6BIO 394.3

The cereal would be eaten with cream, and at times with dates, raisins, or banana added. Jersey and Guernsey cows on the farm furnished milk for the household and sometimes for the households of the working staff. At the White home the milk would be placed in rather shallow enameled pans, brought to a boil, and then put in a screened cooler in the cellar. By morning it was covered with a soft layer of rich cream, which was used on the table in the place of butter, and of course, for such dishes as cereals. Toast at the breakfast table would be eaten with cream. There might be a warm drink such as malted milk or caramel cereal (a cereal coffee, a forerunner of such products as Postum and other coffee substitutes). Casserole dishes were not seen on the breakfast table. Breakfast was usually served at seven-thirty, right after the “family” had had morning worship. 6BIO 394.4

Grace reports that for the dinner, served at one o'clock, there would usually be three hot dishes, including a protein dish. There was a large garden at Elmshaven, so usually there were some fresh vegetables, and in winter there was an abundance of dried corn and canned tomatoes. A baked dish of macaroni, with beaten corn and eggs, frequently appeared on the table. Cottage cheese was served, but not cured cheeses. Ellen White liked cooked greens every day, and these would vary according to season. From the fields came dandelion and mustard greens, and, of course, there were other more conventional leafy dishes. 6BIO 395.1

The dish of greens was usually especially for Ellen White. One day as Sara McEnterfer passed the bowl of dandelion greens to Ellen White, she said, “Mother, here is your horse feed.” The latter looked over the table at the other dishes and quietly replied, “Well, I don't know as my horse feed is any worse than your cow's peas.” 6BIO 395.2

As Grace described meals at Ellen White's table, she declared, “The meals were delicious.” Mealtime was “a happy time” and “a big occasion of the day” (Ibid.). 6BIO 395.3

Grace reported that good bread was made in the home, and perhaps two or three times a week whole-wheat “gems” would be served—a muffinlike product made without leaven, raised by the air beaten into the batter and baked in a very hot oven in cast-iron “gem irons.” Gems in the White household went back to the decade of the health reform vision. 6BIO 395.4

Questioned about preserves or fruit butters in the White home, Grace replied: 6BIO 395.5

We put up strawberry jam and blackberry jam and loganberry jam, but we ate it sparingly, I would say. Grandmother was not one to say, “No, you can't have any of this.” But, “Eat it moderately.... Don't eat too much, but enjoy a nice slice of bread and cream and strawberry jam. It's delicious.”— Ibid. 6BIO 395.6

Beverages were often on the table, but used in modest amounts—tomato juice, grape and other fruit juices, carrot juice, milk, and buttermilk. Besides the cows on the farm, there were chickens fenced in under the apple trees. These supplied the family with eggs that were used in cooking and occasionally served soft-boiled on the table. For desserts, fruit was often used, and occasionally a little pumpkin or lemon pie, tapioca pudding, or bread pudding. 6BIO 395.7

The Sanitarium Food Company was in the valley close by, and such foods as “nut loaf,” “protose,” peanut butter, crackers—both plain and with fruit—bread, and “granose” biscuits (a wheat-flake product) all found their way into the White home. 6BIO 396.1

It can be said that the table represented no extremes, only the consistent counsels given down through the years, and everyone enjoyed eating at Sister White's table. It has been rumored that Ellen White, during the last few years of her life reverted to the use of some meat. This is wholly untrue. 6BIO 396.2

Mention has been made that only two meals were served in the White home. Those who ate at the table were engaged in literary work, and the program worked well. If a member of the household or a visitor desired a light evening meal, he was at liberty to go to the large, well-stocked pantry and fix whatever appealed to him. Such was not frowned upon by Ellen White, or other members of the family. 6BIO 396.3

In the summer that Grace assisted in the kitchen and dining room of Ellen White's home, her twin grandsons Henry and Herbert White, with the earnings of their little printing office, purchased a Model T Ford. It was a touring car, one year old. They were delighted with its performance and boasted that they could run 100 miles on a dollar's worth of gasoline (May White to WCW, July 6 and 8, 1913). 6BIO 396.4

The twins took their grandmother for a ride in their car in August. She wrote to Edson: 6BIO 396.5

Willie and his family are well. His twin boys are busy workers. They have recently purchased an automobile, and yesterday I took my first ride in it. It is the easiest machine I have ever ridden in.—Letter 11, 1913. 6BIO 396.6

While earlier in the year she spoke several times in nearby churches, a service in the St. Helena church on Sabbath, September 27, marked the close of her ministry in the pulpit. Two days later, her fourth grandson, Francis Edward, was born to William and May White. She was pleased. 6BIO 396.7