Archive for In the Kitchen

Crisco – It’s Digestible!

 

It’s time to talk about Crisco. And the conversation starts with — What the heck is it?

Crisco was the first shortening to be made entirely of vegetable oil (cottonseed) in 1911 by Procter & Gamble. The original intent of the chemists behind Crisco was to find alternate uses for cottonseed oil as the demand of candles and soap, its primary output, was diminishing. Until that time alternatives included lard and butter.

Lard had taken a bad rap in 1906 when Upton Sinclair wrote a novel called The Jungle which told a quite memorable story about where lard comes from. (For a wonderful NPR telling of lard’s history, listen here: NPR’s Planet Money January 6, 2012 podcast

Butter was very time-consuming to churn, expensive to buy, and during WWII was hard to find or highly rationed.

The vegetarian answer to a demand ahead of its time was Crisco. It was not only revolutionary in its creation, but it was also revolutionary in its marketing. It was one of the original brand managed products with catchy radio ad jingles and radio show endorsements. It had a marketing slogan – “It’s digestible!”

But is it really? It’s made of 100% fat (with no water) so Crisco allows steam to form during the baking process, which leads to more tender baked goods overall.  It has a higher melting point, so pastry crusts stand taller and retain their shape. It can be easier to work with and has a longer shelf life than butter.

The modern Crisco is not the same as the original version – not even close.  What we learned in the 1990’s about trans fats and the bad news behind it, forced J.M. Smucker (today’s manufacturer) to re-engineer the process of making Crisco to eliminate almost all trans-fat in the product and to use soybean oil or a combination of cottonseed and soybean oil in its creation. And remember, it originated as an experiment in soap making!

Whether you decide to include Crisco today in your diet or not, it is hard to avoid in my WWII kitchen.

Aside from a full myriad of recipes from Crisco’s Famous White Layer Cake to Soybean Chop Suey in my Recipes for Good Eating cookbook, printed by The Procter & Gamble Company in 1945 for the exclusive marketing of Crisco, I also have quite a few leaflet recipes endorsed by Mary King, spokesperson for King Midas Flour.  This one for Peanut Butter Crisps was edible…and digestible.

Mary King’s Peanut Butter Crisps

Sift together… 1 ½ cups King Midas Enriched Flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon soda

½ teaspoon salt

Blend in…            1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature

½ cup chunk style peanut butter

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup quick rolled oats

Drop…                  by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet

Bake…                  at 375° F for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

NOTE…                 If desired, dough may be chilled and used as needed.

 

Earning the Home Legion Distinguished Service in Homemaking Medal – Part II

In earlier posts (here and here) we learned about the prestigious Home Legion medal for distinguished service in homemaking. I was incredibly fortunate to come into possession of a medal, but I don’t feel that I have ‘earned’ the pin until I have completed the steps that all original Home Legion members had to complete for the recognition.

Step one: Join the Home Legion by filling out the application. I shall check the boxes of ‘good meal planning, careful household management, thrift — preventing waste, maintaining morale, creating a happy atmosphere, and interest in and work for the community’.  Check!

Step two: Hang the Homemaker’s Creed on a wall in my kitchen. Check!

Step three: Answer the questions in the second round of mailings: “What do you do to insure a smooth-running home?”, “What little tricks do you use for saving time and labor?” and “How do you practice thrift in conserving food, household supplies, and equipment?”

What do you do to insure a smooth-running home? Short answer — simplicity and routines! Have you ever come across those cute flour sack towels with the day of the week embroidered on them?  Monday is Wash Day. Tuesday is Iron Day.  Wednesday is Bake Day. Thursday is Brew Day. Friday is Churn Day. Saturday is Mend Day. Sunday is Meeting Day. It goes back to the Mayflower and times when we needed to brew and churn.  Luckily, I don’t have to go that far back!  In McCall’s patterns of those towels, Thursday became Market Day and Friday became Clean Day. Other versions argue that Bake Day or Market Day should be Saturday.  Who knows for sure?

Anyway, there is an inborn tradition in me that makes Monday Wash Day. I grew up on a farm with rows and rows of laundry hanging on a clothesline — first load hung by 5:00 am on Monday morning! I do set aside time on Fridays for cleaning to make sure we start the weekend feeling tidy and organized. I like to make Market Day a Friday night event and grab dinner on the way home. That way Saturdays can be left for whatever we feel like doing and meal prepping can be done on Sundays for the week ahead.

Cleaning doesn’t seem so big of a chore when things are done as they need to be throughout the week too — dishes put in the dishwasher after meals are over. Bathroom sinks can be wiped clean after use as part of the morning routine. Before going to bed, the living room can be picked up if books, magazines, or other things were used through the day.

Little things like this only leave vacuuming, dusting, and other light cleaning tasks for Fridays.

Larger tasks and spring deep cleaning find their way to a list and scheduled like projects to be done when there is plenty of time to plan for and work on them.

What little tricks do you use for saving time and labor? We have lots of little tricks around our home for saving time and labor. The best have been locating general cleaning supplies used on each floor of our home (basement included) on each floor to save steps and make the routine flow. I am obsessed with planning efficiency and always study every task for any way of removing steps.  For example, when grocery shopping, I load my cart and then the conveyor belt with like items based on where they are located in my kitchen. They are bagged together in the same way and then when it’s time to put everything away, I can take my bag to the one area in the pantry or refrigerator or freezer where it all goes.

On meal prepping day, I locate all the ingredients for a recipe together in the pan or bowl I’ll be using to cook or bake it in along with the recipe card so all I have to do is pull out the bowl from the pantry, pull out any ingredients that were stored in the refrigerator or freezer, and take it all to the counter to assemble. All this planning goes a long way in reducing clean up time too.

How do you practice thrift in conserving food, household supplies, and equipment? Thrift always comes down to living the WWII mantra “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

We plant a garden. And in our home, food is prepped and frozen before it can go bad. If plans don’t go as first arranged, fruits and vegetables can be juiced very easily and efficiently. Berries not frozen also go into a smoothie or prepped into desserts.

Everything has a life cycle with several stages. Worn out t-shirts become dust rags. Tea towels act as cloth napkins — no paper towels or paper napkins in this house! We use cloth bags for shopping. Any plastic bags that accidentally find their way into the house are used as kitchen waste bags — we do not buy Hefty or any other kind of trash bags.  It really doesn’t make sense to pay for something that’s main purpose is to throw away! Same for paper bags – these are used for holding recyclable waste until they are tossed in the recycle bin (Waste Management does not allow plastic bags of any kind to be used in recycle bins).

Equipment in the house is carefully maintained. Wooden cutting boards and utensils are waxed twice a year to keep in good condition. Garden tools are cleaned and oiled at the end of each season. Kitchen tools are cleaned and dried right after a thorough washing to avoid rusting. We use a clothesline for drying clothes in warm seasons to extend the life of the dryer. We use (and reuse) glass jars and containers — no plastic! Knives are carefully used, stored, and sharpened when needed, instead of buying new.

January in My Kitchen: It’s All About Maintenance

The U.S. involvement in WWII passed four Januaries.  The first, in 1942 was just short a month from the Pearl Harbor attack and a few months before rationing began. The final January, in 1945, occurred while the Battle of the Bulge waged in Europe, nearing the end without the home front knowing it would thankfully be the last January of the war.

In my kitchen, each January marks the memory of my grandmother’s birthday on January 14th, aged 13-16 during the war. 

January also seems like a good time to maintain the things that need to keep in good working order to use up, wear out, and make do throughout the coming year. Here’s a partial list:

  • Gardening Tools: A spray of WD-40* on the tools I will rely on in a few long, cold months in the Victory Garden helps to protect them from rusting and splintering. It also helps in keeping parts moving smoothly and efficiently when spring arrives.

 

  • Cords, Cords Everywhere: There is a law in my house that prohibits anyone from throwing away any twist-tie from a bread wrapper or other form of packaging. And here’s why. I take a walk through my house, room by room, cupboard by cupboard looking for any electrical cord that needs to be neatly held with a twist-tie. Or, if in use and not able to be wrapped up, at least has a twist-tie attached to it for future use. You’ll be amazed at how well this little task saves on bent plugs, messy cupboards and rooms, and tangled messes. Any cord that does not have a home gets wrapped neatly, labeled to remind me what it once belonged to, and then stored all together in one spot for electronic cords.

 

  • House Maintenance: At the same time while I am going room to room looking for cords to wrap up, I also take a notebook and pen with me to make note of anything in each room that will need extra attention throughout the year — such as painting, deep cleaning, repair, or something added/removed to make it more appealing. Obviously, I’m a list maker and I appreciate seeing things getting crossed off, but this is also a way for me to budget time and money for home improvements no matter how big or small.

 

  • Wood: It is crucially important to maintain any wooden cutting boards and wooden handles of kitchen tools. I maintain at least twice a year, but for sure in January when the humidity in the house may be at its lowest. I use mineral oil or butcher block wax to condition all of the tools, then I give my cupboards a quick swipe with the oily rag to make the most of the used oil.

 

  • Recipes: As my WWII kitchen project progressed, I began to realize that I can become overwhelmed with too many recipes in front of me. I have one cabinet in my kitchen where I keep all of the recipes and monthly menu plans that work best for our home. As months go by I may add a picture of a recipe snapped from a book or magazine that once looked interesting. So each January, I lay out all the cookbooks, binders, and loose pieces that have accumulated and archive the ones never used. I think of recipes in the same way I think of items in my clothes closet. I tend to wear the same things over and over and by purging what I don’t wear I save time by not giving myself too many useless choices. When it comes to meals and the groceries that go with them, it’s easy to make choices quickly since any recipe at hand is a good one and likely to be one that I am able to keep ingredients on hand. What’s for supper? I simply open the binder to any page and make what I see.

 

For now, this list will make the most of my January and set me up for another year of war in my kitchen!

 

*Okay, okay… WD-40 was not invented until after WWII in 1953, but using plain oil as was common in households during WWII is frowned upon in my home for the same reasons that WD-40 is so widely popular.

Earning the Home Legion Distinguished Service in Homemaking Medal

In an earlier post (here) we learned about the prestigious Home Legion medal for distinguished service in homemaking. I was incredibly fortunate to come into possession of a medal, but I don’t feel that I have ‘earned’ the pin until I have completed the steps that all original Home Legion members had to complete for the recognition.

Step one: Join the Home Legion by filling out the application. I shall check the boxes of ‘good meal planning, careful household management, thrift — preventing waste, maintaining morale, creating a happy atmosphere, and interest in and work for the community’.  Check!

Step two: Hang the Homemaker’s Creed on a wall in my kitchen. Check!

Step three: Answer the questions in the first round of mailings: “How do you make your meals fit your situation?” and “What do you do to insure taste, appeal, and eating satisfaction in your meals?”

How do you make your meals fit your situation? My household consists of me, my husband and our beloved dog. I prepare meals in smaller batches for the two of us and freeze what cannot be eaten in one sitting. As my husband likes meat dishes and I don’t, I prep food that is half vegetarian all in one dish. This works great for casseroles or soups where I can pick out pieces of meat (guess who gets to eat what I don’t). I can also cook meat ahead of time, freeze it in servings and add it to dishes after I have taken out my portion. Breakfast meals are usually quick and on-the-go, like homemade granola bars. Lunches are on our own at work, usually a peanut butter sandwich and cookies packed the night before. Dinner typically follows a routine of my go-to dishes that can be made from memory.

 

What do you do to ensure taste, appeal, and eating satisfaction in your meals?  For taste, I use as many spices and seasoning as possible. Everything can use a little something — lemon peel in broth, sage and thyme added to gravy mixes, etc.

For appeal, I rely on simplicity. Plates and serving bowls are all pure colors such as white or jadeite or similar. As long as plates and utensils are clean and the food on them is tidy, not spilling over or splashed allover the counter tops and prep areas, I feel they are appealing.

For eating satisfaction, I rely on experience of past meals and knowing what we truly like to eat. I have a collection of recipes that are ‘tried and true’ in our household and only try new dishes once in a while from ingredients that I know we like. There is enough variety in our meal routine and we end up always eating our favorites.

 

Bonus Step: Tuning in to the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air radio show.  (No affiliation with The War In My Kitchen — just a cool website to find old time radio shows.)

The Home Legion Medal of Distinguished Service in Homemaking

“Believing that good homemaking is a vital contribution to a better world…

Homemaking should have a greater recognition as a contribution in the world…

I would like to be a member of the HOME LEGION dedicated to good homemaking for a better world.”

So read the Betty Crocker Home Legion membership application in Fall, 1944.

My endless search for home front keepsakes never fails to remind me of the goodness of people willing and supportive of a mission to honor and memorialize the women who held together the country and values of a nation at war.

In October of 2018 I received an email from a soon-to-be friend in Texas who had found The War in My Kitchen through her own research of an item found that was too good to be true — The Home Legion Distinguished Service Medal. !!!!

The gift of this medal was truly the 2018 highlight of The War in My Kitchen. I had never come across mention of a Home Legion medal in all my research or reading and found it to be incredibly difficult to find any Google mention of it either. Piece by piece, through persistent emails, phone calls, and searches I was able to find just two more instances of the medal on auction sites and an honest-to-goodness, still-in-the-envelope Home Legion membership application.

Let me start from the beginning (thank you to Rebecca Brown, an archivist at General Mills, for filling in the details):

“The pin you have is indeed from the Betty Crocker Home Legion, started during World War II. The Home Legion was dedicated to “Good Homemaking for a Better World” and “Greater Recognition for Good Homemaking”. It began in the fall of 1944 through the Betty Crocker Radio Cooking School. To join the legion a homemaker registered (for free) in the Betty Crocker Radio Cooking School. Once Betty received the membership application, she would send back the Homemaker’s Creed (a list of ideas and beliefs that legion members held to) and it could be hung up in the kitchen for inspiration.

Source: General Mills Archive

 

To receive the pin, two questionnaires had to be returned. The first was sent out with the Homemaker’s Creed. It had to be returned before January 5, 1945. Questions on the first report included: “How do you make your meals fit your situation?” and “What do you do to insure taste, appeal, and eating satisfaction in your meals?”  Then, later in January, the second questionnaire was sent. This one was a bit longer. Questions on this one included: “What do you do to insure a smooth-running home?”, “What little tricks do you use for saving time and labor?” and “How do you practice thrift in conserving food, household supplies, and equipment?” The second questionnaire had to be received by March 23, 1945. If both questionnaires were turned in on time, then the homemaker received that pin as proof that they were a distinguished member of the legion.

Source: General Mills Archives

Additionally, the questionnaires (which were more like essays with several prompts) were given out to those who “show that they are making the greatest contribution to other American homemakers”. The questionnaires were judged by a group of experienced homemakers. By the end of March 1945, 20,000 women had joined the legion.”

Source: General Mills Archive

Source: General Mills Archive

So…here’s my task before January 5th: Reply here answering the first questionnaire — How do you make your meals fit your situation? What do you do to insure taste, appeal, and eating satisfaction in your meals?

Wish me luck in earning the Home Legion Distinguished Service in Homemaking Medal! My responses will be posted in my next entry within deadline!

Christmas Gift Ideas From WWII

The Woman’s Day December 1943 magazine found at an estate sale provides us a glimpse into Christmas Past:

Christmas Gift from a Sea-Bee

“I have just seen a girl wearing with great pride a matched set of hand-wrought jewelry especially designed for her. A rare treasure, this lavaliere and bracelet set of shining white metal, and though the proud wearer does preen a bit, she is not to be accused of unwarranted vanity or unpatriotic giddiness. Her polished bracelet, with its entwined heart motif, her heart-shaped lavaliere, were both designed and engraved under the light of a tropical moon by her Sea-Bee husband. The shining white metal came from the wing of an American plane which dropped to rest on a coral strand, after it had put three Zeros in their proper place in Davy Jones’s locker. The lavaliere sways gently from its dog-tag chain. No perfectly matched string of pearls ever had a greater history, no royal bracelet ever a more impressive inscription – “Mimi and Bill forever”. As modern as the blonde young girl who wears it, as simply streamlined as the plane from which it was born, as sentimental as the most doting Victorian heart could desire – here’s jewelry of the hour, heirloom of the future.”

If you’re like me, you hope that Mimi and Bill had a victorious reunion after the war and wonder if the bracelet and lavaliere set still have a home in a jewelry box somewhere. Imagine the story of jewelry crafted from a WWI bomber could tell!

 

Pyrexware. Heck yeah, we girls want Pyrexware for Christmas!

The 1943 ad for a relatively new series of Pyrexware helps us date the pieces that remain in use today.

Notice the Pyrex Double Duty Casserole has a cover that can serve double-duty as a pie plate.

Pyrex Pie Plates from the WWII era had ridged sides and in 1943 featured the first-ever easy-to-hold handles.

The Pyrex Bowl Set of today still features the three nesting sizes sold 75 years ago — 2 ½, 1 ½  and 1 quart.

All are made of clear, see-through glass. (Highly-sought after Pyrex colored bowls were a 1950’s novelty. The bright colors and patterns were a lovely variation to these practical clear pieces.)

“Look for this label for your own protection”. The logo was important because not all glassware was hot-to-cold shatter-proof at the time. Pyrex had been made of borosilicate since 1915. It was an innovative thermal safe glass that could go from boiling hot and remain safe if ice cold water were added. In 1998, when Corning sold Pyrex to World Kitchen, LLC, a Chicago manufacturer, the glassware sold in the U.S. was replaced with lime soda glass. Lime soda glass is more resilient to dropping (anyone else have a mother who was ecstatic about her non-breakable Corning Ware plates in the 1990’s), but not as thermal protective.

Corning Glass Works is still around today, but only holds 8% interest in Pyrex (sold to World Kitchen, LLC).   As the makers of Pyrex during the war, the company was also called on to produce searchlight lenses, Army tableware, hospital supplies and other in the scientific realm, which remains today as its primary focus.

 

War Bonds – The Most Sensible Gift Under The Tree This Year

When was the last time you wore a corsage? Prom? Maybe Mother’s Day or for a wedding? Can you imagine if the corsage worn on any special day — a Sunday or night out — came back in style?

Money not wasted on flowers was better used to buy War Savings Stamps. But, not wanting to be left out of the pretty tradition, the stamps were crafted into a corsage.

 

“A War Savings Stamp corsage comes first on anyone’s gift list. From $1 up.”

How practical was it? It’s hard to say. Magazines were allowed to stay in print through the war even when paper drives were held to aid in the war effort if they served the purpose of advertising war bonds. This ad was such an example of complying with the agreement. Discreetly tucked into articles and advertisements, such things are fun to spot and are a sign of the era.

Marlene Dietrich pinning on a savings bond corsage.

 

Hot in the Kitchen…And Everywhere Else

Summer heat. Thank goodness for air conditioning, right? Can you imagine living without it? Can you imagine a summer road trip without air conditioning in the car?

Although it was invented by Willis Carrier in 1902, air conditioning was not a home feature during WWII. It was used primarily for industrial quality control.

Air conditioning became an attraction during the summer of 1925 when the Rivoli Theater in New York City installed it as an experiment to see if summer receipts would be positively affected by such a posh comfort. Boy, was it ever well received!

Soon, movie theaters across the country were installing air conditioning systems and pulling in crowds that went to the picture show primarily for the comfort of cooled air and a couple hours of relief from summer heat.

But how else did one survive the heat on the homefront during the war?

Building materials were different. Homes built from earthen materials have been proving their worth since Man lived in caves, but how often do we still find new construction of stone or brick? These materials kept heat out.

Buildings were structured differently. Think old-school, literally. Do you ever pass an old schoolhouse (becoming more rare by the day) and notice how different they are compared to modern school buildings? Back when school days were not called for being too hot, they were built of stone or brick with high ceilings, transoms, ceiling fans, and windows that actually opened and let in cross breezes between rooms on the opposite sides of the building.

Homes too, were structured differently. The layout of a typical floor plan had a stacked effect that allowed open stairways that vented heat up. Upper floors were used only at night with the windows open – hopefully with a breeze of cooler temperatures.

Turrets, cupulas, vestibules, or a widow’s walk were not just attractive on the top of a home, but also served the purpose of ventilating the whole house, or acted as a wind catcher no matter direction the wind blew.

Awnings and window hangs were added to shade out the sun. Shade trees were planted on the east and west side of houses to add additional shade.

And let’s not forget the importance of porches. Some were screened on all sides to create a sleeping porch and others simply served as a place to sit out away from the heat inside.

Iceboxes were called on for relief. Some folks shared stories of putting bed sheets or even their underwear in the icebox or freezer to bring the temperature down to comfortable.

Natural pools weren’t for scenic beauty only. You’d find people at creeks, streams, and lakes taking a dip or wringing out towels to wear around their necks while motoring through or working in the garden.

Kitchens were put to use. Summertime meals were no-bake as much as possible. Sandwiches with a variety of spreads, homemade lemonade, fresh from the garden salads and raw vegetables were typical. Cold soups were plain, but welcomed. No-bake desserts were perfected as refrigerator technology and community freezers became more common.

From the July 1943 Health-for-Victory Club Meal Planner, today’s menu:
Breakfast – Orange Juice, Cooked Cereal with Whole Milk, Buttered Whole Wheat Toast, Coffee and Milk

Lunch – Cream Soup of Leftover Vegetables, Egg and Celery Sandwich Filling on Whole Wheat Bread, Apples, Cookies

Dinner – Potatoburgers, Sour Cream Cabbage, Grated Carrot Salad, Soybean Bread – Butter or Fortified Margarine, Sweet Cherries or Apricots, and Buttermilk

Lunchbox for Tomorrow – Cream Soup of Leftover Vegetables, Liver Sandwich Filling on Whole Wheat Bread, Deviled Cheese Sandwich Filling on Bran Bread, Whole Tomato with Salt and an Apple.

A Social Era Ends

Following WWII, air conditioning was a noted amenity of newly constructed suburban homes to many newlywed couples. Adding modern cooling remains a big project to homes built prior to the war. As common as AC has become, most of us can’t imagine living without it and its constant hum in the background. Where winter used to draw us indoors to hibernate, air conditioning in the summer has accomplished the same anti-social act. Instead of sitting on the porch or under a tree with neighbors and iced drinks to cool off, we stay inside only going out to rush from our cooled homes to a cooled car on our way to a cooled store or office to do our day’s chores or errands (usually toting a light sweater in case the building is too cold!). Yes, we are miserable in summer’s heat but maybe we can be miserable together again sometime.

Lessons Learned

One sunny day last summer my neighbor’s daughter, age nine, came to my door on an errand to borrow some sugar or an egg, or something like that.*

 

As I handed off the item she was there to fetch I also wrote out a note to her mother and handed it to her.  She said, “I can’t read that.  In cursive, I can only read my name.”

 

Her statement stayed with me after she ran off and I thought about it throughout the day — and still am as this is almost a year later when I write this. I had heard about The Common Core education standards years ago when in 2013 it was determined cursive was no longer a needed skill to teach in school. It takes too long to teach, especially when increasingly computers, tablets, and phone texting has all but totally replaced every day message delivery.

 

In the context of The War In My Kitchen, I’m feeling very concerned about the extinction of family recipes. For one reason, while some home-delivery cooking programs like Hello Fresh® and Blue Apron® are bringing cooking back to the home, they are making it almost too easy. It is real food, and in many cases good food, but with it magically showing up at the door, we’re not learning about where food really comes from.  Not even from a grocery store anymore, are kids to think cabbage grows in a FedEx® truck?

 

Second, the corporate recipes are coming printed on glossy card stock in color with lots and lots of how-to pictures through the steps. We’re missing lessons handed down from family members actually showing the techniques and family way of doing the steps.

 

Third, the saddest to me is that we are losing the hand-written — cursive — recipe card with ingredient stains on a scrap of paper or index card. These cards appear to be written in code to someone younger than fifth or sixth grade.

 

Maybe one day it will become in fashion again to learn old-fashioned cooking and baking using the “retro” system of recipes written in cursive; I hope so anyway.

 

If we move too far beyond the current generation of not learning cursive, the recipes will fade and become lost. Sure, we can take the time to transcribe the hand-written recipes to computer and print them out or store them on a flash drive, but we lose something in translation when we stop reading the recipe written in the hand of a great-grandmother or great-aunt who learned very well the core lessons of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

 

 

* Yes, even though I live in the very modern suburbs of Chicago, I insist on old-fashioned treatment from my neighbors where we indeed pass pantry items over the fence or share recipe details. We need to get back to this sort of living and I plan to share some advice that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt shared with me (and others) very soon.

Christmas 1943

What was Christmas like during the war?

 

For a peek, I turned to the December 1943 issue of Woman’s Day Magazine.

 

“Santa Claus’ bag is still bursting with goodies for Christmas stockings after three years of war. There are enough pecans, peanuts, walnuts, and filberts to fill the stocking feet, but not any of our favorite imported holiday brazil nuts, pistachios, and cashews. More raw materials than last year have been made available for the manufacture of novelty candies, clear candy figures, and hardtack for Christmas.”

 

“Fewer chocolates are on the shelves for civilians since candy makers are manufacturing more 5-cent bars in order to reach more people. The greater part of the familiar candy-bar brands are being sold to soldiers, sailors and marines, while the newer brands, made in place of the ordinary chocolates, find themselves on the 3-for-10 counters.

 

The rich chocolates, however, that are made especially for the Christmas trade are as numerous as last year, but their boxes are more economically designed and wear no cellophane.”

 

A Christmas ham tradition remained strong during the war. Famers produced in record as their part in fighting the war, seeing their honor duty to keep our troops and Allies fed, and to keep everyone on the home front content. 127 million pigs were raised for slaughter in 1943; a 6% increase above their goal for the year. This is nearly 5 million more pigs raised than in 1942. Today, an average of 117 million pigs are slaughtered each year (2009).

 

Do you remember the tradition of stringing popcorn for decorating the tree? How about popcorn balls? In 1943, it was announced that there would not be enough popcorn supply for decorative and eating purposes. “Although the popcorn crop is larger than prewar times, it is lower than last year’s – and more people want to buy it. Corn syrup supplies for making popcorn balls are average; honey, a little above. And you might try puffed wheat balls for variety.”

 

“Good news comes in an orange skin. Christmas will usher in the big crops of oranges from Florida and California which are estimated to be ten per cent larger than the 1942-1943 crop. Tangerines, at the height of their season during the holidays, will be only slightly less plentiful than during the second war-Christmas. There are enough lemons for everyone to haul all the lemon-pie filling he might long for. Candied orange, lemon and grapefruit peel are plentiful.”

 

“There are few canned cranberries for holiday dinners. But now, as in November, there are fresh berries on most markets.”

 

“We have as many turkeys ready for the oven on Christmas day as were available last year. And there is a big market of roasting chickens, but no capons – they require too much feed for wartime production. Geese and ducks and guinea hens are plentiful in most farming districts.”

Kitchen Work Efficiency

Americans on the home front wanted to know what they could do at home to do their part in winning the war. The mantra, “Waste Nothing” was always the short answer. Waste nothing meant efficiency of every possible resource and thing, including time and human energy.

 

Efficient home making was the goal in homes across America during WWII. In a Woman’s Day magazine ad during winter of 1943, extensive testing is described that proves the Old Dutch Cleanser with Seisomtite is more economical and efficient than any other brand.

Advertisement for Old Dutch Cleanser published in 1943.

Advertisement for Old Dutch Cleanser published in 1943.

It ‘cleans your bathtub 34 more times than any other leading cleanser’, ‘your sink 69 more times’, ‘your favorite pan (which they describe as a 2-quart aluminum pan) 77 more times’, ‘your washbowl 97 more times’, and ‘your broiler pan 48 more times’.

 

The ad goes on to say ‘you should get one can for the bathroom, one for the kitchen and another for the laundry to save steps.’  This is not a bad idea! I have located a cleaning supply kit on each floor on my home — the upstairs, main level, and basement level. Having all that I need without pulling it out and lugging things up or down stairs is actually a huge time-saver and nearly half the battle when it comes to just starting the project of cleaning an area.

 

WWII had everyone thinking about highest possible efficiency. By the time the war ended and between 1946 and 1949, the University of Illinois School of Architecture Small Homes Council-Building Research studies introduced the world to their “work triangle” design study. The work triangle continues to serve as a standard of good kitchen design. The sink, stove, and refrigerator serve as the cornerstones of the triangle that make it possible to reduce wasted steps in time-motion studies originated for industrial applications in the late 1800’s studied by Frederick Winslow Taylor.

 

The kitchen work triangle principle:

  • No leg of the triangle should be less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet.
  • The sum of all three sides of the triangle should be between 13 feet and 26 feet.
  • Cabinets or other obstacles should not intersect any leg of the triangle by more than 12 inches.
  • If possible, there should be no major traffic flow through the triangle.
  • A full-height obstacle, such as a tall cabinet, should not come between any two points of the triangle.

 

Besides the work triangle itself, there are several rules of thumb to consider when planning a kitchen:

  • As measured between counter tops and cabinets or appliances, work aisles should be no less than 42 inches for one cook, or 48 inches for multiple cooks.
  • A sink should have a clear counter area of at least 24 inches on one side, and at least 18 inches on the other side.
  • A refrigerator should have a clear counter area of at least 15 inches on the handle side; or the same on either side of a side-by-side refrigerator; or the same area on a counter no more than 48 inches across from the refrigerator.
  • A stove or cook top should have a clear 15 inches area on one side, and at least 12 inches on the other side.
  • At least 36 inches of food preparation area should be located next to the sink.
  • In a seating area where no traffic passes behind the diner, allow 32 inches from the wall to the edge of the table or counter; if traffic passes behind the diner, allow 44 inches.
My kitchen.

My kitchen.

So, how efficiently designed is my kitchen?

  • No leg of the triangle should be less than 4 feet or more than 9 feet: I have two triangle legs that measure 44”, falling short by 4” to be efficiently designed.
  • The sum of all three sides of the triangle should be between 13 feet and 26 feet: My sum of legs is 158”, a mere two inches above the appropriate distance.
  • Cabinets or other obstacles should not intersect any leg of the triangle by more than 12 inches: No problems here.
  • If possible, there should be no major traffic flow through the triangle: No problems here.
  • A full-height obstacle, such as a tall cabinet, should not come between any two points of the triangle: No problems here.
  • As measured between counter tops and cabinets or appliances, work aisles should be no less than 42 inches for one cook, or 48 inches for multiple cooks: My aisles are 44”.
  • A sink should have a clear counter area of at least 24 inches on one side, and at least 18 inches on the other side: My sink has 18” exactly and 40” of counter space.
  • A refrigerator should have a clear counter area of at least 15 inches on the handle side; or the same on either side of a side-by-side refrigerator; or the same area on a counter no more than 48 inches across from the refrigerator: My counter on the handle side is 41”. My other counter, outside of the triangle is 36”. Being outside of the triangle, it hardly ever gets used! Now I know why.
  • A stove or cook top should have a clear 15 inches area on one side, and at least 12 inches on the other side: My counter tops on each side of the stove are 44” and 52”.
  • At least 36 inches of food preparation area should be located next to the sink: I have 39” of food prep area on the right side of the sink. Space inside the triangle is used often. The area outside of the triangle is not used very much at all and clutter accumulates there. 
  • In a seating area where no traffic passes behind the diner, allow 32 inches from the wall to the edge of the table or counter; if traffic passes behind the diner, allow 44 inches: Two counter top chairs are well within the 44” rule. When we moved into our home, there was an area set aside for a table between the counter and patio door area. It had a low-hanging lamp above the table area and was in the path of the pantry closet and patio door. No wonder it had to go! It felt extremely jarring to sit there. It’s math!! The math explains it all!
My kitchen's work triangle.

My kitchen’s work triangle.