Archive for Make it Do

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.

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!

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.

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.”

Self-Service

Things have a way of coming around again. By that I mean, grocery delivery as an example. Prior to World War II housewives called in their grocery order to their grocer, who they most certainly knew on a first name basis. The friendly neighborhood grocer would put the order together and have their delivery boys deliver it to the home. Mr. Grocer would likely send a bill at the end of the month.

 

Surely, this type of shopping made the world a lot smaller. Smaller orders, more frequently. And having a personal shopper meant someone knew you and your household very intimately. Imagine having a personal grocer today doing your shopping – they’d know when a baby joined the house, when you adopted a new dog, when you tried the newest diet fad and then went on to the next.

 

An IGA announcement in the April 1943 hometown paper made it clear how grocery shopping during WWII would be forever changed:
“Dear Patron,

 

In order to comply with the recommendations of our government, for the conservation of Manpower, Gasoline and Rubber, we announce the following change in our policy:

 

Beginning Monday, April 19, 1943, we will be on a strict carry-out basis. While this is a direct contribution to our national war effort, it will also permit us to pass along many savings so made. We are sure the change will work no undue hardship and ask your cooperation at this time.

 

We welcome the opportunity of serving you in our new self-service and carry-out plan. For your convenience, we will arrange to prepare orders on a “will call” or by payment of a small delivery charge. Delivery charges will be made according to the size of the order and paid the City Delivery upon leaving the store.

 

We wish to thank you for your valued patronage.

 

Yours for Victory,

Ramsey’s IGA Store

Ray R. Hildebrandt, Manager

 

The advertisement goes on to state the New Policy:

  1. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Display.
  2. Shopping made easier – with open shelf displays and self-service push carts.
  • No Delay! Shop quickly or leisurely as you like.
  1. Clerks to help you.
  2. All items plainly marked with prices and points.
  3. Everyday low prices!

 

Store Delivery Rules

What the advertising is describing is the birth of modern grocery shopping. Bulk shopping would come later, to the mind-boggling astonishment of my grandparents’ generation.

 

Were the changes to grocery shopping for the good?  How was manpower, gasoline and rubber saved if instead of a grocer making deliveries switched to all his customers coming to the store individually? What long-term effect did the change have on customer service? Is it convenience that is bringing some people to grocery delivery services like Peadpod and Door-To-Door Organics (two I have used myself)? At a time when homemaking was desperate for convenience, was this an example of contrary change?

 

As I think about the advertisement, I can’t help but think about how the new policy led to modern patterns of consumerism and self-indulgence that leads to obesity. For such a small advertisement in the paper, the results were huge.

Grocery Store - Self Serve

Waste Not.

Stop WasteAn overriding value of the WWII project is about avoiding waste. Whether the value was learned through the years of The Great Depression, or through government facilitation, it has always been clear to me that people alive during WWII were conscious about waste. Their efforts made them selfless in our minds and to them each following generation seems indulgent and living with a growing sense of entitlement.

 

About waste in general, I turned to a valuable timeline found on the Association of Science – Technology Centers site.

 

1927: John M. Hammes, an architect in Racine, Wisconsin invents the InSinkErator® food disposer in his basement. It is patented in 1935, a year when only 52 models sold.

 

Why is that important, you may ask. Well…think about it. 52 garbage disposals installed; do you know of any modern homes without a disposal these days?

 

There was a real problem at the company ten years later, as their salesforce was still trying to figure out how to sell disposers. They just weren’t necessary for the small amount of kitchen waste produced.

 

After WWII though, 18 competitors of InSinkErator arrived on the scene. Times were changing.

 

In the early 1900s, Americans were estimated to waste 80-100 pounds of food per year, per person. Can you believe we are now tossing 20 pounds per person, per month? That’s 100 pounds in 1900, 240 pounds in 2015.

What has made this change? Availability. Convenience.

Convenience came in the form of several inventions:

1914 – Wax Paper

1928 – Cellophane

1929 – Aluminum Foil

1930 – Plastic (polyvinyl chloride) and polystyrene

1937 – Nylon, the world’s first synthetic fiber

Waste Fat

Before such inventions, we were only able to take what we could eat. We weren’t able to store food easily so we better judged what we really needed. I can give an example. Today I reluctantly tossed out a half full clamshell of grape tomatoes to the compost that had gone beyond their safe ripeness. I don’t do this absent-mindedly. I think about what I did that led to such waste. I realized it’s about size and portions (the American way!). The clamshell held about a 1 ½ pounds of grape tomatoes — roughly 60 of them. Realistically, there’s no way we would have eaten that many grape tomatoes. We have learned to buy for size, without thinking if it’s really what we need…value is in the bigger package, right Sam’s Club and Costco?

 

Speaking of packaging, I’m having trouble with the local grocers. They have a real problem with me not allowing them to wrap household items in plastic before putting in my bags with my other items. Never mind the fact that most of what we buy is wrapped in heavy plastic, slid inside a cardboard box. In the case of most household items (shampoo, soap, moisturizer, cleaning supplies), that are put on our bodies or countertops where we serve food, what is the problem if it comes near my food on its way home from the store?

Waste Paper

Anyway…back to waste. In 1947, J. Gordon Lippincott, an Industrial Designer of the time, made a comment on an observation he had made: “Our willingness to part with something before it is completely worn out is a phenomenon noticeable in no other society in history. It is soundly based on our economy of abundance. It must be further nurtured even though it runs contrary to one of the oldest inbred laws of humanity – the law of thrift.”  That said in 1947, long, long before Apple phones are replaced every two years for the newer version with cooler features! Mr. Lippincott was actually referring to inventions such as disposable Bic pens and disposable Gillette razors. This type of waste just didn’t make sense.

 

Sadly, things only became worse as Americans became increasingly focused on consumerism.

 

1953: The American economy’s “ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods”. – Chairman of President Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisors.

 

“It is our job to make women unhappy with what they have.” – B. Earl Puckett, Allied Stores Corp.

 

1991: “Our economy is such that we cannot “afford” to take care of things: labor is expensive, time is expensive, money is expensive, but materials — the stuff of creation — are so cheap that we cannot afford to take care of them.” – Wendell Berry

 

1993: “We’re reminded a hundred times a day to buy things, but we’re not reminded to take care of them, repair them, reuse them, or give them away.” – Michael Jacobson, Center for the Study of Commercialism

 

By latest claims, Americans throw out 230,000,000 tons of trash (4.6 pounds per day) per person annually. Less than ¼ of that amount is recycled.

 

And back to food waste — it’s too much. 20 pounds per person, each month of food. Roughly 15% – 20% of what we buy we throw out.

 

Think about the additional waste of resources involved. According to author and food waste expert Jonathan Bloom, food waste is not just a moral issue, but also an environmental issue. “A tremendous amount of resources go into growing our food, processing, shipping, cooling and cooking it,” said Bloom. “Our food waste could represent as much as six percent of U.S. energy consumption.”

 

It comes down to winning the modern war against overabundance and consumerism.

 

Stores overstock. If the shelves or produce displays look empty we think there is something wrong with what’s left. No one wants to take the last head of broccoli.

 

Any produce slightly subpar is tossed before it even goes to market. The USDA standards of grading produce puts a farmer at loss. If something is a Grade 2, two-thirds of its market value is lost, even though taste and freshness is identical to a Grade 1. It’s all about aesthetics.

 

91% of consumers have tossed food for the reason it is past its ‘sell date’. There are no USDA health or safety standards on food expiration (except in the case of baby formula). The dates you see on food in a store is determined by manufacturer — someone who would have an interest in you tossing to buy again.

 

So, here we are in 2015…70 years since WWII and the food rules. ‘Living Green’ is popular…reduce, reuse, recycle feels like a hip concept to us. Don’t be fooled. The trend was a way of life, not a trend, until the end of WWII and we’re not even close to mastering it the way our grandparents did. This is one of those lessons we must hold on to.

 

Don’t buy more than you need. Use what you buy. Reuse or recycle what’s left of packaging, if you can’t avoid packaging completely. Or, as they use to say – Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without!

Food Waste

Ain’t That the Pits?

Summer is in full swing and with it comes excess of everything we’ll wish we had in the winter — fresh strawberries, raspberries, apricots, and cherries for now.

This morning’s task was pitting the cherries and I was excited to use a tool found at a recent estate sale: the Cherry Pitter or Cherry Stoner. It will answer to either name. Even with a fun new (old) tool, the project did still turn out to be a chore. And a messy one at that (Note to self: Post about aprons!)

I spent the time pitting the cherries thinking about how the tool must have changed over the years and did a little research.

So, here is my tool (note the cherry-stained fingers): IMG_20150719_153327814[1]IMG_20150719_153406378_HDR[1]

 

Another version I did not buy at an estate sale (*sigh*): Cherry PittererAnd one more that I would love to have to close out my cherry pitter collection (*sigh*): Cherry Pitter

I’m thinking about the people and brains over the years working on the problem of pits in cherries (or olives). It’s not one of our most pressing dilemmas; probably never was, but I bet more than once in many kitchens over the years it was a problem that some people took to solving. I think that’s pretty notable.

IMG_20150719_131044781_HDR

 

The Six Month Mark of the Project

Today marks the halfway point for the WWII Food Rationing Project year. The starting day was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, which was the event that sent the United States into the war and rationing.

So, how’s it going?

IMG_20150607_125024429_HDRIn the first month of the project, I was able to manage the weekly meal prep according to the Meal Planning booklets from 1943/1944.  It would take an entire day to prep the food, which is okay since I like that kind of mindful working. The recipes were good, though notably scaled back from what we were eating prior to the project. One problem though was keeping sandwich bread fresh and soft through the week, especially if I made lunches ahead of time for the week, wrapped in wax paper. By Friday, we felt like we were eating celery/egg sandwiches on toast. Preparing lunches for the day during the morning rush proved too complicated in my routine without losing an hour’s worth of sleep that made me functional for the day. I say it over and over – I don’t know how they did it!

I enjoyed making bread every week. But, I am currently trying to find a recipe for Potato Bread instead of the typical wheat flour recipes I had been using. I’ve been buying instead of making for two months’ time. IMG_20150607_125238013_HDR

I haven’t purchased sugar in over three months’ time. In the beginning of the project I wasworried about supply and running on fumes by the end of the week. That was also at the time I was following the meal planning booklets closely. We’re not eating desserts at the end of each meal. The worst craving was for Oreo cookies and with their invention in 1912, they actually were on the allowed list.

We have a huge (to our standards) “Victory” Garden. It’s a pain to keep up. During WWII people were encouraged to useIMG_20150607_130141634 every inch of lawn space for a Victory Garden. We’re only using about 1/8th of our yard for it and I can’t keep the weeds down.

Plastic containers have left our kitchen for good. It didn’t take long to switch over to glass. I’m still using freezer bags in the freezer since I IMG_20150607_125310473_HDRcouldn’t come up with a better solution. Utensils were a challenge to replace and I have scrounged around antique shops and estate sales to repurchase non-plastic measuring spoons, cups, and such. One recipe booklet told me to use a rubber spatula to scoop something out of a jar. I was elated! I would easily nominate rubber spatulas as the greatest kitchen invention of modern time. Something so simple, right?

IMG_20150607_125521396It is rare for food to be thrown out. My mother is a master of leftovers and it’s taking me practice to get there, but I’ve greatly improved on food waste. The solution is to not buy things special for a recipe that I’ll only use once and don’t buy anything I don’t need, period. There is always a suitable substitute for ingredients, or you can omit (Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do or Do Without).

I haven’t purchased cleaning supplies in six months. Yes, I still clean the house! Vinegar, Borax, baking soda, lemon juice/oil all do the job. For everything. When a t-shirt is beyond its wearable lifespan, it is cut up into four rags. Which can be rewashed.

We are eating a lot of chicken. Chickens weren’t plentiful during WWII, they were needed for eggs, but when we started following the recipes we were eating way too much red meat, even under the monthly rationing standards. I categorize this change as “When You Know Better”. It just didn’t feel healthy to be eating that way.

So, what do we eat?

Eggs. Chicken. Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Salads. Fruits. Vegetables – lots of potatoes. Ham. And, nobody is going hungry.

When I bake and cook I listen to the radio or music from the era. This point IMG_20150607_130519694made me realize I had been forgetting that every single kitchen I spent time in as a kid had a radio centered in the kitchen.

Back in December when people asked me why I was going to start the project I told them it was a study in contentment, resourcefulness, and mindful eating. I have to say, it’s been all of that. In very good ways. The next six months will march on; starting today I will make a commitment to shore up some of the edges that have become frayed as far as the rules go and see what else comes along. To Victory!

A D-Day Anniversary

D Day

Today marks the 71st anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France that took the lives of (or wounded) approximately 425,000 Allied and German troops. Back home, the news of the operation would have traveled via radio and newspaper slowly compared to today. When word reached home many Americans were stunned by the staggering numbers reported. 4,000 ships and 11,000 planes supported the attack. For anyone with a loved one in the European theater, they had to wonder and worry; startle at every knock on the door.

If the home front was weary of the rations and shortages, D-Day brought people back to reality. No matter how hard it was to sacrifice and make do, the effort was far worse in Europe and troops needed support without complaint.

Renewed commitment to the effort was found.

In my hometown paper from Ripon, Wisconsin an editorial around the time read, “It is time somebody spoke sharply to those disgruntled citizens who “can’t get along” under wartime restrictions.

The woman who scurries about trying to buy every pair of sheer hose she can get her hands on because she “just won’t wear those heavy stocking” is in the same class as the housewife who chases from store to store, hoping to get still another pound of coffee to add to her hoarded pile.

The woman who “can’t get along” on her sugar ration belongs with the man who feels that something “must be done about” getting him a third pork chop. And all these persons are in the same class with those who are “about ready to give up” because of gas rationing, fuel oil rationing, the shortage of chocolate, the impossibility of getting a new vacuum cleaner, etc. etc.

Is a pork chop, then, a matter of vital concern to a free and ingenious people? Is it really important whether or not we have a second cup of coffee? We have had these things as a matter of course. We have grown used to them, but is it fair to expect them when a whole world is upside down, when there is a battle to the death to see whether democracy shall survive or be wiped out? Is it fair to “beef”about our “hardships” when the issue of victory or defeat is still undecided?

Even if there has been “lack of proper planning” and “unparconable mistakes in Washington” and a “woeful absence of vision”, is it fair, or practical, or helpful to the war effort to grouse and grumble about “condition”?

All over the world today, in dozens of outposts, the soldiers of democracy, though they may have the coffee and beef and the chocolate we find it difficult to get, are living under conditions we cannot even imagine — and dying to keep from us the fate of a permanent loss of good things of life.

Men are dying at sea trying to bring us the coffee we crave, getting some through despite the dangers just so that we may have that cheering drink at breakfast if at no other time.

And we, sitting in our easy chairs with the radio playing, soft music in the background and with the room temperature still comfortable, express our displeasure that our coffee is neither so good nor so plentiful as in the past!

Wake up, complainers! A million Japs are at the throats of our brothers and sons, who are fighting for us in Asia’s heat and Europe’s cold. What have we to complain about, except that we care so little to help them, except that we are not doing all the little we can?”

Normandy Beach

Cemetery at Normandy Beach

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