Setting the Stage While Setting the Table
The world changed on December 7, 1941. On a beautiful Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet of the US Navy was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy. In the attack 2,403 Americans lost their lives and 1,178 were wounded. The country was thrown into shock and a huge outcome of the attack was a sense of patriotism that has never since been duplicated.
Beginning in March of 1942, Americans on the home front entered into various rationing provisions set by the United States government. Sugar imports were greatly affected by war activity and the reduction of supply meant that each household was only allowed 1/2 pound (1 Cup) of sugar, per person, per week.
By the end of 1943 meat, canned goods, and coffee were also in rationed supply. Other items were needed in the production of war – rubber (tires and soles of shoes), metal, aluminum, nylon (hosiery, elastic and brushes) – were turned over to the war department to help win the war.
The rationing created a hardship for all people but complaining was not allowed. Europeans had it much worse, and there was always the plight of the solider to consider as well. When it came to “making do” back home, everyone found a way to get by with less.
I’ve spent my day in a reflective tone thinking about the events at Pearl Harbor and about World War II in general. My WWII Food Rationing Project begins today and in my kitchen it is December 7, 1943. Based on a year’s worth of reading about the home front experience, and several interviews with those who remember it from their childhood, the food I prepare over the next year will bring me closer to reconnecting to a time when Americans were living with less, eating more consciously and getting by with a lot of help from their family and neighbors.
To kick off my project I have been cooking and baking directly out of the “Health For Victory Meal Planning Guide of December 1943”. Each day is planned out in the booklet: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Lunch Box. Using the suggestions, I have already asked my husband ten times today — “How did they do this?”.
The draft brought to the surface the problem of malnutrition of Americans caused by The Great Depression. According to the Draft Board, two out of every five men called up were unfit for military service due to disabilities which were linked to poor nutrition. In response, the United States government focused special attention on “correct” nutrition, setting guidelines and educating homemakers to think more carefully and work harder at serving nutritionally balanced meals.
The menu plan I took out of the December 1943 booklet introduced me to many new recipes I would have never found otherwise:
Monday’s Lunch Box: Egg and Celery Filling (for sandwiches) on Rye Bread, Peanut Butter “Pep Up” Filling (for sandwiches) on Enriched White Bread, Cole Slaw, and Applesauce.
Tuesday’s Lunch Box: Bacon-Pickle Filling on Enriched White Bread, Oatmeal Apple Cake.
Wednesday’s Lunch Box: Pimento Filling on Enriched White Bread, Peanut-Prune Filling on Whole Wheat Bread, Cookies, Fluffy Blanc Mange.
Enriched White Bread was an important addition to the American diet. The National Wartime Nutrition Program found it necessary to “enrich” the bread – a staple of the American diet – with important vitamins. “Enriched”…these days we’re not as trusting of what this word means when it comes to our food. My research will continue on this topic as the year progresses.
After a full day of cooking and baking to prepare for the week ahead, this cook is exhausted. While the scope of this experiment will allow me to experience the food of WWII, I have taken in some luxuries that I could only wish my grandmothers had. I am spoiled with a freezer in my home (In 1943 homes relied on a community freezer with lockers storing the household’s frozen items along with everyone else in town. Imagine forgetting the frozen tator tots until 6pm when the building was closed for the day!). I am even more spoiled with a dishwasher and garbage disposal. I have discarded all plastic, processed foods, and the microwave.
I look forward to this experience and I’m glad you stopped by to read along!
“Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without!”