Yes, The War is Still On

Hello!  You may be wondering where the blog posting has gone, as it has been a while since I took a deep dive into something I’ve found in my kitchen.

It’s not that the war has ended, it’s just easier to post — and post I do! — on Instagram and then cross-post to Facebook.

If you’re not following The War In My Kitchen on either of those platforms, you’ve missed a lot!

Please follow me on either!

2022-2023 has also brought me to a long-awaited milestone. I am now presenting in-person (and on Zoom) to libraries around the Chicagoland area. There are some upcoming dates if you are in the area:

November 9th, 2023 7:00-8:00pm: Morton Grove Public Library via Zoom “What’s For Dinner? Vintage Kitchens, Kitchen Gadgets, Recipes and Food”

November 27th, 2023 6:00-7:00pm: Addison Public Library “What’s For Dinner? Vintage Kitchens, Kitchen Gadgets, Recipes and Food”

December 19th, 2023 6:00-7:00pm: Shorewood Public Library “A World War II Christmas on the Home Front”

March TBD, 2024: White Oak Public Library, Lockport, IL “Rosie the Riveter and Other (S)Heroes of WWII

I hope you’ll be able to join on Zoom or in-person!  Check out the calendar pages of the noted libraries to register.

If you’re reading this in Wisconsin, know that in 2024 I’ll be reaching out to various libraries and other community organizations to share the War In My Kitchen there too!


February 3rd: Four Chaplains Day – There’s More to The Story

In the United States, February 3rd is Four Chaplains Day and commemorates the events of February 3, 1943, when the troop ship USAT Dorchester sank. Dorchester left New York on January 23, 1943, carrying 4 chaplains and about 900 other soldiers.  The story hit hard on the home front.


Even though being escorted by three Coast Guard ships, the Dorchester was torpedoed by a German submarine near Newfoundland at 12:55 a.m. on February 3rd, 1943. When the Dorchester began to sink, four chaplains of different religions, George L. Fox (Methodist), Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Clark V. Poling (Baptist) and John P. Washington (Catholic) helped to calm the passengers and organize an orderly evacuation.


Life vests were passed out, but the supply ran out before everyone had one.


Survivors recounted that the four chaplains gave their own life vests to others, linked their arms together, called out prayers and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.


Usually, the story of unfathomable courage and sacrifice ends there.  But there is a very important next chapter to the story of The Four Chaplains.  It’s a chapter about the answer to their prayers.


Charles W. David, Jr. was a Coast Guard petty officer aboard the Comanche, one of the ships assigned to escort the Dorchester.  Because Petty Officer David was black and the military was heavily segregated, even though he had natural and acquired very useful skills, he was held to the lowest ranks.  When the Dorchester sunk, he was the fifth-lowest ranking member of the crew.


Self-sacrificially he became the answer to the chaplains’ prayers. Without any obligation to do so, given his low rank and disrespect shown to him just for the color of his skin, he jumped into the freezing waters to save as many drowning men as he possibly could. Over and over, he dove back in the water to save more while other crewmembers stood woefully immobile on the deck, too fearful to go into that kind of danger.


674 souls from the Dorchester lost their lives. The Coast Guard ship Comanche rescued 93 of the 227 survivors, many of those from the efforts of Petty Officer David.


For his bravery and unyielding efforts to answer the call, Coast Guard Petty Officer Charles W. David, Jr. died a month later from pneumonia.


He was awarded the Navy & Marine Corps Medal for heroism in 2013 and a Coast Guard cutter bears his name.


When you hear the story of the Four Chaplains or when you tell people of the Four Chaplains, remember to continue the story all the way through to the answer to their prayers.


Read more: “The Immortals” by Steven Collis

The Essential Workers of the Joliet Arsenal

In the far corner of a grassy clearing within a national cemetery in Joliet, Illinois stands a life-size bronze statue of a WWII-era worker carrying a lunch box.

It is stationed on a pedestal with the names of 48 home front war workers, killed when the plant they were working in on June 5th, 1942 exploded at 2:45 am. Another 46 were injured. Not one person in the building escaped without serious injury.

In 1940 the small town of Elwood, Illinois became a major preemptive player in a war that its country was not yet participating in.

What was the site of 40,000 acres of farmland, home to 450 farms that dated back to the original pioneers of Illinois settlement, became property of the federal government through the process of eminent domain.

Two government contracted companies joined on the property to form what was commonly known as the Joliet Arsenal. One company manufactured various types of explosives for use at other plants and the other loaded artillery shells, bombs, mines and other munitions. One started production in July of 1941, the other in September of 1941 — months ahead of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

At its peak during WWII, over 10,425 war workers were employed at the two plants. One loaded more than 926 million bombs, shells, mines, detonators, fuses and boosters. The other produced over 1 billion pounds of TNT. The grounds of the operation held 1,391 buildings.

No one will ever know what exactly caused the explosion that was felt for a 100-mile radius and left a 12-foot deep crater where Building 10 once stood. At the time, anti-tank mines were being loaded into railroad boxcars, ready for shipping. They were pressure mines, designed to set off when weight rolled on top of them. The mines were packed five to a box, with an additional tetryl fuse booster for each mine. Used in blasting caps, tetryl sets off the rest of the mine. Two railroad boxcars were already filled with mines and fuses. A third was nearly full. Perhaps as many as 12,000 mines — 57,000 pounds of TNT. Source: Stephen Jesse Taylor

From a United Press newspaper article written at the time, “Explosion shattered buildings of one of the units of the $30,000,000 Elwood Ordnance plant gave up the bodies of 21 workers Friday. Army officials said 36 more were missing from the blast that could be felt for a radius of 100 miles. Another 41 were injured, five of them critically, from the explosion that leveled a building…. Not one of the 68 men inside the shipping unit when the blast occurred escaped death or injury.”

“The explosion put one of the 12 production units out of action temporarily, but operations continued in the others.”

And that’s how important war work was — worth giving up a life. Some remains of those lives, never found, were only identifiable by pieces of jewelry found at the site. But the work had to go on. It was too important to stop. This was essential work and essential workers were doing it.

At least two widows, whose husbands had died in the blast, later went to work at the arsenal. Charlotte Hammond started working July 5, only a month after her husband’s death. She had bills to pay and few other choices, so worked in the mail room. Isabel McCawley, widow of Lawrence A. McCawley, went to work at the plant packing TNT.

Source: WWII Museum New Orleans, LA

According to a 75th anniversary article in the Chicago Tribune, Bernie Levati was not alive when his uncle Frank Levati, the oldest of the four brothers in his father’s family, was killed. The other three boys served overseas during the war and all returned unharmed, she said. Only Frank, who remained at home, died.

“The loss goes farther than that. I never got to meet my grandfather, who died a year and a half later of a broken heart,” Levati said.

The Joliet Arsenal finally stopped production in 1976 and closed for good in the 1990s. The property where it once stood is partially in ruins and very much so in recovery. The land has been turned over to the U.S. Forest Service to be restored as the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Another 1,000 acres was given to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the national cemetery.

Other Interesting Articles:

From the Chicago Tribune: Click Here

From the Daily Journal: Click Here

From the University of Illinois: Click Here

The Greatest Generation’s Advice for Stretching Meat During a Shortage or When You Can’t Get to the Store

Our grandmothers have some advice for our Covid-19 food prepping and planning. Granted, Covid-19 is not the same as war, but scarcity is. It only took me one trip to the grocery store this weekend to realize that the words contained in WWII era cookbooks (when meat and basic staples were rationed) is part of the legacy of the women who kept things together on the home front.

The words below are from The American Women’s 3-Way Meat Stretcher Cook Book: How to Make the Most of the Meat You Buy published for the Culinary Arts Institute, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer and printed in 1943. Whether you are in a meat-shortage situation or trying to make what you have already purchased last a few weeks without leaving the house, these tips may help you think of basic ways to prepare meat and reuse leftovers.

It may sound difficult at first, but when you read through these tips you’ll see how a pound of meat could stretch over three meals by adding something to it to make a small amount more filling at each sitting. I’ll leave the challenge of Meat Gelatin and “Variety Meats” up to you!

Ways to Make Good Use of All the Meat You Get

Be open-minded about using different cuts and kinds of meat. Try new ones. Be prepared to change your purchases to what the market offers. If you buy a roast be sure to have definite plans to use the trimmings and the leftovers.


Cooking Meat

Vary seasonings, especially when you use the same kind of meat often. Use a little onion, tomato or green pepper – a dash of herbs or spices to give a different taste.


Serve attractively. Serve stews, ragouts or rechauffes in a meat pies, as a filling for hot biscuits, or scallop with macaroni, spaghetti or vegetables in a large or individual casserole.


Save all bones, leftover meat, drippings, gravy and meat stock for use in soups or chowders.


With Sandwiches

Sandwiches – Use a variety of breads; add catsup, chili sauce, chopped pickle or salad dressings. Use plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in season.


French-Toasted Sandwiches – Spread ground cooked meat between bread slices, dip in egg and milk mixture and brown in hot fat in a skillet.


Hot Open-Faced Sandwiches – Place slices of cold or hot meat on toast, bread or biscuits, top with gravy or savory sauce.


With Cereal

Loaves and Patties – Combine ground meat with cooked rice, bread crumbs, mashed potatoes, cooked corn meal, oatmeal, cracked or whole wheat, or ground vegetables for quick top-of-stove patties or oven-baked loaves.


With Fresh Vegetables

Scalloped Meat – Fill baking dish with alternate layers of chopped cooked meat, or meat stew and cooked noodles, hominy, macaroni, crackers or vegetables; cover with sauce, top with bread crumbs and bake.


Meat Baked with Vegetables and Fruit – Put layers of shredded cabbage or kale and sliced apples in a baking dish, top with cooked sausage cakes, cover and bake.


Baked Stuffed Vegetables – Peppers, eggplant, squash, artichokes, cabbage, potatoes, onions, tomatoes or cucumbers may be stuffed with rice and ground meat or leftover meat and corn.


Chop Suey – Combine browned diced cooked meat with cooked celery, onions, mushrooms and soy sauce; serve with steamed rice or fried noodles.


Salads – Combine chopped cooked meat with vegetables and salad dressing; serve with lettuce, watercress, cabbage or other greens.


With Dumplings

Stews – Add sliced or diced vegetables to cubed meat cooked almost tender; top with dumplings.


With Gelatin

Jellied Salads – Cold diced meat with diced vegetables in gelatin make jellied salads. These are an attractive way to serve left-overs.


On Toast

Meat Broiled on Toast – Spread bread, toasted on one side, with uncooked ground beef or lamb; broil.


In Soups and Chowders

Soups and Chowders – Add vegetables with barley, macaroni, cracked wheat, whole wheat, spaghetti or noodles to soups and chowders made from meat trimmings and bones.


With Stuffings

Stuffings – Stuff boned breast or shoulder roasts, sparerib sections, chops, heart, ground meat roll or rolled strips of steak with bread, cracker, corn meal, fruit or vegetable stuffing.


With Dried Vegetables

Meat and Dried Vegetables – Combine ground meat with dried beats. Limas, split peas, marrowfat peas or lentils simmered almost tender; cook slowly until mixture thickens.


In Meat Sauce

Meat Sauce – Brown ground meat with leftover gravy or soup stock, onions and pepper; add tomatoes and serve over cooked macaroni, spaghettis, noodles, rice or potatoes.


With Biscuits or Pastry

Biscuit Squares – Spread seasoned cooked meat on squares of baking power biscuit dough, seal edges and bake.


Meat Pies – Cover stew with pastry, biscuit rounds, mashed potatoes or corn-meal mush.


Turnovers – Fold filling of chopped cooked meat in rounds of pastry dough, seal edges and bake.


With Croquettes

Croquettes – Combine ground cooked meat with cooked rice; mashed potatoes or white sauce; shape; sauté or bake.


With White Sauce

Timbales – Bake ground cooked meat, white sauce and eggs in custard cups.

Souffles – Ground cooked meat, bread crumbs, white sauce, egg yolks and beaten egg whites in a baking dish make a delicious souffle.


Creamed Meat – Serve chopped cooked meat with white sauce or gravy on toast, waffles, potatoes, rice or macaroni.


In Hash

Hash – Dice cooked potatoes with chopped meat, onion and gravy; sauté in cakes or cover skillet and turn like an omelet.


Peanuts – Peanut Butter

Mix chopped roasted peanuts with carrots or other chopped vegetables for loaves or croquettes.

Use peanuts with meat, tomatoes, sliced onion and other vegetables in scalloped dishes and in salads. Combine peanut butter with chopped crisp vegetables, chopped dried fruit, jelly, jam, honey, salad dressing, chopped pickles or hard-cooked eggs for sandwich fillings.

Blend peanut butter with pureed tomatoes for soup.

Thicken hot milk with peanut butter for sauce for scalloped or creamed rice, macaroni, potatoes and other vegetables. Add peanut butter to omelet.


If Variety Meats Are New to You

Variety meats such as liver, kidneys and brains are excellent sources of many vitamins and liver is important for blood building.


Liver – Scallop with potatoes, crackers rice, macaroni or noodles; make into loaves, patties or dumplings; or mash for sandwich spreads. Be careful not to overcook.


Kidneys – Broil or scramble with eggs; or make into stews.


Heart – Simmer a long time in moist heat and serve with onion gravy; stuff or slice and braise; or use chopped for meat loaf.


Tongue – Simmer and serve sliced, hot or cold with an interesting sauce; scallop with vegetables; scramble with eggs; or mince for salad spreads.


Sweetbreads – Parboil, dip in egg and milk mixture and brown in fat; pour melted fat over parboiled sweetbreads and broil; serve creamed on toast, croustades, biscuits or muffins. Parboiled and combined with vegetables and nuts, sweetbreads make a delicious salad.


Brains – Serve breaded and fried; creamed on toast; in croquettes; or scrambled with eggs. They can double for sweetbreads in salads.


Tripe – Cook tripe until tender, dip in batter and sauté; brush with fat and broil; or serve creamed on toast. Use in pepper pot and chowders.

Spleen and Lungs – Simmer and use in stews or with heart in stews and loaves.


Poultry is America’s Sunday Dinner

Chicken, turkey, duck and goose have long been favorites with everybody.  Stuff and roast young well-fattened poultry in uncovered roasting pan in moderate oven. Pour clear fat into jars and use for meat cookery.


Stuff and braise older birds or lean young poultry in covered roasting pan.


Fricassee – Brown cut up poultry and either simmer in added liquid in covered utensil or bake in oven until tender. Make plenty of gravy. It is a favorite extender.


Oven Fry – Fry chicken until thoroughly browned; transfer to covered roasting pan and bake in moderate oven.


Salads – Combine diced cold chicken with celery, lettuce or other greens and mayonnaise. Fruits and vegetables may be added.


Stew or steam less-tender poultry, to make tender. Cool in broth; or add dumplings or noodles to stew and cook tightly covered. Cream cooked poultry cut from bones; serve with rice or noodles, or on toast, waffles or biscuits.


Use chopped cooked chicken as the basis for loaves, croquettes, souffles or timbales, chop suey or hot sandwiches.


Serve sautéed chicken livers on toast; giblets in gravy with rice, potatoes or on toast; chopped giblets mixed with fat for sandwich fillings.


Fish and Shellfish are Valuable Alternatives

Learn to use all the varieties of fish available.

Bake, broil, poach, broil or sauté fresh fish at moderate heat.


Use boned cooked fish in cakes, scalloped dishes, loaves, croquettes, chowders or salads. Extend with chopped vegetables, rice, mashed potatoes, spaghetti or white sauce.


Soak or parboil salt or smoked fish and serve in same way as fresh fish. Serve oysters and clams in stews, chowders or scalloped; sauté minced clams in fritter batter. Dip oysters in egg and crumbs and saute; scallop with cracker crumbs or rice; or heat and serve in white sauce on toast.


Serve shrimp in salad; French fried; poached in tomato sauce; broiled and dipped in cold sauce; baked in Creole sauce with rice; or scrambled with eggs.


Crabs may be steamed and served hot or cold; scalloped; made into small flat cakes and fried; deviled in shell and baked; or served in salad.


Alternate Main Dishes to Spare Your Ration Points

Use cheese, eggs, poultry, dried legumes, peanuts and soybeans. Like meat, these foods make a good basis on which to build a meal.

They all contain protein, plus one or more of the other food values found in meat, and usually have additional food values.


Hard Cheese is Rationed

Serve cheese with eggs in fondues and souffles.


Melt American cheese in white sauce and pour over cooked macaroni, spaghetti or noodles; use this sauce over vegetables.


Combine grated American cheese with white sauce or egg for rarebit.


Soft Cheese Does Its Share

Serve cottage cheese as main dish, baked with noodles, on greens, as salad or in sandwich fillings.


Cream cheese, Neufchatel, Camembert, Liederkranz, Brie and the Blue Cheeses are delicious. Use them for sandwiches, salads, desserts and for cheese trays with fresh fruit.


Eat Eggs Often

Serve eggs soft-cooked, hard-cooked, deviled, poached, sautéed, baked or scrambled. Cook eggs at low temperature.


Combine hard-cooked eggs with macaroni, crackers or spaghetti, and cheese sauce, top with bread crumbs and bake.


Combine chopped hard-cooked eggs with salad dressing for sandwiches; or use scrambled eggs, hot or cold, with tomato sauce.


Combine eggs with meat, vegetables or cheese for souffles or timbales.

Poach eggs in milk, tomato sauce, meat or vegetable stocks.


Dried Beans and Peas

Simmer beans slowly in covered pan; or bake parboiled beans long and slowly with molasses, mustard, salt pork and onion. Save bean stop for soup.


Combine mashed cooked beans with milk, beaten eggs, bread crumbs and seasoning for loaves and croquettes.


Combine baked beans with onion, pickle, relish or tomato sauce and mayonnaise for sandwich fillings.



Cook dried soybeans and serve in the same way as other dried beans.


Press cooked dried soybeans through a coarse sieve or grind for pulp to make soup, croquettes, loaves, souffles.


Combine cold soybean pulp with chopped onion and salad dressing, milk or tomato sauce for sandwich fillings.


Cook green soybeans, shelled or in the pod; serve hot as vegetable or cold in salads.

75 Years Before Now

The year 2020 marks a number of 75th year anniversaries in WWII history, both on the front lines of the war and on the home front. While the war tested every American wherever they were, doing whatever they were doing, the last year of the war was a rebirth of the country (and the world). The difference between American pre-WWII and post-WWII is dramatic.

The year rapidly changed the American way of life.

Early in 1945, the US and the Allies were in Germany with the success of the Battle of the Bulge. Troops began witnessing first-hand the disturbing atrocities of life under German Nazi rule. Concentration camps were liberated after the shock of their discovery.  One after another camps were discovered starting with Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. News of the camps arrived to the home front slowly. It wasn’t until August, 1945 when secretly taken photos of Auschwitz provided scenes of the camps did it really set in at home about what hell on Earth looked like.

For the most part, Associated Press and Life Magazine reporters provided ample stories and pictorial testaments of the war, but slanted in a way to protect the country’s moral and keep the patriotic spirit strong. Propaganda.

Other photos arriving home in the first few months of 1945 were signaling the end of the war in very graphic detail. On February 13th – 15th US and British air raids on Dresden, Germany obliterated the town, killing approximately 25,000 people. 949 bombers were involved in the attack and 3.9 tons of bombs were dropped to create a firestorm of destruction. I’ll never sew another Dresden Plate quilt block without thinking of the town it was named after in pre-war 1930s.

Battles in the Pacific Theater were fought hard and long. The Battle of Iwo Jima produced one of the most iconic photos of all time (Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima) but it took from January 3rd until March 26th to earn the victory.  In that time 18,000 Japanese and 6,000 Americans lost their lives.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd President and only President to serve four terms was sworn in for the final time on January 20th at the White House, not the Capitol with a very brief speech and without a fanfare parade. Sadly, he died only a few short months later on April 12th. A nation mourned for a President that had led them through the Great Depression and a war that was close to finally ending. Many Americans in the minority classes mourned for the hope of a future under their beloved FDR.

Unfinished portrait of FDR by Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Started the day he died.

May 8th marked VE Day, Victory in Europe. What an incredible day! The entire world celebrated together with impromptu parades, dancing and cheering in the streets — and with uh…well…sex. The Boomers Generation officially started. Do you know any 74-year-olds who will be celebrating their 75th birthday in early to mid-February of 2021?

The birth rate in 1946 jumped 20% from the previous year to a whopping 3.8 million. We won’t credit all of the stork flights on the celebrating; many had put off having children during the Great Depression and saw the promise of best times ahead and a good reason to get going.

The celebrating in May was a bit short-lived when the reality of the second front in Japan was remembered. Instead of taking the first boat home, sons and husbands were on the first boat to the Pacific. Here’s where debate of what would have happened if history did not play out exactly the way it did heats up.

The Manhattan Project was nearing a working solution to end the war — The Atomic Bomb. A famous flight by the Enola Gay bomber over the Japanese city of Hiroshima created another iconic photo of history. The huge mushroom cloud rising into the sky was the visual effect of 80,000 instant civilian deaths (tens of thousands more in the following weeks from radiation exposure). Three days later a second bomber was sent with the same outcome over the city of Nagasaki, resulting in another 40,000 lives taken.

Would President Roosevelt have ordered the detonation of the bombs had he been alive? The opinions of the time were harsh. Many Americans justified the bombing with the realization that war in Japan would have cost many, many more lives on all sides — American, Allies, Japanese, and civilians. The race for the a-bomb was incredibly close. Upon takeover of German labs, Allies found that they were hot on the Americans’ heels of solving the formula. The formula, by the way, was shared later on in 1945 with only Britain and Canada.

VJ Day or Victory in Japan day was finally celebrated on August 14th. More babies!

Between May and October 1945 over three million US Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors returned home. One million returned home in December alone. Shout out the September 2021 septuagenarians!

Many more had not reached their points needed for discharge from the service and had to spend a few more months stateside on bases all over the US before returning to their civilian lives full-time.

The GI bill and other veteran programs made a good life possible, if they could leave the scars of war behind them. What they saw and experienced overseas has had a lasting effect on every American life still to this day, in bad and good ways. Many of the common foods we now enjoy regularly were novel ideas to the greater population. Take note of how many restaurants and hometown businesses proclaim “Since 1945 or Family-Owned & Operated Since 1946”.  Especially pizzerias. Many returning from Italy could not imagine a life without the taste of the food they tasted from a wood-burning pizza oven during the war.

Our country learned a lot about plastics, laboratory food and preservatives, medical trauma advances, rapid production, women’s abilities (oops…better to tuck them back in the kitchen even if they didn’t want to work there anymore), and human resiliency towards a dream being home in the good ol’ USA.

The ultimate sacrifices made by those that did not come home left their mark. With all the celebrating and happiness can deep grief felt by the parents, siblings, widows, and children of those not getting their homecoming reunion. Not in 1945, not ever. 420,000 American lives were taken by the war.

Rationing ended. First, on August 15th, 1945 with gasoline and fuel rationing ending. Then, October 30th, 1945 with shoe rationing ending followed by November 23rd, 1945 with most food rationing including meat and butter coming to an end. On December 20, 1945 tire rationing ended and sugar rationing ended a little later on in 1946. The scars of rationing include hoarding behaviors and attics full of boxes of random materials that could be used over again — anyone else have grandmothers holding onto a lifetime supply of bread bag twist-ties, snagged pantyhose, glass jars, or clean nice-sized cardboard boxes?

Over the next twelve months, we may hear of other septua-anniversaries and note-worthies. Here are just a few:

February Date Unknown: Anne Frank dies from typhus along with her sister Margot. They were spared immediate death in the Auschwitz gas chambers and instead were sent to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in northern Germany. Their bodies were thrown into a mass grave.

February 9th: WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force with the Royal Air Force) Margaret Ida Horton, a Fitter Mechanic Airframes took a flight clinging to the tail of a British Spitfire when the pilot forgets that she was adjusting the plane before take-off.  She successfully landed back on the ground after the pilot realized that his plane was not handling correctly.

February 10th: Rum & Coca-Cola is released by The Andrews Sisters. It is one of the most recognized and loved songs of the WWII Big Band Era.

March 4th: Princess Elizabeth (who becomes Queen Elizabeth II seven years later) joins the British Auxiliary Transport Services as a driver. 

March 6th: The trampoline is invented by George Nissen.

March 8th: The first International Women’s Day observed.

March 8th: Phyllis M. Daley becomes the first African American nurse sworn in as US Navy ensign.

March 12th: New York is the first state to prohibit discrimination by race and creed in employment.

April 18th: Well-known war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on the island of Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan. After his death, President Truman spoke of how Pyle “told the story of the American fighting man as the American fighting men wanted it told.”

April 30th: Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide (or did they…?).

May 1st: Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s successor) and wife commit suicide after killing all six of their children.

July 6th: Abbot and Costello’s ‘Who’s on First’ routine is aired.

July 28th: US Army B-25 crashes into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building due to fog. Fourteen people die. Elevator Girl Betty Lou Oliver survives a 75-story fall in the elevator she was operating at the time.

July 29th: USS Indianapolis sunk by Japanese forces. Only 316 survive after being pulled three days later from shark-infested waters. 833 lost souls. Amazingly, this is the ship that delivered components of the A-Bomb to US forces in Japan. They were on their return journey. What would the world be like now had the Japanese taken out the ship on their way to the drop off point?

August 21st: President Truman ends the Lend-Lease Program which was created by President Roosevelt to provide for military aid to any country whose defense was vital to the security of the United States. The plan thus gave Roosevelt the power to lend arms to Britain with the understanding that, after the war, America would be paid back in kind.

September 9th: First computer program bug is discovered by Grace Hopper. She used a tweezers to remove a moth that she found inside a rare massive computer being used by the government.

September 9th: The first successful kidney dialysis takes place in The Netherlands.

September 15th: Hurricane Homestead hits southern Florida inflicting $60M in damages ($900M in 2020 dollars).

September 19th: School integration spurs a walk out in Gary, IN.

October 3rd: Elvis Presley makes his first public appearance at age 10.

October 5th: Meet the Press airs for the first time on radio.

October 21st: Women in France are allowed to vote for the first time.

October 29th: First ballpoint pen goes on sale. It is created by the Biro company.

December 5th: US Navy Flight 19, a squadron of five bombers with 14 crewmembers report problems with navigational systems over the waters near Bermuda and completely disappear. Rescue flight PBM-5 and its crew disappeared in its attempt to find any sign of the missing. This began the mystery of The Bermuda Triangle.

December 21st:  General Patton dies from complications of a broken neck sustained during a car crash near Manheim, Germany twelve days earlier. In 1947, his memoir, War as I Knew It, was published posthumously.

A Love Story for the Thanksgiving Holiday

Postcard: “North Platte, Nebr. Canteen, located in Union Pacific Railroad station is operated by townspeople and neighboring communities. Coffee, milk, sandwiches, cakes, candy, cigarettes and magazines are distributed by volunteer workers to service men and women traveling on the Union Pacific.

There is a story about WWII home front heroes that you most likely have not heard (unless you are living in Nebraska…and even then maybe not). It’s a very important story that must be preserved as a witness to what the American spirit was all about and hopefully can be reborn.

What may be defined as strange fate or ‘seek and ye shall find’ guidance, I came into possession of a book written by Bob Greene from a second-hand bookstore in Montello, Wisconsin. 

The book, written in 2002, is titled “Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen”.  The story behind the story is about a writer who is in search of “the best America there ever was”. I believe he found it and managed to share a story that needs to be honored, remembered, and retold as an example of the essence of America’s Greatest Generation.

The story (credit to John Deadline Enterprises, Inc.) — “During World War II, American soldiers from every city and walk of life rolled through North Platte, Nebraska, on troop trains en route to their ultimate destinations in Europe and the Pacific. The tiny town, wanting to offer the servicemen warmth and support, transformed its modest railroad dept into the North Platte Canteen.

Every day of the year, every day of the war, the Canteen – staffed and funded entirely by local volunteers – was open from 5:00am until the last troop train of the day pulled away after midnight. Astonishingly, this remote plains community of only 12,000 people provided welcoming words, friendship, and baskets of food and treats to more than 6 million GIs by the time the war ended.

In this poignant and heartwarming eyewitness history, based on interviews with North Platte residents and the soldiers who once passed through, Bob Greene tells a classic, lost-in-the-mists-of-time American story of a grateful country honoring its brave and dedicated sons and daughters.”

In a time when sugar was rationed, the women who took turns volunteering (some driving for hours pre-dawn to make it to North Platte) their pantry and made certain that every train had a birthday cake, knowing that someone on the train was very likely traveling to war on their birthday.

The trains would only be stopped for the time it took to fill the water tanks or load coal from the depot; typically only 10-15 minutes. But just those few minutes were enough to overwhelm the troops with the love, kindness, and memories of fried chicken, egg salad sandwiches, and cake. For too many on those trains who did not come home, it was the last good meal they would enjoy — a thought that was always present on the minds of the volunteers and the soldiers.

Bookkeeping records from a few of the women’s groups describe the unimaginable amount of baking and sharing that came with each volunteered day:

25 birthday cakes, 39 1/2 dozen cup cakes, 149 dozen cookies, 87 fried chickens, 70 dozen eggs, 17 1/2 quarts of salad dressing, 40 1/2 dozen doughnuts, 20 pounds of coffee, 22 quarts of pickles, 22 pounds of butter, 13 1/2 quarts of cream…

Sixteen women of another community donated 52 dozen Easter eggs, 600 bottles of milk, 2,000 buns, six hams, 12 sheet cakes, one quart of chicken spread, three boxes of apples

This was all precious food that would have gratefully been on their own tables, but lovingly donated and prepared with gratitude and love for another mother’s son on his way to war.

As Bob Greene described so well, the story of the North Platte Canteen is a “love story between a country and its sons” and a miracle.

It’s November as I write this – the time of Thanksgiving, with traditional thoughts centered around bountiful harvest and gratitude for the American graces of safety, community, and kindness. I hope it is within your reach to find someone with a story that stands witness to kindness that has not become rare or extinct in this country and perhaps honors a home front hero.

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.


D-Day + 75 Years

The first time I heard the story of D-Day was in 1984 on the 40th anniversary of the historic event and I was in the living room of my grandparents’ home watching a television special about the day. The anniversary was well documented that year.

I remember the day so vividly because I could gather from my grandparents’ reactions of the show that it was a very special story. This set of grandparents served in the war from their farm in Wisconsin. Farmers were needed on the home front to feed the troops, our country, and our allies.

The videos of the 40th anniversary introduced my 8-year old mind to the graphic footage of Operation Overlord and laid the groundwork for honoring the ultimate sacrifices made by all of those men jumping from airplanes and storming the beaches and the families back home.

Nearly every big anniversary of the date — 50th, 60th, 70th added more and more stories and clarity about the enormous undertaking. And now, the 75th anniversary is upon us and not many remain that lived through ‘the longest day’ to tell their stories in first person.

This video from CBS News commemorated the 70th anniversary and told the story of the Bedford Boys.


Photo: Warfare History Network

The relatively small town of Bedford, Virginia sent 35 of their sons to D-Day. Twenty-two perished. The town realized the highest casualty rate from one single American hometown.

News of the battle was reported during the night. It was Sunday morning forty days later when the families started receiving the Western Union telegrams notifying each of their sad news. In the story from CBS News, Lucille Boggess talks about how her mother received the telegrams about her two brothers’ deaths as they were preparing to leave for church. The first telegram was delivered by the sheriff.  The second telegram came by a cab driver.

Today Bedford is home to the National D-Day Memorial. The hallowed grounds freeze in time a tiny glimpse of D-Day. Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 1944. It is regarded as the battle that changed the momentum of the war and gave all hope that it would end soon. Each passing year gives us a chance to pause and consider the ultimate price paid for freedom — both in Europe and on the home front as each mother received her yellow Western Union telegram.

Photo: National D-Day Memorial

An Army of 1.5 Million

Aside from talking to the people who lived on the home front or those who have stories from their parents, magazines and newspapers are my next best source of boots-on-the-ground information but it’s not especially easy to find these gold nuggets.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the War Production Board (WPB) in early 1942 to “oversee the conversion of industries from peacetime work to war needs, allocate scarce materials, establish priorities in the distribution of materials and services, and prohibit nonessential production”. The WPB quickly launched nationwide scrap drives that were enthusiastically supported by civilians longing to help in any way to win the war and bring their loved ones home. Campaigns were organized on a city level to collect metal, rubber, kitchen fat, newspapers, rags, and so on.

The War Production Board smartly rolled out the Paper Troopers program, designed to sound like “paratroopers,” to involve schoolchildren in the effort. Troopers were awarded arm patches and certificates for collecting certain amounts.

And then they got called in the Boy Scouts of America.“In order to meet the paper requirements for our military and essential needs, we must save, collect, and move to the paper mills even greater amounts of scrap paper than before. We must do our utmost until the last knockout blow is delivered to the enemy. We again urgently request the Boy Scouts of America to expand and concentrate their efforts with a special nationwide collection of paper during March and April. The goal for the Boy Scouts – 150,000 tons. This amount will strike another potent blow for victory. I am confident the Boy Scouts have the courage and resolution to meet the goal.” – J.A. Krug, Chairman War Production Board. 

The little armies of boys went in for all — a campaign medal was on the line. By final count, 1,500,000 scouts and cubs were cited for “astronomical success” — too successful when it came to my beloved newspapers and magazines.  The WPB had to call a stop to the paper drives. They had no where to store 300 million pounds of paper!

And paper was only recycled as packing material.

“Awarded for extraordinary patriotic achievement in the Boy Scout General Eisenhower Waste Paper Campaign March – April 1945.”

The medal was awarded to individual scouts who collected over 1,000 pounds of waste paper. Imagine the competition in one small town where several scouts were vetting for your waste paper, hoping to make the 1,000 pound mark somehow!

So, you can see what I’m up against in my search for WWII era reading sources, unused cookbook pamphlets, letters, postcards, etc. When faced with the message that paper could bring your son home sooner, and when the army of one and a half million patriotic little boys pulling little red wagons shows up at your front door, it’s a wonder that any sheet of paper remains!

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.

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