Archive for December 30, 2014

How To Make Ice Scream

I knew it was coming. After two weeks of Peanut Butter Prune Sandwiches for lunch, Brussel Sprouts for Christmas dinner and the total deal breaker – Pickled Beets, my husband uttered the phrase, “This WWII thing is getting old.” In other words, it was time to get out the big guns and make him a believer again.

For that, I turned to (cue the heavenly light descending from the clouds and angel chorus) Ice Cream. Forget about what you think is ice cream, the rock hard chunk of bland imitation frozen milk bought from a store in a cardboard or — gasp! — plastic bucket. We’re talking real ice cream. Ice. Cream.

The 250 Luscious Refrigerator Desserts  cookbook edited by Ruth Berolzheimer (the Boss of WWII food) was published in 1941 and had to have been state of the art in recipes, Lusciousconsidering freezers were still not a common home appliance. To make ice cream one would be using the “freezing tray” of their refrigerator. What I gather is that someone determined the coldest part of the refrigerator and insulated it in a way that dropped the temperature cold enough to semi-freeze some types of food.

Among the luscious refrigerator desserts in the booklet are many types of ice cream flavors: Banana Pecan, Honey, Butter Pecan, Chocolate, Caramel, Fruity, Chocolate Chip, Coffee Malted, Orange Pekoe Tea, Prune, Peach, Raisin, Raspberry, Eggnog, New York, Apricot, Cherry, Coffee, Coffee Rum, Maple Nut, Orange, Peppermint Stick, Pistachio and Strawberry. What a minute — Prune?

I went for the basic Vanilla recipe. I used no special equipment or rock salt or anything else that has stopped me from pulling off this feat in the past. I vaguely remember making ice cream out of snow in 4-H as a kid; what I remember most is the shaking, shaking, shaking part of it. This recipe requires no such effort.

Ready? Here it is:

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup heavy cream

Blend milk, water and vanilla thoroughly, pour into freezing tray of refrigerator and freeze until ice crystals form around sides of pan. Whip cream until stiff enough to hold a soft peak, fold into milk mixture and freeze. When half frozen scrape mixture from sides and bottom of tray, beat until smooth but not melted and freeze until firm.

That’s it. And if that sounds easy enough, wait — I goofed up the recipe and made it even easier for you:

Blend the ingredients all together without reading that you were supposed to wait to add the milk. Beat it with a mixer hoping it will whip up. After three minutes of hoping and wishing, pour it into a plastic tray (like the skinny kind that comes with the refrigeratorRefrigerator Bin – they are narrow and you know they fit perfectly into the shape of your shelves). Leave it in the freezer for about thirty minutes while you walk the dog. Pull it out of the freezer and pour it into a bowl hoping you can still whip it up into soft peaks after it has chilled a bit. Become a little bit sad and worried about it turning out and just dump it back into the plastic tray and put it in the freezer. Wait three hours – or two hours if you’re like me and that’s all you can take. Scoop out and enjoy like you’ve never enjoyed ice cream before. For added assurance that my hubby would be okay another week into this project, I whipped up a Chocolate Sauce for topping from the Meal Planner I have been using all along.

Seriously, folks. If you’ve ever had Coldstone Ice Cream, this is IMG_20141229_193910603[1]even better.

Next up I will be making the Peppermint Stick flavor since wasting anything is not allowed in 1943 and those broken candy canes from Christmas have to be used somehow. All I will do is omit the vanilla and add the crushed candy cane after the ice cream takes its second beating.

So there you have it — how to make your husband chill on a WWII food project.


Merry 1943 Christmas to All!

By all accounts, Christmas celebrations during WWII were very different from the Christmas celebrations of today. Every family was affected, either personally or through close ties, to someone lost in the fighting. There were empty dinner table chairs of loved ones fighting overseas. An feeling of humility and gratitude for God filled the season. Gifts were practical and homemade in most cases. So many factories and material resources were turned over to the war effort that it made buying children’s toys difficult and somewhat lavish.

Dinner tables were also frugal to our holiday meal standards. Though my “Health for Victory Meal Planning Guide” of December 1943 suggests Roast Turkey or Chicken and Dressing with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Creamed Onions, Cranberry Sauce, Grapefruit Salad on Greens, and Refrigerator Rolls, it was not likely that a turkey could be found. First and foremost, the soldiers fighting the war were receiving their meat rations. 1.6 tons of turkey went overseas for Thanksgiving and Christmas demand wasn’t far behind in estimates. More likely, on the home front families were enjoying goose or duck. Wild game did not cost any ration points. Aside from the scarcity, turkey cost $.49 a pound at the A&P. That would be $6.69 a pound in our dollars today.

Moving on to the Cranberry Sauce. My husband loves the gel sort of cranberry sauce; probably only because of that funny “thump” sound it makes when you pull it out of the can correctly. I prefer Cranberry Relish made of cranberries, apples, oranges with the peel left on and sugar. No big deal…we’ll have both, right? Well, the big deal is that a can of Cranberry Sauce would cost us 40 blue ration points! 40 points!! Even if I could see the reason in buying it, I don’t even have 40 ration points left for the month.

It was back to America’s Test Kitchen for a Cranberry Sauce recipe. It’s sitting in the refrigerator jelling some more right now. It looks right. We will certainly find out tomorrow if it wins the husband seal of approval.

All in all, there are many things I took time to think about and appreciate more this year

"Auntie" & Frank in front of their Christmas tree.

“Auntie” & Frank in front of their Christmas tree.

under the restrictions of this WWII food project. My mom’s sugar cookies (she didn’t have rationing in place) tasted incredible this year. I’m embarrassed to admit how many I devoured in a two day span. I decorated my tree with Shiny Brite ornaments listening to Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, and it was wonderful. I made many gifts by repurposing wool sweaters and fabric. And the food for tomorrow’s meal took a lot of careful and thoughtful planning, with lots of mindful meditation to my Grandmothers’ time.

In my Grandmother’s diary from Christmas Eve 1944 she wrote that she was going to sign off and make some Seafoam Candy. I think I’ll do just that.


Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.

The WWII Food Ration Project is now at two weeks. No one is starving, though we have had a couple of interesting meals and recipes that were on the slate according to the December 1943 “Health for Victory Club” guide that didn’t make it to the table. One of those is Blanc Mange…more on that another day.

I’d rather talk about what is working. Every now and then over the past few years I have tried to make bread. Homemade bread – and the smell of it – is a glorious thing! For a day. And by day two you have a brick. Case in point, the beautiful Rustic Bread I made in experimentation stage working up to the project.

Rustic Bread - Thunk!

Rustic Bread – Thunk!

After day two of Rustic Bread we were no longer able to get a knife through it. My husband went to the back yard to toss it to the wild ducks. As he tells it, the bread skipped off the bank of the creek, hit the frozen ice, make a THUNK that echoed through the entire subdivision, putting a hole in the ice and sunk to the bottom. “Did you use a rock in that bread?”

Bread and “fortified butter or margarine” appear on nearly every single meal plan. Every interview I conducted for this project reported moms making bread every day. Sure, they were probably using up the loaf before it could transform to a backyard ice barge, but for my family of two – it just wasn’t happening. The 1943 book gave a recipe for Soya Bread, made out of soybean flour. I can find soybean flour, the only problem is that a four-cup bag costs the price of three loaves of bread.


Easy Sandwich Bread – Yum!

As a long-time fan of America’s Test Kitchen on PBS and their accompanying magazine Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated, I dug out the January/February 2014 issue with Easy Sandwich Bread. Advertised as “a tasty, even crumb and a tender crust,

requiring minimal kneading and no shaping, in less than 2 hours”, I tried it out. Cue the Hallelujah chorus angels. Not only did it require very little work (no bread machine, not even a stand mixer), it is now on day four and still edible. Day four!  That means I can use this as our daily bread but only need to bake it twice a week.

Now, if only butter wasn’t so heavily rationed.

Math is Hard.

I’m tardy on my weekly update post because I’ve been crunching numbers and cross-referencing several charts to try to understand how many shopping points I have left for the month of December.

In December 1943, every person (including children) was allowed 48 points per month of red stamps and blue stamps. Red stamps allowed meat. Blue stamps allowed canned and processed foods. Fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, flours, and milk did not cost points. They were viewed as necessary and if you could get your hands on them, as much as you could eat — by all means, eat. For my experiment, at this point, I am aware of seasonal selections and trying to avoid fresh fruits and ration-book-four-insidevegetables not from the U.S., but not ready to conquer the regional seasonal rules just yet.

Given the red and blue points, there were additional time frames to use each points as the month passed. For example, according to the upcoming January 2, 1944 chart I wilOPA-Ration-Stamp-Chartl only be able to use Green Stamps G, H, and J.  Right now I don’t know where the Green Stamps come in and I don’t know how long from January 2, 1944 to when I can redeem the mystery Green Stamps. …sigh…

Okay, back to my math homework. If I were not limited by which letter of the alphabet stamp I could use and just calculating what I have purchased in the last two weeks, I have 12 Red (meat) Points and 52 Blue (canned/processed) Points remaining.

A quick view of my refrigerator and freezer makes me think my husband and I will be well-fed through the rest of the month. I’m not too worried about the menu. But, I do admit that watching the sugar bowl shrink does cause anxiety. Hoarding is not allowed in the government rules; those who did not use up the previous week’s sugar ration were not supposed to get in line for the present week’s ration. I have become very aware of every tablespoon of sugar going into the recipes I’m making and there is a growing feeling of scarcity all the time. I have a theory that the feeling stayed with my grandparents’ generation for their lifetime when it came to anything that could – or should – be salvaged and saved.

Real Heroes Wear Aprons

A woman by the name of Marjorie Child Husted was the Director of the Home Service Department within General Mills and became the woman behind the name Betty Crocker. You know — the cake mixes. The Betty Crocker we know today is a very watered down (pardon the pun) version of the hero she was to my grandmothers’ generation of homemakers.

Before television sets found their place in American homes, radios informed and entertained. Betty Crocker hosted radio shows and answered millions of letters from women who were charged with providing for their families through healthy and nutritional meals that would build strong bodies, steady nerves and high morale. “The eyes of the nation are upon you,” President Roosevelt told American women in February 1942. “In far-flung outposts, in the military isolation of camps near home, men at sea, men in tanks, men with guns, men in planes, look to you for strength.”

In one of the best books I’ve read, “Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food”, by Susan Marks I learned everything about this remarkable “woman” named Betty.

General Mills’ Husted believed every woman was essentially a homemaker, regardless of whether she held a paying job, because the brunt of the cooking and housework was hers to bear. In 1944 Husted created the Betty Crocker American Home Legion Program. In her radio show, “Betty Crocker” shared these comments:

“Industry has developed a system of recognition for men. And men have the stimulus of competition with others doing the same type of thing they’re doing. But women in their own homes usually are working alone without that sort of stimulus – without the recognition of having salary raises or having the boss tell them they’ve done a good job – and without being cited as an example to others…And during the war years, you women have been doing double. Farm women have been taking the place of one or more hired men to produce the food to win the war. City women have gone into war plants and taken over war activities all along the line to help hold the home front safe and secure until our boys return. And in addition, most of these women are carrying on home duties too, working long hard hours to cover it all.”

The Homemakers’ Creed of the Home Legion:

Homemakers Creed

I Believe homemaking is a noble and challenging career.

I Believe homemaking is an art requiring many different skills.

I Believe homemaking requires the best of my efforts, my abilities and my thinking.

I Believe home reflects the spirit of the homemaker.

I Believe home should be a place of peace, joy and contentment.

I Believe no task is too humble that contributes to the cleanliness, the order, the health, the well being of the household.

I Believe a homemaker must be true to the highest ideals of love, loyalty, service and religion.

I Believe home must be an influence for good in the neighborhood, the community, the country.

This is to certify that ______________ is a member of the Home Legion dedicated to Good Homemaking for a Better World. Signed, Betty Crocker

The Home Legion inspired cult-like devotion, with over 700,000 women joining. Many women sent away for the scroll and proudly framed and hung it on their kitchen wall. I have done the same.

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. IMG_20141207_192747378_HDR

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!”