Archive for January 25, 2015

Aw Snap, Crackle & Pop

Over and over I hear people refer to the good ‘ol days when life was more simple. Six weeks into the WWII Food Ration Project I have to ask, “Simple how?”

Meal planning was not simple. Getting food was not simple. Baking and cooking food was not simple (even with a few of my improvised modern takes). Every step of the meal in the meal planners require planning ahead and remembering to do something a day ahead of time.

But then again, there are Rice Krispie Treats.

Rice KrispiesIn 1928 Kellogg’s Rice Krispies started appearing on grocery store shelves. They were a big hit. People loved the noise their cereal made. It wasn’t until 1933 when the character named Snap was added. We know all three of the elves, but I bet you didn’t know they actually started out as gnomes. Snap was joined by Crackle and Pop in 1941. rice-krispies_2

As the story goes, in 1939 two Home Economics employees of Kellogg’s were tasked with coming up with a fundraiser for Camp Fire Girls. Malitta Jensen and Mildred Day (the employees) relied on the reputation of Kelloggs being good to its employees during the lean times of the Great Depression. The company never laid anyone off (back then…sadly, that’s not the story from the recent recession). They knew if they came up with a good tasting bake sale item, the community would respond.

Who could imagine back then that we’d still be holding good ol’ Rice Krispie Treats so dear as our go-to bake sale recipe?

With only three ingredients – Rice Krispies, Marshmallows (or Fluff to make it vegetarian), and butter, there is no easier treat. And even better, you can’t get it wrong. If it doesn’t come together gooey enough, add marshmallows. If it’s a mess on the stove top, add butter.

The end result is sweet goodness, without added sugar, in little time and ready to eat almost as soon as the burner is turned off.

Simple basics. Good stuff.

Happy 14th Birthday, Grandma!

Grandmas BirthdayToday would have been my Grandma Barb’s 85th birthday. In 1944 she turned 14. Her life, along with several other strong women in my family, has inspired my WWII Food Rationing project.

My grandmother enjoyed a night in with her youngest sister and her future husband. A year later, on her 15th birthday, she got word that the same future husband had landed in France as part of the 3d Army 11th Armored Division marching into the Battle of the Bulge.

I can’t say for sure if Grandma Barb had a birthday cake. I like to think that she always had cake for her birthday. The family recipe collection contains more cake recipes than anything else.

For her honorary birthday party tonight I settled on the Service Cake and Victory Icing recipes from Betty Crocker’s “Your Share” pamphlet.

1/3 C shortening creamed together with 3/4 C sugar and then blended with 2 eggs. I sifted in 1 1/2 C flour and 1/2 C milk with 1 tsp. vanilla. The Victory Icing was made by boiling 3/4 C light corn syrup, poured into 2 egg whites (stiffly beaten) and blended with a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp. of lemon extract and 1/2 tsp. of orange extract.

The cake is not the light and fluffy version of birthday goodness we think of today. I wasn’t sure what to do with the icing. It was more like whipped cream, lacking the sweetness. As far as birthday cakes go, I’m thankful for the progress birthday cakes have made in the years since rationing.

I have lots of memories of Grandma’s birthday parties over the years. I don’t remember the cakes. Instead, the memories are of cousins, aunts and uncles all together. I guess it’s not the sweetness of the cakes that make the memories good, after all.

What the Blanc?

The December 1943 Health For Victory Meal Planning Guidebook was adamant that I not make any changes or substitutions to the menus they had printed. Our balanced nutrition and health was at stake. But for days ahead of December 18th, there it sat on the menu plan — Blanc Mange. Blanc Mange? I had never heard of Blanc Mange. I don’t know why; it seems like it’s a popular dessert recipe and through a Google image search, it looks very pretty. But, I didn’t know what to do with a Blanc Mange.


Blanc Mang on a Glass Platter, as Wikipedia describes it.

First I used the excuse that I did not own a mold and therefore, could not venture into the world of Mange. Next, after I came across an old tin mold at a thrift shop for 25¢, the excuse was my husband’s reaction to the suggestion of eating Blanc Mange. “Blanc Mange? Mange, like our dog’s Mange?” Certainly not.

Finally, it was just time to make the Blanc Mange. 1 3/4 c. scalded milk, 3 T cornstarch, 1/4 c. sugar, 2 egg whites, beaten stiff (if desired), 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 c. cold milk and 1 tsp. vanilla.

I didn’t know — did I desire 2 egg whites, beaten stiff? I become overwhelmed when a recipe makes me choose ingredients. Why the options? Without the egg whites the recipe sounded a lot like my Great Grandma Crook’s Cornstarch Pudding recipe, which I absolutely love.

The egg whites were added. A cocoa syrup recipe was also given, as another option. And as the Blanc Mange chilled in its antique mold in the refrigerator I couldn’t help check it every 10 minutes. Blanc Mange. Hmmmm, Blanc Mange. What will it be?

I was happy to see the concoction leave the mold in one piece. We tried it with Soybean Chile, Tossed Vegetable Salad and Rye Bread – just as we were instructed.

Mystery recipes are interesting things. And, even more interesting when they are recipes dating back 70+ years. I asked my husband to describe what it tasted like, since I couldn’t find the right words to describe it. There was nothing about the taste. And, honestly, the appearance wasn’t all that appealing either.

His word?  “Blanc.”


Blanc Mange for beginners like me.

The New Year’s Eve Party I Wish I Had Been Invited To

Bordens 1941c Through my work of discovering companies and food products that were available during WWII, I keep coming across Borden’s ads starring Elsie the sweet Jersey cow and Elmer her grumpy bull husband.

There is definitely something different about advertising from the WWII era. The word Black Market“propaganda” is thrown around a lot when it comes to the government ads asking for commitment and loyalty to the war effort. To the fact that the government was even taking out ads to sell war bonds and inform through pictures the need to not gossip, not participate in the black market for food – it seems a little bizarre today.

I’m not sure which came first, the company advertising or the government advertising, but they certainly influenced each other. Words were important to make the case of purchasing anything. There was great detail and careful attention given to words and complete sentences. For instance: “In spite of the heavy demands on American’s supply of meat because of the war, our share at home will be enough – if we use it wisely, learn to extend it with other foods – and make the most of every bit available.” This is a real advertising sentence used by General Mills. Today, it would read something like, “Meat. It’s what’s for dinner.”

Back to Borden’s. Somewhere along the way, even prior to the 1940’s, companies discovered the profitable sway of a mascot. General Mills had Betty Crocker. Aunt Jemima is  still the only name in pancakes and syrup. And Borden’s had Elsie. We moved to real-life celebrity mascots (by my calculation) at the time television sets took away our imaginative vision of characters. My dad has a story about my Great Uncle Willie ending his weekly obsession with The Lone Ranger when it went from radio to television. He saw the Hollywood version and it was a tragic let down of how he imagined his favorite star to appear.

People took time to read and write because that was the main form of communication over distance and it was the best way to gain important information. Elsie was a personified Jersey cow. Drawn out comic strip advertisements brought readers into her world and proof of the smoothest, most vitamin-rich, best-tasting version of milk.

So even when we see the advertisement above of a cow and her bull husband at a human New Year’s Eve party, wearing party hats, we believe she knows what’s right. If the talking cow said her Eagle Brand milk was the best – it must have been true.