Archive for November 25, 2015


wwii-rockwell-freedom-want-posterNorman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want painting is an iconic Thanksgiving scene of generations gathered around the dining table with a golden brown turkey as the focal point. The painting served an important purpose to keep Americans focused on the rewards of sacrifice that couldn’t be far off.

Thanksgiving meals during WWII had traditional elements similar to modern day dinners. The November 1943 Health For Victory Meal Planning Guide outlined a special meal for the day:

Roast Chicken with Gravy, Southern Corn Bread Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, Wartime Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans in Creamy Sauce, Enriched White Bread, Butter or Fortified Margarine, Eggless Pumpkin Pie, and Cream Cheese Topping.

Turkey has never appeared in any of the WWII magazines or cooking pamphlets I’ve collected. The way we think of a full bird turkey now – an occasional meal for special holidays – was how families viewed chicken back in the 1940’s. All of the folks I interviewed for this project mentioned that chicken was a special meal, served less than six times a year. And for the family that could not find a chicken for the table, they turned to the field for a goose, duck, pheasant…and possibly a wild turkey.

From the menu in the wartime planner, I focused in on two recipes: Wartime Cranberry Sauce and Eggless Pumpkin Pie.

Wartime Cranberry Sauce:

1 c. light corn syrup

1 c. sugar

1 3/4 c. water

4 c. cranberries

Boil corn syrup, sugar and water together 5 minutes. Wash cranberries and drain. Add cranberries to the syrup and boil – without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool in the saucepan. Makes 1 quart of sauce.

Eggless Pumpkin Pie:

2 c. pumpkin

1 c. brown sugar

1 c. milk

2 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. all-purpose enriched flour

1 tsp. lemon extract

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Mix all ingredients together and pour into 9-inch pie shell. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer.

Cream Cheese Topping:

1 pkg. cream cheese (2 oz.)

1/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

2 tbsp. top milk

Cream cheese, ether in an electric mixer or in a bowl with a fork. Add all ingredients and beat well. Very good on gingerbread, apple or pumpkin pie.



Victory in the Garden


The temperatures have hit frost twice and freezing once now. I took some time a couple of weeks ago to tuck the Victory Garden in for the winter. After pulling out the last of the kale plants and tomatoes, I emptied and carried in the rain barrel and spread the compost bin over the whole thing. The trees cooperated and kindly dropped their leaves on top. Nice and snug.

It wasn’t until very recently when I stumbled upon a March, 1943 Woman’s Day magazine at a used book sale that I realized the correct measurements of a true Victory Garden. The interview with an Office of Information US Department of Agriculture spelled it out clear — 30 x 50 feet for a small garden, done in two plantings.

Pole Snap Beans, Pole Lima Beans, Tomatoes, Chard Lettuce, Beets, Carrots, Turnips, Cabbage, Onions, Radishes, and Spinach in the spring. After harvesting beans, plant three rows of turnips. In late July when lettuce is gone, plant 1/2 row of carrots. After harvesting beets, carrots and turnips, plant two rows of Collards. After harvesting cabbage and onions, plant three rows of beets. When radishes and spinach are gone, plant two rows of beans. Ideally rows should run north to south.


Did you catch that — ‘small garden’? ┬áMy garden measured 30 x 10 feet. And that was a double in size from before the War In My Kitchen project began. I didn’t come nearly as close to the variety of plantings the government requested of me (Peas, Beans, Tomatoes, Kale, Lettuce, Beets, Pumpkins, Potatoes, Cucumbers, Dill). There’s always next year…which is what us gardeners start to think about on the first snowy days in January.

Americans did their part to follow the recommendations of the government. 20 Million Victory Gardens were planted during the war years, accounting for 30%-40% of the demand for vegetables, nearly 10 million tons all planted and harvested by hand, prepped by women in their war kitchens.

From my garden to the canning shelf in my basement, I have preserved Dill Pickles, Pickle Relish, Salsa, V-8 Juice, Spaghetti Sauce, Diced Tomatoes, Apple Pie filling, Applesauce and even a little horseradish (a little goes a long way!).

IMG_20151115_095059967History shows that we were more than willing to turn the farming back over to the farmers at the end of the war. Food shortages remained in 1946 because people stopped gardening and turned to grocery stores. Agriculture was adjusting planting and harvesting techniques learned during the war years and transportation from farm to store were lagging. Boom time was coming and freedom from want was ending, but we had to readjust our planning and producing towards for our own first. Times were changing.