Archive for Author Becky Brillon

Road Trip to SPAM History

Located in Austin, MN, home of SPAM’s creator George A. Hormel, lies a surprising gem: the SPAM Museum. While its name evokes thoughts of iconic canned meat, the museum transcends mere culinary history—through one of its dedicated exhibits, it includes a testament to wartime resilience and community spirit.

During WWII, SPAM became more than a meal; it was a lifeline. Over 133 million cans sustained troops and civilians overseas.

There was so much SPAM! And not just SPAM, but the knockoff version too that is more likely what led to the bad reputation of any canned luncheon meat. The government is to blame for ordering equal amounts of the generic and less-appealing product.

The museum celebrates community resilience. It honors the 1,961 Hormel employees who served during WWII (65 gave their lives), with a promise of jobs awaiting their return—a commitment to duty echoed by the 1,300 women who bolstered production lines.

Within the WWII exhibit at the museum, a letter shares the story of when a Navy father was granted a short leave and happened to find a ride home from an executive of Hormel. During the ride, when asked if he liked SPAM, the writer’s father replied that he “didn’t like SPAM, he loved SPAM”. Shortly after her father shipped out, her mother received a case of SPAM from headquarters. Being that meat was so rare to come by during the war, her mother stretched the case as far as possible and saved one unopened can for when her husband would return home.

Another letter on display is a copy of the Christmas letter written by the President of Hormel, Jay C. Hormel, personalized to each of those serving along with a $5 money-order. Though by the second year of the tradition, he admitted that it was a task too big and opted for a more standard generic letter along with the $5 gift.

A meticulously restored 1945 Jeep Willys MB, emblematic of wartime ingenuity, finds its place alongside photographs of “Slammin’ Spammy,” a bomber’s nose art mascot. Even Dwight Eisenhower, reflecting on his wartime diet, famously forgave SPAM’s ubiquity, underscoring its cultural impact in a displayed letter:

 “I ate my share of SPAM along with millions of soldiers. I’ll even confess to a few unkind remarks about it. As former Commander in Chief, I officially forgive you of your only sin: sending so much of it.”

You’ll also find recipe ideas for SPAM, but what I picked out were the hands-down best versions — “SPAM tastes best in the bottom of a fox hole” or skewered on a knitting needle and warmed over an open fire from within the darkness of a bomb shelter surrounded by debris of a European city.

Post-war, Hormel again turned to some very special women to solve the problem of sudden SPAM sales decline – after all, in 1945 65% of all Hormel Foods was being produced for troops. Without the war needs, how could they replace product demand?

Enter The Hormel Girls, twenty women veterans turned musical ambassadors, who toured America. They were recognizable in their white Chevrolet caravan that pulled into small towns to put on a show or lead a parade. Eventually, their talent moved to radio. Their popularity doubled sales for Hormel but by 1953 with the cost to keep The Hormel Girls at $1.3 million a year, Jay Hormel’s ailing health, and cheaper advertising made available on TV, The Hormel Girls tearfully played their last performance on December 13, 1953.

The Museum is not a WWII museum, but thankfully did not neglect such an important period of its company’s history. Every corner exudes nostalgia and interactive experiences for all ages. If passing by Austin, MN, a visit isn’t just recommended—it’s essential. You’ll leave loving SPAM the brand, if not SPAM the ham.

Memorial Days

VE-Day. Memorial Day. D-Day. The anniversaries of these dates mark a time when people all over the world pause to reflect. Veterans’ stories and vivid images are replayed to help us recall the memories and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I welcome the extra attention given to WWII history at this time of the year. And I aim to add to it.  

In my time dedicated to remembrance, I also observe June 5th, 1942, the date an explosion at the Joliet Arsenal in Ellwood, IL killed 48 war workers and injured another 46. (See a previous post about this accident.)

War Worker Memorial in the grounds of Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, IL

Elwood is local to me, and other ordinance plant sites are not too great of a distance either. I recently visited the Badger Ordnance Works site and museum (B.O.W.) near Baraboo, WI. The museum is maintained by the Badger History Group and well worth the trip to view their collection of artifacts and meet the curator, Verlyn Mueller, who is happy (and well equipped) to answer all questions.

The B.O.W. plant began construction in early 1942 and operated through the Vietnam War. Production lines included smokeless powder, acid, sulfuric acid, rocket propellant, and Ball Powder. On 10,565 acres the plant produced 1,035,542,500 pounds of propellant used in ammunition through three wars. (Source: Badger History Group, Inc.)

Near the entrance of the museum is a special memorial and a beautifully landscaped reflection area. “The Land Remembers the Footprints of the Past: a tribute to the families who gave up their land and homes for the defense of their country in World War II to the Badger Ordnance Works”.  The war work being done inside the buildings on the property of these arsenals called for the ultimate sacrifice of the land as well. Throughout the United States, much of the property taken and used for these ordinance plants can never be safely returned to its original farmland use.

Memorial near the entrance of the Badger Army Ammunition Museum, Baraboo, WI

One of the displays inside at the B.O.W. Museum includes a newspaper clipping reporting about four men killed in an explosion on July 19, 1945 – just weeks before the end of the war. Erwin Pugh, William Denny, Elsworth Goff, and Mark Shearer are buried together in a cemetery just east of where the plant was located. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, my husband and mother, who are always up for one of my WWII history tracking adventures, helped me locate the gravesite of the war workers.

“Brave men who lost their lives on the home front of World War II in the manufacture of explosives at Badger Ordnance Works on July 19, 1945” – Kingston Cemetery, Merrimac, WI

The museums I visit and the stories they tell always have an interesting way of connecting people, places, or things one to another.

The powder that B.O.W. produced was sent to other plants in nearby states for the next phase of ammunition production. Some materials went to The Twin Cities Ordnance Plant in Minnesota, and some went to the Green River Ordinance Plant near Dixon, Illinois.

Before my visit to B.O.W. I was aware of a fatal explosion at Green River Ordinance Plant (GROP) that involved a woman but did not have many details.  Again, the curator of the B.O.W. museum said something he had heard or read about GROP that inspired me to learn more on my own. According to an interview with Molly Gosney, one of the women who worked the line that produced rifle grenades, “…workers were warned that if they discovered a grenade with the clip missing, they were to hold the grenade close to the body and call a supervisor who would take care of it.” (Source: Memories of the Green River Ordnance Plant 1942-1945, Dixon Public Library).  

On February 29, 1944, that is exactly what war worker Edna Christy did. Research has brought me to two possible explanations of what may have caused a grenade explosion, but the ending is the same. Edna Christy, a widow at age 38 died at the local hospital. Eleven others were injured, but not seriously. In fact, according to a Bureau County Tribune newspaper article dated March 3, 1944, four of the injured women returned to their posts in the afternoon “more determined than ever to put the finishing touches on hitting power that will hasten the day of Victory on the Allied battlefronts”.  Witness reports say that quick-thinking and catastrophe training went into effect, one war worker sounding an alarm to evacuate the building quickly and using fire extinguishers on resulting blazes. A loose pin was found near the area where Edna had been working, indicating that she was handling a live grenade. Holding it close to her body ended her life but saved many lives around her.

As I researched further, I learned that Edna Christy was buried two days later in Princeton, IL next to her husband who had died only four years earlier at the young age of 32 when he received a fatal shock from an electrical welding machine which had short-circuited. Perhaps this was another fatal workplace accident?  The Bureau County Tribune reported later that Edna’s son attended her funeral. His name was Bruce and he was 20-years old, serving as a tail and waist gunner aboard Fighting Fortresses in the Pacific. He visited the ordnance plant while in the area for his mother’s funeral.

Thanks to, I was able to view the gravesites for Edna and Bruce, and happy to know that Bruce made it through the war, but saddened to realize that he died young as well at the age of 33-34 in 1957. He’s not buried next to his mother, but in a cemetery four hours away with a simple headstone that gives no indication of his military service.

I can’t help but wonder about Edna and her time working at GROP. From so many other stories I’ve read or heard, I can imagine her on a bus making the 30-mile route from where she lived in Princeton, IL to the plant in Dixon, IL six days a week, alternating shifts each week working 7:00am-3:00pm or 3:00pm-11:00pm or the much dreaded 11:00pm-7:00am shift.  I wonder if she made friends while working there. So many of the other war worker testimonials describe feelings of pride in their work, especially knowing that the shells they were making were going into the hands of their sons — something that Edna had to know with her son credited for missions at Guadalcanal, Midway, and Wake Island.

For every war worker in all of the ordinance plants – 77 newly built and all 8,000 total plants that had contracts by the end of the war, we owe a huge debt of gratitude. The war workers’ contribution to our freedom was not in the form of bravery on the shores of Normandy, but as incredible courage displayed on the home front knowing that accidents inside the plants were common and could very well be fatal. They knew this and even yet, millions of them went to work every day to do their part, dedicated to the ideals of democracy and what Americans could achieve when working together.

Upcoming Dates

2024 is starting to “heat up” for The War in My Kitchen’s presentation schedule. Here are a few dates and locations planned already:

March 9th, 2024: Rosie the Riveter and Other (S)Heroes of WWII – Plainfield Public Library: 15025 S. Illinois Street, Plainfield, IL

March 21st, 2024: Rosie the Riveter and Other (S)Heroes of WWII – White Oak Public Library: 121 E. 8th Street, Lockport, IL

March 28th, 2024: The War in My Kitchen: Food Rationing and Life on the Home Front During WWII – Downers Grove Public Library: 1050 Curtiss Street, Downers Grove, IL

April 10th, 2024: What’s for Dinner? Vintage Kitchens, Kitchen Gadgets, Cook Books and Recipes – Geneva Public Library: 227 S. 7th Street, Geneva, IL

Date TBD (July, 2024): What’s for Dinner? 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s Edition – Elmhurst Public Library: 125 S. Prospect Avenue, Elmhurst, IL

July 8th, 2024: Magical Glassware of Years Past – Shorewood-Troy Public Library: 650 Deerwood Drive, Shorewood, IL

Date TBD (December, 2024): WWII Christmas on the Home Front – Shorewood-Troy Public Library: 650 Deerwood Drive, Shorewood, IL

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; saute 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; saute in cakes or cover skillet and turn like an omelet.

Peanuts and 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 saute; 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 sauted 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 saut? 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; saut? 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, saut?ed, 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.


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