Archive for Food Fighting

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.

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.

The Home Legion Medal of Distinguished Service in Homemaking

“Believing that good homemaking is a vital contribution to a better world…

Homemaking should have a greater recognition as a contribution in the world…

I would like to be a member of the HOME LEGION dedicated to good homemaking for a better world.”

So read the Betty Crocker Home Legion membership application in Fall, 1944.

My endless search for home front keepsakes never fails to remind me of the goodness of people willing and supportive of a mission to honor and memorialize the women who held together the country and values of a nation at war.

In October of 2018 I received an email from a soon-to-be friend in Texas who had found The War in My Kitchen through her own research of an item found that was too good to be true — The Home Legion Distinguished Service Medal. !!!!

The gift of this medal was truly the 2018 highlight of The War in My Kitchen. I had never come across mention of a Home Legion medal in all my research or reading and found it to be incredibly difficult to find any Google mention of it either. Piece by piece, through persistent emails, phone calls, and searches I was able to find just two more instances of the medal on auction sites and an honest-to-goodness, still-in-the-envelope Home Legion membership application.

Let me start from the beginning (thank you to Rebecca Brown, an archivist at General Mills, for filling in the details):

“The pin you have is indeed from the Betty Crocker Home Legion, started during World War II. The Home Legion was dedicated to “Good Homemaking for a Better World” and “Greater Recognition for Good Homemaking”. It began in the fall of 1944 through the Betty Crocker Radio Cooking School. To join the legion a homemaker registered (for free) in the Betty Crocker Radio Cooking School. Once Betty received the membership application, she would send back the Homemaker’s Creed (a list of ideas and beliefs that legion members held to) and it could be hung up in the kitchen for inspiration.

Source: General Mills Archive


To receive the pin, two questionnaires had to be returned. The first was sent out with the Homemaker’s Creed. It had to be returned before January 5, 1945. Questions on the first report included: “How do you make your meals fit your situation?” and “What do you do to insure taste, appeal, and eating satisfaction in your meals?”  Then, later in January, the second questionnaire was sent. This one was a bit longer. Questions on this one included: “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?” The second questionnaire had to be received by March 23, 1945. If both questionnaires were turned in on time, then the homemaker received that pin as proof that they were a distinguished member of the legion.

Source: General Mills Archives

Additionally, the questionnaires (which were more like essays with several prompts) were given out to those who “show that they are making the greatest contribution to other American homemakers”. The questionnaires were judged by a group of experienced homemakers. By the end of March 1945, 20,000 women had joined the legion.”

Source: General Mills Archive

Source: General Mills Archive

So…here’s my task before January 5th: Reply here answering the first questionnaire — How do you make your meals fit your situation? What do you do to insure taste, appeal, and eating satisfaction in your meals?

Wish me luck in earning the Home Legion Distinguished Service in Homemaking Medal! My responses will be posted in my next entry within deadline!

Christmas 1943

What was Christmas like during the war?


For a peek, I turned to the December 1943 issue of Woman’s Day Magazine.


“Santa Claus’ bag is still bursting with goodies for Christmas stockings after three years of war. There are enough pecans, peanuts, walnuts, and filberts to fill the stocking feet, but not any of our favorite imported holiday brazil nuts, pistachios, and cashews. More raw materials than last year have been made available for the manufacture of novelty candies, clear candy figures, and hardtack for Christmas.”


“Fewer chocolates are on the shelves for civilians since candy makers are manufacturing more 5-cent bars in order to reach more people. The greater part of the familiar candy-bar brands are being sold to soldiers, sailors and marines, while the newer brands, made in place of the ordinary chocolates, find themselves on the 3-for-10 counters.


The rich chocolates, however, that are made especially for the Christmas trade are as numerous as last year, but their boxes are more economically designed and wear no cellophane.”


A Christmas ham tradition remained strong during the war. Famers produced in record as their part in fighting the war, seeing their honor duty to keep our troops and Allies fed, and to keep everyone on the home front content. 127 million pigs were raised for slaughter in 1943; a 6% increase above their goal for the year. This is nearly 5 million more pigs raised than in 1942. Today, an average of 117 million pigs are slaughtered each year (2009).


Do you remember the tradition of stringing popcorn for decorating the tree? How about popcorn balls? In 1943, it was announced that there would not be enough popcorn supply for decorative and eating purposes. “Although the popcorn crop is larger than prewar times, it is lower than last year’s – and more people want to buy it. Corn syrup supplies for making popcorn balls are average; honey, a little above. And you might try puffed wheat balls for variety.”


“Good news comes in an orange skin. Christmas will usher in the big crops of oranges from Florida and California which are estimated to be ten per cent larger than the 1942-1943 crop. Tangerines, at the height of their season during the holidays, will be only slightly less plentiful than during the second war-Christmas. There are enough lemons for everyone to haul all the lemon-pie filling he might long for. Candied orange, lemon and grapefruit peel are plentiful.”


“There are few canned cranberries for holiday dinners. But now, as in November, there are fresh berries on most markets.”


“We have as many turkeys ready for the oven on Christmas day as were available last year. And there is a big market of roasting chickens, but no capons – they require too much feed for wartime production. Geese and ducks and guinea hens are plentiful in most farming districts.”

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’?  My 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.


Of Course, I Can!

Of Course I Can

At the height of summer, produce from the 20 million Victory Gardens planted yielded 9-10 million tons of harvest. Everything needed to be canned and stored. The average homemaker covering a factory position put in 12 hours, six days a week and still had hours of canning when she got home.

Canning, preserving, processing, “putting up”, was becoming a lost art compared to what was done in the first World War, on farms, and through the 1930’s. The 1940’s home maker was often referring back to instructions and methods used by her grandmother. Canning almost skipped a generation back then; it surely has skipped several generations in present day. Convenience wins out. And, I think some of us are scared off by the warnings about what happens when it’s done wrong.

I turned to my Aunt Carol to teach me the right (safe) way of water bath canning. My mom was there too picking up the routine. The biggest lesson learned was about streamlining the process. An unorganized operation will not work.

Starting out with cucumbers and dill, we went about making dill pickles. Carol’s recipe is from Oscar, her dear friend. We’ve held on tight to Grandma Crook’s Liberty Pickle and Sunshine Pickle recipes, but for our favorite — it’s Oscar’s recipe.


We lined up a bushel of pickling cucumbers through an Amish neighbor. One bushel weighs 48 pounds and is equal to 16-24 quarts of pickles in jars.

My mom and Carol spent hours scrubbing the cucumbers clean. The jars were sterilized in the dishwasher, the lids and bands were placed in boiling water on the stove, and our canning kettle with water boiling, all waiting.



On a table, we lined up tubs: one for sugar, one for canning salt, one for alum. We had vinegar, garlic cloves ready, onion chunks, and dill waiting.

Step one: Place two sprigs of dill, one chunk of onion and two cloves of garlic in each jar.



Step two: Pack the jars as full as possible with the cucumbers.

IMG_20150807_132932020 Step three: Add to each jar 1 T canning salt, 1 T sugar, 1/2 tsp. alum, and 1/2 C white vinegar.

Step four: Fill the remaining jar space up to 1/4″ from the rim with water.

Step five: With a damp cloth, trace the rim of each jar and then place a lid on each. Put a band on each, but do not tighten the bands.

Step six: Place jars in the canning kettle, with about 1″ water over the tops of the jars. Let the jars boil in the kettle until the water in the jars start to bubble. About 20-25 minutes.


Step seven: Take the jars out of the kettle and tighten the band.

As the jars cool, you’ll hear that wonderful “pop” that tells you things are going well. If the jars don’t make that pop, they aren’t sealed and then you have to eat up! You won’t be able to store unsealed pickles for more than two weeks. Ideally, the first jar can be opened after two months of storage, but pace yourself – what you put up in August has to make it until next August!


I added a couple of jars of horseradish and beets to this picture. We’ll see how that experiment ends the next time I bake a ham. Stay tuned on that!

Beautiful shelves of canned fruits and vegetables were something to be proud of in WWII… and still are!


Ain’t That the Pits?

Summer is in full swing and with it comes excess of everything we’ll wish we had in the winter — fresh strawberries, raspberries, apricots, and cherries for now.

This morning’s task was pitting the cherries and I was excited to use a tool found at a recent estate sale: the Cherry Pitter or Cherry Stoner. It will answer to either name. Even with a fun new (old) tool, the project did still turn out to be a chore. And a messy one at that (Note to self: Post about aprons!)

I spent the time pitting the cherries thinking about how the tool must have changed over the years and did a little research.

So, here is my tool (note the cherry-stained fingers): IMG_20150719_153327814[1]IMG_20150719_153406378_HDR[1]


Another version I did not buy at an estate sale (*sigh*): Cherry PittererAnd one more that I would love to have to close out my cherry pitter collection (*sigh*): Cherry Pitter

I’m thinking about the people and brains over the years working on the problem of pits in cherries (or olives). It’s not one of our most pressing dilemmas; probably never was, but I bet more than once in many kitchens over the years it was a problem that some people took to solving. I think that’s pretty notable.



What Husky Men Doing Active Work Like Best

February. Three months into the WWII Food Rationing Project. It has certainly been a learning experience. One of the biggest learning curves has been lunch boxes.

Prior to the project, I would set out ten Bento-style lunch boxes on Sunday morning and pre-pack the entire week’s worth of lunches for my husband and me. I made BBQ Chicken Roll-Ups, Macaroni or Potato Salads, Mason-Jar Cheesecake, etc.

With the project, I am following along with the Health for Victory Meal Planning Guide as best I can. The pamphlet is very good at adding lunch box sandwich variety. I have enjoyed adding the Egg Celery Sandwich Filling to my lunch box.

The biggest problem is that homemade bread doesn’t last a whole week. It is difficult to pre-pack the lunches without crunching into a toast sandwich by Wednesday. I continue to experiment with new ideas.

Argosy Magazine, July 1944

Argosy Magazine, July 1944

I got a kick out of February 1944’s article from the Health for Victory Meal Planning Guide, “Things to Remember About Packing a Lunch Box”.  Here is their advice:

What is a good lunch? One place leftover meat usually goes over big is in lunch box sandwiches. But every day, whether or not meat is available, a lunch box should: 1. Nourish – that is it should contain milk or a milk-food; bread; a protein food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese or perhaps baked beans; and fruit or vegetables. 2. It should taste good – a hot food, a sweet, and a tidbit tucked in as a surprise will help appetite appeal. 3. It should carry well – if it doesn’t it may not get eaten!

The work they do makes a big difference. All workers need the same foods but the active worker needs more energy foods – bread particularly – and more fruits and vegetables to help turn that bread into energy. Three substantial sandwiches are none too many for a husky man doing active work – and he’d probably like a piece of pie, too, along with the milk, fruit, and vegetables. One sandwich, plus the other recommended foods, is probably enough for the not-so-active worker…two may be needed by someone who’s moderately active. The night shift worker is apt to have a finicky appetite, so go strong on variety and pack lunches attractively.

Do’s and don’ts to guide you! Do use mixed fillings of several ingredients, moistened with dressing, rather than always slices of lunch meats. Include something crisp in the filling – celery, pickles, chopped pepper, shredded lettuce, relish, sliced cucumber, for instance.

Do keep sandwiches moist. Heavy waxed paper is the secret.

Do include their favorites as often as possible. Men vote for ham or peanut butter sandwiches, cake rather than cookies. Apples and bananas are their favorite fruits.

Do include a hot food – soup, cocoa or other hot drink, meat stew or baked beans – they’re always welcome.

Don’t skimp on the butter or fortified margarine – spread it clear to the edges of the bread. They think they don’t like margarine? Try blending two teaspoons of prepared mustard to each quarter pound of margarine. It adds interest!

Don’t get in a rut. Vary the sandwich fillings, the drinks. Fill a jar with a pudding one day, a salad the next. There’s nothing more dreary than “sameness” day after day.


So there you have it. The right way to pack a lunch box for your “husky man doing active work” and even your “night shift worker apt to have a finicky appetite”.

My errors: I’ve never packed a drink for my husband. I’ve never packed milk or a milk-food for my husband (he saw cheese underneath a microscope in the eighth grade and has never touched it since). I can’t imagine my husband eating three sandwiches for lunch in addition to all the other requirements. Maybe he’s not “husky” enough, but I do think he does active work.

Saran Wrap didn’t quite hit the market during WWII. The story is interesting in reference to ‘scary things we wrapped our food in’. The a lab technician at Dow Chemical Company invented Polyvinylidene Chloride (PVdC) by mistake while developing a dry-cleaning product in 1933. The product was useful to protect US fighter planes and automobile upholstery from the elements. Once Dow eliminated its green hue and offensive odor in 1942, they fused layers into woven mesh to make ventilating insoles for canvas jungle combat boots. As an honor to his wife and daughter, the inventor (John Reilly) named the product Saran (a combination of Sarah and Ann). In 1949, the product became very popular as a food preservation wrap. It wasn’t until recent years and much debate about the safety of PVdC that Saran Wrap is now made from ordinary polyethylene.

Given the controversy of environmental and health hazards contained in plastics, I’m still a fan of storing/wrapping foods in glass, butcher paper and wax paper. To me, it sounds better. One of the lessons I’m learning in this project is that 9 out of 10 times, convenience isn’t always a good thing. Plastics of any kind are a convenience and I think we will be paying a huge price for their use in the future.

For now, I’ll go back to lunch box packing. I’m glad to now know what men like: ham and peanut butter sandwiches, cake, apples, and bananas. So noted.

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.

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.

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