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.

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