Wednesday, December 7, 2016

World War Wednesdays: A Taste of 1918

      My sincere apologies for the lack of a post last week! Right after I told you all I'd never miss a week too. After some very frustrating technical difficulties we're back up and running and all is (hopefully) right with the world again. Let's get right down to business!
      I once had a professor who would make the whole class recipes from wartime and Depression-era cookbooks as an excuse for her to test out some risky historical concoctions. Since I can't do that for all of you, I thought it might be just as fun to take a look at some First World War recipes from the 1918 book Foods That Will Win the War and How to Cook Them. It was published in New York by C. Houston Goudiss, Food Expert and publisher of The Forecast Magazine, and Alberta, M. Goudiss, director of the School of Modern Cookery. Its foreword begins with:
     "Food will win the war, and the nation whose food resources are best conserved will be the victor. This is the truth that our government is trying to drive home to every man, woman and child in America. We have always been happy in the fact that ours was the richest nation in the world, possessing unlimited supplies of food, fuel, energy and ability; but rich as these resources are they will not meet the present food shortage unless every family and every individual enthusiastically co-operates in the national saving campaign as outlined by the United States Food Administration."

     Obviously, the work served a double duty as a patriotic source of encouragement for the American folks on the home front. For us today, it's a fascinating glimpse into what was being asked by everyday citizens in terms of lifestyle changes for the purpose of saving resources for the war effort. In general, Goudiss and Goudiss recommend one wheatless meal a day in every family, two meatless days per week, and each person to use one teaspoonful less of sugar each day. 

     Here's what they argued in terms of the economy of wheat:
     "Waste in your kitchen means starvation in some other kitchen across the sea. Our Allies are asking for 450,000,000 bushels of wheat, and we are told that even theirs will be a privation loaf. Crop shortage and unusual demand has left Canada and the United States, which are the largest sources of wheat, with but 300,000,000 bushels available for export. The deficit must be met by reducing consumption on this side of the Atlantic. This can be done by eliminating waste and by making use of cereals and flours other than wheat in bread-making." 

     Alternative ingredients for bread-making include cornmeal,  oatmeal, rye, barley, and mixed grains. Here are some of the bread recipes I thought might actually be fun and rewarding to try:

Oatmeal Muffins
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fat
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cooked oatmeal
Sift dry ingredients. Add egg and milk. Add fat and cereal. Beat well. Bake in greased tins for 20 minutes.

War Bread
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons sugar
11/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons fat
6 cups rye flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cake yeast
To the boiling water, add the sugar, fat and salt. When lukewarm, add the yeast which has been dissolved in the lukewarm water. Add the rye and whole wheat flour. Cover and let rise until twice its bulk, shape into loaves; let rise until double and bake about 40 minutes in a moderately hot oven.

Potato Pancakes
2 cups chopped potato
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups of hot water
Boil potatoes in the skins for fifteen minutes. Pare and chop fine or put through food chopper. Mix potatoes, milk, eggs, and salt. Sift the flour and baking powder and stir into a smooth batter. Thin with hot water as necessary. Bake on a greased griddle.

     The book's section on meat saving is probably one of the most fascinating, as it includes some "scientific" opinions from the time that make the reduction of meat consumption sound fashionable and attractive:
     "Dr. Harvey W. Wiley has stated that the meat eating of the future will not be regarded as a necessity so much as it has been in the past, and that meat will be used more as a condimental substance. Europe has for years used meat for flavor rather than for nutriment. It would seem that the time has come for Americans to learn the use of meat for flavor and to utilize more skillfully the protein of other foods."

     This section also calls for an increased use of organs in meals, and outlines some methods for preparing such things as brains, heart, kidney, liver, tripe, and pigs' feet. Here are some of the meat-related recipes that wouldn't actually turn your stomach at the thought:

Actually, never mind. None of them sound appealing. Here's a meat alternative main dish that the authors recommend:

Macaroni with Cheese
Over 1 cup of cooked macaroni, pour this sauce:
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons fat
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated American cheese
Melt fat, add dry ingredients. Add liquid slowly. Bring to boiling point. Add cheese. Stir until melted and then pour over macaroni.

Let's skip to the sugar-saving desserts to round off the meal:

Oatmeal and Peanut Pudding
2 cups cooked oatmeal
1 cup sliced apple
1 cup peanuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Mix and bake in a greased dish for 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold. This is a very nourishing dish.

Wartime Fruit Cake
1 cup honey or corn syrup
1 tablespoon fat
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped dates, figs, prunes, or raisins
3/4 teaspoon soda
2/3 cup milk
Cream fat, honey and egg. Sift dry ingredients. Add alternately with milk. Bake in loaf 45 minutes in moderate oven.

Soft Cinnamon Cookies
1 cup molasses
2 tablespoons fat
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons cinnamon 
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Mix molasses, fat, and boiling water. Sift dry ingredients. Add the liquid. Add enough more flour (about four cups) to make dough stiff enough to roll out. Cut and bake about 15 minutes in moderately hot oven.

Wartime Taffy
2 cups corn syrup 
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons vinegar
Boil the syrup for fifteen minutes, then add the soda. Cook until a little snaps brittle when dropped in cold water. Add the vinegar when this stage is reached and pour into oiled pans. When cool enough to handle, pull until white; make into inch-thick rolls and clip off into neat mouthfulls with oiled scissors, or chill and break into irregular pieces when cold.

"To provide adequate supplies for the continuing year is of absolutely vital importance to the conduct of the war, and without a very conscientious elimination of waste and very strict economy in our food consumption, we cannot hope to fulfill this primary duty."
-President Woodrow Wilson

     I hope this little glimpse into the First World War kitchens across America was an interesting and useful venture! Some of the desserts would make great Christmas gifts for that history buff on your list who continuously asks for outrageously-priced war relics and artifacts from niche market dealers in faraway countries. If you're interesting in sharing a little piece of 1918 this holiday or if you'd like to read more of this fascinating book, it is available as a free eBook through Project Gutenberg. If you do decide to whip up one of these recipes, please share a photo of the finished product! Happy cooking!
    Thanks for reading, 
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

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