Two weeks ago I decided to try out a new blog post format where I inserted my own thoughts and comments into text copied from the wartime edition of the American Woman’s Cookbook. Looking back, I have decided that it wasn’t the most reader-friendly way to present information and I don’t think I’ll do that again. Too much information was crammed in there. I think the post was a little too hard to digest (pun definitely intended) easily. Here is an addendum to that post: a sample week’s worth of meals taken straight from the book. Enjoy!
“Corner of Kitchen and Dining Room in Ed Bagget’s House. Sharecropper Kitchen is Screened but Otherwise Open. Near Laurel, Mississippi.” 1939. Image source: Library of Congress.
HOW TO FEED A FAMILY OF FIVE ON $15 PER WEEK
“New taxes and other additional cash outlays that occur in wartime together with definite shortages in many commodities require the sharpest kind of economy. This will be no new experience to the homemaker who has been feeding a family of two adults and three children on $15.00 a week. But for those who must learn to carry on when that figure is new to them, the following pages will help meet the challenge.”
“Whims and fancies break down well-laid plans for good nutrition. Everybody must eat all food prepared if there is to be a minimum of waste. This puts upon the homemaker the responsibility of careful selection and good cooking. The test of a good cook is a clean plate. And good cooking means conserving all the food values…minerals and vitamins.”
“Buy staples in quantities when permitted. Meats, fruits and vegetables need to be inspected carefully and bought in accordance with the market and the season. The woman who does her own marketing will have all the advantage over the woman who telephones and sends a child. Discriminating judgment at market is what saves money every day. Make a check list in your kitchen and then stick to it. Stay within your food budget every week. A dangerous pitfall is that of overbuying one week in the hope of making it up the next. If there is a little cash left, buy eggs or fruit. Raise a garden and poultry if you can. It will take pressure off the budget.” Continue reading
In 1942, the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago printed a special wartime edition of The American Woman’s Cookbook to prepare American kitchens for World War II. Institute Director and editor Ruth Berolzheimer prepared the popular cookbook’s 5th edition with plenty of new recipes designed to stretch food budgets and use rationed food effectively. “To become a good cook means to gain a knowledge of foods and how they behave, and skill in manipulating them. The recipe by itself, being helpful as it is, will not produce a good product; the human being using the recipe must interpret it and must have skill in handling the materials it prescribes.” Berolzheimer’s book wasn’t just a list of recipes, it was a guide to being an effective cook who could work effectively in any situation. With World War II just entering the American home front, the wartime edition was designed to prepare homemakers (as housewives were then called) for what could be a long war with many shortages and unusual kitchen scenarios.
From a volunteer training manual from the War Price and Rationing Boards, 1943. Image source: National Archives.
I’ve copied several passages from the “Wartime Cookery” section at the end of the book that shed some light on the changes that typical meals underwent during the war. I’m trying out a new kind of blog post: I’ve written some comments and explanations in blue where I thought something was interesting or could use some context. Hopefully my comments don’t make this post seem too cluttered! Keep in mind that this book was written in 1942 before most food and product rations were announced and before Americans knew how long the war would last.
When I usually think of World War II propaganda, I usually think positive. American propaganda- in the form of posters, articles, radio broadcasts, and films- were no exception. Slogans like “We can do it!” or “Give it your best!” come to mind. Its easy to find colorful examples of propaganda providing encouragement and positive examples of working hard, achieving victory, and being the best you can be. But this isn’t the whole story. Propagandists also used scare-tactics and images of death and destruction to warn Americans away from bad habits and poor decision making. The war could be won by hard work on the home front, but it could also be lost by mistakes too.