Thursday, September 5, 2019

Depression Era Cooking

Cake, Eat, Food, Sweet, Eating, Dessert The other day, I went looking for a chocolate cake recipe my mother used to make.  She's moved so many times, she doesn't remember where it went but she does know what I'm talking about.  It used flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder or soda, maybe some oil, and a combo of vinegar and water.  The vinegar reacted with the baking soda or powder to make it rise and then you shoved it in the oven to bake.

As a child, I loved it because I didn't have to whip, cream, or do anything fancy and at the end, I'd have dessert.  So when I tried to find a recipe for it, I ran across something called a depression cake.  A "Chocolate Depression Cake" with basically those same ingredients I remembered.  The only difference between what I remember and this recipe is it uses vanilla and I don't remember using any.

While looking for this recipe, I came across some interesting Depression era dishes that are rather different but for people out of work, these dishes developed out of necessity.  Some are ones we'd look at but probably never make while others are possibilities.

The Poor Man's Meal fried  diced potatoes and chopped onion in oil until brown and softened.  At this point add sliced hot dogs and cook till hot and ready, then serve.  I gather hot dogs and potatoes were quite inexpensive back then.

Another dish, Creamed Chipped Beef, was served by the military to its personnel in both World War I and World War II and was eaten frequently during the depression. Melt some butter in a pan, add flour to make a roux, then slowly add milk, stirring so it turns into a thickened creamy sauce before adding shredded dried beef.  This is the dish soldiers and sailors made fun of because it wasn't that good.

Then there was Hoover Stew, named after President Hoover who was in office in 1929 when the Stock Market Crash hit.  First cook one pound of macaroni, spaghetti, or other pasta till almost done and then drain it.  Return the pasta to the pot and add sliced hot dogs, a couple cans of stewed tomatoes, and a can or so of mixed vegetables.  Bring to a boil and cook till pasta is done.

Then there is the Egg Drop Soup recipe that has nothing to do with Chinese cooking.  Dice both potatoes and onions.  Cook them in oil till the onion is soft, then add a bay leaf or two, salt and pepper before adding enough water to fill the pot about half full.  Cook at a simmer till the potatoes are soft, before adding a couple of eggs to the pot while stirring around.  Add a bit of cheese before serving over toast.

FDR's wife, Elenor highly recommended spaghetti with carrots and covered in a white sauce.  First thing is to cook the carrots till soft then boil the spaghetti until soft and mushy.  Make a white sauce from milk, flour, butter, salt, and pepper.  Mix it all together, place in a tray, and cook like a casserole till done.

Some other odd foods included a peanut butter stuffed baked onion, or oatmeal cookies with bacon grease instead of butter, fruit pies made with apple cider vinegar and no fruit to produce a custardy filling, and all types of loaves made with meat, or lima, or liver padded out with crackers, oatmeal, bread, cheap sauces, or tapioca.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these dishes.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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