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8 Curious Recipes From the Depression Era

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Getty Images

According to historians, modern society can learn a lot from the myriad ways people put food on the table during the Great Depression. While some people raised livestock and grew their own fruits and vegetables, others had to stretch every dollar and pinch every penny to get the most food for their buck during hard economic times. Here are eight recipes that might seem strange today but were regular features at mealtime in the Depression Era. For more recipes from that time, pick up A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression.

1. POOR MAN'S MEAL

During the Great Depression, potatoes and hot dogs were very inexpensive, so many meals included either or both ingredients. In this video, 91-year-old Clara—who lived through the Depression—walks viewers through the process of making the Poor Man’s Meal: peel and cube a potato, then fry it in a pan with oil and chopped onions until they brown and soften. Then add slices of hot dog, cook a few minutes more, and serve.

2. CREAMED CHIPPED BEEF

Made with dried and salted beef, Creamed Chipped Beef was an easy and cheap dish that originated in Eastern Pennsylvania Dutch Country, New Jersey, and the Mid-Atlantic. To make if yourself, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot over a medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of flour to make a roux. Slowly whisk in 1.5 cups of milk until it thickens and boils. Later add 8 ounces of dried beef (like Hormel). Serve over toast.

Affectionately called S.O.S. (“Sh*t on a Shingle" or “Save Our Stomachs”), Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast was also a staple of the U.S. military during World War I and especially World War II.

3. HOOVER STEW

Hoovervilles—shantytowns that sprang up during the Depression—weren't the only things named after our 31st president, who had the misfortune to be elected just before the Crash. Hoover Stew was the name given to the soup from soup kitchens or similarly thin broths. One recipe calls for cooking a 16-ounce box of noodles like macaroni or spaghetti. While that's on the stove, slice hot dogs into round shapes. Drain the pasta when it’s almost done and return to the pot; drop in the sliced hot dogs. Add two cans of stewed tomatoes and one can of corn or peas (with liquid) to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer until the pasta is finished cooking. No need to use corn or peas; you can substitute those veggies for anything canned and inexpensive.

4. EGG DROP SOUP

Here's Clara's recipe for Egg Drop Soup: Peel and dice a potato and an onion. Slowly brown them in a pot with oil until soft, then add bay leaves and salt and pepper. Once browned, add half a pot of water to the mix to make broth. Simmer on the stove and add more salt and pepper to taste until the potatoes are cooked. While boiling, crack two eggs into the pot and stir until scrambled. Add two more eggs into the soup, so the yolk hardens. Add cheese to finish it off. Once completed, serve the Egg Drop Soup over toast.

5. CORNED BEEF LUNCHEON SALAD

In the 1930s, gelatin was considered a modern, cutting edge food. Dishes like Corned Beef Luncheon Salad—which consisted of canned corned beef, plain gelatin, canned peas, vinegar, lemon juice, and occasionally cabbage—were very popular and inexpensive to make. According to Andy Coe, the co-author of A Square Meal, the recipe was just "wrong in every possible way" when compared with today’s modern tastes and palate.

6. FROZEN FRUIT SALAD

Served during the holiday season as a special treat, Frozen Fruit Salad was made with canned fruit cocktail (or your favorite canned fruit), egg yolks, honey, and whipping cream.

7. SPAGHETTI WITH CARROTS AND WHITE SAUCE

One of the dishes Eleanor Roosevelt recommended and promoted with the development of Home Economics in schools and colleges during the Great Depression was Spaghetti with Boiled Carrots and White Sauce. It was spaghetti cooked until mushy (about 25 minutes) and mixed with boiled carrots. The white sauce was made from milk, flour, salt, butter or margarine, and a little bit of pepper. After mixing, pour into a tray and bake to make a casserole.

8. PRUNE PUDDING

Although he had a taste for fancy meals, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was served a humble seven-and-a-half-cent lunch, which included deviled eggs in tomato sauce, mashed potatoes, coffee, and, for dessert, prune pudding. Roosevelt’s White House ate modestly in “an act of culinary solidarity with the people who were suffering,” Jane Ziegelman, the co-author of A Square Meal, told The New York Times.

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Kenmore
Kenmore's New Stand Mixer Might Whip the KitchenAid Classic
Kenmore
Kenmore

A KitchenAid stand mixer has long been a home baker's best friend. It out-mixes, -kneads, and -beats most of its competitors, all while looking gorgeous on a kitchen countertop. But in the Kenmore Ovation, the iconic stand mixer may have finally met its match. According to Reviewed, the Kenmore product rivals the KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart mixer in terms of performance and design.

The elements of the two stand mixers are basically the same: Both come with three standard attachments—a flat beater, a dough hook, and a wire whisk. The Ovation is heavier than a KitchenAid, which means it doesn't scoot across your counter when it's working dense bread dough. It also takes just as much time to prepare heavy and chunky doughs in an Ovation as it does in a KitchenAid.

Hand pouring milk into a stand mixer.
Kenmore

Kenmore's product also offers some special features that the KitchenAid doesn't have. Instead of struggling to pour ingredients down the side of the bowl while it sits beneath the mixer, you can add them through the Ovation's patented pour-in hole on top of the machine. And the Ovation's glass bowl comes with a 360-degree splash guard that keeps your kitchen and your clothes flour- and batter-free as you mix.

The Ovation does have a few drawbacks: The six-pound glass bowl is hard to move around, as is the 30-pound mixer itself if you ever want to relocate it. But if you're looking for a sturdier stand mixer option, you can purchase the Kenmore Ovation for $350 to $400. Or you can stick with the classics and finally take home that KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart mixer you've been dreaming of: It's currently on sale at Amazon for $240.

[h/t Reviewed]

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TASCHEN
Everything You Need to Know About Food in One Book
TASCHEN
TASCHEN

If you find yourself mixing up nigiri and sashimi at sushi restaurants or don’t know which fruits are in season, then this is the book for you. Food & Drink Infographics, published by TASCHEN, is a colorful and comprehensive guide to all things food and drink.

The book combines tips and tricks with historical context about the ways in which different civilizations illustrated and documented the foods they ate, as well as how humans went from hunter-gatherers to modern-day epicureans. As for the infographics, there’s a helpful graphic explaining the number of servings provided by different cake sizes, a heat index of various chilies, a chart of cheeses, and a guide to Italian cold cuts, among other delectable charts.

The 480-page coffee table book, which can be purchased on Amazon for $56, is written in three languages: English, French, and German. The infographics themselves come from various sources, and the text is provided by Simone Klabin, a New York City-based writer and lecturer on film, art, culture, and children’s media.

Keep scrolling to see a few of the infographics featured in the book.

An infographic about cheese
TASCHEN

An infographic about cakes
Courtesy of TASCHEN

An infographic about fruits in season
Courtesy of TASCHEN

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