Sunday, January 10, 2010


I follow the Modern Retro Woman blog site. Since the holidays, author Julie-Ann McFann, Ph. D., has been posting a rather in-depth history of the development of the standard nutrition chart, which evolved into our recommended daily allowances, or the current "food pyramid." (See link under "other interesting sites" on the sidebar.) The focus of "Modern Retro Woman" is living like your grandmother in the modern world. I relate to it because my mother and Julie-Ann's grandmother were the same age and the vintage exploration so inspires me. Anyway, as I was reading the nutrition recommendations from World War II, I thought of a couple of pamphlets with patriotic-looking covers in my mother's cookbook collection. I'd never paid much attention to them before because, after all, I'm not required to make do, but suddenly I was interested. I found those pamphlets the other day and have enjoyed looking them over. The pamphlets are:

Betty Crocker's Your Share -- How to prepare appetizing, healthful meals with food available today (1943)

Victory Meat Extenders, compliments of the National Live Stock and Meat Board

Younger readers might not know that food was rationed during the World War II. Housewives were encouraged to conserve food and stretch meals. Citizens were also encouraged to grow gardens ("victory gardens") to supplement their own food supply and to share with their neighbors or the community. How important was this effort? Was food really in short supply? I once questioned my mother on the subject. She said she didn't know whether food was in short supply or the government just wanted people to get in the habit of conserving. I believe she said that rationing was not a problem for her; she always had enough points to get the food she needed for her family (four children). During the war, she lived part of the year in Headquarters, a remote logging village, and she said that some people would donate their extra ration points to the grocery store because some of the "old loggers" just didn't understand about rationing. With donated ration stamps, the grocer had leeway to provide food to those without stamps.

I thought I might share some of the information from these war-era pamphlets, and I'm starting with a recipe for Stuffed Green Peppers. You might recall that we discussed recipes for stuffed peppers this past year and last night I prepared them for our dinner. Instead of following a cookbook recipe, I used what I had on hand. First I parboiled the peppers for five minutes. Then, to one pound of hamburger, I added ½ cup chopped onion, 1 ½ cups leftover cooked rice, 1 ½ cups homemade stewed tomatoes, 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce (for richer tomato flavor), 1 ½ tsps. Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper to taste. I stuffed three large green peppers with that mixture and baked at 350 for 45 minutes, topping with shredded cheddar cheese during the last few minutes of baking. That made four hearty servings – and one lunch.

Now – Here's a recipe for stuffed green peppers presented in the Victory Meat Extenders pamphlet: 1/3 pound meat – serves 6 (yes – it says six)

¾ cup cooked pork; ¼ cup milk or meat stock; 2 cups cooked rice; ½ tsp. paprika; 1 tbsp. grated onion; 1 tsp. salt; 1/8 tsp. pepper; 6 medium-sized green peppers

Parboil the green peppers for five minutes; remove, and plunge in cold water. Remove the caps and seeds. Mix the remaining ingredients together. Stuff the peppers with this. Place in a pan, pour about 1 cup of hot water around the peppers, and bake at 400 for 45 minutes, or until the peppers are soft. The suggested "victory menu" accompaniments to round out this meal include baked tomatoes, cabbage sections, bread & butter, apple crisp, and a beverage.

Interesting! ¾ cup cooked meat and two cups of rice to serve six. Seems skimpy, doesn't it? Hardly enough for some of you big boys. And not very tasty either. Have I no ketchup, no tomato sauce, no Worcestershire sauce, no onion – not even a clove of garlic -- on hand to add some zip to this meal? (Ironically they suggest serving "baked tomatoes" on the side.) I think if I had only ¾ cup of meat and 2 cups of rice, I'd make something else – like fried rice with lots of vegetables. But – I suppose it's a mindset. The purpose is to get me to think outside the box instead of panicking when rations are in short supply. Also, "they" are encouraging me to conserve that dab of meat and call it a family meal instead of wasting it or giving it all to the man of the house or the teen-aged son. I note that not all recipes are so skimpy. KW


Chris said...

I think recipes like fried rice were ones to come out of WWII--soldiers returning from the orient brought such ideas home. American food changed dramatically because of that and the advent of air travel which lured postwar people to explore other countries much more easily--and sample the food. (In case you're wondering where I came up with this, I did a research paper on changes in America after WWII for a class I took about eighteen years ago.) Before that, we were pretty much traditional meat, veggie and fruit eaters. Lasagna or beef bourguignon anyone?

Hallie said...

"Fats and Sweets as Desired"??? Seems like they're affording a lot of freedom!

Toni said...

Now you make me curious as to my old cookbooks that I have in my cupboard. I must say your stuffed pepper recipe sounds so much better and much more flavorful!

Kathy said...

Chris -- I'm impressed with your researched knowledge. (And to think, you researched that paper the old-fashioned way -- pre-internet.) I've been wondering about the development of tasty recipes in our country.

Yes, that "as desired" for fats and sweets is odd. That chart was out of the Victory Meat Extenders pamphlet. As long as people were trying to eat meat, I guess they didn't care what fats and sweets you ate. Soon I'll post the official government chart -- the Basic Seven Food Groups.

I'm not an expert on the subject of old cookbooks. I have a few -- and I love to read them.