1917: Wartime Recipes

This year marks the 105th anniversary of the US’s entry into World War I…a topic which I happened to do a lot of research on for my YA fantasy What Lies Beneath. In observation of the event, I’m reposting a series of pieces I wrote around what was happening on the “home front” during that first spring and summer of the war.

So I’ve been having fun being a tad snarky about food conservation recipes from the first World War and how some of them seem…ah, less than appetizing. I was looking through some WWI era pamphlets recently, however, and found a few recipes that (ssh!) sound as if they might not be too bad.

This might make lovely tea sandwiches on thin crustless bread (from Everyday Foods in War Time by Mary Swartz Rose, 1917).

Fruit and Peanut Butter (for sandwiches)
¼ cup dates
¼ cup figs
½ cup peanut butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup raisins
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Wash figs, raisins, dates, and put through food chopper. Add salt, peanut butter, lemon juice, and corn syrup, and mix well.

Here’s a recipe for a chowder that doesn’t seem out of line to this New Englander, though we would use whole milk rather than skim (From Everyday Foods in War Time by Mary Swartz Rose, 1917.)

Dried Fish Chowder
½ pound salt fish
4 cups potatoes, cut in small pieces
2 ounces salt pork
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups skim milk
4 ounces crackers

Salt codfish, smoked halibut, or other dried fish may be used in this chowder. Pick over and shred the fish, holding it under lukewarm water. Let it soak while the other ingredients of the dish are being prepared. Cut the pork into small pieces and fry it with the onion until both are a delicate brown; add the potatoes, cover with water, and cook until the potatoes are soft. Add the milk and fish and reheat. Salt, if necessary. It is well to allow the crackers to soak in the milk while the potatoes are being cooked, then remove them, and finally add to the chowder just before serving.

This one could maybe use some cinnamon and nutmeg (and raisins and walnuts might be good too), but I like that it doesn’t have added sugar—a good recipe for carb-counters. (from Best War Time Recipes by the Royal Baking Powder Company, 1918)

Sweet Potato Muffins
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweet potatoes (mashed)
1 egg
1 cup milk and water

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add cold sweet potatoes which have been lightly mashed or put through a ricer. Add beaten egg and liquid, mixing well. Bake in greased muffin tins in moderate oven 25 to 30 minutes.

This sounds more like a soufflé than a fondue, doesn’t it? (from Everyday Foods in War Time by Mary Swartz Rose, 1917)

Cheese Fondue
1 1/3 cups hot milk
1 1/3 cups bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
4 eggs
1/3 pound cheese (1 1/3 cups grated or 1 cup cut in pieces)
½ teaspoon salt

Mix the milk, breadcrumbs, salt, and cheese; add the yolks thoroughly beaten; into this mixture cut and fold the whites of eggs beaten till stiff. Pour into a buttered dish and cook 30 minutes in a moderate oven. Serve at once.

Enjoy! And let us know if you try making any of them!

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1 thought on “1917: Wartime Recipes”

  1. I have a WWII recipe book by Kendal Milne of Manchester which my mother used for cakes through out my childhood, there were six children and the recipes were economical.

    Oddly enough I made something a little like the Cheese Fondue when I was on holiday recently. Essentially it was a savoury bread and butter pudding, stale bread sliced and buttered, layered with grated cheese, covered with a mixture of seasoned milk and eggs, finished with a final sprinkle of grated cheese and a little cayenne pepper. Baked for around an hour I think. It was lovely, the egg custard made the whole dish souffle up as you suggest the cheese fondue recipe would, but without having to seperate and beat the whites – we were in a holiday cottage with no electical gadgets – with a crunchy slightly hot top. I served it as the main on the day we ate up all of the leftovers from the rest of the week, mostly a lot of different salads, potato, nicoise, greek, etc. and everyone liked it. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was, I expected it to be edible, but it was something I shall certainly make again.

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