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“Reduce fried foods”
“Eat less cake and pastry”
“At the meat meal serve small portions”
“As a nation we eat too little green stuffs”
“Patronize your home producer”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Could have come from any recent cookbook…meatless, vegetarian, healthy, low-carb, low-cholesterol, diabetic, holistic, to name a few cookbook themes. We have heard the preaching in recent years. The irony of the quotes is that they were not used to admonish and chastise the American public from eating food, which would lead to obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, etc., but to appeal to the American public to conserve food for more important issues….like war.
The quotes are taken from “War-Time Cook and Health Book”, published 96 years ago, on July 23rd, 1917, by The Department of Food Conservation, and printed at the request of Herbert Hoover, Washington, D.C. We’re talking WW 1 here, people!
Reducing fried foods conserved fats, which were needed for other things. Eating fewer cakes and pastry conserved sugar, which was also essential for the troops. Smaller portions also conserved foods needed elsewhere and buying ‘locally’ (read “farmer’s markets”?) reduced the costs to ship food, therefore saving money needed for the war effort. It should be noted that during World War I, food conservation was strongly encouraged, however, there was no strict program of food rationing (that came later during World War II).
A recipe for “Bean Loaf”, meant to conserve meat, included cooked ground beans, onion, an egg, drippings and bread crumbs, to be served with tomato sauce. “War Meals” in the booklet were suggested by the U.S. Food Administration. For example, supper might include Rice with Cheese, Sour Milk Corn Bread and Apple Sauce. This wasn’t “Super Size Me” by any means.
The rear cover of the book features a lady liberty, sword in hand and is titled “Help Win the War – Woman’s Service Requires Health & Strength”. In addition to war-time recipes, there are multiple hints for women, to maintain their health and strength during those trying times, including many ads for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, and testimonials throughout from ladies, who had tried Ms. Pinkham’s compound for a variety of complaints ranging from nervousness, listlessness, despondency, backache, fainting spells, carelessness (yes!) and more (war-time takes a lot out of a person). One testimonial comes from Mrs. Nellie B. Brittingham, of Baltimore, Maryland, who gushes “I never had a child until I took the Compound, although I have heard people say they have a ‘Lydia Pinkham’ Baby”. Wow….wonder what was in that stuff, anyhow!
The quotes from “War-Time Cook and Health Book” are every bit as applicable to us today, as they were to the American public of 1917….only the context has changed. Now, we aren’t doing it for the greater good of our country, but for the greater good of ourselves. In my lifetime, there have been 5 major wars the USA has been involved in (not to mention some skirmishes and rebellions here and there), including wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf War, yet there has never been food rationing during these wars in this country. Is it unnecessary, or have we become complacent and self-focused? Strange.
Music is “Over There”, sung by Arthur Fields. Music and words by George M. Cohan, composed in 1917. This recording probably dates from around the same time