Mom, What’s for Dinner Tonight? (1939)

“Momma’s In The Kitchen” from Blues Boogie by Slim Gaillard. Released: 2011

mom in 1939 kitchen

Had you been a wee tot way back in 1939, you probably would have pestered your mother in the kitchen to find out what was on the plate for dinner tonight.  No, not “Hot Pockets”, not “Weight Watchers”, not even a Swanson TV Dinner (that didn’t appear until 1953).  Nor would she have served you SpaghettiOs (they didn’t arrive on the scene until 1965).  No Tater Tots either (1953).

Well, in the vintage cookbook “The Day by Day Cook Book”, by Demetria Taylor and Gertrude Lynn, published in 1939, the daily menus are set forth for an entire year, including ‘Breakfast’, ‘Luncheon’ and ‘Dinner’. 

Today is Tuesday, in the second week of November, so below is a sample of what Mom might have been whipping up in the kitchen, for dinner (without a microwave, convection oven, halogen oven, or a panini press, etc).  She might have had an Electrolux Gas Refrigerator if Dad was raking in the big bucks.  According to several web sources, the average household income (depending on which statistics you look at) ranged from $1,368 to $1,850 per year.  An Electrolux Gas Refrigerator sold for around $145.00 in 1939.  That’s a whopping 10% of the average income at the low estimate!  How many people today could afford to spend 10% of their annual household income on a refrigerator?

So, transport yourself back to November 12th, 1939 and start cookin’:

Roast Fresh Ham

Cranberry Relish (not out of a can, thank you very much!)

Curried Succotash

Cole Slaw

Harvest Chocolate Cake

Coffee / Milk (for the wee tots)

Of course, she couldn’t even think of starting dinner until she re-grouped from today’s ‘Luncheon'(for today’s Luncheon, she had to prepare fresh black bean soup from scratch), and whip up some Peanut Butter, Bacon and Lettuce Sandwiches).  But just in case she got lax, she had to reserve some energy for Wednesday, second week of November:  Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup, Stuffed Eggs Nantua, Poppy Seed Rolls, Scotch Jumbles, and that was just for Luncheon!  Dinner would see her slaving over Hamburger Cakes, Sauteed Raw Potato Slices, Buttered Hubbard Squash, Cucumber and Tomato Salad with homemade French Dressing, and finished with Prune Whip. 

No wonder mom was always tired!  She spent most of her life in the kitchen cooking for the family, without the conveniences we expect today, including prepared foods, instant foods, a huge variety of canned foods from around the globe, and a bevy of kitchen appliances.  But, better get back to the kitchen, Mom….you’ve got to start planning today for Thursday!

"Kate Smith's Favorite Recipes", published in 1939

“Kate Smith’s Favorite Recipes”, published in 1939 – Mom may have used some of these recipes, too.

About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,500. What next? More shelves?
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