Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked

Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked

by Joanne Lamb Hayes, Jean Anderson

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While the country’s soldiers were fighting in World War II, the women who stayed behind were making their own courageous—and delicious—contributions.

Across the nation, women learned to do jobs formerly held by men while their husbands and sons served overseas. But on top of the extra responsibilities, they were still expected to cook hearty meals, set an attractive table and appear perfectly coiffed for dinner. “In essence, women were asked to work harder and harder, and they rose to the challenge,” author Joanne Lamb Hayes writes in this fascinating book.

Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen shows us how our mothers and grandmothers coped with shortages and strict rationing of meat, sugar, butter, cheese and canned foods—all without electric dishwaters and other appliances we take for granted today. Quotes and reminiscences reveal a wartime world where families scrimped, adapted recipes, and even foraged for food.

Part cookbook, part fascinating history, this collection contains more than 150 classic recipes that have been updated for today’s kitchens, as well as plenty of anecdotes, advertisements and advice from the time. You’ll find:

· Recipes for Monday Meatloaf, Victory Pudding, Mother’s Fried Chicken, Apple Dumplings and more.

· The U.S. government’s food rules and ration books.

· Substitutes for rationed sugar and the recipes they inspired.

Social life during wartime, including Defense Parties and a Thanksgiving dinner made with only wartime commodities.

Lovers of traditional American fare will also want to check out Joanne Lamb Hayes' companion cookbook, Grandma's Wartime Baking Book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635619034
Publisher: Echo Point Books & Media
Publication date: 12/24/2019
Edition description: Reprint ed.
Pages: 258
Sales rank: 473,477
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.54(d)

Read an Excerpt

Grandma's Wartime Kitchen

World War II and the Way We Cooked

By Joanne Lamb Hayes

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2000 Joanne Lamb Hayes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-13400-4



Cream of Onion Soup
Ladies Aid Salad
Star Salad
Watercress and Grapefruit Salad
White House Salad
Monday Meat Loaf
Pork Shoulder Roast with Stuffed Onions
Sausage Link Loaf
Swedish Meat Balls
Sguash Biscuits
Whole Wheat Bread
Butterscotch Pie
Cottage Pudding with Toffee Sauce
Plum Tarts
Salvage Pudding

The June 1942 issue of Good Housekeeping announced that the magazine had been asked to plan the menus and market orders for feeding 450 airmen stationed in the Middle East. This is their suggested market order for a year:

Strawberry jam 12,000 pounds
Canned grapefruit 225 dozen #110 cans
Macaroni 2,025 pounds
String beans 1,013 dozen #2 cans
Powdered milk 4,798 pounds
Coffee 7,500 pounds
Flour 73,881 pounds
Vanilla 140 gallons
Dried beans 4,320 pounds
Shortening 30,000 pounds
Molasses 15 dozen #10 cans
Cookies 4,000 pounds
Canned hams 24,300 pounds

The period between December 7, 1941 (the bombing of Pearl Harbor), and August 14, 1945 (Japan's surrender), was a time of dramatic changes in the lives of American women. After the years of the Great Depression, in which working-class women were mostly employed in menial jobs and middle-class women stayed at home, the U.S. government suddenly encouraged all women to enter the wartime workforce, respond to wartime programs such as rationing and victory gardening, and volunteer for Red Cross work, war bond drives, civil defense posts, and community activities. When women's roles were extended to include these activities, their food-, nutrition-, and health-related responsibilities were elevated to the level of patriotism. As the male population disappeared into the armed services, the nation asked more and more of the American homemaker. The government produced, and encouraged businesses to sponsor, pamphlets, articles, and posters that gave the home-front housewife all the advice she needed to work a ten-hour defense-plant shift, come home to serve a nutritious meal on an impeccably set table for her family, have the kitchen spotless in no time, and in the morning, look absolutely perky as she handed each family member a hearty lunch before she started the next long day. In season, planting, harvesting, and preserving added to the daily responsibilities of the home-front fighter.

Although Pearl Harbor was a shock, America's entry into the war was not exactly unexpected. Americans had hoped we would not have to be a part of the war that was already engulfing Europe and Asia, but most knew there wasn't much chance of escape. On the Monday morning after Pearl Harbor, American homemakers who remembered the food shortages that occurred during World War I, got up early, rushed to the markets, and scooped the sugar from the shelves. The shopping rampage sent prices up and served as a warning to Washington that controls of some sort would be necessary to prevent inflation. Voluntary rationing had not worked during World War I and as early as the summer of 1941 shortages of sugar and coffee had caused grocers to make their own rationing rules — and in some cases print their own rationing coupons — for these items. After Pearl Harbor there were immediate rumors of rationing, and a survey showed that a majority of Americans preferred rationing to taking the chance that things would not be available to everyone. In January of 1942, the Office of Price Administration put into place a system of volunteer local boards to oversee the program. Eventually, ten rationing programs were introduced. Food rationing began on May 5, 1942, with the twenty-eight-stamp "Sugar Book" and went on to include coffee, butter and other fats, canned and frozen goods, and red meat.

Suddenly the job of running a home became much more difficult. Not only were essential food products unavailable but equipment could not be replaced and when local stores did not have the products you needed, there was no gasoline to drive from store to store to hunt for them. Recipes had to be modified because a variety of things from Hawaiian pineapple to Far Eastern spices were gone. Within the next few years homemakers would have to learn the intricacies of Certificate Rationing (for equipment and metal goods), Differential Coupon Rationing (for items such as gasoline and oil that some people needed more than others), Uniform Coupon Rationing (for commodities like sugar and coffee that did not vary greatly within the category), and Point Rationing (for items such as protein sources, fats, and canned goods that did vary — e.g., more desirable cuts of meat "cost" more points).

Hoarding caused coffee, the second food product to be rationed, to come into the program far earlier than would have been necessary based on the wartime conversion of the ships that had been importing the beans. Clearly the nation's caffeine addicts weren't taking any chances on being left without their favorite brew. On November 29, 1942, a quota was set at one pound of coffee every five weeks for every person over fifteen years of age. Fortunately, coffee drinkers could increase the amount of milk they added to each cup because fluid milk was never rationed. (Canned milk, which was still being used in many households because of the lack of refrigeration, was rationed not because of milk scarcity but because of the metal in the cans.)

Homemakers were not alone in the struggle to put the expected daily meals on the table. By early summer of 1942 most of the women's magazines had jumped into the fray with Victory Menus (see here), "sugarless" recipes, advice on nutrition, substitutions, quick meals, and warnings about waste, hoarding, and buying on the black market. A notable holdout was Gourmet magazine, which made a point of never offering wartime recipes. In answer to a reader's letter that said, "We presume that you are naturally thinking of current food problems and hope that you will rush to print with a series of good Gourmet 'ration recipes,"' the March 1943 issue of the fledgling magazine includes the following:

"We are indeed thinking of current food problems, and if you'll look back through our recent issues you'll find that we have been stressing unrationed foods. But why ask for 'ration recipes'— and destroy forthwith in your mind the taste of what are still very savory dishes? The recipes that we give are not for rations; they are for good food, made of the very many ingredients that are still plentiful."

However, in the "Specialties de la Maison" column of the same issue, Iles Brody reviews the restaurant Crillon and notes that "you can enjoy the War Economy Dinner" in the upstairs dining room for just $1.00 while the regular menu costs $1.75 and up. He goes on to list two of the war economy menus: fried smelts, sauce tartare, croquette potatoes, and creamed chicory or veal curry with chutney, rice, and lima beans.

On the other hand, American Cookery, once the magazine of the Boston Cooking School, devoted whole issues to dealing with the food problems of the home front. In one issue they went to Chinatown to learn the secret of sprouting soybeans and sent veteran food writer Ida Bailey Allen to a series of military bases to interview the chefs who fed thousands of servicemen each day. She learned all about the proper care of food to prevent waste, new ways to cook leftovers, how proper cooking conserves the nutrients in food, how to make some money-saving soups, and vegetable spreads to take the place of butter. Her article, "What the Army Can Teach You," concluded that "the millions of young men in the United States Army are not only theoretically the best fed in the world, but their physical stamina, proud bearing and high morale are living proof of the efficiency of a well-planned diet made up of appetizing meals of good food prepared to retain full food values. ... Many of these men are eating balanced meals for the first time in their lives."

Tucked in among all the helpful hints provided by the magazines' home economists are government messages sponsored by the magazines or by advertisers who had converted to war production and had nothing to sell but wanted to keep their names before the public until the war was over. The War Advertising Council produced pages such as the 1943 anti-inflation message which warned, "If You're Making More Money ... Watch Out! Keep Prices Down" and included the often repeated mantra: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without." Others featured the "Government's Food Rules" or War Food Administration programs urging homemakers to buy products that were in surplus, such as eggs in the spring of 1944.

Many of the recipes in this chapter come from Victory Dinner menus that appeared in booklets published by the government or the food industry. Each meal was planned to be quick and easy to prepare, provide a balance of nutrients, and use foods that were still available. The remaining recipes each in some way demonstrate a creative response to the problems encountered in the home-front kitchen.


Cream of Onion Soup
Tunafish Loaf — Horseradish Sauce
Buttered Peas — Star Salad
Hot Biscuits and Butter
Plum Tarts with Vanilla Ice Cream
Milk Coffee
Victory Meal Planner,
New York State Bureau of Milk Publicity, 1942


Swedish Meatballs
Riced Potatoes — Glazed Carrots
Watercress and Grapefruit Salad
Bread — Butter
Butterscotch Pie
Victory Meat Extenders,
National Live Stock and Meat Board, 1942


Meat Patties
Parslied Potatoes
Buttered Beets with Beet Greens
Whole Wheat Bread and Butter
Cottage Pudding with Toffee Sauce
Coffee and Milk
Eating for Fitness,
Servel, Inc., 1943


This is a quick and easy addition to the dinner menu that is a good way to increase the amount of milk in the family's diet with little notice. Although fresh milk prices were sometimes high, it was usually available and not included in the rationing programs that regulated most other protein sources.

4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauté bacon in a heavy 3-quart saucepan until crisp; remove bacon pieces to a small bowl. Add onions to bacon fat in saucepan and cook, stirring frequently until onions begin to brown.

Stir flour into onions until they are uniformly coated. Gradually add milk, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.

To serve, divide into 4 soup plates or bowls and top with reserved bacon pieces.

4 Servings


This big-batch salad was good to serve at meetings and working parties for wartime public service groups. These days it can still be found at potlucks and family reunions.

2 quarts water
1 pound macaroni
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups diced cooked ham
1 cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped pimiento
¼ cup chopped green onion
3 cups packed salad greens (rinsed, crisped, and broken into pieces)
2 tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add macaroni and salt. Cook until macaroni is just tender, about 12 minutes. Drain very well, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid. Immediately combine macaroni and vinegar in a large bowl; set aside 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together mayonnaise, corn syrup, and black pepper. Gradually stir in reserved cooking liquid. Add to macaroni mixture along with ham, celery, pimiento, and onion. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

To serve, arrange greens on a very large platter or in a 3-quart bowl. Spoon macaroni mixture into center and garnish with tomato wedges.

12 Servings


Tomato gelatin salads were very popular during the war years. They are easy to make, and tomatoes or tomato juice was pretty consistently available.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups tomato juice
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon celery salt
3 cups salad greens (rinsed, crisped, and broken into pieces)
1 cup cottage cheese
Mayonnaise, optional

Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup tomato juice in a small saucepan. Set aside 5 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 cup tomato juice, the corn syrup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and celery salt in a medium bowl.

Gently heat the gelatin mixture, stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Add to the juice mixture in the bowl and stir to combine. Divide the mixture between 2 8-ounce drinking glasses; cover and refrigerate until firm — 4 to 6 hours.

To serve, divide greens among 6 salad plates. Divide cottage cheese among plates onto center of greens. Quickly dip glasses into a bowl of warm water, loosen gelatin with knife, and unmold onto a rimmed plate. Cut each mold crosswise into 5 slices. Cut each slice into 3 wedges. Arrange 5 wedges around cottage cheese on each salad to resemble a star. Serve with mayonnaise, if desired.

6 Servings


This refreshing salad is a nutritionist's dream, which made it popular among wartime homemakers. Citrus fruits were promoted for their high vitamin C content. Here even the dressing provides vitamins.

3 cups watercress (rinsed, crisped, and broken into pieces)
2 large grapefruit (1 pink and 1 white is nice), sectioned
½ cup grapefruit juice (collected while sectioning grapefruit if possible)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons salad oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper (cayenne)

Divide watercress onto 6 chilled salad plates. Put grapefruit sections on top, dividing them onto plates.

Combine grapefruit juice, honey, oil, salt, and pepper in a half- pint jar with a tight lid. Cover and shake until honey has dissolved. Divide onto salads on top of grapefruit sections.

6 Servings


Prune Hasty

1 ½ cups cooked prunes, pitted and chopped
¾ cup evaporated milk
¾ cup bread crumbs
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup finely chopped nuts
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Generously grease a 1½-quart casserole or pudding mold.

Combine all ingredients and pour into greased casserole. Bake 1 hour or until center is firm. Remove to wire rack and cool 10 minutes. Unmold, if desired, or serve from casserole. Serve hot.

6 Servings


This is a traditional salad for ladies' luncheons. Some recipes for this mold call for a package of lemon gelatin mix, but the resulting salad is a bit too sweet for today's tastes.

1 package unflavored gelatin
1¼ cups water
1/3 cup lemon juice
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon celery salt
½ cup cooked diced carrots
½ cup cooked green peas
½ cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Sprinkle gelatin over ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Set aside 5 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 cup water, the lemon juice, corn syrup, vinegar, paprika, salt, and celery salt in a medium bowl.

Gently heat gelatin mixture, stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Add to lemon juice mixture and stir to combine. Pour about one third of mixture into a 4-cup ring mold; cover and refrigerate until set — 30 to 45 minutes. Cover the bowl of remaining gelatin mixture and set aside at room temperature.

When gelatin layer is set, arrange rows of carrots, peas, and celery equally spaced in the ring mold. Carefully spoon about another third of the gelatin mixture over the vegetables; cover and refrigerate 15 minutes to set surface.

Meanwhile, gradually beat the remaining gelatin mixture into the mayonnaise. Gently spoon the mixture over the vegetable layer. Cover and refrigerate until firm — 6 to 8 hours.

To unmold, quickly dip the ring mold into a pan of warm water. Cover the mold with a serving plate and invert. Return to refrigerator 10 minutes to reset the surface before serving.

6 Servings


Excerpted from Grandma's Wartime Kitchen by Joanne Lamb Hayes. Copyright © 2000 Joanne Lamb Hayes. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Jean Anderson


1. The Home-Front Warrior

2. Eat to Win

3. Cultivate and Can

4. Sweet Sacrifice

5. Meat and Morality

6. Strrrrrreeeeeeetch It

7. Butter and Gunpowder

8. Foods to Pack

9. Wartime Entertaining

10. Pink Slips Lead to Pink Aprons



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