Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Real Eye Opener: Depression/Recession Era Cooking

Okay, so I have shared with you that I am going to cook recipes for this time of recession.  My original inspiration in this was the Great Depression Era and the cooking show I saw on YouTube by Clara Cannucciari of Clara's Kitchen.  But, I am a girl who does my homework so, I have recently collected a few cookbooks from the Depression that I will try some recipes out of.  This was my first cookbook Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930's by Janet Van Amber Paske.  

 The history on this cookbook was that the home economist, Janet Van Amber Paske decided to compile these recipes and write them down before they were forgotten.  I have just read this lightly and it seems all of the recipes are from the upper Midwest.  

First paragraph of the forward:
"This compilation is a documentary of the experiences and domestic history of the Great Depression of the 1930's.  The time is right for it to be recorded (printed 1986), before it is forgotten.  Children,  already, don't quite believe it, which is not surprising.  This country has changed so dramatically in the past 50 years it is hard to believe we were in such desperate straights so recently."    ~Janet Van Amber Paske

So, my first recipe I picked out to try was Potato Casserole.  My kids would love this.  So I gave it a try......

 The first thing I noticed is that 3 cups of potatoes is not a lot.  

 I started out with a 9" x 13" pan and the potatoes didn't come close to covering the bottom of the pan.   So, I moved the potatoes into a 8" x 8" pan and it still didn't even come close to filling up the pan.  Then it hit me, this was a Depression recipe.  There wasn't a lot of food to go around.  This is the first recipe I tried out of the cookbook but, this revelation was a real eye opener!  I feed hungry teen and school-age boys every day and I could not imagine if this was all I had to serve up for supper!

So, a lot of things go through my mind about this recipe.  Have our portions gotten much too big?  Did people really eat a few tablespoons of potatoes and consider it a satisfying meal?  How bad did the Depression really get?  

There are a lot of quotes from people that lived through the Depression in this cookbook.
Just a sample:
"The Depression was a good education."  

"Everything was very inexpensive, but no one had any cash flow with which to buy it."

"We had the cellar full of canned goods and vegetables, we didn't go to the store for every meal.  Maybe once or twice a month."

"Good old days would kill off this generation in a weeks time."

Okay, I read those quotes with a smile when I first picked up this cookbook but, after I made this recipe the quotes had a whole new sense of meaning to me.

I am not sure all of the recipes are this thrifty, but I will keep you posted.  
Needless to say, I altered this recipe to fit my family's portions and taste.  

Here is the altered version:

Potato Casserole: Revised for 2012

Saute: 1/4 c. butter with 1 med. chopped onion

Add: 2 1/2 Tbsp. flour in a fry pan (making a roux)

Add gradually: 2 cups milk, stir until thicker (like your making a cream soup base for the casserole)  salt and pepper to taste

In a greased casserole (8" x 8") dish alternate above with 6 cups of cubed cooked potatoes and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.  (Could use mild cheese).  Shred more cheese on top.  Add: 4 slices of crumbled bacon on top.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes. 

This would serve: 4 if a main dish or 6 if a side dish

So what about the recipe?  It was delicious!  My son said it tasted like potato soup in a casserole!  It really was good.  Another thing to consider about "old fashioned" recipes, is that the modern era of highly processed food was virtually nonexistent then.   So if you have health related problems a lot of these recipes will be kinder to you than processed food.
I have really been intrigued by the Depression-Era domestic history.  I will learn more as I go along and share with you as I cook!  

I will link this to: 
Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm
Thriving on Thursdays  at Domesblissity
On the Menu Monday at Stonegable 
Rooted in Thyme Simple and Sweet Fridays
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
A Pinteresting Party  at Tutus & Tea Parties
Thrifty Things Friday  at The Thrifty Groove 
Vintage Inspiration Friday  at Common Ground
Foodie Friday at Home Maid Simple 
Friday Favorite at Simple Sweet Home

Foodie Friday at  Not Your Ordinary Recipes

Feasting in Fellowship at Comfy in the Kitchen

Gallery of Favorites at Premeditated Leftovers

Friday Favorite Finds at Finding Joy in my Kitchen
Feed Your Soul at Around My Family Table
Debbiedoos  Power of Pinterest Party


Honey at 2805 said...

Looks good! I agree with your son, it's like a baked potato, loaded or baked potato soup! Here's hoping we never go through that era again.

Katherine said...

Wow, that really is an eye opener! I am sure we are used to much larger portions than what we "need". Think of how much food we are served at restaurants. This cookbook is very fascinating- a glimpse into a totally different way of life!

Red Couch Recipes said...

Sherry, how appropriate to start trying to cook more economical. It is interesting that the recipe made so little as a lot of the people who lived through the depression still lived on farms. My mother always said about this time, "We were poor and we knew it." Sounds like you are going to be cooking up some interesting recipes. Joni

Annie's Journal said...

Find this post very interesting...makes me start thinking things we take for granted. Would love to read more about these here. Thanks for sharing:)

Unknown said...

This is indeed so very interesting, I would assume since money was scarce, so was teh amount. But although I think we overeat, having no nutrition or lack of it was bad in its own way... *sigh* its complicated. :) Good luck with your yummy recipes, this looks delicious !;)


Tammy @ A Walk in the Countryside said...

Hi Sherry, This looks really good! I'm going to pin it to my recipe board and give it a try! I know my husband and son would have a hard time if they had to eat like in the Depression. They both must have meat with each meal! Thanks so much for sharing this with us and I look forward to future Depression Era post!

Debra@CommonGround said...

This book is a real treasure. Your potato dish looks so yummy! I've recently gone to all natural and whole foods, no processed. It's less complicated but a bit hard to have variety. This looks delish! Hope you'll link this up for Vintage Inspiration!

Cynthia said...

This dish looks really good. I can't really imagine what it must have been like in the depression but what an eye opener.


Lady Courtney said...

Very interesting, who knows, we may all be heading that way. I'll be interested to see what you cook up next.

Little Susie Home Maker said...

This history and cooking is great! I am always on the look out for old recipe books. None of mine predate the 50's. I hope you continue to share the recipes! Yours looks very good. And it seems that every one that I know is trying to get away from processed foods. Thanks so much for sharing!

Jocelyn said...

OH yum Sherry, this sounds so delicious. I will have to give this a try.

Jocelyn @

~ Lisa ~ said...

Looks yummy... I'm going to try it.

~ Lisa from Indiana ~

Connie in Hartwood said...

The first casserole looks a lot like what my mom called Dinner in a Dish. No spaghetti in hers, tho.

You can add some of the WWII era ration recipes to your Depression recipes to REALLY make things interesting. There are some that my mom learned from her mother, that were passed along to me and that my girls really like. I'm pretty sure that their favorite, Tuna and Peas, is one of these. I know that my upside down chocolate fudge cake is.

Anonymous said...

this looks so good, reminds me of a baked potato soup!

Tina said...

It looks good.
My father talks a lot about going to bed hungry; he was a child during the depression. It really makes you wonder: if this happened now, how many of us would survive.

Have fun with the cookbook.
Have a great day.

kitty@ Kitty's Kozy Kitchen said...

The recipe looks and sounds delish!! I have soooo many cookbooks, but none on the depression era. My Mom has her Mom's old cookbook and one day I'll probably get that. I need to see if I can find some in the meantime.

Diane Balch said...

Really interesting post... I love what you did with the recipe. Have you ever read, "How to Cook a Wolf," by Fischer it's about war time cooking. Please share this on foodie friday today.

Diann said...

Oh, this looks wonderful. That cookbook is such an awesome find. I love to find those types of recipes. I am in the middle of freezing a bunch of fresh produce. We have been so blessed to receive so much bounty this year that I know we will be so happy when these preserved fruits and veggies are used throughout the winter. I grew up in a food preservation family, so it kind of is 2nd nature to me. I look forward to seeing more recipes you try out. Thank you so much for sharing this Depression Era recipe with us at TTF!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

My Mom talks about the depression and how they didn't have much food and it had to stretch. My Mom is the oldest of six kids! This is an eye opener!
What a great idea to cook from these old cookbooks. Visiting from TTF!
hugs, Linda

Betty said...

My parents and oldest brother went through the Depression. My mother dyed her wedding dress to wear to a wedding because she didn't want to spend the $$ for a new one; my dad was very sad about it. Said he would have sold something. (My niece now has the dress.) Mom always said our current portions are huge and unnecessary. She could peel a potato with the skin so thin you could see through it. When I asked why, she just said, "The Depression." Says it all ...

Stan and Jody Gabara said...

Sherry, Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe and the story behind it on Simple & Sweet Fridays. Looking forward to more great recipes!


SnoWhite said...

Thanks for bringing this recipe by for Friday Favorite Finds; however, our linky is really designed for recipes you haven't tried yet. So, I do hope you'll bring back some of your bookmarked recipes in the future!

Lauren said...

Crazy how it was. Loving your updated recipe! Have to give it a try soon. Thank you for sharing at our Pinteresting Party!

Domesblissity said...

That's a great recipe and what a great cookbook. This is my kind of cooking. Making use of what we've already got. These recipes are usually always best. Thanks for stopping by each week Sherry at the Thriving on Thursdays party!

Anne xx

April J Harris said...

I always enjoy old cookbooks, recipes and food history. What an interesting book this is. The potato casserole sounds delicious, especially with the updates you made!

Alea Milham said...

I love watching Clara's videos! I have a couple of my Great Grandmother's books from the 1930's and am fascinated with the recipes. Some of them are so simple and frugal and others use ingredients that were readily available in that period, but are hard to find or expensive now. The Potato Casserole looks wonderful!

krishna said...

very good n easy recipe... i'll do it... in fact i'll be lovely with a dish named 'LUCHI' ( a kind of Indian bread).