Saturday, August 23, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 33 - Fish Bake

This week I wanted to look into the less common, non-rationed sources of protein encouraged by the government to use during wartime. Fish is a big one.
WWI US Food Administration Poster
I've always liked this U.S. Food Administration poster from WWI. It makes a very good point - cows, pigs, and chickens all needed to be fed and cared for while fish took care of themselves. They used no resources that people could also use. It was wise for the government to encourage people to eat self-sustaining fish.

World War II was no different. Even more than before, the country's resources needed to be used in the most efficient way possible and fish was still an excellent self-sustaining protein.
Here's a poster from WWII encouraging the catching and use of fish as a wartime staple.

WWII U.S. government poster

Rabbits were a great protein choice too since you could feed them off scraps, they reproduced quickly, and their protein is the densest by ratio of how much food they consume - much better than cows or pigs. I had never seen any wartime posters encouraging the raising of rabbits for meat, though. So then I just did a search and look at what I found!
British WWII poster
Read this fascinating British rationing article.
Horse meat was even used. Even though automobile use was hampered by the rationing of gasoline during the war, the advance of the car and truck continued to overtake many jobs previously done by horses. So what else can you do with a surplus of horses?...
I can't even imagine what horse would taste like. Is it much like beef, I wonder, since they eat similar things? 
Check out this photo:

I chose this week's ration recipe for Fish Bake from the British Victory Cookbook by Margeurite Patten. I didn't have rabbit or horse on hand, but I did have a large haddock I purchased mostly out of surprise that I found it. Haddock is a very difficult fish to find in the states for some reason.

When I was in Scotland I had the most amazing soup called Cullen Skink that was made with haddock, a common fish for over there. I always wanted to try making Cullen Skink, but I never got around to it because I wanted to make it with haddock which I could never find. I finally got the haddock, but still didn't get around to making the soup. (Sad isn't it?) Since I had the fish and I haven't tried a fish-based ration dish yet I thought I'd give it a try this week.

Fish Bake is a typical, simple-fare British dish. Fish, potatoes, onions, parsley, milk, and salt & pepper. That's it! It's one of those recipes where you could bake the fish in advance and make the casserole later, which is pretty convenient.

1 1/2 lbs. haddock, potatoes, onions, parsley, milk, salt & pepper
 Grate the onions and potatoes (keep the peels on the potatoes). Chop the parsley. Put a layer of potatoes in the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Season well with salt and pepper. Layer in the onions, parsley, and then a layer of fish. Repeat layers, ending with potato.
potato layer

onion & parsley layer

fish layer

completed Fish Bake casserole

Cover with a greased paper or even aluminium foil. Bake in a moderately hot oven (375ºF) for 30 minutes.

This recipe was pretty good! I don't know if I seasoned it enough, though. I'm always shy with salt because I'm afraid I'll over salt things. So, it was a little bland, though filling and hearty.

Our family is used to eating fish with my homemade tartar sauce, and so we tried it with that on there and I thought it improved the flavor a bit more. I just feel it needed something acidic like lemon juice or malted vinegar.

Overall, it's a nice light casserole for a summer dinner. It would be easy to include other vegetables or herbs that you have on hand, grated/chopped and added in with the onions. The recipe is a fairly blank canvas for creativity!
Fish Bake
Fish Bake from Victory Cookbook by Margeurite Patten

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 32 - Scones

Ack! This is the first time I've been late in posting my ration recipe. Not bad for 32 weeks and not being late once until now, even while on vacation! (Yeah, that's pretty awesome, huh? haha!)
I did do the ration recipe, so I didn't technically miss. I do have excuses and because it's my blog I get to list them:
1. I'm working on a book right now and it sucked a lot of time this week. That's pretty exciting!
2. Did I mention that I'm a homeschooling mom? Yeah, we started school this week.
3. Procrastination. Mostly born out of the fact that this week's recipe was, in my opinion, a bust, and that's a little depressing.

Okay, enough of that. Here we go.

Remember the ration week for Knox Gelatine Spread? Well, this week I decided to give the spread a try in one of their recipes. I was worried about it going bad just sitting in my fridge and wanted to use it up in one go. I went back to the Knox Gelatine booklet and decided on Scones since they sounded interesting and it's been awhile since I've baked something for my ration recipe weeks.

A quick note about rationing, though. I was reading on the National WWII Museum's website about rationing and it struck me that I haven't discussed the reasons for rationing completely. I thought their website gave a great summary. I'm still learning about rationing so I was glad to find such a great, straightforward website that talks about it. Here's a quote from their site:

"Food was in short supply for a variety of reasons: much of the processed and canned foods was reserved for shipping overseas to our military and our Allies; transportation of fresh foods was limited due to gasoline and tire rationing and the priority of transporting soldiers and war supplies instead of food; imported foods, like coffee and sugar, was limited due to restrictions on importing.

"Because of these shortages, the U.S. government’s Office of Price Administration established a system of rationing that would more fairly distribute foods that were in short supply. Every American was issued a series of ration books during the war. The ration books contained removable stamps good for certain rationed items, like sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. A person could not buy a rationed item without also giving the grocer the right ration stamp. Once a person’s ration stamps were used up for a month, she couldn’t buy any more of that type of food. This meant planning meals carefully, being creative with menus, and not wasting food. More than 8,000 ration boards across the country administered the program."

So, in other words, you still had to pay for the food with money, but you also had to have the correct corresponding ration stamp. I love that they mentioned the limited use of gas and tire rationing as well as the priority in transporting soldiers and not food... It was just a totally different world back then. Interesting, isn't it?! Man, it makes me want to go back to being a girl and playing store, and we could use ration stamps as well as money. Wouldn't that be fun? :-)

Okay, so for this week's ration recipe you need cake flour, Knox Gelatine Spread, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk or light cream, and sugar.

Cake flour, Knox Gelatine Spread, salt, milk, baking powder, salt, and eggs.
Those eggs came from our chickens! We're just starting to get 3 eggs a day.
 Sift the dry ingredients together. (Only put in 2 tsp. of the sugar though and reserve the rest.)

Cut in the Knox Gelatine spread until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Separate one of the eggs and add the other egg to the yolk.

 Add the egg + egg yolk and the milk to the flour mixture until it comes together to form a ragged dough. If there's still a lot of flour left, though, definitely add a little extra milk.

Now this is where the recipe wasn't clear. Normally with biscuits and the like, you'd knead the dough for a few strokes to get it to come together more, but with scones you definitely don't want to do that. Unfortunately, I did and they made my scones turn out tough. It wasn't until later that I remembered my experience making scones some years ago and you pretty much just patted the dough together to avoid kneading it at all. On top of that when you added the cream you mixed it gently by hand. Well, I tried to follow this ration recipe the best I could so... Oh well.

Roll out the dough to a 1/2" thickness.

Cut dough into 3" squares and divide each square into two triangles. (I didn't measure, and just eye-balled it. So, I'm not sure if the portions are correct. The recipe didn't mention how many portions, so I wasn't as careful this time.

Put the triangles on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Brush on the egg white, then sprinkle on the reserved sugar.

Bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes. Serve hot or serve the next day by cutting in half and sandwiching a spread between.

The booklet also had quite a few ideas for spreads using the Knox Gelatine Spread. So, for a bonus I thought I'd post some of those recipes too.

I opted for the orange marmalade and spread mixture since I had some marmalade to use up.
 The recipe said to blend the two ingredients together.

 And then it said to warm it over a pot of water on the stove to get the gelatine to dissolve. This step confused me, but I did as it said. Then I put the mixture in the fridge and it never set up again. It's still soupy. That is so weird and frustrating! So if you make this with marmalade and plain butter, skip the warming part!

The scones were unfortunately not very tender. And the spread was soupy. So I was bummed about this week's recipe. It just didn't turn out. Not to mention I'm not fond of straight white flour recipes. I just think they taste pasty and lacks depth. Can you tell I grew up eating whole wheat bread? :-)

I guess now is as good a time as any to mention, too, that for health reasons I'm having to eat gluten-free. It looks like it might be a permanent change in my life and it was really depressing to face this change smack in the middle of this project. It was devastating, actually. I've been trying to be creative and choose ration recipes that don't involve flour, especially since I did a lot of baking recipes toward the beginning of this project. I decided to cheat a little this week, but it's just not fun for me when I can't (or am not suppose to try) the recipe I make! I thought I could get by with others being my proxy for eating, but that's no fun either and my family doesn't have the same palette as me and it's hard to comment on their experience. *sigh* 

I'm still debating about approaching ration recipes involving flour with gluten-free flour and xantham gum, but the historian in me is fighting against that idea. I have to think about it for awhile longer. So, I'm going to continue to be creative in this project. Finishing the project is the most important thing right now to me, so we'll see how it goes!

Here are the recipes:

Recipes from Knox Gelatine Booklet

Have fun with these! Some of them sound pretty good.
Just use regular butter if the Knox Gelatine Spread freaks you out. :-)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 31 - Beet & Onion Salad

Our garden is in the throes of harvest bounty - such as it is with my lackluster watering habits. If I had a serious Victory Garden, I couldn't afford to be so lazy in watering my plants or to not do succession planting - this would be our winter eating we're talking about! Gardening is something I love, but I am still learning to be better at it and to be more attentive.

Many times when we look back at our grandmothers we assume they all knew how to garden, can, and bake their whole lives because that is just what you did back then. But during my research I found that that was not always the case. Even some of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had a steep learning curve. Wartime conditions asked women to do all sorts of things they'd never done before, including improving skills they had or learning entirely new skills of baking, canning, and gardening. Managing a small kitchen garden was not the same as managing your entire yard turned into a garden - imagine processing all that produce yourself! Countless classes and workshops were offered during the war to support the homemaker in the monumental task of keeping their homes and the homefront running.

As for the ration recipe -  I was trying to find a ration recipe this week that used what I had on hand and was happy to find an interesting little salad called Beet & Onion Salad. I had just picked some beets from the garden and we had recently pulled out all our onions to clean and cure. I even had a batch of boiled eggs in the fridge, so it was a perfect match as the recipe calls for beets, celery, a small onion, a boiled egg, and a recipe of the French dressing from the Pineapple Toss Salad I posted a few weeks back.

One interesting note - All the menu plans in the Westinghouse Health For Victory guides, like the one this recipe comes from, emphasize making as many meal components in advance as you could to save time for when you made dinner later. This week's recipe is a good example of that. The boiled egg and cooked beets require the biggest time commitment and can be done beforehand. (Cooking the beets, though, not cutting them.)

These days I've heard a lot of advice for making it easier to eat your veggies by encouraging you to cut veggies in advance and store them in the fridge for a quick snack. In the 1940s, though, cutting veggies in advance was a big no-no as they felt many valuable vitamins were lost as the veggies sat there. So, while many things could be made in advance, like the salad dressing or the dessert, cutting veggies was something you waited to do until you were actually preparing dinner. It's an interesting food preparation difference between then and now and I wonder who is more right?

With that question in mind, let's get on to this simple little recipe:
Beets, boiled egg, onion, celery
If you haven't pre-cooked the beets, wash them thoroughly, but do not cut off the stems or root tail. (This causes the flavor to leech into the water.) Boil the beets until tender all the way through. Run cold water over them; then cut off the ends and slip off the skins. 

Meanwhile, chop the cup of celery and three tablespoons of onion.

Dice the 2 cups of beets.

Combine all ingredients together.
Aren't the beets pretty?
 Pour the dressing over the salad (you can use mayo instead if you wish), and stir to combine.

Put the servings of Beet & Onion Salad on a leaf of lettuce or a small salad. Peel, wash, and slice the boiled egg and add to the salad plates.
My husband and I love beets, so we really enjoyed this salad. The French dressing pairs well with the brightness of the celery and onions and the earthiness of the beets. I was a little wary of those boiled eggs on there. Even though I love boiled eggs I just didn't know if they went with beets.(Which is a bit silly since pickled eggs and beets are an old, classic combination.) I needn't have worried, though. They were delicious! It all worked well together and it was quite filling. Yum! Huzzah for another 1940s salad recipe!

Westinghouse Health for Victory booklet - December 1942

I just saw a recipe in the same book for "Sunshine Salad" and I want to try it, but am a little afraid. It's one of those Jello salad recipes... I shudder to think, but something inside me says I have to try it because it is so scary! haha!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 30 - Mint Tinkle

Mint Tinkle
The minute I saw this drink recipe for Mint Tinkle in Grandma's Wartime Kitchen by Joanne Lamb Hayes, I had to try it! I'll admit it was mostly because of its funny name. Could you really offer this drink to some party guests with a straight face? Would you really be able to take yourself seriously while sipping on an icy cold glass of Mint Tinkle? I had to try it to find out; if anything to just experience Mint Tinkle!

This recipe calls for corn syrup. I usually avoid using corn syrup, but as it was a staple in wartime kitchens to help save on sugar ration points, and because the ginger ale called for in the recipe has corn syrup in it anyway, I thought I'd make an exception this time. 

I really love that sugar was rationed during the war. Our society then and now were so dependent upon sugar, and wartime shortages forced them to go back to their roots from their grandparents' time when sugar wasn't so plentiful or affordable and to get creative. As for corn syrup, it wasn't born out of WWII. It had actually been around for quite some time. (See here for a history of Karo Corn Syrup.) However, it gave housewives another option besides honey or molasses. (Sweetened condensed milk was another interesting option.) 

For some perspective, I found a cool little article about sugar rationing during the war published in Wisconsin in 1942:

"World War II Sugar Rationing Notice,
Humbird Enterprise, Clark Co., Wisconsin
2 May 1942"
Sugar Ration Points 
This is a neat little British wartime rationing chart with the mention of sugar rationing. The British had a much harder time getting sugar than Americans. Many recipes from Britain use golden syrup which is similar to corn syrup.
Now, on to the recipe! The drink is simple and straight-forward.

Ginger ale, warm water, light corn syrup, lemon juice, mint extract, green food coloring, and crushed ice. I'd normally say the food coloring is optional, but it really adds to the whole, fun Mint Tinkle experience! :-)

Blend all the ingredients together until well combined. Or if you want to make it in advance mix everything but the ginger ale and ice. When ready to serve combine the syrup with the ginger ale and ice, then serve.

I was confused as to why you would need corn syrup for the recipe at all when you have the ginger ale to sweeten things, but because it calls for 1/2 cup of straight lemon juice it suddenly made sense! It's also nice to use fresh lemons so you get some of that pulp in the drink.

 Pour into a glass and enjoy! (I only had mini ice cubes instead of crushed ice, but they obviously work just as well.)
Mint Tinkle
All it needs is a little sprig of mint leaves for a garnish!

I have to say that this is one seriously complex little drink! I am continually amazed by these wartime recipes.

I was a little concerned about mint with lemon juice and ginger ale - what a strange combination, right? Well at first sip you immediately get that awesome sour of the lemon with the bubbly spicy ginger ale and then at the very end you get this wonderful minty freshness. I was surprised that the lemon and ginger ale overpowered the mint so it wasn't apparent until I swallowed my mouthful. Such an interesting experience.

In two words: lovely! refreshing!   My whole family loved it, especially my kids. We pretty much drank the whole pitcherful that day.

Not only does this make a great summer time refresher, I think it would be highly appropriate for St. Patrick's Day or a party, of course. I would love to make this with ginger beer with extra ginger, but then again I love ginger. Ooh! And just imagine if you used this drink for a lime sherbet float? Yum!

I strongly encourage you to give this one a try. And then you can say that you've drunk the very enjoyable Mint Tinkle! Haha! :-)

Mint Tinkle
1 1/4 cups warm water
3/4 cup white corn syrup
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. mint extract (I used peppermint)
Several drops green food coloring
1 (24) oz. bottle ginger ale = 4 cups
Crushed ice

Combine water, corn syrup, lemon juice, mint extract, and food coloring; chill until ready to serve. To serve, combine with ginger ale and ice. Serves 6.

(So keep in mind that you're making the drink syrup ahead of time and mixing it with the ginger ale and ice when you're getting ready to serve it.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

The"Simple" Myth

I've been beginning to suspect that looking back on earlier times and thinking of them as being "more simple" or "less complicated" is a human tendency handed down through generations. For some reason past pastures aren't necessarily greener, but they are more rosy.

It may seem easy to compare our present with the past, but while our perceptions make it seem like the past was more simple, that seeming simplicity came at a cost - less medical advances (that's a biggie!), reduced traveling opportunities, less food choices, less education, less technology in general, more complicated food preservation, less hygiene, less equality, etc. Now, you may think all of that is grand and you wouldn't mind stepping into that time period. Great for you! I'm with you on a few of those things, though I am really loving electricity! But let me let you in on a little not-so-secret secret: The past is dead, I'm afraid! There's no going back no matter how much you think the idea of a time-traveling Tardis really could exist.

Besides, if most modern people are truly honest with themselves, is the cost of going the route of a simple life something they're willing to pay? I don't think so. When people reminisce about simpler times, what are they really saying? Is it really about simpler times of the past or is it really about less technology to fill our bustling, bursting lives? I'll let you ponder on that one.

So, how far back do these nostalgic "simpler times" feelings go in our society? I'm not sure exactly, but I was completely surprised to find this article by Don Herold in the October 1948 issue of Reader's Digest. I think it's very inspiring, but really striking for the time period. This is supposed to be one of those times that we look back at and wax poetical by how simple everything was! I am happy to say that this man has burst that little bubble for us.

Yeah! Indiana! I love that he mentions my home state.

Fantastic! I couldn't have said it better myself.

Now, even though the idea of past simplicity is a myth when we really examine it, there are things that we can do to incorporate certain aspects of the past that would greatly simplify our present. They will come at a cost, though. You will need to trade some things in. Things such as far less TV time for more reading in the cooling shade of an oak tree. Less texting & e-mailing for more face to face interaction or even *gasp* handwriting a letter! Less rushing around in our car in endless errands for more leisurely walks along tree-lined lanes. Less eating out and ready-to-make meals and more made from scratch, however imperfect at first. Depending on what level of simplicity we want to have in our lives, we can choose skills and traits of the past that we can use to learn from and make apart of our lives now. And in our pursuit for a reminiscent simplicity, I feel we can achieve that peace and quiet that we all crave.

How about instead of looking back on a strange and distant "simpler" past, that we choose to make our future simpler?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Project 52: Rationing - Week 29 - Tomato Aspic Salad

To watch a video short of the history of
Superman go here.
Being that Superman's 75th Anniversary is this year, I couldn't resist showing you this amazing comic book cover featuring a victory garden. Isn't it smashing?! Haha! I can't tell you how much I love it! 

I've always been interested in reading about victory gardens during both of the world wars. What I love about it is that everyone everywhere, including children, was encouraged to grow a garden in whatever spare land was available - yards, empty lots, in community gardens, and at workplaces.

One of my favorite wartime photos is of a man plowing up Old Main Hill on the campus of what is now Utah State University (my alma mater) for a victory garden. (see right) During WWI, Utah State University - then called Utah Agricultural College - was a land grant-based college focused on agriculture and funded heavily by the government. The college was asked to do its part, so, Old Main Hill was plowed up to grow crops for the war effort. I find that extremely compelling. Especially because I walked up and down that hill for 2 years!

School children all over the country during both wars grew gardens, and even work places had "office gardens" where employees would all participate in caring for the garden. Gardening was a serious part of the war effort and literally tons of food was grown just from these little scraps of land here and there. This greatly contributed to lightening the agricultural responsibility in providing for not only the country's food needs, but those of the troops and the aid for allies overseas.

In honor of victory gardens I wanted to make a recipe this week focusing on some produce from the garden. Since I just got the first tomatoes of the season off my tomato plants this past week, not to mention my first onion, I decided to try out this Tomato Aspic Salad recipe from my spiffy Lysol Victory Cook Book.

I've always wanted to try my hand at making an aspic which uses unflavored gelatin. It's always fun to find different uses for gelatin! This is one of those recipes that I felt a bit of trepidation about. A jiggly mold of savory tomato doesn't sound too appetizing, but one of my goals when starting out on this project was to make some recipes that were out of my comfort zone. Believe me, this is one of them!

The ingredients are quite simple: tomatoes (fresh or canned), a bay leaf, gelatin, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, cold water, onion, celery, and some lettuce to serve it on with mayo for a garnish.

tomatoes, bay leaf, gelatin, cayenne pepper, lemon juice,
cold water, onion, celery

 Combine the tomatoes, grated onion, minced celery, salt, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf and simmer for 10 minutes until tender.

Cooking tomato mixture.

 Drain the tomato mixture. You'll be so proud of me. I used the drained tomato juices for our soup for dinner in good ol' wartime spirit! :-)

 Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water to soften. Return the tomato mixture to the heat and return to a boil. Add the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Add the lemon juice. 

 Pour the mixture into 3 molds that have been chilled with cold water. Chill until set. Remove the aspics from the molds, sit them each on a bed of lettuce and garnish with mayo. Serves 3.

Tomato Aspic Salad
Doesn't it look so iconic?
The big moment of tasting came. I'll be honest. I was nervous, but I just went for it anyway and dug in. I got a spoonful of the aspic with a little dollop of mayo and... it wasn't bad! Not my favorite, but not bad. It packs a powerful, clean flavor punch. The wisdom of the '40s portion sizes never ceases to amaze me. I was worried they were too small, but I think considering the flavor density, the size is perfect. What a great way to get in your serving of veggies!

The creaminess of the mayo is important for this salad to cut the acidity of the tomato. Also, it goes without saying, but you have to really like tomato to want to eat it! I was additionally happy to find that it did not remind me of fruit-flavored Jello at all. I think this would make a fun, retro appetizer for a dinner party. I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to say that they've had aspic? Haha!

Recipe from Lysol's Victory Cook Book