The news just keeps getting worse about this economic downfall that we can safely call a recession. It's hit many people that we know, and although it is no where near the scope of The Great Depression I wanted to find out how they made it through and try and apply those tactics to my daily living. I did some searching and found very interesting recipes and ideas that many families including my own used to get by.
When Foodbuzz sent out the call for another 24, 24, 24 event I jumped at the chance to have a ladies luncheon. I wanted to celebrate not only the foods and techniques of the 30's but to remind ourselves of how blessed we are these days and forget about the economic woes knocking on our doors. I also wanted to know how others families got through, and what sort of food they ate.
My girls came over all decked out for the occasion, and we had such a wonderful meal. I love any excuse to get together and eat.
What better way to start out a lunch than with a decent cocktail. Prohibition ended on March 23, 1933 after Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment allowing the manufacturing and sale of certain alcohols. So who cares if no one had any money, now we can drink! Oh, America. I thought I would celebrate this overlooked right with a lovely Tom Collins.
1 part lemon juice
2 parts gin
1 part simple syrup
3 parts club soda
garnishes lemon and orange slices, maraschino cherry
Mix all ingredients together and serve over ice. I used an equal ratio of sugar and water when I made my simple syrup.
I understand that times were rough, but check out the prices on some of these cocktails on this menu from the Globe Coffee Shop in LA 6/1/1937.
You could have ordered a Tom Collins for a mere 25 cents. It cost me way more to make one of these in 2009. However a weeks pay back in 1937 could have easily been around $2.
If alcohol wasn't your beverage of choice you could go for a nice pitcher of Kool-aid. When it first came out they only had 6 flavors strawberry, cherry, lemon-lime, grape, orange and raspberry.
It was just one of the many products that came out during the Depression that were very popular and managed to stay popular even during economic disaster. Other products include; Ritz crackers, Twinkies, Fritos, Gerber baby food, and Bisquick just to name a few.
Not everyone during the Depression was hurting for money and there were many places catering to this crowd of well to do's. Here is a wine list from the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco, 1936. Just in case you were fortunate enough to have the money to frequent such establishments.
Many restaurants were flourishing and devising new food trends. One such food trend of the time was making food that looked like something else. I give you - pigs in a blanket.
I didn't find much information as to why this was a trend, but who cares it tastes good. I fine tuned these appetizers from the ones of my child hood. Not that there's anything wrong with Vienna sausages and Pillsbury crescent rolls (we will dive in to meat in a can later). I used Italian sausages and a sheet of puff pastry. These were very easy to make and tasted wonderful. In the spirit of thriftiness I used the remaining puff pastry to make bread sticks.
To round out our appetizers I included some good cheeses. There are some foods that just scream indulgence and imported cheeses would probably be the first to go on any food budget.
If you lived in a larger city during the 30's you were familiar with the concept of a soup kitchen. Once you received a ticket you could go to a neighborhood soup kitchen and get a rather small meal. However some soup kitchens provided better food than others depending on the surrounding neighborhoods and what they were donated. Some were fortunate enough to hand out actual meals, while others could only provide a cup of coffee and some bread.
Al Capone ran a soup kitchen in Chicago that apparently gave out the good stuff. His was worth the wait in the long lines that most found themselves standing in.
This was Capone's Kitchen
There was no line in my kitchen, but the soup was good. I made classic Tuscan Bread soup. It was rustic with very few ingredients and extremely filling.
Tuscan Bread soup
1 small onion diced
3 garlic cloves minces
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1 can peel whole tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1/2 loaf of bread (preferably stale)
Saute the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the tomatoes with the juices and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Just before serving add stale cubed bread to the stock or water. Squeeze out the liquid from the bread and add to tomato mixture. Add the leftover stock or water. Tear basil over top of soup and serve.
Aunty T's family is from Cuba and they make an even easier bread soup using just garlic, water, day old bread and an egg. I'm going to give that one a try soon. She said you add the garlic to the water and stir in the bread giving the soup a thicker consistency. Then stir in the egg.
Sandwiches were also a nice staple during the 30's as it was an easy meal to take on the go and you could put just about anything in between 2 slices of bread and call it a day. Shannon recalls her family favorite of Wonderbread, bologna, Velveta, and ketchup. Umm, I think I'll take a grilled cheese please. Gruyere and prosciutto to be exact.
Your typical sandwich during the depression may have been a bit more humble, leftover beans and onion, 1 slice of meat, or even just margarine and sugar (this is one of my mom's favorite in a pinch sweet). Or, I can't hold it off any longer, Spam.
I bought a can to try out, but honestly we didn't eat much. Ok any. But it was fun to extract it from the can. They even give you precise instructions.
My mom keeps telling me I ate it when I was little, and that it's very good in baked beans. I think I have blocked it all from memory because this just doesn't ring a bell.
And maybe that makes me a food snob, but you know what? I'm ok with that for now.
Let's move on to a more appetizing creation of the 1930's. Casseroles were extremely popular and very economical. This casserole takes advantage of whatever you could grow in your garden and perhaps would have canned for later. Many areas created neighborhood gardens and used what was planted, but left them open for other needy families so they wouldn't have to feel embarrassed and ask for food.
I found the recipe for this Zucchini bake here. I didn't add the MSG however. If you're interested in other Depression Era food, they have compiled an entire book here.
Jamie brought an very interesting cook book to browse that chronicles the savviness of the Depression Era.
It has become wildly popular today to rearrange your leftovers into entirely new menus, but this theory is hardly new. This book is filled with wonderful ideas from croquettes with leftover potatoes and meat, to cookies made with your soured milk (perhaps not recommended now). The author's intro to the book is also a treat with her general malaise for home economics, and seemingly abundant annoyance with her husband and his overbearing requests. Talk about passive aggressive issues.
Every good luncheon must come to an end, but not before dessert. Sweets were actually in abundance during the Depression. Sugar was quite cheap before it was rationed and it was used excessively. Never before has the country consumed as much sugar as during this time. Pies and puddings were very popular perhaps reusing staple ingredients found in other meals; bread, rice, meats and fruit.
I was intrigued with one recipe I found for Mock apple pie and had to give it a try. Apples weren't easy to find out of season, and weren't very affordable if you didn't live close to where they were grown. So of course you grab a box of Ritz cracker instead.
This wins my award for the greatest feat of kitchen engineering. It tastes amazingly close to an apple pie. It even looks like and apple pie. Not an apple in sight.
I sent my girls home with a couple of treats to remember the day and how wonderfully blessed we are in these times. First some preserved lemons to use for later and inspire more thriftiness. And I couldn't let them go with out a little luxury. After all this recession does sorta suck, and doesn't seem to be ending soon. So I gave them chocolate truffles.
I had such a wonderful time both learning about this era and sharing stories and food with my friends. During the 1930's many people had found themselves struggling for the first time and not wanting to swallow their pride and ask for help. But it was the fact that many Americans were so willing to help each other out, that gave me a greater insight into the times. I would hope that even now we still hold on to this compassion for each other.
I kept my food costs fairly low and am glad because I am able to donate my leftover money to Share our Strength. There is still a great need in this country to feed our children and I am very privileged to be able to have more than enough everyday. I want to thank Foodbuzz again for this opportunity to share my love of food, and the ties it brings between family, friends and eras.
Thank you to my girls and their wonderful stories and thoughts on this occasion. I love being able to share good times and food with you!
Stay tuned in the next coming weeks and I will share more of my favorite family recipes from this thrifty time. They may have not made the luncheon cut, but they are still tasty.
Menus found here courtesy of the Los Angles Public Library.
Many of you have read my plights with my baby's poo and how it meddled with my diet. It only got worse. I'll keep things brief and really try and steer clear of words such as breasts, lactating and the like. I don't particularly enjoy lengthy conversations about my boozies.
The wee-one wasn't improving when I omitted dairy and gluten from my diet, so we had to take greater measures. I went on an elimination diet to narrow down the problem and get some clear answers. Here's the short list of foods I could eat:
- Sweet Potatoes (thank the Lord for my sweet potatoes)
- Free range non-creepy turkey
- Pear juice
That's it folks. For an entire week that is what I lived off of.
NOTE: This was under the supervision of a lactation consultant, and I ate whenever I was hungry. This isn't something to go off by yourself and do when breastfeeding.
There now I feel better having warned the internet about eating, and people won't email me about being careless or harmful. (Sorry I said breast).
To move away from this discussion quickly I will say that it wasn't diet related at all, and the kid is fine now after making adjustments in other areas. Yes folks, nothing to do with diet at all.
But we must learn from experiences, especially ones where I ate puffed rice cereal at least 3 times a day. This is what I've learned.
We live in a country of complete abundance and walk around with a very false sense of entitlement. I had more than enough to eat, and was actually left with many more options for food than most of the people living on this planet. But somehow, I kept thinking something just wasn't right. It was almost like I was robbed of things even though I'm not sure they were rightfully mine to begin with.
I'm not saying we shouldn't partake in the bounty of food at our fingertips. Just that we should be ever mindful and thankful for our plenty. I am much more appreciative of the daily variety. It's such a blessing, and I just hope that more people will pause every once in a while to appreciate and be thankful for it.
My second lesson; food is feeling (to me at least). I missed the pure joy of tasting what I cooked for people. I missed the small comfort that milk, or chocolate can bring. It's another fact that I think we overlook here. I also made food for people coming to celebrate at my home and it just wasn't the same. They kept being so apologetic about eating when it really didn't bother me at all that they could eat. I wanted them to enjoy what I made, but it was as if they couldn't.
My last revelation is in the form of millet. I had never tried it before, and am enjoying it very much now. It's an African grain, but is used in many Asian and Indian dishes as well. It is great for gluten free diets and I've been trying out a few different ways to eat it. My favorite so far is to use it in salads. It wasn't bad warm as a side, but I think I prefer its texture mixed with other ingredients. I also had to cook it a few times to get it right. It isn't as forgiving as rice or other grains. Fortunately having 3 kids worked for my favor and after overcooking it a bit (I think there was some sort of lost blanky emergency), I got it right.
This is the best way I found to make it. 1/2 cup millet to 1 1/2 cup water or stock. I use a shallow pan with a good fitting lid. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the millet and bring back to a boil. Bring the heat down and cover. Cook on low for about 20 minutes then remove from heat and let sit for another 7-10 minutes. It looked as though it was overcooked (compared to rice) but it fluffed up very nicely with a fork and wasn't at all sticky.
Millet Black Bean Salad with Citrus Cumin Dressing
Prepared millet (1 1/2 cup stock to 1/2 cup millet)
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1/2 red pepper seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
2 cups diced turkey meat
1/2 seeded diced jalapeno
Juice 1/2 fresh orange and zest from 1/2
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 clove garlic minced
5 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Mix all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Prepare dressing and pour over salad, toss together. Serve with avocado slices or on top of greens.
That is my saga of not eating, and the lessons to be had. Thus ending our conversations about boozies and poop, forever.
Every month in our Elementary school I waited for that glorious day when we would get our Book-it Pizza Hut certificate. Of course you had to have read your monthly set goal worth of books, but I always did. It involved food folks, my very own personal pizza. Oh, and I was a complete nerd about books.
I lived in a very small town that didn't have a Pizza Hut and that meant driving about 45 minutes to the next not as small town that did have one. So you get the point here that this was about the best pizza in my little planet. Don't get me wrong I liked the pizza, but I think I enjoyed the salad bar almost as much. Some very cold ice berg lettuce, maybe grated carrots, but always a mound of pickled beets and a sprinkle of garbanzo beans. Yes, I was a strange little girl.
Beets were one of the highlights of my summers. Fresh from the garden, steamed and jewel toned with butter oozing down and a small feathering of salt. My love for beets sort of reminds me of this very good childrens book, A Bad Case of the Stripes.
The little girl loves Lima beans but doesn't want to admit it. A wonderful book with a great message of staying true to who you really are and not becoming what others want you to be.
In staying true to myself I like to mix some beets with my garbanzo beans that are left. I got some very nice orange beets in my organic co-op basket and roasted them for a good hour. Then I tossed them with my garbanzo beans, some sliced red onion and because I now can - goat cheese. A simple vinaigrette and you've got dinner. I like to keep little salads like this in the fridge for nibbling, or to put on top of greens for a more substantial salad.
Of course a 70's salad of iceberg, and pickled beets would be just as worthy of your remaining garbanzo beans. Or perhaps another 70's dish, three bean salad. I'm not sure why I enjoy this salad so much because it's not frilly, or even fresh. I even prefer the green beans to be from a can, and don't bother with trying to swap the white sugar for honey or agave nectar.
It's like a horribly colored 70's kitchen in a bowl, that tastes really good with fried chicken.
I don't even have much of a recipe for this either. I use 1 can green beans (by all means use fresh, but I like canned here), 1 can red kidney beans drained and rinsed, 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans, about 1/2 cup sliced red onion. The dressing is an approximate: 1 part cider vinegar (about 3-4 tablespoons), 2 parts light oil, 2 teaspoons sugar, salt and pepper. If I have it I add some sort of fresh herb, but honestly it doesn't bother me to not gussy this one up. It only get's gets better with a little fridge time so it's a great make ahead dish.
So now I'm out of garbanzo beans and strange little girl stories for the day. But I must say that I wish I had some more because I just saw this salad on Smitten Kitchen and can't wait until my next garbanzo week.
Did someone say they loved hummus? Me too! Remember when no one knew what it was or what the heck to do with it? Now it is found in many a grocery store and in all sorts of flavors. It's only fitting with our cooked garbanzo beans to make a little hummus.
I actually seem to prefer canned chick peas when I make hummus, but we're all about being frugal around here. I have some chick peas that we cooked off earlier in the week waiting for me in the fridge.
I prefer to heat up my garlic and cook it a bit. Most recipes don't do this, but I think the garlic can overpower the ingredients.
1 1/2 cup cooked hummus (or 1 can drained)
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 heaping spoons of tahini paste
juice of 1 and 1/2 lemons
salt and pepper
dash of cayenne
Add oil and garlic cloves to small sauce pan. Heat on medium heat until the cloves are golden in color. Add all ingredients to food processor and let her rip until it is a nice paste. Now taste. I am constantly tweaking what I added to it adding just a bit more salt, and usually more lemon.
Hummus is sort of like a blank canvas and anything is fair game to add to it. Like pancakes, much potential to completely go crazy. And we will go crazy. Here is some wonderful cilantro jalapeno hummus -
Black bean hummus is another one of my favorites with some chili powder mixed in. Dill in your hummus would be nice. Roasted red pepper, sun dried tomato, maybe some olives, artichokes? Oh, then there is this recipe for apple spice hummus that for some reason I keep on file but can't bring myself to make.
Now that we've decided there are many different ways to warp hummus, what should you do with hummus? It's not just a dip folks, it's a multipurpose kitchen condiment. You can make this layered dip for a party. You can use it instead of mayo in your egg salad sammy. I am very happy about First Make a Roux's hummus coleslaw, yeah for happy accidents. This is mighty tasty!
Or instead of mayo on your open faced rice cake turkey sandwich:
Number one used to like to take some in his lunch for dipping, but now refuses. I don't know where I went wrong. Well if you're not as picky as he is it will do just fine. Just fine I say.
So we've delved into the magic that is hummus, and used another third of our legume of the week. Next - salads.
In the midst of whittling down our grocery budget and still eating well, I've developed a routine. It's taken a while but I've found some seriously frugal and tasty methods. The first one is I buy either a whole chicken or turkey breast and roast it. It then becomes sandwiches, salads and such for the week. Then simmered down to make broth for soup or whatever I need it for.
I also have been making it a habit to buy some sort of dried legume and use it for multiple purposes for the week. My favorite legume to use is garbanzo beans. They are such humble goofy beans in the beginning and can be turned into the most exotic of wonders. So all this week I will post of my garbanzo adventures.
It all starts with about 3-4 cups dried garbanzo beans. Next I soak the entire lot of them in water overnight. The next morning I drain them and save about 2 cups and leave them in a container in the fridge. The rest go into a heavy bottom pot covered two inches above with water. Throw in half an onion 2 garlic cloves cracked, 1 bay leaf, and about 1 teaspoon salt. Bring that up to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 1 hour or until the beans are tender.
Most of the time I drain off all of the liquid at this point, but you can reserve some if you like.
The fun part is next. Fun falafel! This was one of my favorite vegetarian foods in college and I never thought it would be so easy to make. It is very easy, let's make some.
Your reserved 2 cups uncooked garbanzo beans
1 small or 1/2 medium red onion chopped
2 cloves garlic sliced
1/4 cup parsley or cilantro
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pepper to taste
Pulse just the beans in the food processor to get them down pretty fine. Add remaining ingredients and let her rip until you have a nice paste. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in heavy bottom skillet until bubbles come up when you stick a wooden spoon in (or it browns a piece of bread, however you like to test your oil). Make small patties out of your paste. I like them pretty small about the size of a golf ball, but squished. Fry for a total of 3 minutes flipping them halfway through. Squeeze some lemon over the top and sprinkle with a little more salt as soon as they come out of the oil.
I love these in a pita with some vegetables and a nice tahini dressing. If you're going the gluten free route a nice green salad with a couple falafel crouqettes are just as tasty. The kids and I even like them on a plate of dipping veggies and tzatziki sauce.
So enjoy these for a bit, and later this week we'll get the rest of our little chicky peas and whip those up into other delightful noshes.
I was taking a sort of internet fast last week and am late posting my Super Bowl food extravaganza. Despite the loss it was a good game, and good food. I forgot to get a shot of the guacamole turkey burgers. I was too hungry, and the game was very exciting.
The cupcakes were very good. I got the recipe here, however to make it dairy free I used half soy yogurt and half hemp milk. They were very most, and very red.
These were the incredible nachos that I made for my love out of the leftovers. I think it helped to swallow the bitter taste of defeat.