A WWII era classic American cookbook

canned goods

After my post about family cookbooks passed down through the generations, reader Deborah Brasket left a detailed comment I’ve highlighted in this guest post.

I like what Deborah has to say about one of her favorite cookbooks, published during World War II, because that was my parents’ era. Whenever I hear about Victory Gardens and rationing, I remember my mother telling me about how you couldn’t buy silk stockings back then, and how she and her siblings had to take turns tending the kitchen garden, and how there were no boys to go out with because they were all fighting overseas.

I think about my father in the Army in Europe, 1943. He missed his mother’s Italian cooking, and one cold November day while exploring Luxembourg he happened upon a tavern where there was an Italian wedding celebration. The family welcomed him with open arms and invited him to dinner the following day. It was my father’s last good meal before he was wounded at Cherbourg a few days later. He ate Army hospital rations for over a year while he recuperated.

Discovering book gems from the past is a pleasure quite different from cracking open a brand new book. I’m looking forward to tracking down a copy of Deborah’s family treasure.

Here’s what she had to say:

One of my favorite cookbooks was passed down to me from my mother: The Lily Wallace New American Cook Book, published in 1941. What I love about it is how it shows a whole different era of cooking “basics”. It has recipes for cooking frogs legs (3 recipes), grouse (3), rabbit (4), squirrel (2), turtle (2), snail (alas, 1) as well as other kinds of game (quail, partridge, venison, woodchuck, and pheasant.) It also has sections on preserving food, including canning, brining, and pickling.

My favorites are sections on: Ration Cooking, Saving Food for Victory, Saving Fuel, and Sugar Ration Cooking. The “Saving Food and Expense for Victory” chapter starts out:

“America may march to victory on its stomach. A nation’s morale and health depend greatly upon food. If the homemaker can do nothing else, she can wage an earnest battle for health and strength for her family in the kitchen, and thus contribute her share to ultimate victory on the military front.”

Another chapter I love is on menu planning, which includes sections on a Plan for a Liberal Diet ($3000 or over income) down to A Plan for a Restricted Diet for Emergency Use ($1000 or less annual income  – this one restricts meats mostly–Thursday’s dinner consists of whole-wheat chowder with carrots and potatoes, and bread; Saturday’s dinner consists of Hominy soup, stewed prunes, bread and butter. Yum.)

Deborah has sailed around the world, and she blogs about her journey, and nature, and writing at her beautiful site, Living at the Edge of the Wild. She writes fiction, essays, articles, poems and book reviews. You can read her work at http://www.djbrasket.com/.

Please tell us about your favorite family cookbook in the comments, or share a family cookbook story with us – send me an email at valoriegracehallinan@gmail.com.

Next up: I’ll be celebrating the first-year anniversary of Books Can Save a Life with an “open house” and a book giveaway.

Photo: Library of Congress

7 thoughts on “A WWII era classic American cookbook”

  1. Thanks for the plug, Valorie! I remember my mother telling me about the “no silk stockings” too, and also about all the letters she wrote the boys overseas and the marriage proposals from them for when they returned! Didn’t end up marrying one of them, but she got around–six husbands in all! Lost her two years ago. A remarkable era is coming to an end. So sad.

    1. deborah – Wow. My mom & dad got married several years after the war. I’ve read some high school writings by my mother and she refers to the “man shortage.” I lost both my parents in the last few years. It is sad. Thanks for writing about this book, I want to get it myself.

  2. Abebooks on Pinterest has a few vintage cookbook boards that are stunning. Graphically, I love them, they just tickle me, but the memories evoked blow me away. Sadly, the one cookbook from my mother’s era was somehow lost in a move. I can’t recall the title but I’m always searching pictures for it. The illustrations for aspic grossed me out even as a child.

  3. I wrote a book ( waiting to be edited) this past summer and fall. It’s fiction, my favorite to write, but it’s a story in a story. The second story is narrated between a mother and her daughter in the kitchen. As all family stories are, it’s rich and complex, however, the point I am taking forever to make, is the recipes used are from the women in my family, mom and grandmothers. All of my childhood memories revolve around the kitchen, food prep, eating, the dancing and singing that followed. And I agree about Deborah, she’s gem.

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