My favorite local museum hosted a lecture on the Depression era, and asked me, culinary chronaviatrix extraordinaire, to provide a Depressive repast. Here is the menu I came up with. It is a combination of foods you'd find in soup lines and rural areas.
-Milk or Water
-Cornbread with Apricot Jam and Butter
-Fresh Cucumber Pickles
-Baked Bean Sandwiches
-Cottage Cheese and Prune Sandwiches
-Whitman's Chocolate Sampler
Homesteader Cornbread (via allrecipes.com)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal and milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix in the cornmeal mixture, eggs and oil until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.
Fresh Cucumber Pickles
I made them here, as well. It is a useful recipe.
Make a solution of one part vinegar, one part water. Add a couple teaspoons of sugar and one of salt. Do not worry. More or less will be fine. Put in the cucumbers and onions and refrigerate for an hour or two. Or 15 minutes. I don't care. Eat them.
If you want to be fancy, score the sides of the cucumber with a fork before you cut it. Then when you slice it, the slices will have an attractive edge like these ones. If you use red onions, after a couple days the solution will turn an attractive pink. You can also reuse the vinegar/water stuff, just throw in more cucumbers. In the above cucumbers, I put the red onions in a day before, so the water/vinegar solution would be attractive.
1 box of macaroni
1 or 2 cans of whole tomatoes, spanish style (I used Rotel)
1 package of hot dogs
1 can of corn or beans (I used black-eyed peas)
1. Cook macaroni according to the instructions on the box.
2. While it cooks, slice the hot dogs into very thin "coins."
3. Open cans, but do not drain.
4. Combine the contents of the cans and the hot dog slices in a large pot, and bring to a simmer.
5. Break up the tomatoes into small chunks as the mixture heats.
6. Drain the macaroni when it is barely Al Dente. Reserve the cooking water to add to the pot, if needed.
7. Add the macaroni, and continue simmering until all of the ingredients are thoroughly heated and the hot dogs are cooked.
There are substitutes for all quantities and ingredients as necessary for the budget and to suit your tastes. If using another style of canned whole tomatoes, add finely minced green pepper and onion to the ingredients; they can be cooked with the macaroni as it boils.
Mrs. Dunn says: This recipe dates from the depression years and on through WWII; and was then a luxury or celebration meal, since it included meat. We kids loved it, and it was a stand-alone meal needing nothing else – though we usually had it served with carrot and celery sticks when available (if Papa, the cook in our family, hadn't already added them to the pot of macaroni as it cooked). The macaroni usually was technically overcooked in the end, but Papa had us convinced that that was how it was supposed to be for this dish (calling it macaroni rags), and we thought it was delicious. The Hoover in the name refers to President Herbert Hoover, who was popularly blamed for the depression years at that time.
Baked Bean Sandwiches
1 can baked beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 C. chopped celery
2 t. onion, minced
1/4 t. salt
1 t. chopped pickle
2 t. ketchup
Mix all the ingredients together and put on buttered bread.
I cobbled this one together based on some modern recipes and 1930's restaurant menus.
9 oz. box prunes
24 oz. small-curd cottage cheese
Put prunes in pan. Pour just enough water in to barely cover prunes. Add in abooooout 2 T. sugar. Simmer until prunes are soft and most of the water is absorbed. Puree or finely chop prunes and mix with cottage cheese.
This cake has no eggs, butter, or milk in it. Woo!
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cold water
Sift flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa together into a 9 x 13" pan. Make three wells in the dry ingredients. Pour oil into one well, vinegar into second, and vanilla into third well. Pour cold water over all, and stir well with fork. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
Cornbread: That is my favorite cornbread recipe. It is delicious. Especially with real butter and apricot freezer jam.
Hoover Stew: Luckily for me, the guests were primarily poor college students. ;D Many of them enjoyed it. The only problem was that it was very very bland. My friend, who asked me to do this in the first place, later reported it was better with Tabasco sauce the next day. I feel it would be entirely acceptable, and even delicious, with some broth or bouillon instead of water. This makes a ton of cheap, filling food that contains complete proteins, so if you are hurting for cash, this may well be a recipe for you!
Baked Bean Sandwiches: I really liked these, actually! It reminds me of putting baked beans on hot dogs. I even plan to make it again some time, but with the addition of some nice sharp cheddar. Yum.
Cottage Cheese and Prune Sandwiches: They were fine. Not as bad as you are thinking, just kind of fine.
Tootsie Pops: Tootsie Pops went on the market in 1931.
Crazy Cake: Crazy cake is delicious. I've had this recipe for a long time, and make it fairly frequently. It is nice to have only one dish to wash. One of the guests was pleased that it happened to be vegan, as well. I sifted powdered sugar generously on the top at home before I left, but the cake melted and ate it before I got there. Sigh.
Whitman's Sampler: The morning I made the food, nothing seemed to go my way! The toddler I babysit kept screaming and sobbing, and until finally she went to sleep. Then I made the crazy cake. I accidentally doubled the recipe but did not double the pan size, which meant it was powdery on the bottom and liquid around the sides. I then stubbed my toe. After that, I discovered I was out of cocoa powder. Darling Husband volunteered to run to the store for some more. When he returned, he returned with not only the cocoa powder, but a box of chocolate, which he felt that I deserved. Serendipitously, he got the very type of chocolate that was available during the Depression! I considered whether to take it along. Then I thought, nahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Husband is a GOOD husband!