May 16, 2021

rubbedindetroit

Qualified food specialists

These amazing foods were born in hard times

11 min read


Some of the most delicious recipes were invented out of necessity. Faced with a lack of certain ingredients, creative bakers scraped together whatever was in their larder so they could still put bread – or cake – on the table. Resourceful wartime cooks used their rations and their imaginations to come up with tasty meals and make each scrap of food stretch as far as possible. Here are some of the best dishes that were born from hardship and are now firm favorites.




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A combination of elbow macaroni, tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, beans and chopped hot dogs, Hoover stew emerged during the Great Depression in the 1930s. It was often served in soup kitchens in ‘Hoovervilles’ – shantytowns built by displaced people and named after then-president Herbert Hoover. Now, this ramshackle concoction has a strangely comforting appeal, especially if you happen to be suffering with a hangover.




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American meatloaf originally emerged as a terrine-like take on scrapple, a mix of pork and cornmeal dating back to the 1800s, and rose to legend-like status during the 1940s. Adverts – like this one for a handy pamphlet of meat recipes – urged home cooks to be more creative with their meat dishes, using cheaper, more available cuts and mixing them with ingredients like breadcrumbs and eggs.




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This US family classic was a prime example, turning ground meats, leftovers and kitchen scraps into a worthy substitute for a whole-joint roast. Best enjoyed sliced, drowned in gravy and served with heaps of mashed potato.




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More delicious and a little less dreary than they sound, desperation pies were popular among Indiana’s Amish and Shaker communities in the early 19th century. The category encompassed any sweet pie that could be made from larder ingredients when fresh, seasonal produce was scant. Sugar cream pie – or Hoosier cream pie – is a classic, made with sugar, milk (or evaporated milk), vanilla, nutmeg and flour.




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Hot dogs and potatoes were relatively plentiful during the Great Depression, as well as having a decent shelf-life, so they became staples of many dishes born of desperation across the USA. The poor man’s meal was a basic yet tasty and satisfying combination of fried potato and onion topped with sliced hot dogs – a little like breakfast hashes, which are still eaten (and craved) today.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


This could equally be called ‘lacky cake’, since it rose from a complete absence of the usually essential baking ingredients. Butter, for example, and even eggs. Yet this creative solution – also known, less breezily, as a ‘chocolate Depression cake’ – somehow works…




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


This dessert has a touch of retro-cool about it, yet it became popular as a rare treat during the Great Depression, when people had to make use of the cheapest and most long-lasting ingredients. A true pantry concoction, it’s made by mixing tins of fruit cocktail with honey, egg yolks and cream and setting in the freezer, to serve in snowy-white slices.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Soup is one of the best vehicles for using up pretty much anything and everything – a fact that didn’t escape the British Ministry of Food during the Second World War. Like carrot cake, this simple but tasty recipe was part of a campaign to push non-rationed foods, featured in Potato Pete’s recipe leaflets.




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Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


These fat, juicy discs became popular in the US during the Second World War. The rationing of meat meant people were always looking for ways to make it go further. For these patties, ground meat (usually beef, but really whatever was available) was mixed with potato, with chopped onions and other veg thrown in when available.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Back then, it was typically made with non-rationed root veg like potatoes, turnips, carrots and swede, all of which were relatively easy to come by. And it became such an icon of wartime sustenance that it was referred to as “weapon of mass nutrition” against the Nazis.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


The recipe was especially popular during the First and Second World Wars, when it became a festive substitute for goose or duck. Recipes vary, throwing in lentils, sliced potatoes, apples… Sometimes there was no meat involved whatsoever and it was more like a lentil bake – very much in keeping with the frugal, ‘make do and mend’ wartime spirit.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Eggs became a valuable source of protein in 1930s America, when meat was too expensive for many families. Egg drop soup, a simple take on a Chinese recipe, sounds quite fancy but was actually simple and relatively inexpensive, making it popular in homes and soup kitchens during the Great Depression.




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Its base is potato and onion, browned to add flavor, to which seasoning and water are added to simmer into a simple broth. Eggs are added once the potatoes are nice and mushy, stirred in until scrambled to add texture. Still delicious and satisfying today.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


The ‘Charlotte’ pudding – made in a ring mold lined with bread and filled with apples – dates back to the 17th century, but this frugal fruity sponge was a wartime hero in 1940s Britain. It fulfilled its patriotic duty simply by using up ingredients that were plentiful and might otherwise end up in the trash, namely old fruit and stale bread.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


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