The way that we eat during certain periods can tell future generations a lot about our way of life. By simply looking at the recipes that we use now, future historians will be able to understand the types of produce on offer, the wealth of the general human being and the types of cultural trends in place at this time. It works the other way, too, and by looking at the types of foods people in history used to nibble on, we can gain important insight into their way of life.
During the Great Depression, times were seriously tough and by looking at the popular recipes at the time, we can understand more about the quality of life all those years ago.
- Creamed Chipped Beef
While meat was quite a luxury at the time, there were a number of options available to even the poorest families, helping to make cuts of beef go even further. For this dish, cooks at the time turned to dried and salted beef, which was relatively cheap and easy to source. The recipe combined melted butter with flour, to which hot milk was added gradually to make a white sauce. The dried beef was added and the end result was poured over a slice of toast. Was the dish tasty? That’s anyone’s best guess, but it certainly made expensive meat go further.
- Hoover Stew
Named after the 31st President, the Hoover Stew was served in soup kitchens across the country, designed to give even the poorest families something to eat. While the broth recipes varied from place to place, the general idea was to combine macaroni with hot dogs, stewed tomatoes and canned corn. The ingredients were added together in a pot, stewed for a little bit and served up in bowls.
- Egg Drop Soup
One of the most accessible ingredients across America, eggs were responsible for feeding thousands of people during the Great Depression. As well as being served up in the usual ways, the food was adapted to go even further and one of the most popular recipes of the time was egg drop soup. The soup centered around a basic broth recipe, combining onions, potatoes and water. When the liquid boiled, eggs were cracked and scrambled into the mixture, cooked through by the heat. The broth was finished off with cheese and served piping hot.
- Frozen Fruit Salad
While the fruit salad might have had its heyday in the 1950s, it was already making the rounds during the Great Depression, albeit in a different form. The much beloved frozen fruit salad combined canned fruits, egg yolks, honey and whipping cream to make a sweet dish. For the time, the recipe was a relative luxury and made an appearance only at the most special of occasions.
- Prune Pudding
While desserts were something of a luxury during the Depression, there were a number of adaptations that managed to cut corners. Take prune pudding. Served up to the President, the pudding was designed to serve the masses, and could be cheaply reproduced at home. The dish cooked down prunes into a puree, combining the fruits with cinnamon and cardamom. If you were feeling luxe, you could add a dash of cream or milk to the dish but normally, it was served as it came.