The Great Depression era during the 1930s was quite tough times. Facing limited funds and food rationing imposed by the government, people were forced to make the most out of what was available in their kitchens.
In the face of an unprecedented global economic downturn, Depression-era home cooks learned to be more resourceful and creative with the few ingredients they could find and afford. While the lucky few were able to grow their own crops and raise their own livestock, others had to tighten their belts to get the most food out of their limited funds during those hard economic times.
Many of these recipes have remained even after the end of the Depression era and have become solid regulars on the dinner table. Other Depression-era recipes that have long gone are now making a comeback.
In today’s global economic recession, people are pinching their pennies, and ingredients are coming few and far between. They could learn from these Depression-era recipes to stretch their budget and make the most out of their limited food supply.
1) Creamed chipped beef
Did you know that this comfort food was invented during one of the toughest economic situations in the country? Also known as “S.O.S. (Same Ole Stuff),” creamed chipped beef is quick and easy to make, as well as delicious. It consists of white sauce and dried slivers of chipped beef. It is normally served on toast, but it can also be served on anything else, from bagels to mashed potatoes to rice.
2) Hoover stew
Hot dogs were one of the inexpensive ingredients and could be found on every Depression-era dinner table. Home cooks at the time had to take advantage of their availability. They worked magic in the kitchen to come up with a filling, delicious, and satisfying dish that presented hot dogs in the best possible way other than as a snack. It consists of pasta (usually macaroni), hot dogs, canned tomatoes, and canned beans or corn.
3) Egg drop soup
During the Depression era, soups were a great way to stretch the ingredients. They were hot, tasty, and nutritious. They were enough to fill one’s belly to go through an entire day. Eggs are also an inexpensive alternative to meat and poultry as they are an excellent source of high-quality protein, essential vitamins, and minerals.
Check out Clara’s Depression-era egg soup recipe, which as follows: potato, onion, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and two eggs. Peel and dice potato and onion. Sauté them in a pan of hot oil until soft. Then add bay leaves, salt, and pepper, and continue sautéing until brown. Add a half-pot of water to the mix to make broth, then let it simmer until the diced potatoes become soft. While still simmering, crack two eggs into the pot and slowly stir until they become scrambled. Crack two more eggs into the soup so the yolk becomes firmer. Finally, top the whole thing with grated cheese before serving. Egg drop soup can be served on its own or over toast.
4) Poor man’s meal
Potatoes and hot dogs were inexpensive during the Great Depression, so many dishes were made using these ingredients. One of these dishes, “poor man’s meal,” consists of peeled and diced potatoes, chopped onions, and slices of hot dogs.
5) Cabbage soup
Cabbage was another staple during the Great Depression, and many meals were made out of it. One of the most popular ones was vegetable cabbage soup. You can throw in other vegetables, such as carrots and beans, to keep up with the Depression-era theme. Or, if you’re craving for protein, try including ground meat or poultry.
6) Dandelion salad
The gathering of food in the wild, known as food foraging, was still a common practice back then. In the toughest of situations, people would go out their backyards or the vast fields in the spring to forage for edible greens, such as dandelions, from which they’d make into a salad.
7) Wacky cake
There were many things that Depression-era folks had to sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean they also had to give up sweet endings on the dinner table! Despite the lack of dairy products, it didn’t prevent creative Depression-era cooks and bakers from coming up with cakes, breads, and pastries. One of them is something called a “wacky cake.” Also known as “Depression cake,” this sweet creation doesn’t call for eggs, milk, or butter, that’s why it’s called “wacky.” It uses leavening agents such as baking soda and vinegar. This cake is very simple to make and is every kid’s favorite. So, if you’re stress-baking during quarantine, snap up this recipe, and you’ll be surprised at how something so scarce can taste so delicious (add chocolate for a more decadent cake).