If you’ve ever visited anyone’s house for dinner and a big, sloppy “secret family recipe” dish is flopped down in front of you, chances are high that the messy goodness could have originated from the Depression era.Families were taught to creatively stretch out their food budgets and toast, potatoes and flour seem to be the popular, inexpensive ingredients. Expensive meat was typically eaten only once a week.
Some foods were invented during the Depression, such as spam, Ritz crackers, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Kraft macaroni and cheese, according to livinghistoryfarm.org.
We’ve compiled some simple, easy recipes from 90-something Clara who shares her childhood dining memories during hard times. They may help you save money during our own Recession.
What's better than a meal that's basically free?
'It's a good meal to have during the Depression because it's free and it's good for you. The good ones look like a nice flower. Nothing is broken,' Clara said.
First, you pick the dandelions, take out all the roots and keep the leaves. Also, take out the flower. You don't eat the flower. Next, you have to wash them very good because 'they're full of dirt.' Clara lets them soak for about an hour before rinsing them several times. Then, she adds some lemon juice, olive oil and a little salt.
Wash and core a couple of apples. Then, mix 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon together. Put the sugar and cinnamon mix into the hallow middle of the apple and place a thin slice of butter at the bottom to keep the sweet mix from spilling out one end.
Next, place in a pan and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes. You can add a little water at the bottom of the pan so the apples don't burn.
Finally, enjoy a cheap, sweet Depression-era dessert!
First you slice up the pieces of hard bread and place it on a dish. Clara advises to sprinkle a couple of drops of water over the bread. Then add some olive oil and a pinch of salt.
While you're doing this, boil some water.
When the water comes to a boil, pour some over the pieces of bread until it softens. Now mash the bread until it soaks up all the water. Add more salt if you'd prefer.
Since potatoes and hot dogs were cheap, a lot of them were eaten during the Depression, Clara said.
First, peel and cube the potatoes. Next, slice up some onions and put them in the pan with the potatoes. Add some oil. Clara says to judge for yourself how much to put in. Then, just fry them.
Let potatoes brown slowly. You can add a little water so the potatoes will soften up more easily. When the potatoes are properly cooked, add slices of hot dogs. Again, judge for yourself how much to put in.
Finally, add a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce if you'd like.
On Sundays, Clara's family would eat a 'Depression breakfast,' which included sugar cookies and coffee.
To make the sugar cookies, beat three eggs in a bowl and mix them with three-fourths cup of sugar. Add about one and a half cup of flour and mix well until you can't see the flour anymore. Then, add a pinch of salt.
Next, sprinkle some flour on a cutting board, roll the flour on the board and cut them up. Put them on a pan to place in the oven. No grease it needed for the pan. Cook on 350 degrees F until the cookies are a golden brown.
Clara enjoys dipping her cookies in coffee.
Pasta with Peas is a 'very simple dish, it's very tasty and it's good for you,' Clara said.
First, you peel and dice a potato. Then, dice some onions and fry them with the potato and some olive oil in a pan. Now, simply add a can of peas, two cups of water and a pinch of salt and pepper.
When the broth comes to a boil, add the uncooked pasta and stir everything together. Now you can finish cooking the dish by boiling it or letting it cook by itself with the stove off and a lid on the pot.
'In the Depression, we would turn off the gas and let it cook by its own heat. So we would save gas. Anything to save anything,' Clara says.
Finally, add some tomato sauce and grated cheese on top.
'During the Depression when the hot weather came, we used to really suffer because we couldn't use a fan or anything because we wanted to save money. So we suffered the heat whenever it came.'
Italian ice kept Clara cool in the hot weather during her childhood.
Mix two cups of water with half a cup of sugar and heat on high. Stir often to melt the sugar and when it completely dissolves, take the sugar water off the stove to cool for about 15 minutes. Place the contents in the freezer for about an hour, then take it out and stir. Do this every hour for about four to five hours. With every hour that passes, it'll become more difficult to stir.
EXTRA: If you'd like, you can add lemon or lime flavoring by squeezing a wedge of lemon and lime for each serving. Or you can add vanilla extract to a serving for a vanilla flavour. Garnish with mint leaves.
'During the depression, everything had potatoes. Now you can see why we would buy a whole bag of potatoes,' Clara said.
First, peel and dice a potato and onion. Then, place on a stove to brown with some olive oil. Add some bay leaves and salt and pepper. After it browns, add a half pot of water and a little more salt and pepper. Wait until the broth boils before adding some eggs. You can choose to scramble or drop the whole eggs in. When finished, add some cheese, if desired.
Clara enjoys her egg drop soup served over some toasted bread.
'Eggplant was cheap so we had eggplant. My father was out of work over six weeks. Good thing we had a garden.'
Clara cuts her eggplant into about quarter of an inch slices and places them in a skillet with plenty of oil. Once the oil starts to bubble, the pan is ready for frying. After both sides are fried to a golden brown, add tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Clara's family would have stuffed artichokes for the holidays.
First, cut off the thorns and the bottom so that the artichokes stand upright. Then open up the leaves and stuff the openings with a mix of bread crumbs, salt, pepper and garlic.
Next, place the artichokes in a pot and fill it halfway with water and let it boil on high heat. After it boils, switch to low heat to allow the artichokes to simmer. Finally, drizzle olive oil on top.
Creamed chip beef is easy, filling and pretty cheap to make, hence, it was a popular dish during the Depression
Allrecipes.com replicates this dish with two tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of flour, one-and-a-half cups of milk, eight ounces of dried beef and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Simply melt butter before adding flour to form a roux over medium heat. Then whisk in milk slowly and stir on medium-high until it thickens. Wait until it boils before stirring in beef and cayenne.
And to keep with the theme of Depression-era meals, serve this dish over toast.