The World Wars at Home: Guides and Recipe Books

As mentioned in Tuesday’s post, November 11th was Veterans Day, a day in which we honor all those who have served our country. During WWI and WWII, guides and recipe books were published for the housewives left at home, which provided tips on feeding children, meal planning, home improvement and management, and practical recipes for wartime. Here at the ISU Special Collections and University Archives, we have a collection of these guides and recipe books in the Wartime Guides and Recipe Books Collection, MS 380.

Preface to Best War Time Recipes, by Royal Baking Powder Co., 1918. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 1.

Preface to Best War Time Recipes by Royal Baking Powder Co., 1918 (click to enlarge). MS 380, Box 1, Folder 1.

During the World Wars, food shortages were common. These would make certain foods such as butter and sugar much more expensive and impractical for heavy use in most households. These recipe books focused on maintaining a healthy diet – or at least, making delicious food – while using alternatives to scarce ingredients.

A dessert recipe booklet, (year).

A WWII-era dessert recipe booklet, undated. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 10.

Here is a WWI recipe for something called War Cake from the Liberty Cook Book (Box 1, Folder 1):

2 c. brown sugar; 2 c. hot water; 2 T. lard, 1 package or less of seeded raisins, 1 t. ground cinnamon, 1 t. ground cloves, 1 t. soda, 3 c. flour, 1 t. salt

Boil all ingredients but the flour, raisins and soda together for 5 minutes. Cool. When cold add soda sifted in 1/2 the flour. Bake in a loaf 45 minutes, in a slow oven, or in a sheet 30 minutes.

From WWII, here is a recipe for Corn Bisque from Wartime Recipes from Canned Foods (Box 1, Folder 7), which was created to help homemakers stretch canned foods farther:

1/2 no. 2 cream style corn; 3 c. milk; 1 small onion, sliced; 1 T. butter or margarine; 1 T. flour; 1/4 t. salt; dash of pepper

Cook corn and 2 cups of the milk in top of double boiler for 20 minutes. Add onion; continue cooking 10 minutes longer. Mash through coarse sieve if desired. Melt butter in saucepan; add flour and seasonings; blend. Add remaining 1 cup milk; cook until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add milk-corn mixture; return to double boiler; heat thoroughly. Garnish each serving with sprig of parsley and a sprinkle of paprika. 4 servings.


A proposed cleaning schedule for housewives, (year). MS 380, Box 1, Folder (?).

A proposed weekly cleaning schedule for homemakers, 1944. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 6.

Housekeeping also was (and is) a large part of being a homemaker. The 1944 booklet above, House Cleaning and Home Management Manual by The Hoover Company, offers many suggestions on housekeeping, including possible schedules to follow and equipment to have on hand. Without actually reading the cleaning schedule above, you can see how extensive cleaning duties could be. Examples in the booklet of things to be done daily include preparing and serving meals, washing dishes, packing lunches, planning menus, going to the market and running errands, light cleaning and dusting, caring for children and other family members, and apparently care of fires. Weekly housekeeping work includes washing, ironing, cleaning every room, washing windows, mending and sewing, special baking and cooking, and cleaning the cleaning equipment.

From (title) by (someone), (year). MS 380, Box 1, Folder (?)

From Real Ideas of Real Housewives on Wartime Living, undated. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 3.

Of course, helping the boys from home was also a priority. The above image highlights suggestions on how to help soldiers overseas, provided by actual housewives for other housewives. Some advice includes tips on mailing packages, buying stamps, and sending cakes. This booklet also includes ways to save time around the house, keep clothes looking new, and tips on going to the market.

For more WWI and WWII collections, see our manuscripts subject guides. Looking for more wartime recipes? Recipes from these eras can also be found in the Iowa Cookbook Collection, some of which can be viewed online.

Thank you to all our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us!

Thanksgiving, Part 2

Since we already have several blog posts related to Thanksgiving items here in the Special Collections Department (available here and here), I had not intended to create a Thanksgiving blog post for this year.  However, I recently received a call from Iowa Public Radio asking me if I would like to speak on the Iowa Public Radio program Talk of Iowa.  I was one of three guests on the program last Wednesday morning, and I spoke about some items in our collections which are related to Thanksgiving.  I enjoyed being a part of the conversation, even though the hour’s program was far too short to share all of the recipes I had put together to speak about!

Did you enjoy last Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal?  Are you all ready to start planning for next year’s Thanksgiving?  If so, this is the post for you!  If not, hopefully you will find some of the recipes below interesting, and perhaps they will inspire you to remember them when planning for the 2013 Thanksgiving meal next fall.  Or you may even find a delightful holiday recipe to add some historical cuisine to your menu (holiday or otherwise)!

Below are some of the recipes I did not have a chance to talk about on last week’s radio program, including links to some recipes you can find online through Digital Collections:

The Suffrage Cook Book, published in 1915, was once owned by Carrie Chapman Catt (Iowa State graduate and suffragist).  The cook book contains a wide variety of recipes, including a nut turkey for Thanksgiving.  As the introduction explains:

“Now that we are entering upon an age of sane living it is important that home makers should be impressed with the fact that good health precedes all that is worth while in life, and that it starts in the kitchen; that the dining room is a greater social factor than the drawing room.”

What better introduction do we need to inspire us to create healthy recipes together in the kitchen?

The section under meats contains a chapter on “Nuts as a Substitute for Meat.”  The introduction to this chapter states that since the “soaring cost” of meat, many had been rationing or eliminating their use of meat.  However, as the chapter notes, nuts “contain more food value to the pound than almost any other food product known” and goes on to explain that peanuts have a significant amount of protein.

Interested in making a Nut Turkey (page 68) instead of the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving?  Below is the recipe from this interesting book – I recommend you take a look at it!  As the note found at the beginning of the cookbook states, the book includes notes and check marks made by Carrie Chapman Catt.  If you are not interested in the Nut Turkey, then peruse the digital version, and perhaps make a favorite of Catt’s instead!

Nut Turkey

One quart sifted bread crumbs

1 pint English walnuts (or any other kind of nuts “will go”)

1 cupful of Peanuts (“simply washed and dried”)

1 level tsp Sage

2 tsp Salt

1 T. Parsley

2 Raw eggs (not beaten)

“sufficient water to bind the mass together”

“Then form them into the shape of a turkey, with pieces of macaroni to form the leg bones.  Brush with a little butter and bake an hour in a slow oven and serve with drawn butter sauce.”

Another interesting cookbook which contains a turkey recipe (and this one for the actual bird!) is Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook.  Mary Welch was the wife of Iowa State’s first president, Adonijah Welch.  Mary Welch had many accomplishments in her own right, including helping start and acting as the first head the Department of Domestic Economy (now better known as Home Economics or Family and Consumer Sciences).  In addition to the recipes, the cookbook also contains explanations and experiments for learning the why of cooking.  For instance, the section on Soups, Meats, Poultry and Game tells the reader to thinly cut a piece of meat and then wash and boil it.  She explains the changes that are taking place to the meat, and why.  The recipes sometimes also contain references to this experiment at the beginning of the chapter in order to provide brief lessons within the recipe itself.

Mary B. Welch

Wondering how March Welch recommends making a turkey?  You can find the recipe online here on page 178-180.

Trying to figure out what to do with your turkey leftovers?  A recipe for turkey soup can be found here on page 154.

Interested in learning more about Mary Welch or Carrie Chapman Catt?  The University Archives also holds the papers of both.  The finding aid for the Mary B. (Mary Beaumont) Welch Papers can be found here, and the finding aid for the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers can be found here.