The following column appeared in print in June, 2016.
Recipes from War Time
Diane Lynn Tibert
Food. We all need it; some of us crave it. Every culture has their favourite dishes, and our ancestors brought theirs from their homeland. The recipes changed to adapt to the new land, but some of the basic foods remained the same.
Although drastic changes have occurred in the past forty years for what goes on the table, Atlantic Canadians have been long-known for their home-cooked traditional meals. Growing up with a mother born and bred in Newfoundland, our family enjoyed fish prepared in many ways, preserves and boilt dinners. Dishes such as pap, scallop potatoes, cod cheeks and Solomon gundy appeared regularly but are seldom spoken about now outside my family.
My favourite dish was what mom called corned beef and hash. In recent years, I’ve learned others called this jig’s dinner. It’s difficult to find a good piece of corned beef these days, but I promised mom I’d find the best I could and this summer we’d prepare the meal while at the cottage.
I’ve learned how to prepare my favourites from my childhood, but I’m always on the look out to add new dishes and treats to my recipe book. A few of my new kitchen delights have been found in old newspapers and magazines from the early 1900s. When I heard about the Wartime Economy Book of Recipes published April 10, 1945, I had to read it.
The recipes were “selected from more than 8000 Maritime recipes” submitted for consideration. Over three hundred different communities from the three provinces participated. They include people like Mrs. J. Albert Horne, Bridgewater, NS (Apple Short Cake), Mrs. R. Wylie Coates, RR No. 6, Amherst, NS (Meat Loaf with Rolled Oats), Mrs. Susie P. Wasson, Parrsboro, NS (Better Rhubarb Pie) and Mrs. Gertha Loggie, Loggieville, NB (Carrot Pudding).
Wartime cookbooks put emphasis on substitutions and rationing. Although my parents’ families did not go without many food items because they lived in rural areas where they grew and raised most of their food, others were not as fortunate. Eggs, sugar, honey, butter and other items were in short supply. The first page of this book provides tips on how to stretch sugar and butter to make it last longer. In many recipes, molasses was used in place of sugar.
The book contains recipes for the usual foods—cakes, cookies, rolls, chowders—and a few unusual—borsht, rarebit, rose hip honey, apple butter. Pasta dishes were not made in my household until the late 1970s, but recipes for macaroni and noodles are included in this book. At times, I find old recipes add too much salt, perhaps to compensate for the reduced amount of sugar, to add flavour. However, these recipes don’t seem to be laden with the white substance that should be consumed in moderation.
Of interest to genealogists is the inclusion of the names of the individuals who submitted the recipes. Although many are noted by “Mrs” and their husband’s names, the addition of their communities help identify these wonderful women.
To browse the Wartime Economy Book of Recipes for 1945 (and to see if a relative made a submission), visit the Nova Scotia Archives website. If you try any recipes, note the measurement of 1 – 2 cup doesn’t mean one to two cups. It means one half cup. The dash was used instead of the backslash.♦