Culinary History Collection


Current Editor: Cynthia D. Bertelsen

Issue 6 Summer 2004

Treasures from the Collection of Alice Johnson

by Jo Anne Barton

Over the years Alice Johnson has given the Culinary Collection several boxes of "goodies" and well organized scrapbook collections reflecting many areas of interest to those interested in the history of food. Among one of the collections that we received prior to her death in February 2004 were three items that relate to WWII foods.

One was a USDA publication Fight Food Waste in the Home, issued by the Bureau of Home Economics, USDA in 1942. It starts: "One slice of bread molds, one carrot shrivels--small loss, isn't it? But--multiply that loss by our Nation's 34 million homes. Thirty-four million slices of bread, 34 million fresh vegetables, can help nourish many families and many fighting men. Little everyday wastes also make big yearly losses in your own family funds. Help America, help yourself, by fighting food waste on the home kitchen front."

How to Store Your Victory Garden Products was a Virginia Tech publication issued in September 1942. No author is listed but "acknowledgment is made to the editors of the August 4-H Club Letter from which much of the material for this circular was taken." A cellar under the house or outbuilding was considered the best place for storage of canned goods. Directions were given for pit storage of root vegetables such as carrots and turnips.

Armour and Company had issued a booklet entitled 69 Ration Recipes for Meat. The booklet started with a discussion of how to use the red ration stamps. They were needed for fresh, frozen, cured or canned beef, veal, pork and lamb, all variety meats including brains, hearts, sweetbreads, liver, kidney, ox joints, etc., all ready-to-serve meats and sausages, canned meats, fish and poultry, butter, lard, margarine, shortening, salad and cooking oils, cheese, except cottage, pot and bakers cheese, and some of the perishable fancy varieties. No stamps were needed for fresh fish, fresh poultry, eggs or cottage cheese.

The number on the stamp refers to the point value. Each family member got 64 points per month. Different cuts had different point values, based on one pound or fraction thereof, depending upon the amount of actual edible meat. Point values were adjusted from time to time depending on the supply available for consumer use. The letter on the stamp refers to the period in which that stamp is good. An A stamp was good for the first week, a B for the second week, etc., but not all stamps had to be spent within the week but could be used later in the month.

The Armour booklet also had information about fats and why they were collected. "In the war effort, fats are vital as a source of glycerine for explosives, drugs and medical supplies. It is estimated that just one pound of waste fat makes enough glycerine to fire four 37 mm anti-aircraft shells. Fats which were imported to make soaps, glycerine, margarine, cosmetics, etc. are no longer available due to lack of shipping facilities. We must conserve and salvage every ounce of fat."

"When fats are no longer usable for any cooking purposes they are ready for the salvage can. Clean a large tin can. Warm the fat and pour it through a cloth into the can. It makes no difference whether the fat is darkened in color. Keep cool until at least one pound (2 cups) is collected, then take it to your meat dealer and he will buy it from you at the established price."

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