Monthly Archives: December 2019

Soldiers' Christmas Boxes: Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles

In 1942, the folks in the Good Housekeeping kitchens spent quite a bit of time finding recipes that would work in a Christmas box for soldiers serving their country. The December issue included an article with the resulting recipes and some tips for packing goodies up to mail.

Here are a few:

  • Allow plenty of time for your package to get to its destination. The article mentions several times that only stateside servicemen should be getting boxes of treats. The government actually asked for packages to be free from perishable items when shipping overseas. Even so, transportation of vital military supplies was given higher priority over gift boxes, so a home front housewife needed to prepare for the box to take twice as long as usual to arrive.
  • Plan on the box arriving before or after Christmas Day. The armed forces provided good holiday meals to soldiers and getting a box of goodies before or after would extend the celebration.
  • Plan with friends and loved ones before shipping. Arranging for boxes to arrive every few days instead of all at once also extended the joy of the holidays.
  • Organize a cookie making club. Sharing cookies with others sending off boxes added variety to box contents.
  • Weigh and Measure! Servicemen could only receive packages under 70 pounds and with a combined length and width of under 100 inches.
  • Add a homey touch to boxes by lining the lids and any divider edges with pretty pantry-shelf paper, and by wrapping smaller boxes of treats with ribbon.
  • Address packages carefully and mark them with “Perishable–Handle with Care”.

I chose one recipe to test, and we are going to try them fresh, then seal some up the way they suggest to see how they taste in a week. I wondered how these foods would last and what they would taste like when they got to their recipient. We are also going to put some in a modern airtight container to see if that makes a difference. I’ll let you know how they taste in an update.

Until then, try these Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles.

Soft Ginger-Date Jumbles

  • 1/2 c and 2 tbsp shortening
  • 1/2 c brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 c dark molasses
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed cake spice or cinnamon
  • 2 c pitted dates, cut up

Work shortening with the back of a spoon until it’s fluffy and creamy. Add brown sugar gradually while continuing to work with a spoon until light. Add eggs and blend. Mix the ginger with molasses and then add it to the shortening mixture. Stir in the boiling water. Sift together the dry ingredients, and then add to the sugar mixture. Add the dates and mix the mixture well. Cover and refrigerate for two hours.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto a greased or oiled cookie sheet about 2.5 inches apart. Bake in a moderately hot oven at 400° F for 10-12 minutes. Makes 2 dozen cookies. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator and bake cookies as needed. You can also substitute raisins for the dates or leave the dates out entirely.

Results

These cookies had mixed reactions at my house. My husband and I loved them, but some of my kids thought they were “just ok”. My 2-year-old devoured them. The cookies were very soft and cake-like. The dates added nice flavor and texture. They had a milder molasses flavor than other similar cookies I’ve tried. I’m really curious to see if they keep their soft cakiness after a week. Look for an update soon!

Happy New Year!

Last Minute Shopping with the Home Front Housewife

I love the holiday advertisements in old magazines. I thought I’d show you one of my favorites. I like the idea of a housewife pouring over these ads while making her shopping list. I can imagine her children pointing at the toys and dreaming about what gifts would be under the tree on Christmas morning. The local Firestone dealer or store had a wide variety of gifts, and I’m sure on Christmas Eve the stores were full of last minute shoppers. Enjoy the details in this ad. I think it’s a wonderful glimpse into Christmas past.

Happy Holidays!

This Firestone advertisement is from the December 1942 “Better Homes and Gardens”.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Christmas Music for the Home Front Housewife

What would the home front housewife listen to during the holidays? Here’s a list of Christmas songs and links to recordings so you can make your own 1940s playlist. Enjoy!

White Christmas

“White Christmas” was first heard on Bing Crosby’s NBC radio show on Christmas Day, 1941. He recorded it for his 1942 movie “Holiday Inn” with the Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra. The song has been wildly successful, and Crosby’s version is the world’s best selling single. It’s definitely one of my favorites and I’ve included that 1942 recording for you here.

https://archive.org/details/78_white-christmas_bing-crosby-ken-darby-singers-john-scott-and-his-orchestra-irving-b_gbia0016907a/White+Christmas+-+Bing+Crosby+-+Ken+Darby+Singers.flac

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Bing Crosby also had a top ten hit with “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. He recorded this original version in 1943, again with John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra. The song was written for soldiers who were overseas for the holidays.

https://archive.org/details/78_ill-be-home-for-christmas-if-only-in-my-dreams_bing-crosby-john-scott-trotter-an_gbia0011911a/I’ll+Be+Home+for+Christmas+(If+Only+In+My+Dr+-+Bing+Crosby.flac

Jingle Bells/Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Here’s a fun record from 1943. The Andrews Sisters join Bing Crosby for two favorites. “Jingle Bells” was on side A and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was on side B. If you are curious, “Jingle Bells“ was written in 1857 and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was written in 1934. The link will take you to a page that includes both songs.

https://archive.org/details/78_santa-claus-is-coming-to-town_bing-crosby-and-the-andrews-sisters-vic-schoen-and-hi_gbia0048407/09+-+Jingle+Bells+-+Bing+Crosby+and+the+Andrews+Sisters.flac

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

Irving Berlin had another hit with his 1937 “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”. It’s been a popular song ever since it debuted in the movie “On the Avenue” with Dick Powell and Alice Faye. I’ve included that recording here.

https://archive.org/details/78_ive-got-my-love-to-keep-me-warm_dick-powell-irving-berlin_gbia0131899b/I’VE+GOT+MY+LOVE+TO+KEEP+ME+WARM+-+Dick+Powell.flac

Winter Wonderland

Written in 1934, “Winter Wonderland” is another favorite that the home front housewife would have enjoyed. Technically not a Christmas song, it’s commonly played during the holiday season. This version features Ambrose and His Orchestra in 1935.

https://archive.org/details/78_winter-wonderland_ambrose-and-his-orchestra-at-the-embassy-club-london-smith-ber_gbia0150805a/WINTER+WONDERLAND+-+Ambrose+and+his+Orchestra+(At+the+Embassy+Club%2C+London).flac

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

Written in July 1945, this one barely makes it into our war years time period. I’ve included it here even though the war was over before the holiday season began that year. The first person to record it was Vaughn Monroe, and I’ve included that version here.

https://archive.org/details/78_let-it-snow-let-it-snow-let-it-snow_vaughn-monroe-and-his-orchestra-vaughn-monro_gbia0048393a/Let+It+Snow!+Let+It+Snow+-+Vaughn+Monroe+and+his+Orchestra.flac

The Christmas Song

This is another that barely makes it into our time period. It was written by Robert Wells and Mel Torme in 1945, but it wasn’t until June 1946 that Nat King Cole and The King Cole Trio recorded the song. That first recording is the one I’ve added here.

https://archive.org/details/78_the-christmas-song-merry-christmas-to-you_the-king-cole-trio-torme-wells-king-col_gbia0001193a/The+Christmas+Song+(Merry+Christmas+To+You)+-+The+King+Cole+Trio.flac

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This song was written in 1943 and sang by Judy Garland in 1944’s “Meet Me in St. Louis”. The lyrics were changed just slightly in the late 1950s. See if you can hear the difference. This is Frank Sinatra’s 1947 recording.

https://archive.org/details/78_have-yourself-a-merry-little-christmas_frank-sinatra-martin-blane-axel-stordahl_gbia0093354g/Have+Yourself+a+Merry+Little+Christmas+-+Frank+Sinatra.flac

Post War Songs

I’m cheating a bit by adding these songs, but these were written and/or recorded in the late 1940s and nicely round out our list.

Here Comes Santa Claus

Gene Autry was the first to record this song in 1947.

https://archive.org/details/78_here-comes-santa-claus-down-santa-claus-lane_gene-autry-with-vocal-group-halderma_gbia0001245b/Here+Comes+Santa+Claus+(Down+Santa+Claus+Lane)+-+Gene+Autry+with+Vocal+Group.flac

Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer

Gene Autry had a Christmas hit again in 1949.

https://archive.org/details/78_rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer_gene-autry-and-the-pinafores-j.-marks_gbia0009249a/Rudolph%2C+The+Red-Nosed+Rein+-+Gene+Autry+and+The+Pinafores.flac

Serving Christmas Dinner: Christmas Dinner for the Army, Navy, and Marines in 1942

I enjoyed seeing the holiday menus served in each branch of the armed forces in December 1942. This is an Armour and Company advertisement in Good Housekeeping. Note that the home front housewife could send for a booklet explaining why the US troops were the best fed in the world. I wonder how many housewives sent for it. I’d love to see what was in it.

The government’s “Share the Meat” program is mentioned in the ad. This 1942 program was meant to encourage Americans to limit their meat consumption before meat rationing took effect in early 1943.

Americans! Share the meat as a wartime necessity. United States, 1942. [Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/96507329/
Good Housekeeping, Dec 1942.

Cheese Appetizers

Monday I posted a menu that included a recipe for Cheese Appetizers. It looked interesting, and unlike any of the other recipes I’ve seen from the war years, so I thought I’d test it. It was in the December 1942 Better Homes and Gardens.

My initial plan for this post was to find other snack mix recipes and include them, but I couldn’t find any. I know that modern party mix recipes were not published until the early 1950s, but I had assumed I could find something similar. Do you know of a snack mix that was commonly eaten in the first half of the 1940s? Let me know if you do, and I’ll add it here.

Cheese Appetizers

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of cayenne
  • 3 c bite-sized whole wheat cereal
  • 3/4 c grated American or Parmesan cheese

Melt butter. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, cayenne, and cereal. Sprinkle mixture with cheese and toss gently until cereal is coated.

Results

I used Wheat Chex and grated Parmesan cheese. With the ingredients measured as listed above, the mixture tastes like salty Parmesan cheese. If you like Parmesan cheese, this isn’t a bad thing, but it definitely needs something else to work as an appetizer today.

First, I would cut the amount of salt in half. I’d add more cayenne because a dash doesn’t offer much flavor in this recipe. I added more Worcestershire sauce and it helped a bit, but this mixture could use some outside help. I’d add things like pretzels and breadsticks for variety.

I think these cheese appetizers would be great as croutons in a salad. You could crush them and use them for breading in a chicken dish. If you like crackers in your tomato or potato soup, tossing a few of these in your bowl would add nice flavor and texture. I think I am going to use the remaining mix I have to make a movie night party mix.

Let me know if your family has a snack mix recipe that’s been passed down. Is it similar to this one, or more like the mix we think of today when eating a snack mix? Can you think of other uses for this recipe? How would you serve it?

Christmas Menus

I wanted to start off December with a different kind of First Monday Menu. I’ve been researching different holiday menus, and I thought I’d add a few here so you can see what a Christmas dinner in the early 1940s might have looked like.

Holiday meals at the beginning of the decade would have looked much different than a dinner served during the rationing years. The menus I have chosen to feature here are from 1940 and 1942.

Your Gas Range Cook Book

This first two are from the January 1940 Your Gas Range Cook Book. It’s a 135 page softcover book that was distributed by the Wyandotte County Gas Company of Kansas. The back pages include a note from the company’s Home Service Department encouraging homemakers to look into CP (Certified Performance) gas ranges. I’ve included the two page spread of both menus so you can see some of the recipes.

The American Woman’s Cook Book

The next menus are from The American Woman’s Cook Book, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer. I have the 1940 edition. The menu items are listed in the order the cookbook listed them.

Menu 1:

  • Oyster Cocktails in Green Pepper Shells
  • Celery
  • Ripe Olives
  • Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing
  • Apple Sauce
  • String Beans
  • Potato Puff
  • Lettuce Salad with Riced Cheese and Bar-le-Duc
  • French Dressing
  • Toasted Wafers
  • English Plum Pudding
  • Bonbons
  • Coffee

Menu 2:

  • Cream of Celery Soup
  • Bread Sticks
  • Salted Peanuts
  • Stuffed Olives
  • Roast Beef
  • Yorkshire Pudding
  • Potato Souffle
  • Spinach in Eggs
  • White Grape Salad with Guava Jelly
  • French Dressing
  • Toasted Crackers
  • Plum Pudding, Hard Sauce
  • Bonbons
  • Coffee

Better Homes and Gardens

The December 1942 issue of “Better Homes and Gardens” has seven menus! I’ll list one of them here, but I hope to try out one or two of them before the month is over. Each menu lists a main dish, vegetables, a salad and/or accompaniment, a dessert, and something else that would be nice to add to the meal. I found these menus to be more housewife friendly.

Menu:

  • Yule Roast–Standing Rib
  • Whole Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Browned Potatoes
  • Cranberry Stars on Pineapple Slices
  • Mayonnaise
  • Jellied Plum Pudding with Ruby Crown
  • Hot 8-Vegetable Cocktail
  • Relishes
  • Cheese Appetizers

The notes for this menu calls it a dinner in the English Tradition. They suggest starting things off by adding whole cloves and allspice to the 8-vegetable cocktail, heating it up, then straining it into a crystal cup and topping it with a lemon pierced with cloves. The magazine also says to top the broccoli with tiny pimento stars. Those cranberry stars on the pineapple? There’s a note about having cream cheese mixed with lemon juice added to stars cut from canned cranberries.

Here’s the recipe for those cheese appetizers.

Cheese Appetizers

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of cayenne
  • 3 c bite-size whole wheat cereal
  • 3/4 c grated American or Parmesan cheese

Melt butter. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, cayenne, and cereal. Sprinkle with cheese. Toss gently until cereal is cheese coated.

I think it’s interesting that plum pudding was listed in each book or magazine. Do you eat plum pudding for Christmas dinner? It feels so old fashioned to me, and I wonder when we stopped seeing plum pudding as a Christmas dinner staple. I’m tempted to add one to my table this year.

Are any of the rest of the foods here on your must-cook holiday dinner list?