Victory Lunch Box

First Monday Menu: Cheese Combination Sandwich

We’ve been relying on quick meals to help us save time this summer. July’s First Monday Menu is one of those quick meals, and it is another one that is flexible enough that you’ll be able to make do with what you have in your pantry and refrigerator.

The home front housewife would have found this sandwich spread convenient for lunch boxes or an easy meal at lunchtime while her family is away at school or work. It’s from the 1940 edition of The American Woman’s Cook Book, but the recipe’s lack of meat would have made it handy all throughout the war years.

Cheese Combination Sandwich

  • 1 c cream cheese or cottage cheese
  • 1/4 c mayonnaise OR
  • 1/4 c chopped olives OR
  • 1/4 c chopped nuts OR
  • 1/4 c chopped pimientos

Mix the cheese with the mayonnaise, olives, nuts, or pimientos. Spread between two thin slices of lightly buttered rye or brown bread.

Results

The way the recipe is written suggests the home front housewife could have used whichever of these ingredients she had on hand, or in a combination she and her family preferred. I used cream cheese and mayonnaise, and added chopped green olives and pimientos. I used whole wheat bread instead of rye because that’s what I had on hand.

This was actually a lovely sandwich. It was filling and flavorful. My testers and I all thought it had a medium strength olive taste, but the spread can be adjusted to fit your taste desires. I didn’t add nuts, but that would provide a bit of crunchiness to the softer spread and bread.

I added plain potato chips and a pickle spear. Potato chips were eaten in the 1940s. The United States government decided that potato chips were important enough to keep producing during the war years, so they would have been available to the home front hosuewife. Flavored chips were not introduced until later, so in WWII, potato chips would have been plain. Dips were not served with chips until the 1950s, although it is certainly possible people in the mid to late 1940s ate them with cracker spreads. There are no dip recipes in this edition of The American Woman’s Cook Book.

Let me know if you try this one. Happy July!

Victory Lunch Box: Split Pea Soup

One of a home front housewife’s jobs was to pack lunches for her family. Her husband, if not at war, would need a lunch for work. Her children needed packed lunches for school. If she was part of the growing number of women working outside the home, she would need a lunch herself. Of course, packed lunches weren’t the only option Americans had for lunch, but they were a great way to save money, stretch food, and make sure every member of the family had a nutritious meal three times a day.

Many magazines and cookbooks included menus that provided leftovers to be used the following day in a lunch box. This soup could be part of an evening meal and then put in a small vacuum container the next day and tucked next to a sandwich or some fruit in a lunch box. This kind of soup was especially good for lunch boxes because it was hearty and filling. Add some bread and you had a meal that could get you through an afternoon at the factory or at school.

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Split Pea Soup

1 lb split peas (you can also use Navy beans)

2 qt boiling water

ham hock or leftover pieces of ham

3-4 cloves

1 onion

1/2 bay leaf

a piece of red pepper pod

3 1/2 c irradiated evaporated milk

salt to taste

Pick over peas, wash, cover with cold water, and soak overnight. Drain, add the boiling water, ham, cloves, onion, bay leaf, and red paper. Bring to a boil. Cook slowly until the peas are tender. Add milk and salt to taste. Makes about 3 1/4 quarts.

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Results

I used red pepper flakes instead of the red pepper pod. I also only used about half of an onion. We all peppered our individual bowls of soup. I also made the soup one night and then reheated and put it in a small thermos the next day to see how it would be in a lunch box.

The first night the soup was delicious. It was thick and warm and made a filling meal with the addition of bread.  Having had a chance for the flavors to mingle overnight, the second-day soup in the thermos was even better. I added some homemade bread that my teenage daughter baked, and had a satisfying lunch. I think that adding some fruit, a sandwich or a dessert would help anyone get through their afternoon without a need for a snack.

This recipe comes from a 50-page booklet that was specifically written for housewives who needed ideas for packing and planning lunches. It’s from 1943 and is part of a series of “Hook-up” cookbooks. There is a hole in the middle of each page that allows the housewife to hang the booklet at eye level. This helps keep the booklet clean and makes it easier to read the recipe. The picture on the front of the booklet shows the soups packaged for lunch boxes in waxed paper cups.

 

 

 

Advertising Recipes: Lunch Boxes

I went through my collection of vintage magazines and found several ads that were aimed at the home front housewife in charge of packing lunches during rationing. A few of these ads also included recipes, and I thought they might be a fun way to continue our discussion about packed lunches this month. Today I chose ads that showcase sandwich spreads that added protein, a punch of flavor, and helped stretch rationed foods like butter.

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The first ad for today was in the April 14, 1944 issue of The Family Circle. I’m having a bit of trouble finding any information about Beverly Peanut Butter or the Table Products Company, but I’ll keep searching and update if I can. I liked the illustration in this advertisement. Notice the style of lunch boxes. One man has a vacuum bottle, possibly a Thermos, and the other man has a glass bottle with a straw. Beverly Peanut Butter’s marketing folks also made sure that the ad included that the peanuts were only from the United States and that the product was jarred fresh. Housewives were encouraged to keep their home front fighters and future soldiers healthy, so the ad mentioned that the peanut butter has protein and vitamins A and B1.

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This French’s Mustard ad from the August 1943 issue of Woman’s Day was all about packing lunches for hard-working men. Again, you can see the flip-top lidded lunch box, and a small insulated bottle that perhaps held a warm soup.

Butter was rationed in the United States beginning in March of 1943. The French’s advertisement included a recipe that would help stretch a housewife’s sandwich butter. Since it also mentioned that French’s is “especially delicious with meat or cheese,” we decided to have the mustard-butter as an addition to a ham sandwich. We’ve never tried this combo before.

French’s Mustard-Butter

Blend 2 tbsp of mustard into 4 tbsp of softened butter or margarine.

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Results

We used butter for our spread. Most of the testers like mustard. I like it in small amounts, so I was curious to see what the addition of butter would do to the bite that mustard usually has.

I toasted the bread and I spread a moderate amount of the mustard-butter on one slice. I topped that with a slice of ham and some Swiss cheese.

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I was pleasantly surprised. The butter made the mustard less sharp. You could also taste the butter in addition to the mustard. I had thought the butter flavor would be lost due to the fact that mustard is definitely the strongest flavor. The mixture was creamy and easy to spread. It would be an interesting addition to your condiments, and it could also act as a fun conversation starter when you have guests.

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I’m glad we tried this, and I’ll be adding more recipes from ads in the future. I’ve also added some images to my 1940s lunch boxes board on Pinterest.

Do you use this mix of butter and mustard on your sandwiches? Do you know anything about Beverly Peanut Butter? Leave me a comment below.

 

 

Victory Lunch Boxes: Introduction and Chili-Peanut Sandwich Filling

The home front housewife had many new challenges when World War II began. Shortages and rationing made cooking challenging due to having to learn new recipes with new ingredients and new ways of cooking. Those changes also led to changes in how packed lunches were planned and prepared. Leftovers from meals the night before were used in new and creative ways. Housewives became especially adept at planning meals with those leftovers in mind. Working men needed one type of lunch while school children might need something else entirely. And don’t forget that the housewife herself needed to eat, too. That had to be planned with the packed lunches so food wouldn’t be wasted.

I want to do a short series on Victory lunch boxes over the next week or so, then I’d like to add a regular lunch box post that will explore recipes, planning, tips for packing the food, advice on the best lunchboxes and Thermos to keep your food safe and fresh, and suggestions for lunch box menus for all types of people that might need to carry a meal with them during the day.  I will definitely include period recipes for different lunch box foods.

One of my favorite sources is a 50-page pamphlet from 1943 called 300 Helpful Suggestions for Your Victory Lunch Box. It’s called a “hook-up cook book” because it was designed to be hung at eye level so the cook could more easily read the recipe. The hole in the center of every page was created to be hung on small nails that the housewife would attach to her upper cabinets or a shelf. This also kept the cookbook protected from splashes and dirty fingerprints.

This first page has an introductory passage that speaks directly to housewives. The first lines suggest that careful food management will win the war. “Food management, one of wartime’s most important jobs, rests squarely on the shoulders of the American homemaker. Food will win the war and make the peace only if it is administered wisely by the meal planners of the nation so that supplies will be adequate to meet the ever-increasing demands.”

As with many other wartime publications, women were encouraged to do their part to win the war from on the home front. The passage says this is a way that housewives can contribute directly to winning the war. And they weren’t wrong, Women banding together to make sure rationing and other programs worked really did help contribute to victory.

My next post will start this series, but for now, I’ll leave you with a sandwich filling recipe from the pamphlet I mentioned above.

Chili-Peanut Sandwich Filling

1/4 c. peanut butter (We used creamy since we were adding in chopped peanuts.)

2 tbsp cream

2 tbsp chili sauce

1/4 c. finely chopped salted peanuts

Combine peanut butter, cream, and chili sauce. Add the peanuts. Mix well.

We toasted our bread first, then spread a layer of the filling on one slice. We were all a little hesitant to try this sandwich, but it ended up being pretty tasty. The chopped peanuts gave it a nice crunchy texture. The peanut butter wasn’t too thick due to the addition of the cream and chili sauce. I could taste the chili sauce, but it surprisingly complimented the peanut butter well. My husband added jelly to his and said that the combination of the sweet jelly and the chili flavored peanut butter was wonderful.

This would be a great option for a lunch box sandwich. The protein from the peanut butter and the carbs from the sandwich would be filling.

I’d recommend trying this one. It’s super easy to mix together and is a nice change from traditional PB&J sandwiches.

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