Tag Archives: History

Warm Up with a Good Book

Perhaps you are the type of home front housewife who would rather stay in on a cold winter evening and curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book. I’m here to help. Here are five suggestions based on a January 1945 Woman’s Day book roundup.

A note on finding these books: I’ll let you know at least one place you can find these books if I can. Worldcat.org is a great resource, too. Just type your zipcode and the title in and they’ll provide you with a list of libraries near you that have the book on their shelves.

Just in case you want to follow up your reading with a movie night out, here’s a link to some movie suggestions.

America Unlimited

by Eric Johnston

Eric Johnston was the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce. This book records his thoughts, hopes, aspirations, and beliefs about issues of the early 1940s. Johnston claimed that most Americans shared his views. This would be an interesting look at a political opinion from the war years.

We Live in Alaska

by Constance Helmericks

This book is available used on on Amazon. The author and her husband moved to Alaska in 1941 and explored the Yukon in a homemade canoe. There are a few sequels to their adventure if you find this first one enjoyable.

Watching the World

by Raymond Clapper

Raymond Clapper was a journalist and a radio news analyst and commentator. While covering the war in 1944, an airplane he was riding in collided with another plane during the invasion of the Marshall Islands. After his death, his wife put together some of his best material and told the story of his life in this book.

Cluny Brown

by Margery Sharp

This humerous coming of age story follows a young English woman in 1938 on her adventures after she is sent into service in the countryside. It was made into a movie in 1946. This book is easy to find. It’s even available as an audio book.

Enjoy Your House Plants

by Dorothy Jenkins and Helen Van Pelt Wilson

This book has chapters on everything from ferns to succulents to orchids. There’s advice on caring for numerous types of indoor plants. I love my house plants, so I’m excited to try to find a copy of this one. I’d like to compare their advice with what is suggested care today.

While you are reading, you might like to munch on some cookies or a slice of coffee spice cake. Stay warm and enjoy your weekend!

First Monday Menu: A Helping of Hamburger

In January 1945, ground beef wasn’t being rationed. Using ready-ground hamburger as a staple in meals was a great way to include meat without resorting to the less appealing but more plentiful organ meats like liver and heart. Ground hamburger was also cheaper than other meats, so it helped keep food costs down. This month’s menu includes a hamburger recipe from the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day.

Menu

  • Party Hamburgers
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Bread Roll
  • Apple pie

Party Hamburgers

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 1 tbsp fat
  • Party Sauce

Mix hamburger, salt, pepper, and milk. Form into cakes and brown in fat. Remove cakes to a platter and keep hot.

Party Sauce

  • 1 tbsp fat
  • 1/4 c chopped mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c cooking sherry
  • 1/2 c ripe olives, chopped and pitted (we used black)
  • salt and pepper

Cook the mushrooms in the fat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the flour and brown lightly. Add the water gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture is thickened. Add sherry and chopped pitted olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat and pour over the hamburger cakes.

Results

It’s funny how sometimes something as simple as a meal made with ground beef can spark a conversation that lasts until dessert is over. We had a lot of thoughts about this menu. While it wasn’t our favorite, it was a hearty, filling meal. The hamburger cakes tasted exactly how you would imagine a hamburger cake to taste. We discussed adding finely chopped onion or garlic next time to add a bit of flavor. The sauce was thick and chunky and tasted great with both the hamburger and the mashed potatoes. I liked the combination of mushrooms and olives and the gravy-like consistency. I could taste the cooking sherry a bit more than I would have liked, but maybe cooking a while longer would fix that. Overall, everyone liked the meal. Enough to have it again? I’m not sure. I’m definitely glad we tried it, though, and I enjoyed the great conversation about 1940s life we had while eating it.

One of the things I liked about this particular menu, was that it was a solid choice for a home front housewife. The green beans and the potatoes were grown in Victory Gardens, and the housewife could easily substitute cooked carrots, squash, or even corn from their garden. The ground beef didn’t use any points, which was helpful. Points could be used for favorite cuts of meat on other nights of the week.

Eating organ meats was encouraged by the government. Large amounts of meat were being shipped to the soldiers overseas. Organ meats, however, were still plentiful in the United States. Magazines of the time period are full of tips and tricks for disguising liver or heart to look and possibly taste more appealing. Using ground beef was much simpler and straightforward–its taste and texture didn’t need masking.

Let me know if you try this menu. The party sauce is versatile. I think it would complement many kinds of meat and would add a nice flavor to vegetable dishes.

Later this week we’ll try out a recipe or two from the January food calendar found in the 1941 issue of Woman’s Home Companion. It’s before the start of the war for the American home front housewife, so we’ll see how folks ate just before food shortages became more widespread and rationing went into effect.

Peter Pan Peanut Butter Frosting

This month, I’m going to be testing recipes in January magazine issues from 1940-1945. I’ve scoured ads and articles to find recipes you can use in your meal planning today, ranging from full menus to yummy desserts.

I’m beginning the month with a Peter Pan Peanut Butter frosting recipe from an advertisement in the January 1945 issue of Woman’s Day. It was a full-page, full-color ad inside the back cover of the magazine.

Peanut butter was originally sold in tin cans with a variety of reclosable lids. Metal shortages due to the war led peanut butter manufacturers to switch to glass jars. In 1988 Peter Pan peanut butter was the first to come in a plastic jar. This ad shows the new glass jars that were being used during the war, and still has the woman portraying Peter Pan in the imagery. Much later the company used Disney’s version of Peter Pan instead.

This frosting recipe is one of two listed in the lower-right corner. The company, like so many others at the time, offered a recipe booklet by mail. I managed to find a copy of this booklet and it should arrive next week. I can’t wait to share it with you when it gets here!

Until then, here’s a recipe to use with that jar of peanut butter you have in your pantry.

Peter Pan Frosting

  • 1/2 c Peter Pan Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 c butter or margarine
  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar

Cream the peanut butter and butter together. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar. Cream until light and fluffy. Use on white, spice, or chocolate cake. Makes enough for 24 cupcakes.

Results

The frosting is really soft and smooth. I found that putting it in the refrigerator for a while helped keep it from becoming too soft to use. It does taste like a sweeter version of peanut butter, so peanut butter fans with a sweet tooth will definitely ask for seconds. We used white cake cupcakes, but I think this frosting would be amazing on chocolate cake.

What is your favorite way to use peanut butter?

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