Tag Archives: lunch box

WW2 Ration Cook-in: Victory Lunch Box

I took today’s Victory Lunch Box menu from The Good Housekeeping Cook Book. They have a section with lunch box menus, and today’s menu was created specifically for a business girl. Almost all of the cookbooks and other materials I have separate lunch box menus into categories. There are usually sections for hard workers, working girls, housewives, and school children. I’ll be writing about some of those differences when I finish up my lunch box series later this month.

I don’t have a lunch box to show how all the items would be packed, so I put them on a regular plate. This is the exact lunch box menu, though, and would have been packed in a thermos, paper cups, and waxed paper.

Menu

  • Corn Chowder
  • Cream Cheese and Olive Sandwiches
  • Fruit Salad
  • Saltines

I’m amazed at how much food is included in the menus. Almost all that I’ve seen have called for more than one sandwich. Sometimes the menu includes several sandwiches with different fillings on different breads. Sandwich fillings range from complex mixtures to plain butter.

Corn Chowder

  • 1 2”sq fat salt pork (we used bacon)
  • 1 lg onion, sliced
  • 2 lbs pared white potatoes (4 c diced)
  • 2 c boiling water
  • 1 12oz can whole grain corn
  • 4 c bottled milk, scalded OR 2 evaporated milk and 2 c water, scalded
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika

Cut salt pork into 1/2” cubes and brown well in large sauce pan. Add onion and cook tender. Add diced potatoes and water, cover and cook until potatoes are tender. Add corn, milk, and seasonings. Heat and serve. Serves 6 as a main dish.

Due to shortages at our small local grocery store, we had to use red potatoes instead of white, and we used the evaporated milk and water option listed above.

Results

This was a wonderful, filling meal. The corn chowder was warm and flavorful. I think it would be perfect in a thermos tucked into a fall or winter lunch box. It was very hearty with ingredients that complimented each other. With the addition of one or two sandwiches, this probably would have been too much for me to eat. The fruit salad I have shown in the photos is a favorite family concoction made with fruit and whipped cream.

There’s one themed day left in the WW2 Ration Cook-in challenge. It’s not too late to join us! Check out your other hosts over on Instagram. Use #ww2rationcookin so we can see what you make!

Victory Lunch Boxes, Part 1: What do I pack?

I think I’ve mentioned before that I live on a very rural ranch. Sometimes when it rains, we get stranded at our house until the roads dry out enough to drive on. That’s my situation right now, and since I can’t go to town for groceries, I’m going to use the upcoming week to write about boxed lunches. I’ll split the topic into three parts. Today I’m writing about what foods a home front housewife should choose to pack. Next, I’ll tell you how she would have packed them. Finally, I’ll give you some menus and recipes for different lunch packing scenarios. Some tips and tricks will be thrown in, too.

Since I know you might be wondering, we have supplies for cooking for ourselves, but not the ingredients necessary for the lunch box recipes. We live in a place where this kind of rain doesn’t happen often. This has been an unusually wet year. The inconvenience of being stranded occasionally is offset by many perks of living where we do, and thanks to modern meteorology we can prepare ahead of time for situations like these.

On to the lunch boxes!

I have a large collection of cook books and pamphlets from the war years. Many of them have entire sections on lunch box packing. In fact, more than one cookbook said that lunch boxes were part of the war program. Since more and more people were working outside the home, well packed lunch boxes were an important part of the day’s nutrition.

I’ve mentioned before that the American government was pushing healthy eating as a way for home front fighters to help win the war. Healthy citizens made for stronger populations, and healthy boys grew up to be strong soldiers. Wartime publications stressed the importance of eating a good lunch during the workday to keep fueled and healthy.

So what would the home front housewife be shopping for?

Most of the cookbooks I have suggest the same types of foods in a lunch box food guide that closely follows government food guidelines. Here’s a typical guide.

  • meat, eggs, poultry, cheese, fish: These can be combined in a main dish, salad, or sandwich.
  • vegetables: At least one serving in sandwich fillings, salads, main dishes, or in relishes.
  • fruit: At least one should be included, but it can be in any form.
  • bread: numerous sources stressed that the breads included should change frequently to provide variety.
  • milk: The lunch box seems to have been a way to help get your daily milk quota in. This was a pint for adults and a quart for children. The milk could be a drink, in a main dish, in a soup, or in a dessert.

Tips for the Home Front Housewife

  • Your Gas Range Cookbook, published by the Wyandotte County Gas Company in 1940, suggested that children’s lunches for school should include a hot dish, milk, fruit, and a surprise for children to look forward to discovering. Their suggested menus include surprises like cookies and hot chocolate.
  • Your Victory Lunch Box, 1943, stressed the importance of variety. Creating variety in textures, color, and flavor helped make lunch box lunches more appealing and less monotonous. Adding color and variety in packing materials was also suggested for an appealing looking lunch.
  • Plan today’s meals with tomorrow’s lunch in mind. This was good advice for both packing a lunch and eating at home, but nearly everything I read about lunches included this as a way to make preparing lunches easier and more economical.
  • Keep in mind how long lunchtime is. Someone with a short lunch period needed foods with little or no prep time. A long lunch period allowed for more complicated meals.
  • Working butter or margarine into a creamy spread with a fork made it easier to handle at lunch time.
  • Include small containers of salt, pepper, and sugar.
  • Keep in mind that some things work better in different forms. For example, a whole tomato packed with some salt often worked better than slices on a sandwich.
  • Fill sandwiches, but avoid overfilling so they are not messy.
  • Canned meats are excellent for lunch box meals.
  • Again, look for variety when shopping. Ease of eating was important, but variety was just as important. For example, breads could be varied. Raisin bread, rye bread, muffins, rolls, cakes–these all counted.
  • Raw vegetables are both refreshing, and provide variety in texture, flavor, and color. You could put them on sandwiches or eat alone.
  • Grinding meats with relish or salad dressing keeps the sandwich moist. Mixing condiments with butter and spreading over bread also helps keep a sandwich from being too dry.
  • Besides milk, other suggested drinks included lemonade, iced tea, fruit juices, and vegetable juice.
  • Don’t forget dessert! Having a sweet treat is a nice way to finish the meal. Muffins, cookies, fruits, carefully packed cakes, and even custards and puddings were good suggestions.
  • Creative packing methods make it possible to take most kinds of foods with you in your lunch box. Don’t feel like sandwiches, while a very handy option, are the only thing you can pack. Hearty soups, meatloaves, salads, and pasta dishes are all possibilities.

That looks like a good place to stop for today. Next we’ll look at supplies for packing lunch boxes, tips for hard to pack items, and why having a dedicated lunch box packing station was a good idea.

The images today are from the back of a pamphlet titled “War-time Lunches” from the Philadelphia Electric Company. They show a list of suggestions for thermos dishes, sandwich fillings, and breads to add to your lunch box shopping list.

More posts in this series:

Victory Lunch Boxes, Part 2

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.

 

 

 

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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