Toss yours into the pot

Food memories of World War II

Posted: February 19, 2009

Red stamps were for meat, if you could find it, blue were for vegatables, fruits and beans.

That was kitchen common sense in 1942, when the U.S. Office of Price Administration froze certain prices and introduced the nation's homemakers to food rationing.

World War II brought shortages of gasoline, rubber, and much more. From then on the nation's coffee and sugar would go to the military first and civilians second.

War ration coupons and later tokens in 1944 became the cook's currency as women, who were in the majority of home kitchens then, learned to substitute and stretch. In lieu of a chicken in every pot, there was a Victory Garden in (nearly) every backyard. Good Housekeeping magazine's 1943 cookbook focused on making the best with less. And as cottage cheese came to replace meat in many recipes, sales rose from 110 million pounds in 1930 to 500 million in 1944.

If you remember rationing, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans wants to hear from you.

The museum puts much of its energy into documenting and collecting remembrances from the battlefront, says Lauren Hadley, of the museum's education department. But the museum wants to record life on the home front, too, and that's where the Community Kitchen Project comes into play.

Hadley is seeking memories, recipes, and cookbooks from 1942 to 1946, for the museum's use online and possibly in a future exhibition. And we'd like to help.

If you remember rationing, buying on the black market, and growing your own in a Victory Garden, send your stories, copies of photos, and recipes to us (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Attn: Dianna Marder, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia 19130). Test the recipe if you can and adapt it for the 21st century if necessary. We'll print what we can and forward them all to the museum.

Tell us what you ate on holidays and what you packed for lunch; describe recipes that were disasters or triumphs. What ingredients did you especially miss and what substitutions did you grow to abhor? Are there any recipes you still use?

Step-by-step instructions for gathering memories and recording oral histories are on the museum's Web site: www.nationalww2museum.org/kitchenmemories.

Or contact me, Dianna Marder, at 215-854-4211 or dmarder@phillynews.com.

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