Thursday, February 27, 2020

Hard times during World War II

In the early 1940’s the United States was immersed in World War II. Despite the ravages of war on our country, Americans celebrated patriotism on the Homefront and the Frontlines.

My beloved Grandma Witham left me a wartime cookbook called Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book. Page, ix, is titled WARTIME POSTSCRIPT.

It reads:

As this edition goes to press our country is still at war. Rationing is in force and shortages of many foods have developed. In a fine spirit of patriotism American homemakers have adapted themselves to the changes. Their minds open to new ideas: foods they have never served before are now appearing on their tables.

There’s more, but I think you can see that America’s mealtime might have been slightly leaner in those years.

In the Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, there are many wartime friendly recipes.

Here’s a recipe for Cabinet Pudding: (PLEASE, remember that food safety has changed GREATLY since WW2. Use caution when making vintage recipes.)

Milk, 1 pint

Sugar, 2 Tablespoons

Butter, 2 Tablespoons

Cake crumbs, 2 cups

Eggs, 2

Salt, ¼ teaspoon

Vanilla, ½ teaspoon

Scald milk with sugar and butter; cool slightly then add cake crumbs. Beat egg slightly; add salt and vanilla; stir slowly into first mixture.

Turn into a greased one-quart casserole and place into a pan containing warm water up to the level of the pudding.

Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees F.) about 1 hour.


And another:

Pioneer Bread Pudding

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 cups bread cubes

2 cups milk

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Use day-old bread, crusts and all, cutting it to 1/4 - to 1/2 -inch cubes. Place these in a buttered 1-quart baking dish.

Scald the milk with the butter and sugar.

Beat eggs slightly; add salt, then stir in the warm milk and vanilla. Pour over the bread cubes.

Set baking dish in a pan containing warm water up to the level of the pudding and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) about 1 hour or until a small knife comes out clean when inserted in the center of the pudding. Makes 4 to 6 servings

On the Homefront, when store bought meat wasn’t available, perhaps home-grown chicken or fresh-caught fish served as the main dish. When cream or sugar ran low, recipes were adjusted to fit the shortages. People got by on what they had and did it with thankful hearts.

I’m thankful for my big, loud, obnoxious family, for the abundance of food on our table, and most of all the love that surrounds me. I hope, regardless of your circumstances, you are able to find reason to be thankful.

Multi award-winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began
when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan. Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and here through the group blog, Heroes, Heroines, and History at Michele is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


  1. A friend gave me a similar cookbook last Christmas. I am amazed at how many of those recipes were served on my table growing up. My parents grew up in the depression and were children in WWII. Dinner offering have sure changed. I grew up eating a lot of pork and beans made a variety of ways. Beans and weinies was my favorite as a child.

  2. Very much enjoyed your post today, Michele. There's a baking scene in my WWII inspirational romance where the heroine is baking goodies to send to her fiance overseas. She needs to use substitutes in her batter due to shortages of ingredients. But she and the others went ahead and had a good time thinking of how the men would react when they received their packages from home at Christmas.

  3. Thanks for the post! It's so interesting to me that the "war generation" parents passed frugality as a lifestyle down to their children so deeply that that next generation continued to run their households in that way. And "country folk" who maybe relied on farming always have known how to be frugal to make their produce and hard earned money go as far as possible.