During the Great Depression, economic hardship spurred inventive, albeit peculiar, recipes among Americans. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt championed simple, denture-friendly dishes like deviled eggs and bean-tomato stew.
Peanut butter-stuffed baked onions, promoted by the Bureau of Home Economics, proved less appealing. Ritz Crackers found an unlikely role as an apple pie filling substitute, birthing the enduring Ritz mock apple pie. Eleanor Roosevelt’s culinary experiments yielded an odd spaghetti casserole.
Desperation pies, featuring vinegar as an apple substitute, added a tangy twist to desserts. Hobos concocted Mulligan stew from scavenged ingredients, including tobacco and lint. The unusual Milkorno, a powdered skim milk and cornmeal gruel, even reached the White House.
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Kraft Macaroni and Cheese emerged as a modern staple, originating from a creative collaboration in the 1930s. Food loaves, like liver and lima bean, showcased inventive ingredient stretching. Italian immigrants foraged dandelion greens for free, nutritious additions.
Gelatin took center stage in Depression-era cookbooks, with peculiar recipes like corned beef luncheon salad. Milk, deemed a superfood, played a vital role in Depression-era nutrition. Cream chipped beef on toast known as “SOS” resurged, combining canned corned beef and gelatin. Hot dogs, a versatile and affordable ingredient, starred in dishes like Poor Man’s Stew, reflecting Americans’ ingenuity in scarcity.
Top image: One of the Great Depression staple recipes was Mac and Cheese, often with home-grown vegetables and canned meat. Source: Matt MacGillivray / CC BY 2.0.