The Social Experiment

This blog is about understanding and exploring what my Grandmothers experienced by living on the home front during World War II. I am going to be living, as best as I can, to the US rationing standards of 1945. This is a social experiment, not only to connect to my families past, but to explore new way to live environmentally and socially responsible. I hope to show, that by living as our grandparents did, we can reduce the amount of waste that our society throws out and live healthier and more simple lives.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When I dont want to Ration...

I must apologize at the long time that has passed since I have last posted. I can tell you that a lot has happened … which has given me a good honest look at rationing.

The biggest thing that has happened is that my little brother surprised me and my whole family with the announcement that he is getting married, oh… and the wedding is this coming Friday. My brother also surprised me at asking me to make the wedding dress – and I surprised myself by say yes!

So when I am not at work- I have been crafting a wedding dress.

If I was following WWII Rations – I would use very little fabric, and possibly cut down someone else’s wedding dress and remake it or to use the families linen table cloth for fabric. I couldn’t convince my soon-to-be sister-in-law to agree to that… So I did not follow rations for her dress. This is good because it is 100% silk – which was mostly used for parashoots.

There truly is something amazing at making your own clothes… especially something that is so special. I had a lot of time to think about their wedding, and pray for their new life together. And I know this sounds very cheesy – but each stitch (there was a lot of hand hemming and beading) holds my love for them and my hopes for their happiness.

I understand how wonderful (and to be very honest – how extremely stressful) it would have been for mothers and daughters to get together and sew the wedding dress. I also see how it was easier to wear your best outfit when getting quickly married while someone is on leave (which is what my grandmother did). I had a month to make the dress and it was very close to getting it done…

This wedding also opened up a new aspect of rationing for me – I sooo want to wear a new dress to the wedding!!!! I actually went shopping for one. It was my first time in a department store since August…And each dress I tried on – was nice… but I didn’t want to waste my one new outfit on these clothes. I did end up buying a pair of jeans that I needed… but couldn’t buy a dress. I then went home and dug through my fabric boxes for material for a dress – but I ran out of time to make a dress. So completely frustrated… I dug through the back of my closet and found that I have a perfect dress for the wedding in my closet. I figured out I can wear one of my old jackets with it and it makes it super cute – kind of bohemian. Add some great shoes in bold colors – and Presto! I had the perfect outfit already in my closet.

This makes me wonder – how many times do I buy things… just because I want something new, or I am board…? Whereas, if I used a bit of creativity- I have perfect outfits already in the closet.

This month I discovered that it is more special to make a dress or discover new options instead of buying new ones.
(Stay tuned for updates on how a Rationed Christmas went… as well as trying new types of meat and a look at what truly is the taste of Christmas? All of this will be posted after the wedding :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

When to be a creative cook?

In the past two weeks I have learned a valuable lesson… when to creatively adapt recipes to available ingredients and when it is better to not experiment.

Lesson one: Tapioca Pudding

I have to say that since I started rationing – I have made a lot more pudding. It is great, it uses milk (which fresh is not rationed) and there doesn’t have to be a lot of sugar in it. My favorite pudding is tapioca. It just tastes like a warm hug!

I planned to make tapioca and I soaked the beads in milk for a day. When I started to make it- I didn’t realize that I was short one cup of milk! What to Do? I still wanted my pudding (yes I know it is kind of extravagant with 2 eggs!) But I could just taste the warm, gooie, yumminess. Well- I didn’t have any powder milk or canned, but I did realize that I had soy flour. I have drunk soy milk before, and technically wouldn’t soy flour in water equal soy milk?

I have now discovered that it doesn’t taste like soy milk. It tastes like flour. Yucky, awful flour.

Most people would say that the pudding was ruined – but I found if you put a ¼ C of vanilla in it… it didn’t taste too bad. I do think it was a waist of eggs and sugar.

Lesson 2: Yogurt

Trying to be point thrifty… I decided to make my own yogurt. Again – fresh milk was not rationed… but yogurt was. I went to the store and bought a gallon of skim milk (problem #1). I had my own plain yogurt for the starter (problem #2 – the yogurt was 6 months out of date … it didn’t smell or taste bad so it should be ok?). I cooked my milk till it looked hot enough – It needed to be an exact temperature and I didn’t have a thermometer (problem #3). Then let it cool – eventually putting in the starter.

I let it sit in the yogurt maker for a day. I couldn’t wait to see what happened. Much to my surprise – when I opened the top… there was cheese! Somehow I made a very soft cheese! Realizing that there was no way to rescue the yogurt… I put the curds in a cheese cloth and let it drain.

I am not sure what I will use the cheese for… or if it is safe to eat… but lesson learned here is that if a person is going to make something… actually follow the directions!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hurray Meat!!

Yesterday- I stopped by my brothers and sister-in-laws home and they gave a wonderful gift. I am now a proud owner of beef! They had bought a part of a cow from a family farm. They were nice enough to give me the neck bone cuts (I am hoping to make stew with them) along with a pound of hamburger and a roast.

It got me thinking about how did families deal with meat? Did some of them share a Cow – like my family? I know that some people raised rabbits to eat – and I seriously thought of this…. But I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to kill the rabbits. I can archery hunt deer and skin fish… but those rabbits are just too cute!

I am very excited for the taste of beef again. I am starting my third week of Turkey (I cooked and stewed a turkey breast three weeks ago and have frozen it in portions) and I am getting tired of the taste. I think I may start to observe meatless Mondays and Thursdays – just for a break in what I eat.

Next week I will definably be eating beef- Hurray for Beef!

The Joy of Lefse

In preparing for Christmas… I looked at my stock of butter and sugar. What I discovered is that I do not have a lot left. I have three sticks of butter left – and at 16 points a pound- I am unwilling to purchase more. I did discover that I have a new sugar ration coupon that I can fill this week – which is good for five pounds of sugar… but that has to last me two and a half months. I came to the sad realization that I cannot bake Christmas cookies like I did before. No fruit cake. No spritzes. No Peanut butter stars.

Oh- but I can still

make Lefse. This wonderful treat of Christmas (for Scandinavians) made from potatoes, ¼ cup of butter, 3 table spoons of sugar, a cup of milk, and two cups of flour. Hurray for Lefse!!

This Saturday, my mom and I measured out the left over mash potatoes from thanks giving – and it was enough for a whole batch of Lefse. SO we put on our aprons, plugged in the griddle, and started working.

Lefse is not the easiest thing to make. It requires you to rice your potatoes, mix in your ingredients, then to roll out a spoon full of dough on a floured board. Then using long sticks – the flat dough (you should almost be able to read through it) is placed on the griddle and baked for 4-5 minutes. Presto! Lefse!

The challenge is that I like Lefse with a little butter and sugar on it – I did discover it is wonderful with apple butter on as well! (And that is only a 2 point stamp!) There is still the taste of Christmas in the times of rationing.

It was fun to work hard with someone else - and now both of our freezers are full with Lefsa (about 3 dozen large circles that is cut into 4's). I can imagine that is what the canning circles were like- everyone working together to put up food for winter.

Stay tuned to hear about my war cake (it is a substitute for fruit cake from 1940’s)…

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stretching Meat

I think the hardest thing for me is getting use to stretching meat. I will state right here that I have never been a fan of beef... but every once in a while I really miss it. So far – I pretty much eat a lot of poultry, fish, or go without. It is amazing how many ways you can get protein without eating meat!

Well I tried this new recipe from “Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked” by Joanne Lamb Hayes and Jean Anderson. It is called Veggie burgers. This recipe uses potatoes, carrots, unions, and an egg to make ½ pound of Hamburger feed 6-7 people. It is a basic recipe for a meat loaf… but instead of bread (which I didn’t have) it uses shredded (8 cups) of vegetables and a big helping of chili powder.

I was not sure I would like it… but I don’t think I will ever eat hamburger plain ever again! It is the best meat I have ever eaten … and it made enough for a full week of lunches.

In the pictures- I made homemade pickled beets to go with it. Ummm – beets are the best!

This picture shows a meatless night. I curried a pile of vegetables and cracked an egg on top for protein. The crock pot has my steal cut oats cooking for breakfast the next morning. The kettle has a beautiful tapioca pudding for desert (I had to cut the sugar in half, only one egg, and did half milk, half water to save on the amount of milk used... it still tasted good :)

Milk, milk everywhere – not a drop to drink!

This Monday- I got up and went to pour milk on my oatmeal. Much to my surprise – it came out in like old Elmer’s glue. It had soured! I had to decide what to do – throw it out… and not get milk again until Tuesday (my shopping day) or to use it to make some food. I looked at it … and it had not turned different colors – nor had it gotten fuzzy… So I decided to cook with it.

Looking through the 1944 “Good House Keeping” book – I discover that I could use it to make biscuits, bread, and doughnuts. Like any coffee respecting individual – I decided to make doughnuts.

The recipe didn’t call for to many rationed items… I did have to use ¾ cups of sugar and half of my Crisco rations… but I thought that was a fare exchange for a sweet treat. (A modern substitution that I did do is make them out of stone ground wheat… at least I could say they were kind of healthy).

I had to mix up the dough then let it chill for an hour… so I used that time to cook my meals for this week. (To make it fun- I put on “the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!” and splurged on my beer rations… having a pint of Finnegan’s while I worked.) I had cooked a Turkey breast the week before... and had been eating turkey with a rice/plumb side dish. I had saved the drippings and the carcass (the bones). I put the carcass in my stew pot and made a nice turkey and egg noodle soup for this week. It is nice that this one turkey will feed me for three weeks. I also mixed up some biscuits (using the last of the sour milk) with soy flour to go with the soup.

Making the doughnuts was fun… I cooked them using the shallow oil method... to conserve my oil – and the recipe made 3 ½ dozens. They are the old fashion style – they are not covered in frosting or anything but the dough is slightly sweet and uses cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg to add flavor. They are just perfect for dunking in the thin rationed coffee.

Making these doughnuts helped me understand what a sacrifice woman made to make sure there were plenty of homemade doughnuts available for soldiers going off to war. Many women volunteered to make doughnuts and then hand them out to the men on trains as they traveled through their towns. Some women, in the Red Cross and the USSO, had doughnuts for soldiers who came in from the front lines… I can just imagine how the taste of those doughnuts would have brought the soldiers home, to their warm kitchen, just for a little while. How simple of a recipe... but how important it was.

I felt good at not wasting food – using all that I could. The doughnuts were a tasty treat at my workplace and I froze a few as well. I never knew that sour milk could taste so good!

Here you can see my weeks worth of food... I have turkey soup, soy sour milk biscuits, and blessed doughnuts!