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.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How did Store Owners Survive WWII?

As I am approaching the middle of this experiment... I want to know how the merchant people survived.  How did clothing stores and shoe stores stay open when most people only could buy one or two outfits a year? 

This is the question I have been wondering about.  I have now gone half a year without buying new clothes or shoes (a record for me)!  I just walked through Target today… through the shoe section – and tried on a few pairs… just for fun.  I tried them on – imagining how they would look at work… then sadly put them back in their box.  Knowing it is for the good of our world.

I can imagine that is what women felt too.  In the US many women were making more money than they had ever made before – and yet for the war effort – they did not buy on impulse.  They did not pick up that perfect hat or shoes, or that lovely summer top new for this season.  They (many of them – I realize not everyone) would dutifully buy their war bonds and count their ration stamps for their shoes, while sighing at the shoes in the window displays.
How different our economy would be if people did not buy on impulse.  The whole world of marketing is based on people buy things without a lot of thought behind it.  Would Target, Wal-Mart, or any other big department store survive if people could only buy so much?  Or would we go back to corner grocery stores and independently own clothing and shoe stores?  Which way is better?  If people were willing to save up, and own only a few things – that have high quality… could that thought end injustices forced on children and slave labor used to make the things we buy impulsively.

These are the questions that I think about when I try on these shoes… then smile, and put them back on the shelf.

My Indoor Victory Garden

I have done it.  Last week I planted my first victory garden.  Being that I live in a studio apartment and will possibly be moving cities at the end of August… I decided to see what will grow inside.

I started out by going to the store to get two window boxes that I could place on my radiators (now that it has been so unseasonably warm) and grow lettuce and spinach.  My grandfather was a great farmer and also grew many plants in a greenhouse each year.  That skill, the green thumb, passed on to my mother.  Each year we would plant a huge garden that took up over half of the back yard.  Somehow - that skill of a green thumb did not pass on to me.

The last plant that did very well was this beautiful Ivy that I grew in college.  It didn’t die when I forgot to water it, it just continued to flourish.  It did so well - that it was out growing its pot when I packed it up and brought it home for winter break.  I never knew what happened to it – after it road home in the trunk of my car for a two hour trip in subzero weather, it never grew leaves again.  I watered it for two months after that faithful ride in the car… but it never came back.
What I Planted...

Knowing that- I was at a loss in the store as I looked at dirt and pots.  I asked this kind lady, who was also shopping in the store, what she thought about growing things inside.  Well, she took me by the hand and picked out my dirt, my seeds, and also convinced me to try other vegetables besides greens…

I think that is the Tomato plant in the center
So now I have four pots.  In the more shallow pots – I planted lettuce greens, spinach greens and some type of broccoli.  In the deeper pots, I planted carrots, radishes, a tomato plant, and one beet.  I also started some green onions around the edges of the plants.

My hope is to harvest some of the vegetables and then plant more seeds – so the garden will be producing throughout the summer.  I can’t wait to taste the fresh greens and carrots….  What has really amazed me is how much the plants grow in the night time.  That is something I didn’t see when they were planted outside.

I could not see spending so much money on a watering can… so I made my own out of a old milk container with holes punched in the top.  It works pretty good – and helps me measure out how much water is being put on the garden.  I did buy a shelf to put pots on… and the legs were not tall enough- so I took some of my spools of thread, taped them together, and they work great to heighten the shelf (I don’t believe they are earthquake proof J). 

So join me in watching this garden grow… I can’t wait to start eating victory vegetable soup!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Hero’s Birthday

My Grandmother Helen turned 90!

This January- my hero had her Birthday.  My Grandmother, the one who has told me the most about living out WWII rationing and life during the War turned 90 years old.  It was a wonderful time to celebrate with her and to hear some new stories.

My Grandmother is the reason that I chose to see what living under WWII rations was like.  She has an amazing story.  She was married at the beginning of the War and followed my Grandfather as he went through flight training in the south, then to California where she worked as a riveter making air planes.  She was sent back to South Dakota to live with my Grandfathers dad when she couldn’t live on base with my Grandfather, then would pack up 6 months later to join him somewhere else.  She learned to live on very little and to be happy sharing a home with other military wives, sleeping on the couch because there were not enough bedrooms. (Many bases did not have family housing).
With my hero!

My Grandmother is a strong woman – who learned how to care for herself and do what she needed to do to keep a family while my grandfather flew DC3’s from Brazil to Mexico for repairs then flew them back to Brazil (on their way to Europe).  This experiment has been a wonderful way to connect with my Grandmother and to hear the woman’s side of the story of WWII.

It was amazing to see how people honored the life of my grandmother and I was glad to be a part of it.  The history and stories of this generation is so important to hear and to remember.  They are amazing stories of survival and of finding joy in the midst of chaos.  They truly are the greatest generation and I am proud to know them and learn from them.

Rationing and Diets!

 Pumpkin and beans I froze this fall
This February I joined a “boot camp” program at my gym.  It is a fun program that combines fitness work outs with developing new eating habits.  Part of this program is following the “Mayo Diet.”  I was not sure how WWII rationing would blend with the Mayo Diet.  To my surprise… it blends very well.

The Mayo clinic encourages people to eat 3 or more servings of fruit and 4 or more servings of vegetables each day.  They want people to eat whole wheat, and only two servings of lean proteins and dairy.  They encourage people not to eat out or to watch more TV then the amount of time they spent working out.  Pretty similar to what the government encouraged people to do during the War.

Rationing automatically required people to use more fruits and vegetables to stretch the meat rations.  They encouraged women to make their own bread (hearty whole wheat’s were encouraged to help workers have the energy they needed to make it through the day).  Homemade bread offered the smells of comfort and home to a busy household that found themselves in a constant state of stress and change.  Exercise was also encouraged by the government to help relieve stress and to keep workers (women) healthy and happy with their selves.
Making Whole Wheat Bread

I was surprised how many WWII recipes fit perfectly into the eating habits.  I have made “California Chicken.”  A lovely recipe that creates four filling servings of vegetables in a cream sauce with 6 oz. of tuna.  The white sauce is made with flour and the water from the can of tuna.  Tuna was not always available during the war – but was a great source of meat when it could be found.  I had a stock pile of tuna from pre-rationing times that I could dip into.

Vegitable  burgers in the Muffin tins
The vegetable burgers I make often.  They stretch a half a pound of beef into six servings by adding lots of grated vegetables.  A healthy serving of chili powder makes them extra tasty and they don’t need any ketchup (which is rationed).  I make them in muffin tins and take them to work on a bed of cooked green beans.
7 layer hotdish ready to cook

A 7 layer vegetable hot dish stretches ½ lb. of beef into 8 servings.  The flavor is amazing with sliced potatoes, celery, onions, green peppers, and tomatoes.  It makes a meal that is wonderful to eat every day and gives you two servings of vegetables for the day.

The part that I have loved in this eating style… is the aspect of no sugar.  This has helped me stretch my sugar rations and I have started using fruit to sweeten baked goods. 

7 layer hotdish ready for lunch...
I have figured out that most recipes from WWII are pretty healthy except for the use of oil.  If the oil is cut and whole wheat is used – it is wonderfully healthy and rations friendly (the less canned food the better).  I would like to know if I could grow lettuce and spinach indoors in window boxes – it would help my grocery bill during the winter months.

The Mighty Lunch…

I have received the best WWII document every.  A beautiful cookbook on 500 recipes for packing victory lunches.  In rationing – I have gotten quite board with my lunches that I take to work.  Now the options are endless.

I wanted ideas for sandwich fillings.  I don’t buy sandwich meat and I get tired of Peanut butter.   I have started making bread each week- and I like to have a variety of sandwiches during the week.

Here are some of my favorites…

Green Bean filler:  Take two cups of cooked green beans and cut them up into tiny pieces (I used my olu knife and a cutting bowl).  Add chopped parsley (about a tablespoon), pepper, and a table spoon of mayonnaise.  Stir together well.  This will make enough for 4-5 sandwiches. 
It tastes wonderful- and it is a great choice for meatless Monday!
Green Bean Sandwich filling

Cottage Cheese and Carrots:  Take a ½ cup of Cottage cheese.  Add a ½ cup of grated carrots and 1/8 cup of raisins (the recipes calls for ½ and I used a ¼ cup and it was still too much).  Mix together and eat on brown bread.
This is a sweet and filling sandwich.  Great protein and vegetable servings.  The carrots are so sweet.  You could add mayonnaise if you wanted (I don’t like it so I left it out).  Again – great for Meatless Mondays.

Cottage Cheese, Raisins and Carrots
I also made chocolate macrons.  It was baking chocolate, coconut and I put in currants.  I think they taste much better without the currants.  They are a great quick cookie for lunch.

My Packed Lunch, with Macrons
I did discover that as I eat less meat – I crave milk.  So I always pack a small jar of Milk in my lunches and it just hits the spot.

Happy lunch packing….