After doing a little research and (of course) checking out a few books at my library, I’ve learned some things about Depression-era recipes.
One book, The American History Cookbook by Mark H. Zanger refers to the colorfully named Slumgullion stew, also known as Hobo Dish, Mulligan stew or Salmagundi. This recipe dates back to 1935, and includes bacon, onion, tomatoes, cheese, meat, and bread.
I imagine the meat and bacon were slim-pickins in the 1930s, but with the added vegetables, it could make heartier fare. Another recipe “Carrot Loaf,” comes from 1927 and identifies the carrots as a substitute for meat.
(Side note: did you know that the Girl Scouts originally baked their own cookies as a fundraiser, dating back as far as 1922? This book includes an early Girl Scout recipe and looks to be a basic butter cookie.)
“Tramp Cookies” from 1934 is another Depression-era recipe in the book. This one comes from Cookery Secrets, a church cookbook from Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Rockford, Illinois. Zanger writes: “these were good, cheap cookies that could be shared with the many tramps coming through this railroad town, itself hard hit by the depression. Mrs. Telander gave very few directions; probably every female member of this Scandinavian-American church knew how to make cookies” (p. 392).
At least one–and probably more–of our Redeemer recipes comes from the 1930s, a time when cooks had to stretch their grocery budget in a way that very few of us can imagine. My parents were still quite young at that time, so I didn’t hear much about Depression-era experiences from them.
However, once when I was a college student, I was in a conversation with one of my professors, whose family really struggled during this era. He mentioned something about having to eat ketchup sandwiches. I laughed at this–a fact that embarrasses me to this day. I actually thought he was joking, which betrayed my own ignorance and inexperience. I couldn’t imagine it. When I try to stretch my grocery budget, I put only 3 slices of turkey on a sandwich instead of 4 or 5. But none? Not even cheese?
Apple Pie Bites
In the Redeemer Cookbook, an old recipe from this era is Apple Pie Bites (p. 73-4). The recipe is adapated to modern conveniences, but it makes sense that this would have been something from the Depression. The simple modern adaptation is to take a refrigerated crescent roll, wrap it around an apple slice, and roll it in cinnamon sugar. It’s easy to understand how this recipe could have been a “make-do” recipe. Without perhaps enough sugar or apples, these bites were a substitute for making an entire pie. Here’s what Dick O. said about this recipe:
“When I was young (back in the 1930s) we lived with my grandmother. She was a great cook. The depression was on so everything was done pretty much at home. Baking bread had a still remembered delicious aroma. One of her desserts was using pie dough and rolling a piece of fruit in it, baking it and dusting it with sugar. She used peach, apple, etc.” So here’s an easy and delightful treat, updated with a modern twist.
I had leftover crescent rolls that I did not end up making for Christmas dinner. I went shopping for apples, and as a sign of our decidedly un-depression era, I found three hybrid apples–Jazz, Pink Lady, and Pacific Rose. Usually I shop at Aldi, where there is one choice: apples.
But at Jewel, and many other American grocery stores we’re inundated with whole slew of options. So I tried these three varieties, all of which tasted similar to Gala or Honey Crisp and used my crescent rolls to make this yummy treat.
You must try these. They are terrific and couldn’t be simpler. Dick’s instruction says to serve warm with vanilla ice cream. We had them without the ice cream and they were still delicious. Give them a try!