There are so many meals that families ate during the Great Depression that stretched the grocery budget as far as it could go. While many of these foods were eaten by small numbers of people in the U.S. before the Depression, they didn’t catch on until folks were looking for ways to more efficiently feed their families. At the same time, farmers were looking to increase their profits where they could.
With the most desirable foods going scarce during the ’30s, new recipes made the best of the food that was available. And, like any good recipe, they got passed down over the years. Here are 8 foods that might not have become commonplace were it not for the Depression.
Not widely eaten before it was provided as part of public assistance in the ’30s, grapefruit fulfilled the nutrition requirement for vitamin C and was at first only begrudgingly accepted as an edible citrus fruit. Recipes called for searing or boiling the grapefruit. But, as more people came to eat this food, it became a normal part of our diets.
They were an invention of necessity: combining ingredients to make the most of every meal. It meant stretching premium ingredients like protein and veggies. And, cleverly, casseroles could disguise bland canned vegetables or canned meat and turn a ho-hum dish into something that had appeal for the whole family.
3. Chicken & Dumplings
Just like chicken soup, you can use a tough old chicken for this American staple and it relies heavily on flour which is cheap. While already eaten widely in the South by sharecroppers, the popularity of chicken and dumplings spread far and wide. Now it’s a staple comfort food for many families, North and South.
4. No-bake Pies
Your mother might have called them refrigerator pies. The preparation of pies using fruit juices and gelatin or pudding meant a reduced cost over fresh fruit. And, it meant less preparation time. Of course, only families with a refrigerator or icebox could partake, but these pies would become a family favorites, especially in summertime.
Many Depression-era foods had to be economical and great taste was not always the main factor in creating new recipes. So, when novel foods came along, many wives and mothers jumped at the chance to make something different. And, even in the midst of food shortages, convenience foods were beginning to pop up as they sometimes saved money over fresh foods.
Government initiatives like Aunt Sammy’s radio program aimed to educate the public on how to create nutritious and inexpensive meals. This meant new recipes were widely disseminated and the tastiest of cheap dishes soon became old favorites.
5. Fried Egg Sandwiches
Obviously, someone thought up the egg sandwich before the Depression hit. But, they became a popular substitute for meat sandwiches due to their low cost and ease of preparation. Now they a regular at many breakfast tables and restaurants.
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