World War 1 Cookbooks that Supported Efforts on the Homefront

Defeat the Kaiser - US Food Administration Poster - World War 1One of the items on the special whale meat luncheon from 1918 was “Delmonico War Bread.” It was not defined in the newspaper article because most readers in 1918 were quite familiar with the concept of “war bread.”  The massive destruction in lands of the United States’ allies — the Triple Entente of France, Russia and the United Kingdom — created major agricultural shortfalls, and so the U.S. made it a national priority to export more grain, which meant eating less wheat at home.

While working on the whale meat post I happened upon a few World War 1 cookbooks from the era that show food and cooking attitudes of the time.  Two of the books were produced by commercial enterprises (coincidentally helping the war effort and possibly improving their bottom line) and a third was written by a local service organization. Each book lays out the goals of the war effort and presents recipes that can fulfill those goals. The category of “war bread” receives a lot of attention, as home bread baking was much more popular in those days.

Cover of Forty-Four Ways to Win the War: Marshall Field & Company

A Department Store Shows 44 Ways (and Products that Can Help)

Chicago’s legendary (but now gone) Marshall Field and Company produced Forty-Four Ways to Win the War (full text at the Hathi Trust) to help the domestic war effort.  They also had an office on the third floor of the main store in Chicago that was called “Our War Service Bureau.”  In this office, staff would help those who wished to offer civilian service to their country, basically connecting enthusiastic people with organizations that needed help (I wonder if they also had a similar office during World War 2?).

Each page of the book is headed by recommendation and some relevant facts, The middle of the page has one or more recipes, and bottom of the page has a product available at Marshall Field that can help, like a bread mixer, toaster, or waffle maker (“For those Sunday morning waffles, deliciously crisp and golden, made from truly patriotic barley flour”).  Here are few that I liked or thought relevant to today’s situation (these are direct quotes, with quotation marks omitted for clarity):

  • Have one wheatless meal each day — Our normal export of 88,000,000 bushels of wheat must be increased to 220,000,000 bushels. It can only be done in one way: economizing and substituting.
  • Mix other grains with wheat in bread — we have play of corn, but only Italy has corn mills and corn meal can’t be shipped as well as wheat
  • Use less fried foods and save fats — Fats have become very scarce. The importation of oils from Africa, South America and Asia has almost entirely ceased
  • Local Foods Avoid Transportation — We must export more
  • Study New Dishes from Plentiful Foods — If we will save one ounce of meat per person per day we can send our Allies and our own Army what they need
  • Use Tact in Suggesting Table Changes — Daily service in 20,000,000 kitchens, multiplied by 100,000,000 individuals will save that total quantity necessary
  • Preach the ‘Gospel of the Clean Plate’ — Patriotism and food! Winning a world war by eating corn and chicken instead of wheat and beef!

I’m certainly not the only one to see the relevance of WW1 posters in today’s food system.  Two recent posts with the same idea are one from Lloyd Alter at Treehugger (especially posters 3, 21 and 24) and another from the Grist staff at Grist.

Detail from 44 Ways to win the war
Detail from Forty-Four Ways to Win the War

Many pages in the book call out cookware that would be useful in the recipes in the book — like the image to the right — and, of course, mention that it can be found at Marshall Field  Being someone who believes in “scale power” in the kitchen, I’m particularly taken by the connection between waste reduction and weighing:  “Never have we so much needed weights and measures in the kitchen as in these thrifty war days, when an ounce of waste equals a pound of sacrifice…”

Civilians with War Breads and Meat Replacements

The “Win the War” Cook Book was a collaborative effort by a civilian group, the St. Louis county unit, Woman’s Committee, of the Council of National Defense (1918, full text at Hathi Trust).  It has some interesting ideas and notes.

Her 1918 Cookbook - from Win the War Cook Book
Detail from the “Win the War” Cook Book

The book has a few war breads:

  • A barley bread with 33% substitution (by volume):  2 1/3 cups white flour and 1 1/6 cups barley flour
  • A buckwheat bread with 62.5% substitution: 1 1/2 cups white and 2 1/2 cups buckwheat flour.  On a whim, I tried this and was not happy with the results.  It was an exceptionally wet dough — almost like a cake batter — and turned out to be quite dense and with an unpleasant bitterness
  • A corn meal yeast bread with 22% substitution:  2 1/2 cups white flour and 2/3 cup corn meal
  • An oatmeal bread with somewhat more than 26%:  7 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup corn meal, and “3 cups hot oatmeal mush”

Many of the bread recipes are written for home bakers with solid grasp of bread baking technique because they don’t have wheat flour in the ingredient list, but instead specify “whole wheat flour to make a soft dough,” “enough flour to make a sponge,” “flour to make dough.”  In other words, if you are using this recipe, you should know what a proper bread dough looks like.  Although that might be useful advice for your peace-time bread that contains solely white flour, a dough made with that contains steamed squash might behave quite differently, so the instruction might not be sufficient.

After the baked goods section, the book focuses on reducing meat consumption (note that meat = beef, mutton and pork), with a progression through legumes, nuts, dairy, fish and fish, finally ending up with recipes that stretch meat or use scraps.The recipe collection includes some items that seem quite more modern than 1918 — more like 1968 — such as soy bean croquettes (soy beans, cooked rice, onions, pickle, egg), soy bean souffle (soy beans, milk, egg yolks, stiff egg whites), peanut loaf (bean pulp, tomato, eggs, peanuts, bread crumbs), and mock chickens (mashed beans alternated with a “stuffing of bread crumbs, melted fat, sage and seasoning”), and a “horticultural loaf” (beans with pimentos, bread crumbs, tomato puree, egg yolks, stiffly beaten egg whites, baked in a bread tin).

A Baking Powder Company Offers Recipes

In How to Use Corn Meal, Oat Meal, Barley, Buckwheat, Potatoes, Rice, etc., and Save Wheat Flour:  Best War Time Recipes (full text at the Hathi Trust), the Royal Baking Powder Company wanted to showcase recipes for quick breads that have reduced levels of white flour, and of course, baking powder as the leavening agent.  There are only a few recipes called “bread,” with the most normal-looking recipes using white flour to make up only 1/4 or 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  For example, the Oatmeal Bread has 1 cup white flour, 1 1/2 cups corn meal, and 1 1/2 cups cooked rolled oats as the main dry ingredients.  There are a few breads that don’t look very promising to me, like a Prune Bread with 2 1/2 cups wheat, rye or barley flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 1 cup prunes (rehydrated and chopped fine), 1 tablespoon shortening, 1 teaspoon salt, and 4 teaspoons baking powder (Royal brand, of course).  I’m guessing that it’s very dense.

A War Bread in a Modern Cookbook

It turns out that one of my favorite one-day breads from a modern cookbook could be called a war bread, as it has a substitution rate of more than 25% (by weight) through use of rolled oats, oat bran, and whole wheat flour (the Oat Bread in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone.  In another post, I provide my current recipe for Oat Bread, which has some improvements over the original.

World War 1 Education through Audio

If you want an in-depth explanation of what was happening in the royal palaces, in parliaments, and on the battlefield and during World War 1, I highly recommend Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series “Blueprint for Armageddon.”  It’s detailed, delivered with enthusiasm, and very informative.  Parts I through IV have been released and reach up to late 1916 (the Battle of the Somme), with a running time of 3 – 4 hours per episode.  BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle has a collection of short programs (~6 minutes each) about the home front in the UK and Ireland that are available from iTunes and other podcast services.

Image credits
First:  “Defeat the Kaiser…” poster, United States Food Administration, ca. 1914-1918, public domain.  Downloaded from the University of North Texas Digital Library.  Second:  cover of Forty-Four Ways to Win the War, Marshall Field & Co., ca. 1918, public domain, downloaded from Hathi Trust.  Third:  detail from bottom of page 9 of Forty-Four Ways to Win the War.  Fourth:  page 6 from “Win the War” Cook Book, St. Louis county unit, Woman’s Committee, Council of National Defense, Missouri division, 1918, public domain, downloaded from Hathi Trust.

1 comment

  1. My grandfater was a army cook in world war 1. I have his original certficate of completion in army cooking school also his original army cook book

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