Saving, Sharing, and Propaganda: Advice for Children from the U. S. Food Administration

Just this week, I finished working my way through a new collection of materials we received relating to military and wartime food and cookery. The majority of the collection is published items that will be cataloged, but it also included a selection of ephemera in the form of menus, corporate sponsored pamphlets, two handwritten recipes, two ration books, and a rather interesting photograph album of the Yokota Air Base Commissary from the 1960s. On the whole, materials in the collection date from the 1880s (Civil War reunion event menus) to the 1960s. The published items date from the 1890s to the 1990s. The manuscript materials are primarily World War II-era, but I’ve been thinking about World War I lately. There have been a number of projects and efforts on campus to document VPI involvement in WWI (and some more to come), which led me to WWI food and cookery. Either later this fall or sometime next year, I’m already concocting ideas for a small WWI-food themed exhibit in our display cases.

In the meantime: Food Saving and Sharing: Telling How the Older Children of America May Help Save from Famine Their Comrades in Allied Lands Across the Sea,  prepared under the direction of the United States Food Administration in coöperation with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Education, published in 1918.

This book was basically the result of a call for the United States Food Administration (USFA, so I don’t have to type that every time!) to create book for public school use “which will promote the program of food conservation.” Food Saving and Sharing is sometimes referred to as a text book and it certainly has the education element to it. In addition, it includes, photographs, illustrations, and a fair number of little rhymes and sayings to reinforce its ideas.

Shortly after the title page, there’s a brief introduction from Herbert Hoover:

To the Girls and Boys of America:

Now that the terrible war is over, you must be glad that you helped to win it by saving food for our soldiers and our unhappy friends across the sea. But our work of feeding hungry people is not to be greater than it has ever been…To save the world from famine will be a greater task than any of us can imagine, but we can do it if each of us does all he can. I am counting on you…

Later, in World War II, we will see the theme and motto of “Victory!” It was used as a motivation for home gardens, increased self-sufficiency, rationing, and a variety of other food and domestic practices. While World War I didn’t have so clean or simple a motto, this book is a great example of the kind of propaganda (a word that shouldn’t necessarily have a negative context here) that was common during this time, especially from government agencies like the USFA. About two-thirds of the book is spent educating readers on food and nutrition. The last third is about efforts during the war, why they need to continue, and what else young people can do to help. There are a couple of pages on the Garden City movement and the School Garden Army (both of which I’ve come across recently and need to read up on!), organizations designed to promote involvement by school-age children in war efforts and to give them a way to affect change.

Cornell’s Albert R. Mann Library has a nice short overview of the Food Administration that includes the following:

“Food Will Win the War” became the slogan and the Food Administration’s widely disseminated posters, articles, workshops and educational material resulted in a 15% reduction in domestic food consumption without rationing. This meant that in a 12-month period of 1918-1919, this country furnished 18,500,000 tons of food to the Allies.

I can certainly see the appeal of such a book at the end of 1918 and we know that the U.S. did continue its efforts well into 1919 to great success. Efforts like those of the USFA would also be extremely influential in another twenty years when World War II began.

The full version of this book is available online.

I know I didn’t actually talk about or feature the new Military & Wartime Cookery Collection (Ms2017-029), but we will come back to it. For now, you can see the finding aid online (the guide includes a list of the related publications).

War and Peas: Cooking for “Victory!”

This week marks the first full week of classes at Virginia Tech. We have a number of groups visiting Special Collections and among the materials we’ve been highlighting in some sessions for graduate students are a couple of pamphlets about “Victory” eating/cooking, World War I, and World War II. Inspired by this, I went in search of a “Victory” publication to share and found one I haven’t seen before:

front cover, Victory Meat Extenders

Victory Meat Extenders was published during World War II. A publication by the National Livestock and Meat Board, distributed by Corkhill Fine Meat Products (Maryland), it’s part meat advertisement, part meat propaganda, part war propaganda. The majority of the booklet features recipes for various types of meats: beef, pork, veal, lamb, and variety (read: organ) meats. More on all that in a minute.

Before we get to the recipes, though, there are some other things to cover. The first two pages are focused on the purpose of extending proteins (more specifically, meats) in wartime. The next two pages consist of a handy guide for buying the quality meats you’ll still find in stores!

text introduction chart, "a guide in figuring your meat purchases"

If you’re a follower and/or reader of “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” the recipes shouldn’t surprise you all that much. The idea of rationing and extending food supplies for victory is nothing new here and the way to go about it, despite the range of publications, is still usually similar. You’ll see lots of added veggies and grains, use of less appealing/cheaper cuts, and a fair share of organ meats.

sample beef recipes sample pork recipes sample sausage recipes

The recipe names are worth a look, too. Some are straighforward (“Baked Meat Hash” or “Roast Veal Roll”), some are creative and inspiring (“Ladies Aid Salad” or “American Style Leg of Lamb Roast”), and some leave you wondering. “Meat Roly Poly,” “Monday Loaf,” and “Scotch Pancakes” may leave modern readers with more questions than say, a desire to cook said dishes. As for the organ meats, well, perhaps the less said the better. Fans of kidney, liver, tongue, and sweetbreads, I leave it to you to visit us and view for yourself.

The publication does leave us on a high note, including a series of suggestions for using/reusing bones, trimmings, and drippings for everything from gravy to frying to baking. You’ll also find a reminder to balance meals from all the food groups, and a pledge to retailers about supplying meat.

list of food groups

And then there’s the back cover. It features the obligatory, World War II-era reminder to “buy war bonds,” as well as an image of the Statue of Liberty. The best part, though? A poem, “The Pledge of the American Homemaker” by H. Howard Biggar which reads, in part:

I pledge the nation that my mission/Will be to practice good nutrition;/To plan those meals which every day/Yield energy for work and play/…With all the problems to be faced,/I’ll do my best to outlaw waste./I want to do my bit and more,/To help America win the war.”

Pamphlets for Victory!

Last year, with so many new culinary pamphlets from the 19th and 20th century piling up around us, Special Collections decided to create a collection just for these little gems: The Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002. And we’ve featured one or two of them before (“Lunch in Wartime” and “Canned Meat…at the Beach!” for example). This week, we’re sharing three pamphlets from three different companies/institutions, all with a common theme: Victory!

First up, there’s the four-page “Special Edition: Your Wartime Food” pamphlet, c.1941-1945, from Kroger Grocery & Baker Co. (later Kroger Company). It includes a selection recipes using cheaper cuts of meat (aka “utility beef”) and/or stretching better cuts a little further. In addition the pages pictured, there are also instructions for basics like beef stew and pot roast, as well as sauerbraten, “American Chop Suey,” beef steak pie, and stuffed steak.

Cheese was a great source of protein under rationing, and even it could be stretched to help feed a family. The modern Kraft, Inc. has had a series of names over time (10 names changes since its early days as “Kraft Cheese Company” to be exact!). It is hardly surprising that they produced some useful pamphlets during World War II, including “Cheese Recipes for Wartime Meals: How to Make Your Cheese Go Further” in 1943. While the black and white images may not to the dishes justice, this small publication contains cheese recipes for roasts, casseroles, vegetables, egg dishes, strata, puddings, and sandwiches.

Lastly, for this week, we offer The Wartime Cookbook: 500 Recipes, Victory Substitutes and Economical Suggestions for Wartime Needs from 1942.  In addition to recipes, the booklet is filled with slogans, small photographs, logos, and explanations of what foods are available and why. There is also a good deal of nutritional information throughout.

There is a finding aid for the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, with a list of pamphlets available online. Just keep in mind, this collection is ALWAYS growing. From Jell-O to shredded wheat, from olive oil to shortening, and from waterless cookers to blender–the collection includes pamphlets and small publications from food companies/councils, appliance makers, insurance companies, and restaurants/hotels. They all offer different perspectives, some creative recipes, and a more than a fair share of colorful illustrations. It’s DEFINITELY worth a visit and a look!

Veggie Displays in the Reading Room!

Next week, there’s something exciting happening here on the Virginia Tech campus–the premiere of “Vegetable Verselets: A Vegetarian Song Cycle!” Inspired by a book from our own Culinary History Collection, the Sunday April 29th concert event sets to music a series of poems about vegetables. Following the concert, Special Collections will open its doors and share some of the Culinary History Collection during a reception in the library.

To whet your whistle, in celebration of the concern, the collection, and National Poetry Month,we have two themed exhibits in our display cases here at Special Collections. One is all about vegetables; the other is highlights poetry about food from our Rare Book Collection. There are a few pictures below, but if you’re in the area, you’ll want to stop by!

More information, including ticket prices and location, is available online. We hope to see you there!

For more about how this collaboration came about, check out the spotlight here–it includes a video preview.

Lunch in Wartime


Food for Victory!

World War II continued to change the relationship between food and family. Pamphlets like this one provided suggestions on how to balance rationing with supporting working family members and other war efforts at home. “How to Pack Lunch Boxes for War Workers” included a detailed meal plan for lunches on any shift, regardless of gender—a factor we don’t usually mention when planning meals today. The aside in the second picture “(Or a Woman)” acknowledges the growing roles of women outside the home…although traditional expectations are still being reinforced. After all, SHE’S the one making lunch on the front cover, even if she was helping build bombers on the second shift.

Oh, and when it comes to sandwich fillings, be sure to consider the “Mock Chicken” on Day 14, or the “Peanut Butter and Chow-Chow” on Day 26. Motivation to stop thinking about lunch and get back to work? Quite possibly!

How to Pack Lunch Boxes for War Workers, 1944. Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002, Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.


Update: After several minutes of imagining the worst, curiosity got the better of me and I had to investigate the “mock chicken” issue. Rather surprisingly, it is made up of ground pork or veal, chopped carrot and celery, Chow Chow, and mayonnaise. (This is Kira, one of the archivists at Special Collections.) Anything other tantalizing items need further description? Post a comment and ask!