Dig (Through Google) For Victory!
Being poor was getting a little dull, and I thought it could be more fun, and by “fun” I mean it could involve a lot more research. So I decided to fight any Nazis that might be left after four Indiana Jones movies (and that Quentin Tarantino one) by way of World War II rationing.
Rationing has the benefit of being both historically fascinating and economical, which is not often the case with these reenactment schemes. (Honestly. Have you ever tried to buy enough linen to sew a coathardie? You could buy an entire Norman castle for that kind of money.) It also ties in with my garden plans for this year, which are to grow as much food as I can, in a small space, for the least money. (Last year my plan was “Moorish Palace,” which was less successful.)
After much research, and many internet hours later, I had discovered two things. First, I am not the first person to think to themselves, “World War II rationing? SOUNDS FUN.” Second, I am apparently the only person IN THE ENTIRE WORLD who has heard the phrase “source citation.” Or “primary source material.” Or “where the hell did you read that are you sure you didn’t just imagine it a diet of lard can do that to you.” There are several rationing blogs out there, and I’m sure they’re written by very nice people, people who pay their taxes and love their children, but those blogs can bite me. I’m not going to name names, because this blog isn’t about shame, even if that shame is well deserved, but I think we can all agree that “Cite Thy Sources” only missed out on being a commandment because there wasn’t enough room for an eleventh law on the tablet.
You Keep Using That Word…
Having said that, I did discover some delightful wartime cookbooks on Google Books. (When they legalize marriage between man and website I will be marrying Google Books, in an elaborate Tahitian ceremony I’ve been planning in my spare time.) The best of them has been “Mary Elizabeth’s War Time Recipes; Containing Recipes for Wheatless Cakes, Meatless Dishes, Sugarless Candies, Delicious War Time Desserts, Etc.” published 1918. (Wrong war. So sue me.) It’s worth noting that when Mary Elizabeth says “sugarless” she means “not containing white cane sugar but four cups of honey will be dandy,” and when she says “meatless” she means “containing an unbelievable amount of meat but no beef.” By Mary Elizabeth’s standards I’m an ascetic Hindu monk.
I can highly recommend Mary Elizabeth’s cookbook, as it’s absolutely packed with simple-yet-delicious recipes. Also some strange ones. Like the cooked cucumber quarters with mayonnaise. And the broiled calves brains.
Many have a prejudice against calves brains, because they have not been in the habit of eating them ; but they are such a delicacy that we should overcome this idea and use them more often. After all, it is a ridiculous thing to eat and enjoy calves liver and shrink from eating calves brains. And calves brains, too, have the merit of being inexpensive — a rare merit in these days of soaring prices. In our own home, they have been served and enjoyed by people who might have turned up their noses had they known what they were eating (a small deception, which is quite permissible in proving the point that they are a real delicacy).
I have so far been unsuccessful in locating anyone who would like to be deceived into enjoying brains. My friend Kenda, who is an expert in all things zombie related, claimed to be doing a “vegan thing,” and my marriage isn’t strong enough to risk a ruse like that on Mr. Cloud Ring. I could try it on the dog, but he also eats bird poop and used tissues for fun, so I don’t think I would learn much. (“At least as good as bird poop and used tissues” is not something you often see on menus.)
I’ve only had time to test one recipe so far, but it was so good I’d like to share it with you.
I halved the recipe, so mine went like this:
1/2 lb Goya dried black beans, soaked in a bowl of water overnight
8 cups water
2 tablespoons beef bouillon (I was out of chicken)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (to help the beans cook)
Some chopped carrots
Some chopped onion
Some celery tops
A fresh bay leaf
Salt and pepper
When it had cooked for three hours I whipped it up in the blender, and it was just about the tastiest thing ever. I don’t even LIKE beans. I only picked this recipe because I enjoy collecting dried beans out of pods, and I need to find a way to justify growing them. (Beans are also shiny, which I quite like.)
So the rationing has been going well. I even used my knowledge of blackout procedures to convince the landlord I wasn’t home. The only hiccup has been butter, which Mr. Cloud Ring says I can’t ration. And he said it with a look that strongly implied that anyone who DID happen to ration his butter would find themselves fertilizing the victory garden. So for the sake of the nation I’m gonna let that one go.