100 Years Ago: Food Conservation–Meatless and Wheatless Recipes

Sketch: Breads from page 425 of “The Boston
Cooking School magazine of culinary science
and domestic economics, by Janet McKenzie
Hill (1896) at the Internet Archive.

I recently wrote an article about the Hoover Pledge, a voluntary commitment for Americans to conserve during World War I.  A writer-friend Elizabeth Gauffreau commented that she was curious about conservation food. This article offers a variety of both wheat-less and meatless recipes as presented in newspapers between 1917-1919.

The book, A History of the United States by Henry Eldridge Bourne, in the chapter The United States in the world War there is a concise explanation of food conservation as follows: “Raising Food For All. — The soldiers at the front or in the camps were only part of the great army America was organizing to help win the war. The workmen in the mills and the farmers in the fields were equally needed. America was asked to send food to the Allies, for so many of the English, French, and Italian farmers had fallen in battle or were still fighting that food was scarce. To decide how much should be sent abroad and to see that the rest should be fairly distributed at home, the Government appointed Herbert C. Hoover as Food Administrator. He had already been very successful in distributing food among the suffering Belgians.

Poster: She Is Doing Her Part,
image from page 86 of
“Better Fruit,” by the
Washington State Apple Commission.
From the Internet Archive.

In response to his appeal the American farmers endeavored in 1917 to increase their crops, and in 1918 to increase them still more. Boys and girls, as well as older persons, planted war gardens everywhere. The United States Department of Agriculture, the State Agricultural schools and the County Agricultural agents pointed out how larger crops could be raised. It was necessary to make a careful use of the food which was produced. Cards were distributed telling what to save and what each one’s share should be. Model kitchens were established in order that housewives could learn better how to save food. One way to check waste of food was to fix certain days on which people were asked to eat no wheat either at home, or in restaurants, or in hotels. There were also meatless days. Bakers were required to mix other kinds of flours with wheat. Limits were placed upon the amount of flour and sugar grocers could sell to a family. In a few cases the prices were fixed by an order of the Government. ”

As a result of the appeal to use less wheat and meat, national, state and local organizations, along with individuals came forward to share recipes that would help everyone to make healthy meals without those ingredients.  What follows is a sampling of some that I gleaned from newspapers.

—WHEATLESS RECIPES [Bread-stuffs]—
Tested in the experimental kitchen of the food administration (conservation division) and the Department of Agriculture. From the Boston Post (Boston MA) 5 June 1918 page 13, titled, War Time Recipes of New England Housewives.

(Using no wheat.)

All measurements are level.–In the following recipes the weights given are accurate. the Measurements are approximate–that is, they are given in the nearest fraction of a cup which a housewife ordinarily uses. It is convenient to remember in measuring unusual fractions that two level tablespoons are one-eighth cup.

Method–Mix the melted fat, liquid, syrup and egg. Combine the liquid and and well-mixed dry ingredients. Bake as a loaf in a moderately hot oven (205 degrees C. or 400 degrees F.) for one hour or until thoroughly baked. Nuts, raisins or dates may be added, making the breads more nutritious and very palatable.

Fifty per cent ground rolled oats; 50 per cent corn flour One cup liquid, 2 to 4 tablespoons fat, 4 tablespoons syrup, 2 eggs, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1-1/4 cups (5 ounces) corn flour, 1-1/2 cups (5 counces) ground rolled oats.

Fifty per cent rice flour; 50 per cent barley flour. One cup liquid, 2 to 4 tablespoons fat, 4 tablespoons syrup, 2 eggs, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1-1/8 cups (5 ounces) rice flour 1-7/8 cups (5 ounces) barley flour.

Fifty per cent corn flour; 50 per cent buckwheat. One cup liquid, 2 to 4 tablespoons fat, 4 tablespoons syrup, 2 eggs, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1-1/4 cups (5 ounces) corn flour, 1 cup (5 ounces) buckwheat.

Fifty per cent barley flour; 50 per cent ground rolled oats. One cup liquid, 2 to 4 tablespoons fat, 4 tablespoons syrup, 2 eggs, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1-7/8 cups (5 ounces) barley flour, 1-1/2 cups (5 ounces) ground rolled oats.

Sketch: Patriots, image from page
7 of “Better Fruit,” by the
Washington State Apple
Commission. From the Internet

From the Boston Post (Boston MA) 3 June 1918 Monday, entitled WAR TIME RECIPES.

Cakes made with wheat flour substitutes containing no wheat flour. Sponge cakes and spice cakes.

One and one-third cups barley flour (3-1/2 ounces), 1 cup sugar (7 ounces), 4 eggs (7 ounces) 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1-8 teaspoon salt

Seven-eighths cup corn flour (3-1/2 ounces), 1 cup sugar (7 ounces), 4 eggs (7 ounces), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-8 teaspoon salt.

One-half cup oat flour (2-2/3 ounces), 1/4 cup corn flour (1 ounce), 1 cup sugar (7 ounces), 4 eggs (7 ounces), 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Three-quarters cup rice flour (3-1/2 ounces), cup sugar (7 ounces) 4 eggs (7 ounces), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/3 teaspoon salt

Separate whites and yolks. Beat the yolks until thick and light lemon color. Beat sugar into the stiffened yolks and add the lemon juice. Fold in alternately the stiffly beaten whites and flour. Bake in an un-greased pan for 35 to 40 minutes. Start in a moderate oven, 365 F. or 185 C. and when about half done raise the temperature to that of a hot oven, 400 F. or 205 C.

These cakes are all very nice and light, texture and color good. Barley has characteristic flavor. Corn bake is especially tender and all are good textured. The extra lemon juice used with rice and corn seems necessary to improve the flavor.

100 per cent barley flour. One-half cup fat, 2/3 cup sugar (4-3/4 ounces), 1 cup syrup (11-1/2 ounces), 3 eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon allspice, 3-3/4 cups barley flour (10 ounces), 1 cup raisins.
Cream the fat, sugar and egg yolk. Add the syrup and mix well. Add alternately the liquid and the dry ingredients sifted together. Add the raisins and fold in the well-beaten egg whites. Bake as a loaf for one hour in a moderate oven, 350 F or 170 C. After 20 minutes raise the temperature to 400 F. or 205 C.

Sketch: Baked Beans from page 478 of
“Canadian grocer,” April-June 1918 at the
Internet Archive.

From The Burlington Free Press (Burlington Vermont) 30 March 1918.
As for the meat question many housewives will be grateful to the extension service for their recipes of good things without meat.

Boston Baked Beans–Cover one quart beans with cold water to which one-half teaspoon soda has been added. Soak over night, then drain, cover with fresh water, heat slowly (keeping water below the boiling point) and cook until skins will burst. (Test by taking out a few beans and blowing on them). Drain. Scald rind of one-half pound or less of salt pork. Score rind and bury pork in beans in the bean pot or pail, leaving rind exposed. Mix one tablespoon salt, one tablespoon molasses and (preferably) three tablespoons sugar or other sweetening, one tablespoon mustard and add boiling water to cover the beans. Cover and bake slowly six to eight hours, uncovering the last hour to brown.

Boston Loaf–Mix two cups cooked beans (mashed or ground fine), two cups chopped nutmeats (one cup of corn may be substituted for one cup nuts), one cup bread crumbs, one or two eggs slightly beaten. Season with onion, salt, pepper and celery. Moisten with about one cup liquid (tomato or meat broth gravy or water). Pack into a greased tin and bake about 35 minutes or until stiff enough to slice. Good hot or cold.

Baked Bean Soup–Two cups baked beans, two cups tomatoes, two cups water or rice water, two slices onion, a bit of bay leaf, three or four whole cloves, celery salt, salt, pepper. Cook about 20 minutes. Strain. Add two tablespoons chopped pickle or a little lemon juice or vinegar. Baked beans combined with meat gravy, flavored with tomato catsup, etc., and reduced with water to the right consistency, make a good soup.

Split Pea Soup–Soak one cup dried split peas several hours, drain, add two and one-half quarts cold water, one-half onion and simmer four or five hours or until soft. Rub through a sieve. Season with one and one-half teaspoon salt, pepper; add one pint of milk. Thicken with two tablespoons flour. Add a little butter if desired.

Baked Rice with Cheese–Layers of boiled rice and cheese sauce in a baking dish, sauce on top. Covered with buttered crumbs. Bake until crumbs are brown. Cheese Sauce–One tablespoon flour, one-half teaspoon salt, pepper, one- fourth cup dairy cheese, one cup of milk.

Potato Sausages–Mix one cup mashed potatoes, one cup ground nuts, fish or meat, one egg well-beaten, one and one-half teaspoons salt, one-eighth teaspoon pepper. Form into little cakes or sausages, roll in flour and place in greased pan with a small piece of salt pork on each sausage. Bake in a fairly hot oven until brown.

Fish Loaf–Mince two cups of cooked fish, add one cup bread crumbs, one beaten egg, one-half cup milk or water, about two tablespoons chipped picle (sic), salt and pepper to taste. Pack into a mould. Bake or steam 30 minutes. Turn out and surround with tomato sauce or white sauce with variations.

In 1918 a summer picnic was a popular past-time and so one story covered the question of how to have a picnic and still remain true to the meatless and wheatless pledge. This is from The Boston Post (Boston MA) 29 June 1918 Saturday, page 47.

Sketch: Picnic, from page 198 of “Marion
County in the making,” by Fairmont
W. Va. High School, 1917.
From the Internet Archive.

—What To Have on Picnics—
Say “picnic” and the mind leaps to thoughts of bacon and beef and all sorts of sandwiches. But it isn’t necessary to use wheat and meat on a picnic more than at any other time. Notice these picnic suppers suggested by the United States Food Administration:
(Potatoes baked in bonfire.)
Wheatless Bread Butter
Hard-Boiled Eggs
Barley Flour Cookies Ice Cream or Fruit

Wheatless Bread Sandwiches of Lettuce
and of Jam
Potato Salad
Dates Stuffed with Cream Cheese
Coffee in Thermos Bottle

Wheatless Bread and Butter
Jelly Cream Cheese
Marshmallows to Roast


WAR TIME COOKERY, compiled and published by The Club Messenger, by Nellie C. Roberts, published November 1917

United States Food Administration: Wheat For Liberty

Conservation Menus and Recipes, compiled by Marie M. Bartlett, November 29, 1918, Library of Congress

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].

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5 Responses to 100 Years Ago: Food Conservation–Meatless and Wheatless Recipes

  1. Amy says:

    Fascinating stuff, Janice. Those recipes are quite something (though I am not tempted by many of them!).

  2. Kim Johnson says:

    As a homeschool mom, I’m intrigued by these recipes and why they exist and am filing this post away for when we study the World War(s) to incorporate into that unit.

    As a history buff/family historian/amateur genealogist, I am fascinated by this article and now chomping at the bit to talk to my grandmothers, in order to get their perspective on this piece of history that I didn’t even know was a thing prior to reading this.

    Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Thank you for following up on my question, Janice! I’m particularly struck by the explanation of the relationship between food and the war effort. Of course it makes sense that if farmers are being killed and their fields destroyed, they can’t raise grain or livestock, but it’s not something we usually think about. I’m also struck by the fact that all of the bread recipes were for quick breads. Were there none that called for yeast?

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