You would be upset with me if you looked in my kitchen right now. After a few days at home with my family — and a few late nights out at concerts for my day job — my sink is an absolute disaster. So when I started thinking about what recipe to showcase for you this week, I cast a weary eye towards my dirty pots and pans (sorry, Mom!) and settled on something easy, quick, and … (my favorite kind) a bit bizarre.

This week’s choice comes from Foods for Health, a cookbook compiled in 1942 by the Indiana Nutrition Council (Indiana State Board of Health) to use in nutrition and cooking classes.  Home economics classes for women were extremely common, beginning in the ’20s and continuing through the ’40s and ’50s. Wartime rationing made the smart use of the home’s resources absolutely paramount. And the programs had quite the patron, too: Eleanor Roosevelt helped push government funding towards a variety of programs, including the Department of Home Economics within Cornell University. Read more about that here.  

For this week, I wanted something that could be done in one pot, with under 10 ingredients, and that was hearty for another cold Indiana Day.

The Historic Recipe 

Source: Foods for Health, 1942.

I found this cookbook in the Service Through Spongecake collection available through IUPUI.

Make it modern:

Do I really have to tell you how to dress up cream of tomato soup? Make grilled cheese, of course! Or sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs on top, or crumbled crackers. Or spoon it into oven-safe bowls, slap a slice of provolone or gruyere cheese on top and broil it until bubbly.

Here’s the breakdown of the book, which is in six “courses” (clever!). I found the milk section the most interesting. You can find it here.

Here’s an odd entry from the book. At first glance, you’d think it was a recipe similar to meatloaf. But meatloaf is generally 4 x 1 (meat to breadcrumbs, or other filler), and this casserole is 2 x 4 (meat to cereal). And it’s layered meat and cereal. A meat layer cake, if you will.

And take a look at this little list of government-provided nutritional pamphlets. 99 Ways to Share the Meat!

And, on a final note: Ah, thank you, Board of Health, for creating this manual for housewives who don’t want to cloud their brain with all the technical nonsense!

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