World War II Recipes: Food Rations as Life

To say that COVID-19 quarantine has changed our relationship with food in the last few months is an understatement. The.

To say that COVID-19 quarantine has changed our relationship with food in the last few months is an understatement. The groceries we took for granted now seem an unstable commodity. So, we are forced to be creative to make do with what food rations we have.

Although rationing provisions may seem like a new idea to some of us, it was not to our grandparents and great-grandparents. Previous generations already had the habit of conserving due to the scarcity mentality from the Great Depression. But when World War II came, all citizens of both Britain and the U.S. were suddenly thrust into rethinking their food situation.

The Start of WW II Food Rations

Unlike our current food (and toilet paper) shortage that came about by panicked consumer gluttony, food rations organized by the government during World War II. Each family received a book based upon its size and the ages of its members. One of the first food items rationed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was sugar, an import from the perilous Pacific trade route. Next came meat. In the 1940s, American families consumed the largest amount of beef in the world. Red meat was seen as a sign of strength for both the country and red-blooded American men. So, cutting down on meat presented a challenge to meal planning with food rations.

Profiting During Rationing

Recipes for Today, 1943

Because the central source of protein suddenly became scarce then too, companies began advertising their product more as a source of vitamins and protein. This included produced produce by Post, who stole the original recipe for corn flakes from William Kellogg and then marketed the purloined recipe as Post Toasties for nearly 100 years.

Among these World War II nutrition booklets is Recipes for Today, produced by General Foods, which encompassed Post, among a host of other food products.

Recipes for Food Rations General Foods Products
Meal Planning with Food Rations

Vintage World War II Ration Recipe: Potato Puffs

Mixing Potato Puffs from vintage 1940s cookbook

Since Toasties no longer exist, I substituted store brand corn flakes. The prep was simple: grate 1 tsp onion and combine with 2 C. mashed potatoes and 1/2 c. cheese. I rolled them into balls, per the directions. The recipe said it made six puffs, which didn’t seem enough. So I rolled them into smaller, tablespoon-sized portions.

At that point, I realized the potato puffs needed to be protected from rolling together off the tray. So, I took a cue from some modern recipes and used a muffin tin. I wasn’t sure how the mashed potatoes would bake or crisp without leavening or egg wash.

I was surprised when they came out. The cheese had become gooey in the middle but also melted with the cornflakes to make a crispy crust. The tops had puffed over to make a crunchy dome of air. I tried one and had a few more too. The child didn’t know what to make of them but then asked for more later on.

Potato Puffs Vintage Recipe from World War II

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