REMEMBERING “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN”

I’ve said this before but it’s one of those things that occasionally bears repeating; there is often a kind of synchronicity to the kind of food related articles that I write. You think an idea is entirely your own, only to discover later that any number of other people had the same idea and began writing about it too.

An example of this is “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN” by Joanne Lamb Hayes – published in October, 2000, which combined not one but two earlier articles of mine in the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, a newsletter for which I wrote articles for about ten years. “Hard Times” appeared in the August/September, 1997 issue of the CCE, and “Grandma’s Favorite” in the January/February 2000 issue of the CCE. Grandma’s Favorite was a tribute to the various cookbooks published in recent years that had “Grandma” in their titles. I personally have a bookshelf full of these cookbooks – a few of my favorites are “From My Grandmother’s Kitchen”, containing Jewish recipes, “Just Like Grandma Used to Make” by well-known author Lois Wyse (boasting more than 170 heirloom recipes); “Grandma’s Hands” by Deirdre T. Guion (a collection of Creole recipes) and Grandma’s Comfort Food—Made Healthy” by JoAnna M. Lund. And when my family decided to compile a cookbook of favorite recipes, we named it “Grandma’s Favorite” as a tribute to my paternal grandmother.

My article “Hard Times”, like Joanne Lamb Hayes’ “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN” dealt with World War II and the way our mothers and grandmothers cooked. If this is a subject you find interesting, as I do, you will certainly want to add “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN” to your cookbook collection. (And you might also want to search for cookbooks published during the War years, which provide more in-depth recipes and understanding of what cooks were able to buy during the years of rationing, and how they learned to make do – or do without. One really excellent book in my collection is “Wartime Meals” by Margot Murphy, then food editor of the New York Times. Her book was published in 1942

But skip forward to more recent times and there’s Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen, published in 2000.

The foreword to “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN” was written by none other than well-known cookbook author Jean Anderson, who wrote “The American Century Cookbook” which has become one of my cookbook reference bibles.

Jean Anderson notes, “With the arrival of a new century and a new millennium, it’s hardly surprising that several cookbooks have surfaced to trace our culinary journey through the twentieth century. What is surprising is the scant attention they pay to World War II and its impact upon the way we ate and the way we cooked even though that impact is still felt today. With ‘GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN’ Joanne Lamb Hayes amply fills the void. Her coverage of the forties—the war decade—is painstakingly researched yet fascinating to read, thanks to her own childhood memories plus those of countless moms across the country who coped and cooked in those lean days of food rationing….”

Anderson relates that she was a little girl when World War II broke out and many of the things her own mother did to stretch meat and satisfy her family’s sweet tooth despite strict sugar rationing sprang to mind as she read “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN”. Why roast chicken, fricasseed rabbit and braised beef heart replaced prime ribs and roast leg of lamb for Sunday dinners (because poultry and game weren’t rationed and lesser cuts of meat required fewer ration points). Why so many desserts began with a can of purple plums (the heavy syrup in which they were packed could be used as a sweetener) and why margarine, used instead of butter, was white (Dairy farmers insisted that yellow margarine not be sold) I also discussed white margarine and how the Dairy Industry lobbied against it being colored, in my article “I love you Ida Bailey Allen, Where Ever you Are”.

Anderson points out that, “If only for its in-depth documentation of the 1940s, “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN” is a welcome addition to twentieth-century American literature….” But it’s a cookbook too, filled with a memorable collection of forties recipes.

How did Joanne Lamb Hayes come up with the idea for her book?

In the Introduction to “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN”, Hayes explains that a few years ago, as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, she attended a seminar on American eating habits. She says that when the keynote speaker said that when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, American women left the kitchen and never returned, she knew the speaker was wrong. Although Hayes wasn’t very old at the time, she remembered the time spent in the kitchen and things were pretty busy there. She began searching for her mother’s recipes but those fresh, frugal from scratch recipes had been replaced by more up to date things.

“Thus started a quest,” writes the author, “through libraries, used-book and magazine stores and yard sales that filled my living room with piles of yellowing printed material and my kitchen with delicious memories. As I was reading the cookbooks, magazine food articles and consumer pamphlets, I felt that I was given the opportunity to peek into a 1940s icebox or ‘mechanical’ refrigerator…”

Hayes not only found the recipes, s also discovered a lot about the women who created them

Along with lots of recipes, there are excerpts from wartime cookbooks and quotes from women throughout the country who also remember this particular, unique period in our history. The recipes appear to be a carefully selected cross section of what American women were cooking and serving their families during the War. Are these recipes outdated?
Not at all – you will be pleasantly surprised, I think. Ranging from scalloped spinach and tomatoes to beet relish, from Chicken Gumbo Soup to Six Layer Dinner, from Baked Meat Loaf Potatoes to Brisket with Vegetables or from Hungarian Goulash (which bears a striking resemblance to my grandmother’s Hungarian goulash) to Beef Stroganoff, these and the many other recipes provide a nostalgic backward glance for those of us who actually remember those years, and an intriguing glimpse into the past for those of us too young to remember.

Joanne Lamb Hayes has been writing about food for various magazines since 1965. She holds a Ph.D from New York University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Studies and teaches both academic and recreational food courses. She is also the co-author of seven other cookbooks, including “365 Great Cookies and Brownies”, “Country Entertaining” and “The Weekend Kitchen”.

“GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN”, was published a decade ago, in October, 2000, by St. Martin’s Press, and originally sold for $27.95. It came as a distinct shock to me to discover that a pristine copy of the book is now selling for considerably more. I checked Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites. The best I could find, in price, for a used copy was on Amazon for $16.52 (plus $3.99 shipping). I imagine you might find a copy at your local library, or at least be able to request a copy from your librarian. My search on Amazon also revealed that Joanne Lamb Hayes followed up Grandma’s Wartime Recipes with another cookbook a couple of years later, Grandma’s Wartime Baking Book. Amazing! The latter is even higher priced. However, that being said – I did some internet surfing and if you just Google “Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen” you will find a wealth of booksellers with varying prices; the lowest I found was about $15.00.

Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen
ISBN 0-312-25323-0

Remembered by Sandra Lee Smith

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2 responses to “REMEMBERING “GRANDMA’S WARTIME KITCHEN”

  1. Nice post! This thank you note was sent to tell you how much we appreciate your thoughtfulness.

  2. Awesome blog! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am taking your feeds also

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