Monday, April 14, 2014

Depression Style Cooking And Other Things

You can learn a lot by reading old magazines. The problems we are confronted with nowadays seem new, but in reality, every generation had to deal with them, more or less. Nowadays people complain about the rising costs of life, forgetting that we still live in the times of plenty compared to our ancestors. I'm always reminded about it while scanning through old ladies'magazines from the end of the 1930s.

They have a lot of useful advice on housekeeping, crafts and cooking, and weekly menues in two variants, for those with more or less money. I used some of them as a source of inspiration while planning my own meals. The difference with modern recipes is that ingredients were simple and inexpensive, while the cooking process was often complicated. Nowadays it's vice versa, the recipes usually require fancy ingredients, while cooking methods are very simple.

For instance, in Libelle n.13 which came out on the 29th of March 1940, there is an article about potatoes which discusses several possibilities of preparing them: potatoes stewed with bacon and onions, potato balls in tomato sauce, potato patties with cheese etc. Another article suggests housewives try several ways of making and serving an omelette.

I have a Granny who was like this, she seldom used cooking books but could make several dishes from mashed potatoes or cabbage. Here, for instance is a great way to serve cabbage differently: cabbage burgers. It's my own recipe, which was inspired by my Granny who just turned 90, by the way:

Chop the cabbage very finely (actually I think you are supposed to rasp it, but chopping is OK, too), mix it with an egg/eggs, add salt and herbs to taste and enough flour to make a sort of sticky dough, roll in more flour to form small patties and bake on both sides until ready.

Old ladies'magazines published much more than just recipes, as they contained short stories, romantic novels and information on history and life in different countries. Libelle n. 17 from the same year, for instance, had an article about Dutch princess Wilhelmina and her daughter, who lived in the end of the 18th century.


Though she was of the royal blood, Wilhelmina encountered all the problems modern mothers have. She lived in the times of the nearly complete lack of morals by everyone in society, while trying to raise her children well. Her daughter Louisa had to marry a German prince and her mother wrote several letters to her giving her advice about her future life as a married woman.

It's noteworthy, that according to Wilhelmina the happiness in marriage was the result of fulfilling your wifely duties, not of the romantic feelings. She also advised her daughter to flee temptation and not consider herself stronger than others as everybody can fall into sin if he doesn't take care.

Both hers and her daughter's family had constant financial problems so that they had to scrimp and save, for instance, Wilhelmina sent her daughter expensive tea from Holland but recommended mixing it with a cheap brand.

After her daughter's marriage Wilhelmina's other children left, too, and she became an empty-nester, so while her husband was away on business she entertained herself with reading books, doing crafts and painting. When her eldest son was planning to marry, it was Wilhelmina's task to see to the renovation of his future residence according to the modern standards.

The article (written by Dr Mrs Klijnhout) doesn't say that Wilhelmina was engaged in state business or in political intrigues, she seemed to be quite content being the wife and mother and doing usual feminine stuff, first raising children, then marrying them off and engaging in hobbies and crafts, and trying to practise economy yet she seemed content though she lived in the times of social upheaval. I think she is a good example to the modern women.


  1. Queen Mary of Romania used to live very frugally during wartime. Because the whole country was in crisis, her finances shifted down as well, she used to give sugar and other rare things to poor people in devastated villages, she never bought new dresses because she had to set a good example during tough times. I read a lot about the last Russian Emperor and his family, they were banned in Siberia and had to live very scarcely. The Imperial tutor of Prince Alexis wrote a book about the Royal Family and I found out that people of Ekaterinburg provided the family with fresh eggs and milk because the new government had trimmed the money for them. But this was something imposed on the family, but nevertheless, Empress Alexandra received a good education at Queen Victoria's court and therefore she educated her daughters in a very simple spirit for such an important monarch. Many sincere voices say that the Royal Family wasn't keen on luxury and spending money on stupid things, so why should we as simple citizens feel frustrated about owning less, using less or buying less and producing more?

  2. Because we are supposed to spend all our money buying stuff "to keep the economy going", so that the government will collect more taxes to spend on social engineering programs they are so fond of:)