I won’t lie. Times are tough for us. We stress and worry over every penny that leaves our door. One illness or bad run of luck could ruin us. I don’t think it’s an uncommon thing these days. I think that during the current recession that there are a lot of people who have trouble making ends meet every month. But it also seems that whenever times get really tough, we tend to instinctively know how to hunker down in order to weather the storm. I know I seem to. I’m pretty sure it’s a trait that I inherited from my grandmothers and my great-grandmother.I’m also pretty sure that they picked up the ability to squeeze blood from a turnip during the Depression. I want to be just like them.
We can learn a lot from the Depression especially in the culinary sense. I think we can learn creativity, invention, and maybe a little humbleness. The food of the Depression may have been simple but it was by no means boring, and many of the most loved recipes that are passed down from generation to generation have their roots in the Depression. Take my great-grandmother’s Supper on a Loaf for example. It has been handed down through my family for generations, but it started in the Depression when meat was a commodity and a little had to go a long way or somebody wasn’t eating! That recipe can feed 8 people on a pound and half of ground beef. And it’s delicious! Same goes for this Tomato Soup Cake. I mean, come on, if you had to make a cake the first thing you reach for is not a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. It was creativity. Invention. It’s what got these people through. It’s what sustained them through the long dark nights and many would argue that it made America a better place because of it. I think that when you look at the food of the Great Depression you can plainly see that it reflects the hard times and meager means, but, if you look closer, I think you will also find the dreams, hope and faith that ultimately saw them through to the other side.
This dinner is a full-fledged Depression meal. Since meat is the star of this show, you can assume that this would be reserved for a special meal.
The mock filet mignon tastes in no way like actual filet mignon, but it is quite impressive anyway. And I have to wonder why people aren’t serving bacon wrapped hamburgers on top of potato patties more often.
The wilted lettuce salad is a recipe that I saw many variations of and one that my husband’s grandmother put to good use. It is a spectacular use of bacon grease, something that I think should be used on all salads from here on out.
The Tomato Soup Cake is my great-grandmothers and a family favorite. It’s very much like a spice cake and doesn’t taste at all like tomato soup. So don’t worry. It is delicious.
Mock Filet Mignon
From Kate Aitken’s Canadian Cook Book
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/3 cup chili sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard
Dash of pepper and paprika
1 small onion (1/2 cup) finely diced
6 strips bacon (about 1/4 pound)
2 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup hot milk
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat Oven to 450
Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling water until soft enough to mash, about 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine meat, chili sauce, mustard, pepper, paprika and onion, mixing well
. Shape into 6 pucks about 2 inches tall.
Wrap strip of bacon around each; fasten with toothpick. Set aside.
Beat potatoes with hot milk and salt. Form into six flat patties big enough to hold the mock filets; place on baking sheet.
Top with meat.
Bake 10 minutes in 450F oven; reduce to 350F and bake 30 minutes, until bacon is crisp and meat is cooked through.
Wilted Lettuce Salad
a variation from Peace, Love and Barbecue
6-8 slices of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t. celery seed
2 bunches of leafy lettuce ( such as Romaine or Bibb)
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
Brown the bacon in a skillet. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. Leave the grease in the pan. Add the sugar, vinegar, water, salt and pepper, garlic and celery seed to the pan. Simmer over heat until everything is well blended.
Tear the lettuce into pieces and place in a heat proof bowl along with onion. Pour hot dressing over the lettuce, toss, and then place a plate or lid on top of the bowl to allow the greens to steam for a few minutes. Remove plate and serve immediately.
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 t. nutmeg
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped nuts ( pecans or walnuts are best)
Preheat the oven to 350 and Lightly grease a stem pan.
In a mixing bowl, cream together shortening and sugar and then add in the tomato soup.
In a seperate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.