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Great War, great cooking: a look at a WW1 recipe book

The National World War I Museum has released some recipes from a cookery book from The Great War – but what recipes does it contain?

27w ago

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It may have been two years since we celebrated the centenary of World War I – but now, the world finds itself once more in the throes of a war. A war against an unseen enemy. Which is just a rather poetic way of saying we're in a pandemic.

But the parallels don't stop there. Amongst the British government's madcap schemes to deal with Coronavirus, we've seen a Dad's Army of medical professionals being called forward, a possible return of the land army to help with harvesting and work the fields (in the absence of migrant workers who come to the UK in the summer and autumn to pick fruit).

And let us not forget the biggest issue to have hit: rationing. Sort of. Panic buying in the early stages of the pandemic led to scenes resembling rationed Britain circa 1939-1945 in the supermarkets. Shelves were bare, and essentials missing as stores up and down the country were plundered by the big of trolley and fast of hand. So perhaps now is a good time to release a recipe book from WWI?

German supplies warehouse in Hamburg Harbour, 1914

German supplies warehouse in Hamburg Harbour, 1914

The recipes have been released in an online exhibit called War Fare: From the Homefront to the Frontlines, which includes e a bevy of recipes from the 1918 cookbook Win the War in the Kitchen. The original cookbook was a US government-released collection of recipes to inspire people to follow rationing and conserve food. Which, given how tricky it is to get flour, eggs, and other essentials still, seems quite handy.

German soldiers transporting wooden boxes of lard along railroad tracks in carts pulled by horses, 1914

German soldiers transporting wooden boxes of lard along railroad tracks in carts pulled by horses, 1914

Some of the recipes in the book – including potato bread, scalloped cabbage, and bean and tomato stew – have been written out and tried by cooks Joey Armstrong and Alison Ramage, but if you're feeling adventurous the entire book is available online. So, you yourself could try making 'Patriotic Cookies', or 'Potted Pigeon on Toast' (which, weirdly you'll find in the 'meatless meats' section).

German food supplies and field kitchens being transported by horse-drawn wagons, accompanied by soldiers both mounted on horseback as well as on foot, 1915

German food supplies and field kitchens being transported by horse-drawn wagons, accompanied by soldiers both mounted on horseback as well as on foot, 1915

Lora Vogt, a curator of the exhibit, told Food & Wine that, "While Covid-19, World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic are fundamentally different situations, they have all resulted in shortages of essential supplies, including food. The book also serves as inspiration for baking substitutes and shelf stable items that aren't as commonly used today."

The question is, will you be trying any of these recipes? I might give them a go – and if I do, you'll be sure to find them here on FoodTribe!

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Comments (7)

  • Excellent post, Jesse. You earn 50 Useless FoodTribe points for ending with a Black Adder tribute poll.

      6 months ago
  • I would try a recipe or two!

      6 months ago
  • I would try it.

      6 months ago
  • Curious to see if you try out the Potted Pigeon on Toast....

      6 months ago
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