Some time ago I participated in a WWII-era rationing cooking challenge and made three recipes using only ingredients that I already had on hand. No shopping allowed! One of these was a tomato aspic that I posted on my silly gelatin blog. I never got around to posting the other two…until now!
The Victory Cook Book was published in 1943 as a promotional recipe and cleaning guide by the makers of Lysol Disinfectant. In order to understand the purpose and significance of this book, it’s important to have some context on life as an American housewife during WWII.
In January 1942, the Office of Price Administration (OPA) set price limits and began to ration food and other necessities. This was done to discourage hoarding and to make sure that limited resources could be distributed more equally throughout the population. Over the next year, a wide variety of goods were added to the ration list including sugar, meat, cheese, fats (like butter and lard), canned fish and milk, and many other processed foods. Sugar, in particular, was unavailable for purchase without coupons. Other items could only be purchased with “points” in the form of stamps.
In order to get points, people had to register with the OPA and specific grocery stores to receive war ration books with their allowance of stamps. Each type of item was assigned a number of points based on its availability, and families could buy rationed foods each month as long as they had saved up enough stamps. Stamps came in green, blue, black, and red, and each were used for different types of products. Blue stamps were generally used for canned goods. You can see a sample point ration chart here.
Of course the prices and number of points needed would fluctuate based on what was in stock. Imagine having to plan meals using this complicated system! Home cooks would need to be very prepared ahead of time, and certain ingredients had to be stretched as far as possible.
Books like The Victory Cook Book were helpful for offering recipes using few ingredients, which would enable a family to save more points by using fewer stamps each month. Housewives had to be very diligent about how they used their family’s points or else they might find themselves with an empty pantry and hungry children!
To see digitized images of war ration books and stamps, click on the link below:
The two recipes below are short and sweet, as extended step-by-step instructions are not needed here. There is a good chance you already have all of the ingredients on hand.
Eggs in Rice Nests
This recipe is very simple and requires only three ingredients plus seasonings. It took about 5 minutes prep time (not counting cooking the rice) and I baked it for about 17 minutes to get the egg to set the way I liked it, with a soft yolk. I genuinely enjoy this little rice nest, and I’ve made single portions a number of times as a quick and easy lunch.
Ingredients (3 servings)
- 1 1/2 cup hot cooked rice
- 1/4 cup grated cheese
- 3 eggs
- salt, pepper, paprika to taste
Fill three ramekins or small oven-safe bowls with 1/2 cup of rice, making a hollow. Drop an egg in each hollow. Sprinkle rice with grated cheese (about 1 tablespoon each). Sprinkle eggs with salt, pepper and paprika. Bake in a moderate oven (350 F or 180 C) until eggs are set.
If you want to make this truly midcentury American-style, use shredded American, Cheddar, or Colby cheese. Otherwise, just use any kind of hard cheese that you have. Cook for about 10 minutes and check for doneness, then give it more time based on your oven and personal preference. I like to season mine generously with salt and pepper, then add a pinch of paprika. Remember, it is easier to add seasoning later than take it out, so don’t be too heavy-handed if you’re not sure how much to use.
I really wanted to enjoy these muffins more than I did, but they were just a bit dry and not as flavorful as I would have liked. I suspect this had to do with either over-mixing the batter or using shortening instead of butter. I’m sure the WWII housewives also wished they had butter! Still, these cheese muffins are definitely worth trying at home.
Ingredients (3 portions)
- 1 cup sifted flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 T. sugar
- Dash paprika
- 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1 small egg, well-beaten
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 1/2 T. shortening, melted.
Mix and sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and paprika. Stir in cheese. Combine eggs, milk and shortening; add to flour mixture, stirring only enough to dampen dry ingredients. Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake in a hot oven (425 F) 20-30 minutes.
Sift your dry ingredients and stir in cheese. Combine the wet ingredients and add to the dry, mixing only enough to dampen. Do not overmix! Fill greased muffin pans or use muffin/cupcake liners, then bake at 425 F or 220 C for 20-30 minutes.
- National Park Service. Sacrificing for the Common Good: Rationing in WWII: Doing Their Duty by Doing Without. National Park Service. Accessed August 12, 2022. https://home.nps.gov/articles/rationing-in-wwii.htm.
- National Women’s History Museum. Food Rationing and Canning in World War II, Sept 13, 2017. National Women’s History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/articles/food-rationing-and-canning-world-war-ii.
- Schumm, Laura. Food Rationing in Wartime America. History.com. May 23, 2014, updated Aug 31, 2018.