Wartime homemakers had to be creative with less. As described in Your Share, a Betty Crocker booklet from 1943, women of America took their positions as "soldiers on the Home Front," which required being ever-mindful of scarcity while ensuring the nutrition of their families. My great-grandmother's cookbooklets and clippings are filled with tips for stretching and substituting ingredients, using leftovers, and storing foods properly to avoid waste.
Not all of these materials are relevant to how we cook and eat today (yikes, all those jellied creations!), but they do have some real value besides curiosity or amusement. I had already begun a stronger effort to curb food waste after reading American Wasteland and now, thanks to Great-Grandma's clippings, I'm considering things even more carefully. Here are a few of my favorite tips: Your Share (General Mills, 1943) • Spread the butter thin — prevent the waste of little dabs that cling to plates and are washed off • Save fresh milk — rinse milk bottles with water, and use in cooking • Use all of the vegetable — celery leaves in bread stuffings, stews and soups, and roasts • Roll out leftover pastry, sprinkle with cheese, cut into fancy shapes, bake, and serve with salads or tea • To decorate a wedding cake, place a single rose across the top or arrange a heart shape in the center using delicate blossoms in season Metropolitan Cookbook (Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 1948) • Save the water in which vegetables are cooked to make stock • In cakes with chocolate, raisins, or nuts, replace the sugar with honey, cup for cup Beyond these particular tips, I've found that my mindset has shifted. I look at the food in my refrigerator and pantry with greater appreciation and perhaps even creativity. My Great-Grandma passed away many years ago, but I am grateful for her recipe collection and the inspiration it brings! Related: Do You Cook from Vintage Recipes? (Images: Emily Ho)