When America entered WWI, food was as important as bullets. Feeding American Expeditionary Forces and our allies required sacrifices of nearly every household. Americans were asked to cut their wheat consumption by at least a half, conserve meat, fats, and sugar.
If you were a child back then, it meant no wheat cereal, macaroni, cookies, pastries, cakes, or doughnuts. Luckily homemakers were resourceful and clever. Cornmeal, barley and rice flour were substituted in pie crusts and cakes. Molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup, maple sugar were used to sweeten food instead of granulated sugar.
Across the country, newspapers ran features filled with recipes submitted by readers that used less wheat or sugar.
Here are a few recipes from newspapers out of Boston and Indianapolis that might have appealed to a kid’s sweet tooth.
WAR TIME CANDY—One small boiled potato; 1 tablespoon butter; 1 pound of maple sugar; 1/4 pound nut meats. Mash potato and butter and mix well. Shave maple sugar as fine as possible then work into the potato until mixture is like fondant. Mould into shape and place nuts on top. (The Attica Daily Tribune May 1, 1918)
MOLASSES NUT DROP COOKIES —Cream 1-3 cup of shortening; beat into it 1/2 cup of Karo syrup, 1/2 cup of chopped nut meats, 1 egg beaten light and 2/3 cup of molasses. Sift together 1 1/4 cups each of wheat and rye flour; 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, soda and cinnamon and teaspoon each of ginger and baking powder. Drop by teaspoon fulls on greased tins. Bake in a moderate oven. (The Attica Daily Tribune May 1, 1918)
One cup molasses heated, add 1/2 cup melted fat, 1 teaspoon salt, one teaspoon soda, 1 heaping teaspoon ginger, barley flour to make stiff enough to roll thin, cut and bake in not too hot oven. (The Boston Sunday Globe in April 21, 1918)
CHOCOLATE CORNSTARCH PUDDING
Scant 2 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1 pint milk, 1 square chocolate, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Scald milk to which chocolate has been added, Dissolve cornstarch in a little cold milk, and add slowly to hot milk. Add sugar to which salt and cinnamon have been mixed. Cook ten minutes, stirring often. Pour into individual molds and serve cold with thin cream or whipped cream. (The Boston Sunday Globe in April 21, 1918)
To be honest, I haven’t tried any of these recipes. I don’t know what a “moderate” or “not too hot” oven means for today’s modern oven. I’ve never scaled milk either. However, if you’d like to learn more, check out War Fare, A Culinary Exploration of World War 1, an online exhibit of The National World War 1 Museum and Memorial in Kansas City.