Cookies and sugar ... a love affair
Hi-di-ho, my friends! Yes, we're going to talk about cookies. Why? because I'm on a diet and talking about it is the closest thing I can get to the real thing. I have a frock to fit into on Memorial Day and, well, my painstaking endeavor in finding a full slip, will be for naught if I don't slim my waist before the 30th! (As an aside ... I had to go vintage on the slip, because modern full slips, let alone cotton ones, are so darned hard to find.)
Cookies = sugar, right? Stevia, Truvia, high fructose corn syrup, Splenda, Erythritol, Agave Nectar. We use them today as sugar substitutes when baking, but in May, 1942 when sugar became the first item on the ration, our predecessors didn't have these options available to them. Seventy-four years ago, the newly instituted, government-issued War Ration Book One entitled each member of the household to only one pound of sugar over a two-week time period. Back then, that wasn't very much and, even if you had the ration stamp, that didn't mean you could actually obtain the sugar. With the Japanese occupying the Philippines, imports halted. Sugar was rationed for two reasons - there was very little to go around for the unforeseeable duration, and the boys needed it overseas. And remember, this was also a time when homemakers canned, and that required a ton of sugar. So much so that one had to submit a canning application to the board for approval of an extra 25 pounds of sugar for the coming year.
So, in their patriotic zeal, women became inventive in the kitchen, and food product companies responded by cleverly printing wartime recipe cookbooks or leaflets featuring their product as the one of choice. Eating for Victory, The War Time Cookbook, and my favorite (and tough to find an original copy of) How to Bake by the Ration Book were excellent home front cooking instruction. They encouraged "your grandmother's" ingredients! Molasses, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon to name a few. They sound healthier (and safer) than Erythritol don't they? Honestly, if I can't say it, I don't want to eat it.
Well, this got me thinking about baking then versus now. Those thrifty women baked a lot. Bread (and not using an appliance) cakes, pies, and cookies to send in the boys' care packages. Mail call hugs from Mom, cookies were messages from home that came with the sweet scent of molasses when he tore into the box somewhere in Europe or the South Pacific. Imagine that first bite. Can't you just hear him moan at the taste of home?
"Hey Joe. Give me one of those cookies!"
"Not on your life. They're from my mom!"
"Aw, C'mon. I'll trade you my C rat chocolate bar."
"Those things are so bad, they're Hitler's secret weapon!"
In preparation for the National Pen Women recruitment tea in February of this year, I decided to try my hand at a ration recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies. Using one I discovered at a favorite blog: Sentimental Journey (blog hostess is the Educational Coordinator at the National D-Day Memorial) I ended up with about four dozen, plump, satisfying cookies. Combining a small amount of sugar with the added richness of molasses and a hint of cinnamon these swell cookies vanished pretty quickly.
2 cups oats
1 2/3 -cups flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl, stir together the flour, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In another large bowl, beat the sugar with the shortening until smooth and creamy; mix in beaten eggs, molasses, and vanilla. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients. Stir in walnuts and raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until slightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
So with the success of that cookie, I decided to try another. This one came from Betty Crocker claiming to be the perfect cookie to ship to soldiers and seamen and I can understand why they suggested that given the thinness. But, headstrong Cat deviated from the recipe. For starters, I shouldn't have added raisins. These cookies were meant to be thin and crispy, perhaps adding jelly between two. Thin cookies could ship well, so the recipe claims, but I just don't see how they could arrive whole and not in crumbles. After refrigerating the sticky, soft dough, it is sliced into 1/8 inch cookies before baking. Adding the raisins caused me to have to place teaspoonfuls on the baking sheet. The end result was a thin, mediocre tasting cookie. There was much more flavor in the first recipe and without using white granulated sugar. However, I think, done right without raisins, and using jelly in between these cookies, it could be a winner for the family - not the boys overseas.
So yeah, in this 1940s experience, I take my hat off to our grandmothers for their trials in the kitchen when faced with the Office of Price Administration's (OPA) restrictions and their heartfelt desire to send their boys' the best.
UPDATE: Since beginning to write this post two weeks ago, my "slim down my waist" attempt was an epic fail. No wonder ... I made a batch of cookies #1, and yes, enjoyed them immensely. And that, of course, led me to spend money on a new frock. This time, I went reproduction and found the most darling dress in the UK at The Seamstress of Bloomsbury. I just adore this shop!
Until next time, my friends ... which will coincide with the release of A MOMENT FOREVER on May 30!! Woot Woot. I'll be having a swell time at a re-enactment, launching the book from the encampment. Look for the video. KEEP 'EM FLYING!