Sunday, November 5, 2017

Depression Era Cooking

This weekend, I found a series of YouTube cooking videos made by Clara, who was 91 when she started making them.  Clara shows her viewers how to cook the kind of food she had to cook during the Great Depression in the 1930s, when money was scarce.

The embedded video here shows Clara cooking "The Poorman's Meal"--fried potatoes with onions and hotdogs--for her teenage grandson and his friends.  I'm not sure what impresses me more--the fact that a 91-year-old woman is sharing knowledge on the Internet through YouTube, or the fact that the same simple recipes and cheap ingredients are a hit with kids today.

Other recipes Clara demonstrates are "Depression Breakfast" (sugar cookies eaten with coffee--a special treat, explains Clara, because bread was eaten with coffee for everyday!) and "The Poorman's Feast" (a three-course meal:  rice with lentils; very thin steaks, fried in olive oil and lemon juice; and an endive salad).

Sadly, whatever Clara videos there are on the Internet are all that will ever be available, as she died in 2013 at the age of 98.  But it's wonderful that she shared with the world the things people did to eat well for little money.  Her videos provide insight into what life was like during the Depression, as well as practical advice about cooking tasty food for little money.


  1. Growing up in South Philadelphia in the 1970's, my grandparents would make us firebread. This is still one of my favorite foods! Take a loaf of stale Italian bread, cut off a hunk, impale with fork, and hold over the fire on the gas range until it catches. Once it does, turn slowly until all the surface is charred. Enjoy very carefully. It never occurred to me at the time that this was because at one time they couldn't afford to replace that stale bread. It was a really special treat. It horrified my husband the first time I made it in our kitchen. :)

  2. Interesting! I'm not sure I'd enjoy charred bread, but when I was a kid (considerably after the Depression) we would sometimes toast bread by holding it over a burner set on High with a fork.