• Weird History

Easy, Economical Recipes From The Great Depression

List RulesVote up the recipes you would like to try in your own kitchen.

As the United States went through a full-fledged economic crisis during the Great Depression, people had to adapt their daily lives just to survive the hardship. Recipes from the Depression era reflect deeply embedded culinary traditions altered by a certain practicality necessary for the times. Dishes were simple and used a small number of ingredients that were commonly available. Meals were quick to make, cheap to buy, and could feed an entire family.

But do these recipes still hold up? Are they worth keeping as staples during any economic hardship, or should these recipes be tossed aside as relics of the Great Depression?

  • 1
    447 VOTES

    Scalloped Apples

    From Magic Chef Cooking (1935) by Dorothy Esther Shank:

    • 6 medium apples
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1/3 cup butter [plus more for buttering dish]

    Pare, core, and slice the apples. Place in a buttered casserole and add the cinnamon, salt, lemon juice, and water. Work the sugar, flour, and butter together until crumblike in consistency. Spread this over the apples and bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.

    Yield: 6 servings.

    Good recipe?
  • 2
    435 VOTES

    Stone Jar Molasses Cookies

    From General Foods Cook Book (1932) by General Foods Corporation Consumer Service Department:

    • 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
    • 2 teaspoons Calumet Baking Powder
    • 1 teaspoon ginger
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup molasses
    • 1/2 cup butter or other shortening
    • 1/2 teaspoon soda

    Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder, ginger, and salt, and sift again. Heat molasses, remove from fire; add shortening and soda. Add flour gradually, mixing well. Chill. Roll very thin on slightly floured board. Cut with floured cookie cutter. Bake on greased baking sheet in moderate oven (350 F) [for] 10 minutes. Remove from pan carefully. Cool. Store in stone jar. Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

    Good recipe?
  • 3
    386 VOTES

    Moussaka (A Greek Recipe)

    From The Whole-Family Cook Book (1931) by The Parents' Magazine:

    • 1/2 pound of macaroni
    • Salt to taste
    • 1/2 pound of Hamburg steak or leftover meat
    • 1 small onion
    • 1 cup tomato sauce or 1 small can tomato puree
    • 1 1/2 cups white sauce

    Cook the macaroni in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain well and put a layer in the bottom of a well-buttered baking dish, then a layer of the ground meat [that] has been mixed [with] chopped onion and the tomato sauce, seasoned with salt, and browned in a little good fat in a frying pan; then a layer of macaroni; and so on until full. Pour over the white sauce, sprinkle liberally with bread crumbs, and bake about [45 minutes].

    Good recipe?
  • Photo: Bain News Service, publisher / Wikimedia Commons / No Known Copyright Restrictions
    365 VOTES


    From Most for Your Money Cookbook (1938) by Cora, Rose, and Bob Brown:

    This American specialty of tramp jungles cannot be reduced to one recipe, for its ingredients depend on what you've got, its mixture on the artistic inspiration of the cook, and the time required for cooking entirely on the hunger of the eaters-to-be.

    Here's a sample, however, based on the take of a lucky day:

    • 3 pounds of meat scraps
    • 1 bunch carrots
    • 2 onions, sliced
    • 1/2 cabbage, shredded
    • 1 pound potatoes
    • Salt and pepper

    Start the meat cooking, then add the vegetables, stirring occasionally so the potatoes, which sink to the bottom, won't stick there.

    The word Mulligan is American slang, which the dictionary says is obscure in origin, but it seems probable that it's the knight of the road's mocking abbreviation of the millionaire's Mullingatawny, a chicken and curry soup, which is no better than a jungle Mulligan after a successful raid on a hen roost and a farmer's field.

    The addition of dumplings makes it equal to any dollar-a-plate stew at the Waldorf. Everything goes into it to make the savor irresistible, especially such sauces as the oil from a can of sardines and the liquid from bottles of pickles and olives.

    Good recipe?