Wartime Beef and Bean Stew

Here’s another recipe from Mary Swartz Rose‘s Everyday Foods in War Time (1918) for a beef and bean stew. In her book, Swartz acknowledges that beef is not the most fitting repast for a time marked by dour wartime austerity and reminds the reader that it does represent an unnecessary expense and should be seen as somewhat of a luxury. “A pound of beef,” she writes, “will require the consumption by the animal of some fourteen pounds of grain.” This pound of beef will furnish “perhaps 1,200 calories, while the grain consumed will represent over 20,000 calories.” Foods like milk and grains are far more economical, Swartz writes, and do not strain the digestion as much as meat.

But there are economical meat dishes, Swartz continues, and they tend to feature meat as a flavoring rather than the entire substance of the meal. Swartz shares her delightful recipe for beef and bean stew, which uses beans as a tasty meat extender, as an example of such a dish. The recipe is copied below. Serve Swartz’s stew with a hearty peasant bread and a green salad.

Beef and Bean Stew

Beef, lower round, 1 pound
Red kidney beans, 1 cup
Onion, 1
Canned tomatoes, 1 cup, or 2 to 3 fresh tomatoes
Salt pork, 2 ounces

Wash the beans and soak them over night. Cut the pork into small pieces and try out the fat. Cut the beefs into small pieces and brown it in the pork fat, then add the vegetables with water enough to cover. Cook just below the boiling point for about three hours.

From Austerity Britain: Stuffed Cabbage

During the Second World War, the British Ministry of Food dealt with food shortages by instituting a system of rationing. Each citizen was given a ration booklet, which they had to present to their local shopkeeper. In exchange for money and ration tickets, the customer would receive a set amount of food.

In Britain, as in Germany, rationing was introduced early in the war. By late January 1940 many of the more common foodstuffs required ration tickets. Bacon, butter, marmalade and eggs were just a few of the items rationed by the Ministry of Food.

But the Ministry of Food didn’t leave the citizenry unaided when it came to figuring out how to prepare the sometimes unappetizing rations. Using various media outlets to popularize recipes for making the most of one’s meager allotment, the Ministry of Food helped the British housewife become accustomed to wartime austerity. Its recipes appeared in newspapers, radio broadcasts and postings in public buildings.

Here’s a recipe for stuffed cabbage from the March 29, 1941 edition of The Times of London. The cabbage and root vegetables help extend the meat, which was one of the foods rationed during the war.

Wartime Stuffed Cabbage

1 large cabbage
1 pound cooked meat, minced
4 ounces breadcrumbs
2 or 3 carrots
1 small turnip
1 parsnip
Salt and pepper to taste

Grate the raw vegetables and mix them together with the meat and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Wash the cabbage and dry carefully before stuffing the mixed mince between the leaves. To make sure the leaves do not open, tie a string around the cabbage and then put it into a saucepan with a little boiling water. Put on the lid and cook steadily until tender. Save the water for soup or gravy.