A Recipe for Victory: Wartime Cornmeal Waffles

wartime propaganda for corn products

The year 1918 saw the the publication of the Twentieth Century Club War Time Cook Book, an elegant, informative tome filled with useful and tasteful economical recipes. The federal food administrator of Pennsylvania praised the book, deeming it instrumental in winning “the war that is being waged to guarantee the safety of American home” and in ensuring the “permanency of American institutions.” Though he cautions that “much more will be demanded before we can hope for victory, as much perhaps as has been demanded in England and France,” he assures readers that “there is no more important war activity in which women may engage than the careful conservation of our food supply which is altogether inadequate to the needs our own men and our allies at the fighting front.”

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Counterfeit Oysters from Paris

oyster anatomy, schematic illustration

Food adulteration presented a difficult problem in the nineteenth century. Unscrupulous types mixed plaster in flour, tinted butter yellow with marigolds and added arsenic to jarred pickles. An 1896 edition of the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Reports shares an instance of food adultery taken to new heights. “One might imagine that shell fish would be about the last edible to attract the adulterer’s attention,” the article reports, “yet we are credibly informed that a Frenchman is now manufacturing artificial oysters which are so natural, both in appearance and taste, that, unless they are subjected to a chemical test they cannot be distinguished from genuine ones.”

How exactly are these faux oysters made? The American Druggist goes on to explain that the Frenchman uses “natural shells” which he fills with “certain substances” (what these are the article leaves unstated). The ersatz oysters were then “fastened together with isinglass and immersed in a liquor that speedily covers them with a thin silicate deposit.” The article ends by informing readers that the sham oysters “are being sold freely in Paris, at a price greatly below that which is charged for Blue Points.”

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Rice Pudding for Practical Dietetics

vintage cartoon about wearing suspenders

In Practical Dietetics: With Reference to Diet in Disease (1905), Alida Frances Pattee provides instruction for those entrusted with feeding men and women afflicted with various “acute diseases.” “The nurse,” she writes, “has a far better opportunity than the physician to judge of all the conditions of the patient’s digestion, and his likes and dislike for different foods.” In Practical Dietetics, she offers an impressive collection of recipes, many of which appeared on the daily menu for patients at Massachusetts’s General Hospital.

The most common dish in Pattee’s book is, in one variation or another, rice pudding. She suggests that the nurse boil the rice “steadily all day until it becomes a jelly.” “No cereal cooked in a double boiler,” she continues, “is ever over done.”

Whether rice pudding can ever be over done is certainly debatable, but Pattee’s advice to serve all such grain puddings with fruit is a welcome recommendation.

Rice Pudding

1 cup steamed rice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup scalded milk
1/2 saltspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup stoned raisins
1 egg

Scald milk and add butter. Beat egg, add sugar and salt and pour on slowly the scalding milk. Put in pudding dish with rice and raisins. Put bits of butter on top and bake in a moderate oven until custard is set. Serve with Hard Sauce.

Note.—Do not use raisins in case of bowel trouble.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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