“What’s Cooking Wednesday” continues with this post from our colleagues at the National Archives at Denver. These Wednesday features celebrate our new exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” which opens on June 10 in Washington, DC, and looks at the role that the Federal Government has taken in food production, safety, advertising, and nutrition.
It’s hard to image Rachel Ray or an Iron Chef looking so solemn during a cooking demonstration, but these ladies were showing an audience how to feed their family on the war front—and still have food for an unknown family on the war front.
On the home front during World War I, a forced food rationing program never took place, but a volunteer food conservation system became commonplace. Civilians were advised to give up food commodities that were greatly needed for the war effort.
Despite being the largest food producer in the world, the United States of America was ill equipped to shoulder such an overwhelming food and material distribution; vast amounts of food and supplies were required to feed the newly assembled overseas army, our allies, and demoralized European civilians. An abdundance of cooking fats, sugar, wheat, meat, and vegetables was necessary to meet the daily task of feeding so many.
In the United States, volunteerism became widespread; citizens saw food conservation as patriotic, referring to it as “Hooverizing” after Herbert Hoover, the United States Food Administrator in 1917. Once organized, families and community groups engaged in “Meatless Mondays” or “Wheat-less Wednesdays” to aid in the war effort.
By 1918, at state and county fairs across the nation, civic groups demonstrated the preparation of meals using food conservation-minded techniques. Presenters demonstrated to crowds how they could feed their families and still have some extra items to pass along to the war effort. In this photo, a member of the Woman’s Council of Defense offers a cooking demonstration at the La Plata County Fair, in Durango, Colorado, in 1918.
Thank you to our colleagues from the National Archives at Denver, for writing this guest post and supplying the fascinating image from their holdings.