What’s Cooking Wednesdays: Eat your peas in NYC

World War I poster encouraging U.S. citizens to eat less wheat, ca. 1917-1919 (ARC Identifier 512442)


To celebrate our new exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” we are featuring a food-related blog post every Wednesday. Today’s post comes from Christopher Zarr at the National Archives in New York City.

The National Archives maintains the primary source documents of the U.S. Food Administration (USFA). Thousands of documents illustrate the local sacrifices and quality of life on the home front during World War I. The documents of the National Archives at New York City detail the actions taken by the USFA in New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico.

The Federal Government tried to influence local neighborhoods. In the New York City market,  particular attention was paid to the multicultural nature of the city.

Pamphlets were translated for Jewish and Italian immigrants to explain “Why Shouldn’t We Eat What We Want?” and to support the benefits of drinking milk in “Food for Children.” The New York food board also created an exhibit at Grand Central Terminal to show why limiting wheat, meat, fats, and sugar would not be a detriment to your health.

Some of the most fascinating documents to come from our records are recipe pamphlets. Thousands of these recipe brochures were distributed throughout the city. With titles such as “Without Wheat” and “Potato Possibilities,” the Federal Food Board of New York provided ingredient substitutions for well-known recipes to help Americans do their part.

By letting people know that wheat is no more nutritious than other grains (“only more fashionable”) and that the potato is a “Staff of Life,” these leaflets provided practical ways for people to participate in the war effort.

For example, the bulletin “Meat Savers” suggests that one can conserve resources by making a Pea or Bean Loaf:

  • Add beaten egg and bread crumbs to beans or peas.
  • Add catsup, salt and chopped onion.
  • Add milk, stock or tomato juice.
  • Shape into a loaf and place a slice of pork or bacon on top.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes.  Baste with fat and water.  Serve with sauce.
  • Two tablespoons pimentos or finely shredded green peppers may be added.

These booklets were distributed to thousands of people each and every week. During the end of May 1918, in New York City alone, over 8,500 copies of “Without Wheat” and 9,800 copies of “Potato Possibilities” were printed and distributed throughout the five boroughs.

Interested in seeing more recipes from the National Archives? Our catalog comes out in June 2011!

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