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Food Will Win the War

Minnesota Crops, Cook, and Conservation during World War I

Rae Katherine Eighmey

Publication Year: 2010

Meatless Mondays, Wheatless Wednesdays, vegetable gardens and chickens in every empty lot. When the United States entered World War I, Minnesotans responded to appeals for personal sacrifice and changed the way they cooked and ate in order to conserve food for the boys “over there.” Baking with corn and rye, eating simple meals based on locally grown food, consuming fewer calories, and wasting nothing in the kitchen became civic acts. High-energy foods and calories unconsumed on the American home front could help the food-starved, war-torn American Allies eat another day and fight another battle. Food historian Rae Katherine Eighmey engages readers with wide research and recipes drawn from rarely viewed letters, diaries, recipe books, newspaper accounts, government pamphlets, and public service fliers. She brings alive the unknown but unparalleled efforts to win the war made by ordinary “Citizen Soldiers”—farmers and city dwellers, lumberjacks and homemakers—who rolled up their sleeves to apply “can-do” ingenuity coupled with “must-do” drive. Their remarkable efforts transformed everyday life and set the stage for the United States’ postwar economic and political ascendance.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

In my mind’s eye I see them — the Minnesotans who did all they could to win the “war to end all wars” during the 19 months of 1917–18 when the United States fought World War I by the side of its European Allies. Of course, I see Minnesota soldiers — young men eagerly off on the adventure of a lifetime, as well as the husbands and fathers whose lives were upended by the call to service.

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Chapter 1: One Soldier’s Family

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pp. 3-14

Tracy Gray Cassidy never tasted the oatmeal rock cookies his mother baked using scarce sugar and fats in her Minnesota kitchen — but that was due to timing, not something more dire. His troop transport ship sailed for France from New York Harbor in June 1918, the same day she mailed the cookies from Minneapolis. Gray eventually arrived home safely from his tour of duty, and the rocks...

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Chapter 2: Menu for Success

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pp. 15-42

On April 2, 1917, people across Minnesota and the nation anxiously awaited President Woodrow Wilson’s decision about whether the United States would go to war with Germany. Eager to know before the next day’s newspaper arrived at their doors, crowds stood in front of newspaper offices reading headlines and stories posted on bulletin boards. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that...

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Chapter 3: The Staff f Life, the Stuff f War

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pp. 43-66

Bread, which provides a balance of carbohydrates and protein, especially when spread with a bit of fat, was considered a near perfect food. Bread was easily distributed and tasty when eaten without being heated. According to Herbert Hoover, citizens in countries already at war in April and May 1917 consumed one-half to two-thirds of their total daily calories as bread.

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Chapter 4: Homegrown Vegetables Year-round

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pp. 67-96

In the spring of 1917, Maybelle Jacobson had just finished teaching in Beltrami and moved back to Crookston to live with her mother and be near her new fianc

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Chapter 5: “Meating” the Challenges: More Meals from Less

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pp. 97-124

As tens of thousands of young men left their Minnesota homes for military service, the food they needed to become a strong fi hting force had to shift with them. Prewar home-cooked meals had often included meat three times a day. Breakfast might typically include bacon, sausage, or hash made from leftover meat. Dinners often centered on a substantial meat dish. A third meal, either noon...

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Chapter 6: Milk Is Food: New Meals from Dairy and Coop

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pp. 125-146

During the meatless days of 1917 and 1918, Herbert Hoover’s Food Administration urged substitution of milk, cheese, and eggs in main courses for scarce and restricted beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and mutton. Milk and its by-products were important sources of nutrition. Butter, for example, was seen as a key “energy-producing food” for American soldiers and hungry Allies.

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Chapter 7: Are You Doing Your Part?

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pp. 147-170

War and food conservation restrictions brought out the best in most people, the worst in a few. It allowed some to seek redress for long-held grievances or act spitefully against petty jealousies. Fear motivated some of the worst actions where even those in positions of power acted harshly and shamefully. Yet, for all the stress and uncertainties of the 19 months of war, letters, local newspaper...

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Chapter 8: Every Spud a Soldier!

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pp. 171-182

For every soldier on K.P. duty serving up a mountain of spuds, there were Minnesota farmers looking to make a handsome crop, and homemakers urged to follow recipes using the humble potato in all sorts of unexpected ways. While the idea to stretch wheat and meat supplies by encouraging Americans to eat more potatoes seemed an ideal solution, there were a few bumps along the spud’s...

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Chapter 9:

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pp. 183-204

Among the fi st official documents issued by the U.S. Food Administration in August 1917 was the simply titled Seven Ways to Save Sugar. It harkened back to Puritan values with advice such as “Use fresh fruits. Cook dried fruit without sugar. Can fruit without sugar. Use less sugar in tea and coffee — you will soon learn to like it better. Avoid sugar luxuries — candy, cake, sweet drinks and sodas.

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Settling Up Accounts

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pp. 205-210

The Christmas of 1918 was one that Hamline Red Cross nurse Charlotte Manson would never forget, celebrated in a field hospital in Toul, France. Six weeks after the end of the war, wounded soldiers were still being cared for in French Red Cross hospitals. Soldiers and civilians were hospitalized on this side of the Atlantic, too, as they fought for their lives against a most dangerous enemy...

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pp. 211

Lois Hendrickson at the University of Minnesota Archives has been a remarkable asset to my research. I would not have had as clear an understanding of the impact of the university’s staff and departments without her thorough understanding of the College of Agriculture and her guidance toward the best archived documents to search. Karen Klinkenberg and other University Archives staff generously...

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pp. 212-216


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pp. 217-220

June 28, 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is assassinated, upsetting already uneasy alliances among European nations. August 1 914 Germany declares war on Russia and France; England declares war on Germany. Herbert Hoover establishes volunteer organization that becomes the Commission for Relief in Belgium, an organization...


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pp. 221-238


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pp. 239-240

Recipe Index

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pp. 241-243

Subject Index

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pp. 244-259

Illustration Credits [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 260

E-ISBN-13: 9780873517973
E-ISBN-10: 0873517970
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873517188
Print-ISBN-10: 0873517180

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 50 b&w illustrations, recipes, notes, index, bibliography
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Food supply -- Minnesota.
  • Cooking, American.
  • Food habits -- Minnesota -- History.
  • Food conservation -- Minnesota.
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