The Great Depression was biting hard in Chicago in 1932, and “Society” took up the cause of the hungry. The Border Cities Star of February 4, 1932 reported on a new campaign:
“Pioneer Meal” Move Is Started in Chicago To Aid Poor
Society Takes Lead
Money Saved by Cheaper Food to Go to Relief Fund.
Housewives of Chicago are helping to defeat the depression by organizing to share food from their kitchens with their 400,000 hungry neighbors. As in World War days, the movement is the result of a campaign and has its slogan. The slogan is “One pioneer meal a week for 10 weeks in 250,000 homes.
A “Pioneer Meal” is one ample and nourishing, but low in cost. The saving effected by serving a meal that costs about 35 cents instead of one costing $2.50 or so is to be turned in by each housewife to the joint emergency relief fund for distribution to the 125,000 destitute families in Chicago.
Society matrons, club women, wives of millionaires are joining with the host of women who do their own cooking in a revival of pioneer thrift for the benefit of the unfortunate. Husbands are helping, they are eating food they haven’t tasted since boyhood on the farm – and liking it.
The campaign is endorsed by the joint emergency relief committee and is directed by Mrs Joseph M. Cudahy. Emblems are worn by those who have pledged themselves to the plan. The associated milk dealers of the city agreed to distribute a specially tabbed bottle to each of the 250,000 homes as savings banks to receive the money saved by housewives who serve cheaper meals.
“I grew up eating pioneer meals. I remember what we used to eat in Chicago’s younger days, and I am going back to those menus” said Mrs. J.F. Ales, one of the housewives sponsoring the plan. She has been married 54 years.
Thousands of women exchanged recipes today. Brokers, salesmen, street car conductors, laborers in the streets were intermediaries in hundreds of cases.
“Here is a recipe my wife said to give you for your wife,” was the password between men in street cars, office and lunchroom.
Sample recipes, showing what can be accomplished, have been prepared by leaders in the campaign. Two typical ones follow:
Usual Meal – cost $2.50
Shrimp cocktail, lamb chops, rissole potatoes, broccoli, Hollandaise sauce, light rolls, butter, mint, celery and carrot salad, chocolate cream pie, whipped cream, coffee.
Pioneer Meal – cost 35 cents.
Spanish rice, apple and carrot salad, butterscotch pudding, coffee.
Another pioneer meal – cost 36 cents.
Salt meat, boiled kale, escalloped potatoes, bread, one-egg cup cakes, coffee.
One of the several things I found fascinating about this story was the quite clear description of the gender roles. And do we still have “society matrons”, and if so, how do I get to be one? The role sounds terribly important and interesting, does it not?
The Border Cities Star did not include any of the submitted recipes in its article, but I am sure the following versions from other contemporary newspapers will be more than adequate for your own “pioneer meal.”
Spanish Rice. Serving 6.
4 slices bacon, 4 tablespoons onions, 2 tablespoons parsley, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon paprika, 2 cups tomatoes, 3 cups cooked rice.
Cut bacon into small pieces. Heat in frying pan until brown. Add and brown onions, parsley and rice. Add rest of ingredients and cook 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
The Deseret News, January 30, 1932
Two tablespoons cornstarch, one cup water, one cup evaporated milk, one tablespoon butter, one cup brown sugar, one-eighth teaspoon salt, one teaspoon vanilla. Mix cornstarch with one-fourth cup water, scald remaining milk and water. Melt butter, add sugar and cook until sugar melts, stirring constantly. Add slowly to hot milk, stirring until well blended. Add cornstarch, stir until thickened.
Cook 20 minutes. Cool and add the flavoring.
Pulaski Southwest Times, October 28, 1932