“The book was written when wartime shortages had compounded the problems of the Depression, and Fisher offers sensible advice in each chapter about how to make do, provide nutrition, and even enjoy oneself at table. Along the way she illuminates her times. For true emergencies, the essay “How to Stay Alive” ponders what’s needed spiritually and nutritionally to survive on what was a few cents a day in her time. It includes a recipe for making a slumgullion of “ground whole-grain cereal,” a tiny amount of cheap meat, and loads of vegetables (“wilted and withered things a day old maybe…[or] the big coarse ugly ones”), stewed three or more hours.
‘I know, from some experience,’ she says, ‘[that it] holds enough vitamins and minerals and so on and so forth to keep a professional strong-man or a dancer or even a college professor in good health and equable spirits. The main trouble with it, as with any enforced and completely simple diet, is its monotony. It must be considered, then, as a means to an end, like ethyl gasoline, which can never give much esthetic satisfaction to its purchaser or the automobile it is meant for but is almost certain to make that automobile run smoothly.’
All this sounds more applicable with each morning’s news. “
In the 1870s, proteins and fats had been discovered and taken into nutritional consideration, but vitamins had not yet made an appearance. It’s interesting that by the 1940s, vegetables are introduced as part of a poor man’s diet. But even today, it’s fresh produce that can be prohibitively expensive on a budget. The most expensive item of food I’ve bought so far is a bag of apples, and I anticipate my daily intake of fruit will put me far over budget.
The entire article on historic food writing is intriguing, and is on a blog that is quickly becoming one of my favorites: The Education of Oronte Chum