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11 historic dishes born from tough times that you easily can make at home!

9 min read

To limit supermarket trips during social distancing, and while restaurants in lot of coutries are still closed, many home chefs are looking for ways to use every last bit of what’s in their cupboard or refrigerator. Even though COVID-19 pandemic may feel like an uncharted experience, actually history is filled with examples of cooks more or less expert getting creative in times of hardship. Like this.
From the crispy burger born during the Great Depression to the simple delights of “desperation pies,” but also an apple pie that tastes just like apples, but it has no apples in it. Here are some delicious dishes born from tough times that you can make at home and, above all, involve ingredients that you can easily find in your kitchen!

Do you prefer to bake bread? And yeast is hard to find? Don’t worry…look at our proposals!

1# The Slugburger
As you find yourself stretching packs of ground beef, you should consult the “meat extending” techniques of the Great Depression. But don’t worry: No slugs were harmed in the making of this sandwich! And if the thought of slugs crawling out from your hamburger puts you off, fear not: a slugburger is simply meat (usually beef or pork) combined with a starchy filler and fried to a crisp. Top the patty with mustard and onion, slide it inside a hamburger bun, and you’ve got yourself a slice of Depression-era ingenuity.
To cope with the scarcity of affordable beef during the Depression, burger makers in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee employed this handy practice: rather than toss a mound of pure ground beef or pork on the grill, cooks cutting their patties with potato flour. The result? A surprisingly satisfying burger that was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Despite the name, they never didn’t contain any slithery creatures. One theory says the name was a reference to counterfeit coins, known as “slugs,” implying that the burger was a sort of culinary impostor!
After the Depression, slugburger fans didn’t abandon the fried tasty sandwich.
Today, cooks tend to use cornmeal, soybean meal, or even crumbled sandwich bread instead of potato flour, and they add toppings like cheese, onions, or pickles. Below an interesting recipe.
You can swap in whatever starch you have.

2# Sugar Cream Pie
When life hands you desperation, make a desperation pie! This simple dessert was popular in the Shaker and Amish communities of Indiana in the early 19th century. The so-called “Desperation pies” relied on non-seasonal ingredients that families almost always had in the pantry, and sugar cream pie was no exception.
A little bit like on current days, in most kitchens never missed ingredients like sugar, cream, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and flour. As a result, the pie was a reliable year-round fixture at church gatherings and farm plowings. Thanks to its easy recipe and milky-sweet flavor, it rose in popularity across the state, eventually becoming its unofficial pie. There are different recipes, one of which swaps in a can of evaporated milk if you don’t have cream.

3# Peanut butter and mayo sandwich
Regularly many households in the United States have these two condiments on their kitchens. But rarely do they find themselves in the same sandwich!
However, depression-era families valued high-calorie combinations of protein and fat. Even in the decades after the economic crisis, its fans continued to eat the caloric combination. As late as the 1960s, a joint Skippy Peanut Butter and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise advertisement proposed new toppings to the beloved sandwich and, depending on your kitchen inventory, you can make a few of the ad’s variants. For istance, you can try the “Double Crunch,” which adds bacon and pickles, or the “Apple Fandango,” with sliced apples and marmalade, or a “Pineapple Topper” with Pineapple and a maraschino cherry. A “Funny Face” called for raisins and carrots, in addition to some degree of artistic capability and, if supermarket fever’s really starting to get to you, you can try the “Crazy Combo,” with salami, sliced eggs, and onions.

4# Budae Jjigae
Throughout and after the Korean War Food scarcity was a big problem. To get cheap protein, some Koreans took to lining up outside U.S. army-base mess halls to purchase leftover food. However, the leftovers were hearty, salty, and sustaining, often salty, heavily processed foods, including hot dogs, ham, Spam, canned beans, and processed sliced cheese. To this, home cooks added their own kimchi, garlic, vegetables, chili paste, and instant noodles. The resulting stew was surprisingly cohesive: a spicy, filling medley of savory meat, cheese, and vegetables. The mixture came to be known as budae jjigae, or “army base stew”, and now is of South Korea’s most beloved fusion dishes. Many of its ingredients may already be leftovers lurking in your kitchen, just waiting to be used!

5# Kartoshka: Soviet cookie-crumb “Potatoes”
According to a story, a pastry chef at Moscow’s Praga restaurant spotted perfectly usable bits of sponge cake going to waste in the course of dessert production, and decided to use these crumbs through a meat grinder. In any case, food shortages in the former Soviet Union forced people to employ some innovative upcycling techniques. This was especially true in industrial kitchens that had to carefully record how their supplies were being used. Thus, since no crumb could go to waste, they were worked into new dishes, such as kartoshka itself.
Kartoshka means potato, even if there are no tubers in these treats, that consist of cookie or cake crumbs that have been glued together with butter, sgushyonka (sweetened condensed milk), and cocoa powder, then pressed into the shape of a little potato. If chefs had extra ingredients, they often added some rum, cognac, or flavored liqueur to the mix and topped it with nuts or frosting before throwing the treats into the fridge for a while. In fact no baking is required.

6# Anthill Cake
Like kartoshka, this Soviet-era treat combines crumbs into a towering confection that resembles an anthill (or, in Russian, muraveinik). If you take any leftover bread or cookies, cake, shortbread, biscuits crumble it all up, then bind the pieces together into a mound with a mixture of softened butter, sour cream, and boiled sweetened condensed milk. Some cooks mix in chocolate or crushed nuts for added texture. Simply, in times of extreme poverty, any biscuit, cookie, or bread could be broken up and mixed with small portions of condensed milk. And no-bake is required….

7# Potato pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer)
In Germany, during World War II, people had not very much to eat. A regular family had, for istance, three slices of bread a day, 50 grams of meat, 30 grams of noodles and 25 grams of sugar and margarine or butter per week and potatoes and vegetables only when they could get them. To make Kartoffelpuffer you need just some potato peels, a handful of flour, salt and pepper. Cut potato peels to very small pieces, mix them with some flour and salt and fry them on top of the oven. At that time most families had only coal ovens which were heated from the top…

8# Polish bean cake (without flour)
During difficult times like World War II or the communist period, Poles had to prove their culinary creativity by keeping their lives as normal as possible. However difficult it is to find the positives in the horror that was WWII, the creativity of Poles in terms of cooking is worth acknowledging!
To make this home delicacy, you need beans, eggs, sugar, a pinch of baking powder and almond oil.
Cook the beans, but not too much, dry and mince it. Beat the yolks with sugar, mix with beans, add baking powder and the almond oil and whipped egg whites. Then bake in a moderately hot oven….

9# Baked Apples
Baked apples were the perfect cheap dessert during hard times. You need just wash and core a couple of apples. Then, mix 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon together. Put the sugar and cinnamon mix into the hallow middle of the apple and place a thin slice of butter at the bottom to keep the sweet mix from spilling out one end. Next, place in a pan and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes. You can add a little water at the bottom of the pan so the apples don’t burn and finally, enjoy a cheap, sweet Depression-era dessert!

10# Mock Apple Pie
Mock apple pie is a pie that tastes just like apples, but it has no apples in it. Does this taste like apple pie? Yes, it does. “Mock” anything makes us skeptical, as it should. And this pie is definitely something to be skeptical about. Instead of real apples, Depression-era mock apple pie uses Ritz crackers as an apple filling alternative. The crackers are what makes up these fake apples, and this pie is made just like an apple pie, with the exception of the apples. A sweet syrup is made, and the crackers are seasoned just like you would a regular apple pie. When one of our collaborator try to make it, everyone thought this was apple pie!
Original recipe is made with easy to find ingredients. While you don’t need any apples you do need some Ritz crackers, two unbaked pie shells, lemon juice, sugar, and spices. You will need to make a syrup out of lemon juice, sugar, and spices. The crackers are broken and placed into a pie shell along with some pats of butter. You will pour the syrup over the crackers and butter, top with another unbaked pie shell. You will then bake this delicious pie. Your pie will even smell like apple pie while it is cooking!
Below an easy recipe.
You need 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 2 unbaked pie shells or 1 package of refrigerated pie crust dough, 40 Ritz Crackers, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 tablespoons butter cut into small pieces. Preheat oven to 350 degrees then, in a medium-sized saucepan combine water, sugar, and cream of tartar bring to a boil. Once the syrup begins to boil add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Stir lemon juice and zest into syrup in the mixture, reduce heat to low, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, after 15 minutes allow syrup to cool.
Place one pie crust in a pie pan, and then break crackers into the pie shell. Pour syrup over the crackers. Sprinkle cinnamon over crackers, and sprinkle over nutmeg over the crackers. Place the butter pieces on top of the crackers. Now you can top with pie shell with remaining pie crust. Pinch together crusts and then trim off excess pie shell. Make a couple of slits in the top of the pie so the steam can escape while cooking. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown. Enjoy!

11# Slovenian Burned Soup
When the kitchen was really bare, some slovenian families would make a dish they called “Nothing Soup”, in Slovenian translates to “Burned Soup”. It consists of a mix made with whatever fat was available, including bacon grease, and flour, toasted to a dark brown, and then turned into soup by adding water and seasoned with caraway seeds and salt. If it was a very good day, an egg per person was poached in-the broth. If it’s a so-so day, a single beaten egg could be drizzled into the hot soup. And when times were really bad, there was just the watery broth with a far-off hint of bacon in memory of better times!

Images from web – Google Research

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