Saturday, September 27, 2008

Depression Era Recipes, by Patricia R. Wagner: Dumplings

Some books never seem to go out of print. Depression Era Recipes, by Patricia R. Wagner, was first printed in 1989, and was on its eighteenth printing by 2000. Chefly Husband picked up a copy for me at a book sale recently, because he's nearly as much of a cookbook freak as I am. Nearly. And, with all the turmoil in the financial sector these days, and frantic rhetoric, I thought a focus on the Depression suitable for this week. I like this bit from the acknowledgements:
The Depression wasn't all soup lines and poverty. The information related herein is intended to show how people coped with the Depression, their diversions and what life was all about, what they had and how they spent their leisure time. Not all of these recipes have been personally tested by the author. But if they were good enough for Gramma Signe, Aunt Minnie and Mom, they're good enough for us.
So, some of these recipes might just not work. Or they might be a little too 1930s for today's tastes. That's part of the adventure!

On an administrative note, I'm tagging these all as 1930s recipes, even though the book was printed 50 years later. It makes sense to me.

The gingerbread recipe made me miss home, and especially miss a lovely lady who was a family friend for years before she died. She took me to a gingerbread restaurant for my first slabs of cake-like gingerbread, and she also took me to experience my first-ever chicken and dumplings.

2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. chicken broth, boiling
1/2 c. flour
1-2 qts. chicken broth

Mix together well to make a soft dough. Put the 1/2 c. flour on a bread broad; put dough on top. Let cool enough to handle. Then roll like pie crust. Cut in 1" x 2" strips. Let these dry 15 minutes. Drop into boiling chicken broth and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Let's fix some of the problems with this recipe. First off, the bread "broad" is clearly supposed to be a bread board. Next, if you try to mix everything together in the first step, you're going to be in a world of hurt. So, mix together, please, the first three ingredients. Then, roll out, using the 1/2 c. remaining flour to coat board, rolling pin, etc., to make easy to handle. Roll and cut as above. Finally, heat the 1 - 2 quarts broth to a boil, and add the dumplings.

So, why dumplings? Well, if you're trying to make a bit of meat stretch a long way, this is a great way to get the flavor of chicken into a less-expensive vehicle. If, say, you needed to keep a laboring man strong for work, he could eat the actual chicken, while the wife and kids had dumplings.

There's no leavening used in these bad boys, which I could go on and on discussing various religious reasons why this might make the recipe ideal for whatever, but here's why I dig the leavening-less nature of the recipe: I never end up with good leavening in the house. If I need soda or powder or yeast, I have to go out to shop. Everything needed for these dumplings, I have in my pantry right now, even though I haven't done maintenance shopping in a few weeks.

If anyone's interested in a Depression-era recipe for chicken broth, let me know; the book has several, most involving carcasses, skin, giblets, and the like. Frugality, folks. It's what's for dinner this week.


  1. Whyever would you need a recipe for chicken stock? Boil the heck out of the left over, inedible parts of a chicken, along with the inedible, left over parts of your basic vegetables (preferably the big 3 - carrots, onion, celery - but whatever you've got). Season to taste.

    Is there another way? Or am I missing something?

  2. Well, some are a bit more... stripped down... than that. Like "chicken skin and an onion." In this cookbook, if you've found carrots, onion, AND celery? You're looking at a full-fledged SOUP, not a broth.