WWII Homefront Kitchen
by Evelyn Edson, Scottsville, VA
The WWII homefront kitchen above was part of Scottsville Museum's "Small Town, Big War" exhibit in 2007.
In the photo, the Hossier cabinet is on the right and has a meat grinder attached to its counter. Back in those
days, cooks ground their own beef--wouldn't dream of buying it already ground. Photo by Connie Geary
We are now going through a time of national suffering and sacrifice (Covid-19 pandemic in 2020). For the historically minded among us (and that includes all of you, dear readers), we can't help thinking back to World War II. Nine soldiers from Scottsville made the ultimate sacrifice; others were removed from homes and families and sent to dangerous and distant places for the duration. Meanwhile at home, families were called upon to make sacrifices on their own.
The kitchen of World War II was a different place than it is today--no microwave, few packaged foods, not even a pop-up toaster. When we set up the model kitchen for our 2007 World War II exhibit, "Small Town, Big War," we tried to recreate the atmosphere; see above photo. One of our Board members, Callie Bowers, insisted that we find a Hoosier cabinet. This piece of furniture, dating from the time before built-in shelves and cabinets were a standard part of new kitchens, had a pull-out counter, bins for staples, and, most interesting, a built-in sifter.
A vintage WWII patriotic poster by Al Parker, 1943, promoting
victory gardens, home canning, and preserving food.
Because of the dangers of foreign trade and the needs of the soldiers, foods, such as coffee, were in short supply and expensive. The government instituted a rationing system in which everyone got a ration book with coupons to buy sugar, meat, butter, and margarine, canned milk, cheese, as well as coffee. Even if you had a coupon, there were shortages, and you might not be able to find what you wanted. The U.S. had gotten much of its sugar from the Philippines--that came to an end when the Japanese conquered the islands. The sugar ration during the war was two pounds per person for a four-week period, and meat was limited to two and a half pounds per week for people over 12 years old. The government issued helpful suggestions for recipes, substituting peanuts, grains, and beans for meat and stretching butter with milk. To supplement limited sugar supplies, one could set up a bee hive, plant sorghum, or tap maple trees. We were also encouraged to plant "Victory Gardens," and preserve the produce by canning. The public cannery in Scottsville still stands, the small, white building across the street from the library. During the war, it was filled with steam and people cutting up their vegetables and fruits to go into tin cans.
Even after the was was over, sugar rationing persisted until June 1947.