Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Menu for the Depression

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I suspect I may be the only person on earth that was happy to get a books on the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl for Christmas.  Yep, I asked for them on my list.  My grandfather was born in 1919 and lived through both of those and, as we sat in lawn chairs in the garage and drank sun tea out of mason jars, he would tell stories that amazed me.  Our house always had plenty of food in it, so I couldn't imagine not having a crumb in the kitchen. 

One of the books that J. got me off my reading list is "The Great Depression", which is a collection of eyewitness accounts put together by David A. Shannon.  When I unwrapped the book, it wasn't a slick cover reprint; rather it's an old library book that still bears the stamps of all the people that have checked it out and read it.  That only makes it all the more charming.

Men sometimes waited hours in line for a bowl or soup and a hard roll at the local soup kitchen.
As you know, many people didn't have much back then.  Thinking about our downward-spiraling economy, I think there are many lessons to be learned from those that lived through it.  One central theme in the book is how families ate during that time.  Would you eat these?


Toast, rice, grits or cornbread in hot milk
Toast with milk gravy
Water-fried pancakes
One eyed Sam – piece of bread with an easy over egg in the center
Oatmeal mixed with lard
Corn meal mush
Popcorn with milk and sugar – they ate it like cereal!
Banana slices with powdered sugar and milk


Chipped beef on toast (my grandfather said they called this "sh*t on a shingle" in the Army)
Gopher, turtle, squirrel and rabbit - including roadkill
Potato soup – water base, not milk
Dandelion salad
Tomato gravy on rice or biscuits
Gravy and bread
Toast with mashed potatoes on top with gravy
Fried corn mush
Boiled cabbage
Hamburger mixed with oatmeal
Chicken feet in broth
Fried bologna
Warm canned tomatoes with bread
Fried potato and bread cubes
Bean soup
Baked apples
Salted tumbleweed (*during the Dust Bowl)
Sliced boiled pork liver on buttered toast (slice the liver with a potato peeler)
Spaghetti with tomato juice and navy beans
Anything with eggs, since most folks had chickens
Spam and noodles with cream of mushroom soup
Rag soup: spinach, broth and lots of macaroni
Garbanzo beans fried in chicken fat or lard, salted, and eaten cold

Or how about these sandwiches?

"Jam" sandwiches - jam two pieces of bread together
Cucumber and mustard sandwiches
Mayonnaise sandwiches
Ketchup sandwiches
Sugar sandwiches
Onion sandwich
Lard or bacon grease sandwiches
Fried potato peel sandwiches
Butter and sugar sandwiches
Tomato sandwiches

My grandfather also had a favorite dish of stewed tomatoes in shell macaroni that he would make once a week.  When I asked him why he liked it so much, he told me that they ate it all the time when he was growing up because they didn't have much else.

Wheat is pretty central to lots of these dishes and, ironically, it was very abundant and sustained many families through the Depression.  In a later post, I'll talk more about the Dust Bowl and why it was ironic that wheat was abundant.  Now that our grain mill has arrived (yeah!), we are working to stock up on wheat berries and other grains and continue to learn how to make different kinds of bread. 

Having chickens for eggs and meat, pigs and maybe a dairy cow or goat, as well as homegrown and canned veggies also helped to sustain families through these hard times.  And they didn't waste anything - did you see the chicken feet soup on the list? 

What do you think? Could you live comfortably on this diet? I suspect I would be missing my chocolate in less than 24 hours.  And, thinking about our society and most of the people I know, they wouldn't last very long.  Heck, I know people that won't eat anything out of a home garden or that's been made from scratch.  I think that's even stranger than a bacon grease sandwich.


  1. I boiled all our chicken feet for stock a couple weeks ago. We butchered 4 chickens last winter and 4 this winter, so 16 feet into the pot. I had another pot of necks and parts. Makes the best stock I have ever had. So gelatinous. I dont' kill the chickens yet, my husband does it but I do gut them and clean them up. So yes, I do believe I could eat most on the list as we are trying to eat what we grow now!

  2. I don't think many folks today are truly thankful for what they have. Things may get that tough again before they get better, though, so we may ALL learn a thing or two.

  3. The first picture is so telling... the people have sweaters on, most of them, so we know it was still brisk out. The little boy at the head of the line has a sweater on, with shorts and NO SHOES. My mother said the only reason they never went hungry is that my grandad drove a bread truck, and there was always SOMETHING to eat at their house because of it. She did tell me why her feet were so deformed... she wore the same shoes as a teenager for four years, putting cardboard in them over and over. Could we do this if we had to?

  4. I think I must have grown up "Depression poor" without realizing it. LOL Some things that are listed are definitely American, because chipped beef, grits, tumbleweed - we just don't have those. Otherwise, I grew up eating many of those foods. I *love* mayonnaise on toast! My husband loves tomato sandwiches. When I was a child, my father's treat for us (if he had to cook breakfast) was fried bread. Fried bologna is wonderful. My grandmother made bologna stew and bologna gravy! I think she'd be shocked at how expensive it is now, though.

    My father refused to let Mom ever make macaroni in stewed tomatoes, because Grandma made it so often and he *hated* it. However, I like "M,M&T" (Macaroni, Meat & Tomato) which is the same thing but with some ground beef mixed in.

    I keep looking at that list and, while some items are pretty austere, most of them just look like regular, delicious food. Baked apples. Bean soup. Fried, salted chickpeas (they're better hot than cold, though). Toast with an egg (poached at our house) on top. I'd add hamburger gravy (emphasis on the gravy, with a little bit of meat!). Meatloaf with just enough ground beef to hold the egg and oatmeal together! Lots of turnip mashed in to stretch mashed potatoes. Shepherd's pie - little bit of meat, lots of vegetables, then lots of mashed potatoes on top.

    Recently I thought I had discovered something new in an 1800's cookbook - rip up slightly stale bread, cook it in butter and then add diced potatoes and whatever leftover meat or leftover vegetables. Cook until hot and crispy. Delicious, and the bread really stretches the potatoes and meat ... my Mom said that we ate it all the time when I was a kid.


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