Great Depression Cooking show

Clara Cannucciari, 93, lived through the Great Depression. Now, she hosts a Web video series on how to cook meals of the era, like pasta with peas, peppers and eggs, and the "poorman's feast" with meat and lentils. Great Depression Cooking with Clara (Thanks, Marina Gorbis!)



  1. (potatoes + onions) x fried = yum
    canned peas = ok in a pinch
    pasta = fine
    water to stretch a meal = sure
    All in one pot = BLECH!

  2. wow I’ve been there before. It doesn’t look like they strain the water though, which I guess means that they just use the water as stock for the gravy?

    This is kind of weird to watch, because it is a more luxurious meal than I have been able to afford at times in my life.

  3. It seems like a simple version of a minestrone soup (veggies, potatoes, and pasta in a tomato broth).

  4. I think I’m all set for hard times.

    I, uh . . . a few years back I found a big box of instant soup cups. Left out by the dumpsters. Low carb vegan instant soup cups . . . probably bought by a dieter who got sick of them after a week.

    They weren’t wet or leaking or covered in bugs, so I took them. Once in a while I toss the contents of one of the cups into my rice cooker with a cup of sliced carrots and a half cup of rice and two cups of water. Sometimes, diced chicken breast. After the cooker has done its work it all turns into a nice casserole.

  5. She’s actually teaching you how to make very, very basic food. Which is great!

    Much better than listening to endless amateur sous-chefs talk about some trendy crap they just forced themselves to eat.

  6. Dunno if I would try these recipes. but this is my new favorite thing. it doesn’t get more wonderful than this. also fancy camerawork to whoever is behind the lens. . .

  7. I winced a bit watching her holding the veggies as she cut them towards her hand.

    But hey, maybe I’ll try that recipe, with a bit of curry powder and cayenne pepper.

  8. Eggs Bennett:
    Roast some chestnuts you picked up from the ground over a trashcan fire.

    Named for the Canadian prime minister who stood back and let the country starve.

  9. Lets face it, if all you got to feed your hungry family is pasta and peas… so be it!

    Good on ya old girl!

    You can picture a family of eight eating every last drop of that after a days work in a farm field…. and being thankful for it!

  10. @#13 I also noticed her risky cutting style, but it reminded me of my own grandmother, who after years of cooking for family and working in restaurants could easily pull a tray of rolls out of the hot oven without using oven mitts. Probably callouses as thick as quarters on those old ladies. Way tougher than me.

  11. Those are the types of meals I grew up with. I imagine our living on a farm with an endless supply of garden veggies and our own livestock had something to do with it. My parents were depression era folks. I can’t tell you how many times I watched my dad eat cornbread in milk (blech!) because it was comfort food to him.

  12. People should be eating like this anyway. It may be basic, but contains little to no preservatives, additives, high fructose corn syrup, and other odds and ends which can be hard to pronounce.

  13. I’m making a stew right now from Easter turkey broth. This is the general recipe:

    $1.00 soup mix (dried barley, split peas, lentils, beans)
    $1.50 carrots and/or parsnips
    $1.50 potatoes
    $0.50 onion and celery
    Savoury, sage, thyme, salt, pepper (say $0.50 max in spices)
    Whatever you can afford in meat (stewing beef, turkey, chicken, ham, or other), or substitute legumes. (The turkey I’m using was $24 but most of the meat has already gone to other things.)

    Simmer the meat, onion, spice, and celery for an hour. Add the remainder of the ingredients and simmer for 2 hours. Add frozen or canned peas and corn in the last 20 minutes for extra veg and flavour.

    That’s supper for two people for a week (at least) for $15-20. The only problem with this is sometimes it’s too thick.

  14. If you are interested in thoughts on food and recipes from the Great Depression and WWII, read MFK Fisher’s “How to Cook a Wolf” (1942). Better yet, pick up “The Art of Eating”, which contains her books Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet of Gourmets. This is one of my favorite books ever. Review
    A collection of essays by one of America’s best known food writers, that are often more autobiographical or historical than anecdotal musings on food preparation and consumption. The book includes culinary advice to World War II housewives plagued by food shortages, portraits of family members and friends (with all their idiosyncrasies) and notes on her studies at the University of Dijon, in France. Through each story she weaves her love of food and passion for cooking, and illustrates that our three basic needs as human beings–love, food and security–are so intermingled that it is difficult to think of one without the others. The book won the 1989 James Beard Cookbook Award.

  15. I’m interested (and pleased) to see the pasta dish with eggs.

    Eggs are an excellent source of relatively low cost, very high quality protein. They’re also good sources of vitamin D, without relying on ocean fish.

    The scare over their cholesterol content from the 80s has been basically debunked – eggs are not bad for you.

    Mixed legumes are probably cheaper, but getting carnivorous types to switch to completely vegetarian eating, even when the budget is on the line, can be hard.

  16. I think this series is great!

    You’d be amazed how many meals can be made from a single whole chicken if you use all the parts (and reduce your portion size). Cooking simple meals is very economical if you buy raw unprocessed ingredients, and generally more healthy than eating processed or restaurant food. I suspect that the recession will lead to more people cooking at home, resulting in decreased obesity rate in the US.

  17. Here’s my mother’s response to this vid:

    “It was really humbling to watch Clara cook pasta with peas. Actually, her family was fairly lucky as there were many that couldn’t afford to add tomato sauce or cheese to the recipe.”

    My mom was born in ’36.

  18. What a great concept for a cooking show! It is much more interesting being in her apartment than on a set somewhere. And the whole oral history aspect is really cool, too.

    I’ve never seen the technique of boiling the pasta up with potatoes. Hmmm… I think pasta all by itself is so good you don’t need to add anything. But that’t a neat way to bulk up the meal.

    My standard college grub was a tomato-potato soup. Boil up a few potatoes, add a jar of spaghetti sauce, rice and beans and a head of cilantro. It ends up getting very very thick after a couple of days in the fridge, and that’s when you spoon it up into a tortilla and make a mash-wrap.

    Oh, and don’t peel the potatoes! Hello? Vitamins!

  19. I’ve cooked like that for years. It means I have more money for booze. Student habits die hard.

    I’d definitely have rented my garage to the bootleggers though, and taken the rent in booze.

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