World War II recipe flashback

Did someone get you with an “April Fool’s” joke yesterday or did you do the honors? April first is one day when everyone should laugh, or, at least, smile. No matter what, we should never lose our ability to entertain a joke on ourselves or to give someone else a reason to laugh.

The warmer weather should lift everyone’s spirits. Don’t plant the entire garden yet. That would really tempt Old Mother Nature to show you who is boss when it comes to weather! If you just have to plant something, try a cold weather vegetable, and have a handy cover ready, just in case you are more ready for this spring season than the spring itself, is.

We just returned from a short trip to the Tennessee mountains where we visited Oak Ridge, a historical site we had thought about for years. It is someplace that all Americans should visit and know about. It was a “City Behind the Fence,” a secret area where the atomic bomb was developed. Unless one worked there, one didn’t know anything that was being studied or worked upon, even if you lived in the area. All the locals knew was that trainloads of materials were going in, but nothing ever came out.

The land had quietly been acquired by the government and the fairly few original owners told which bank held the money they were given paid, how much could be withdrawn, and when. They kept everything they were told secret. It involved around only 1000 families and around 59,000 acres. This project really got started in that area in late fall of 1942.

The United States had been caught up in a war that they didn’t want when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The scientists knew of Hitler’s search for a much more powerful bomb to use to destroy everyone in his way of dominating Europe and the world. They informed President Roosevelt of what they knew and the danger to this country. The secret project that was formed was the Manhattan Project and three areas were selected to study this new project.

Oak Ridge became the place for most of the work on it. It was entirely fenced in and only those with the proper “pass” were allowed to enter. That included anyone who still lived outside the compound and all suppliers. An entire city was built from late fall 1942 to 1945 that had around 80,000 people living in it. Homes, dormitories, apartment buildings and mobile homes housed the workers. The living quarters were bare minimum in comfort and used the least materials possible. Everyone knew they had to sacrifice for the country. Some of the better built buildings have been remodeled and are in use today as some of the workers stayed in the area after the end of the war.

The President ordered all media not use words, in any form, that would give anyone knowledge that the US was working on learning more about this new scientific discovery of splitting an atom to gain terrific energy. All media complied and the project was kept top secret. Today that would be impossible! Everyone hired to work on this project was told not to reveal anything about what they did, and the workers themselves knew only what they needed to know to do their assignments. Medical care was supplied by military doctors. As everyone was united to win the war, no one talked about anything!

As you know from history, the scientists did discover the way to make the bomb. The heads of our country, England and Russia made the decision to drop the two bombs to end the war. It was not an easy decision for them and they hoped the world would learn from it. It is a lesson that needs to be taught today to everyone who thinks they don’t need to study history.

It isn’t just the younger generation that doesn’t seem to know the sacrifices that have been made for our country; it is for everyone who wants the government to supply everything for them without any effort on their account. Ask an older person what it was like to “do without” so those who were protecting our country could do their jobs. Meat, sugar, clothing, using less energy — people today have a hard time believing what it was like when this country was literally fighting for its survival. Teachers sold “ration books”; in schools, blackboards were used at school as little paper was available for homework; school kids gather milkweed pods (the white inner fluff was used to make parachutes); moms went to work so dads could join the troops (Rosie the Riveter was a symbol of working mothers); — everyone supported the country so that we could still have a country. If we want our country to survive today, we need to rekindle that spirit of putting our country in front of putting ourselves first. For too many years, we have expected the government to “take care of all our needs” instead of taking responsibility for our own living responsibilities. Nothing is free; someone has to pay for it, and that someone is a working person who pays taxes.

If you are looking for a vacation spot for a few days or longer, I recommend the part of Tennessee we visit. It is Crossville, off I-40, between Knoxville and Nashville, on the largest mountain plateau in the US. The state parks near there have many hiking trails and waterfalls. It is a beautiful area. The “Hidden City”, Oak Ridge is between Crossville and Knoxville and easy to find, but no big signs or anything to tell one about the history you will find there. The country still has huge laboratories on the site that study all sorts of things like medicine, climate, and who knows what all else.

The recipes today are of foods prepared in the time of World War II, from my family and housewives of Oak Ridge. We didn’t have the problems of the folks who lived at Oak Ridge since we farmed — meat, milk, vegetables and fruits — were all produced on our farm. Grandma produced all these, along with pies and bread, for us and her customers in town.

Pray for our country, that we never have to repeat times like the early to mid-forties, and for all our protectors who guard us today and their families. Hug your little ones and keep a smile on your face. The sun will always come up tomorrow somewhere.

God Bless!



1 tablespoon yeast (1 envelope)

1/4 cup warm potato water 90- 110-degrees

1 teaspoon

Proof yeast in potato water.

1 cup scalded milk

2/3 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup mashed potatoes

2 eggs, well beaten

5 to 6 cups bread flour

Melt the butter in the scalded milk. Add sugar and salt; let cool to lukewarm. Add mashed potatoes, beaten eggs, and yeast mixture. Mix well. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well. When it is hard to stir, you have added almost enough flour. Turn out onto a floured cloth or board and knead the dough with your hands, adding flour until it will not stick to the board. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top, to rise. When it has risen, punch down and knead some more. Shape into rolls and let rise again. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown.

NOTE: This roll mixture can be stored in the refrigerator and used as needed. Store after first rising and punching down.



2 eggs

1 cup applesauce

1 cup dry bread crumbs

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 pounds lean ground beef


2 tablespoons chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped green pepper

2 tablespoons diced carrots

1/4 cup diced celery

2 tablespoons flour

3 cups tomato juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

Beat eggs. Add applesauce, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and ground beef. Form into small meatballs and brown in fat. Mix carrots, green pepper, onions, and celery in small amount of fat and cook until done, covered. Add flour to thicken. Add tomato juice, salt and sugar. Put meatballs in a Dutch oven and pour the sauce over the meat. Cook an hour in a preheated slow oven (325-degrees).



1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup water

1/3 cup shortening

1 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Combine sugar, water, shortening, raisins, spices, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool. Measure sifted flour; add soda and baking powder. Sift again. Gradually stir dry ingredients into raisin mixture. Beat well. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 1 hour.

HISTORY NOTE: This recipe appeared during the Great Depression, too. The flavor didn’t improve by WWII either, but was better than no cake at all, although it wasn’t bad topped with frosting or whipped cream.



1 cup butter

5 tablespoons cocoa

1 cup water

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon soda

2 eggs

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans


1/2 cup butter

4 tablespoons cocoa

6 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

In a saucepan, combine butter, cocoa, and water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour and sugar. Add soda, eggs, salt, and vanilla. Mix and pour into a well-greased 13x9x2-inch pan. Bake 20 minutes in preheated 400-degree oven. Five minutes before cake is done, prepare topping.

Melt butter and bring to a boil the rest of the topping ingredients except confectioners’ sugar. Remove from heat and add 1 pound confectioners’ sugar. Put on hot cake.

(Farm eggs were occasionally traded for sugar stamps in order to make a special “treat” cake!)


Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.