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9 Depression-Era Recipes To Help Make The Most Of What's In Your Pantry

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While we all continue to hunker down in quarantine, many of us are doing more home cooking than ever before, while at the same time trying to conserve our food and limit trips to the grocery. So how to make the best of what's already in the cabinets? Perhaps with some of these tried and true, old timey recipes from the Great Depression.

Perhaps you've heard stories in your own family — passed down through generations — of the kinds of clever (and unusual) food combinations people whipped up to get through difficult times. While some of these recipes should perhaps be left to the annals of history (not sure chipped beef fondue really needs a resurgence?), other dishes like Old World Puff Pancakes and Creamy Skillet Noodles with Peas, are meals even the kids will give the thumbs up.

I have to say, a lot of these recipes kind of remind me of the way I ate in my early 20s. There appears to be a lot of just smearing peanut butter on whatever in the home looks edible? There's even a dish called a "Garbage Plate," which is definitely how one could have described my dinner on many a night in my young adulthood. (And I won't lie, is probably how my husband would describe some of the meals I've served up as of late.)

On a more serious note, we all know that those of us who have what we need right now are so incredibly lucky and fortunate. There are so many families out there who are really struggling. If you have the means, this is a great time to give to your local food bank. Every little bit helps, and this site is a handy and easy tool for donations.

Now for some recipes...

1. Meat and Potato Patties

This is a hearty little number that is sure to keep those bellies full. You essentially mix shredded potato and onion with ground beef, then pat the mess into patties. It's a simple way to save on ground beef, and if your kids ask where the fries are, you can tell them they're hiding in the burgers. Magic.

2. Garbage Plate

The aforementioned Garbage Plate is still employed as an excellent hangover cure in Rochester, NY, which is where it is believed to have originated. It's a mix of potatoes in some fried form, macaroni salad, beans, and meat (think hot dogs/sausages/ground beef), all slathered in hot sauce and ketchup and served with white bread. The basic idea here seems to be just throw what's in the fridge on a plate and cover it in something sauce-like.

3. Hot Water Pie

I can't lie, the name of this one sounds like a kinky act to me. Anyway, the recipe for this is so simple I'm fairly certain even I could make it. All you need is a pie crust, vanilla, butter, sugar, flour, and water, and some steady hands so you don't slop it all over the kitchen floor.

4. Old World Puff Pancakes

These require fewer ingredients than your standard pancakes, and are much airier and fluffier in texture. I've actually had these before, and they're sort of like the middle ground between a crepe and a pancake. And if given the option, I could definitely eat a whole pan of them. That little bit of nutmeg gives them a cozy, almost festive feel.

5. Poor Man's Spaghetti

So this one does call for dried parsley, which you might not have just hanging around in the house, but I feel like even without the parsley this will still be delectable, as it involves bacon grease and cheese. It's pretty much spaghetti mixed with eggs, parmesan, bacon pieces, and — yes — a dash of bacon grease.

6. Creamy Skillet Noodles with Peas

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So here's another easy pasta dish, but a vegetarian version that doesn't call for grease. You're going to need some noodles (preferably egg noodles) chicken broth, and half-and-half cream, as well as peas, butter, and canola oil. Yes, you're basically making noodles with peas. And yes, your toddler will think you are a genius and want to present you with the James Beard Award.

7. Vanilla Depression Cake

I feel like "depression cake" is what I ate after many a bad break up, except instead of "cake" it was more like "Tollhouse from a tube." But anyway, this tasty vanilla cake is, well, a piece of cake, and you definitely already have everything you need for it sitting in your pantry. This is one you could maybe do as a "project" with a little one, letting them help scoop and stir, thus buying yourself 10 minutes of peace in our now 73-hour long days.

8. Hoover Stew

If you're parenting a toddler, you may already be making a version of Hoover Stew on the regs and just not realize it. This "stew" is a mix of macaroni and sliced up hot dogs, with maybe some corn or peas thrown in, depending on what your little one will tolerate and not throw at your face.

9. Egg-free Milk-Free Butter-free Chocolate Cake

OK, so nowadays this would essentially just be considered vegan chocolate cake, and during normal times it would probably be $7 a slice at your local artisanal cafe. But if you are not in fact vegan and are simply trying to save on things like eggs and milk, this is a winner. It does require a few random ingredients like cocoa powder and apple cider vinegar, but it looks very simple to make. And I mean, it's chocolate cake. So even if it's bad, it's still going to be good.