1918 Poem About Bread and WWI

Abridged version of a poem that appeared in the June/July, 1918 issue of American Cookery magazine.

I can learn a lot about what it was like a hundred years ago by reading old poems. For example, this fascinating poem provides lots of details about what people in the U.S. ate during World War I.

Wheat was in short supply during the war. Much of the wheat flour was shipped to Europe to feed the troops – so it was difficult (and expensive) to make white bread.Β  And, cooks in the U.S. had to substitute other foods.

39 thoughts on “1918 Poem About Bread and WWI

  1. πŸ˜„ I love it! I don’t think I would like buckwheat bread,I made a buckwheat pie crust for a chicken pie as it was to be a gluten free dish…. needless to say I won’t do that again! Rice flour is a lot better!

    1. I like buckwheat pancakes (and, have a recipe – though it’s not a hundred years old – for chocolate buckwheat pancakes that I make at least once a month), but I’ve never tried using buckwheat for anything else. . . hmm. . . maybe I’ll have to look for some hundred-year-old buckwheat recipes . . . or maybe not. πŸ™‚

  2. Times were hard. My great-grandparents went through both wars and the depression. I also just listened to a podcast about the Spanish flu , so they had to deal with that too. We do live in better times. Being gluten free, I live without wheat everyday. It can be done.

    1. It’s intriguing how people may sometimes eat in healthier ways during tough times. I actually think that some of the things being recommended for the purpose of conserving food so that it could be sent to the troops resulted in healthier eating for the average citizen (less sugar, less white wheat flour, more “roadside” foods -wild greens, berries, etc.)

  3. I have a friend who’s a bread-baking fiend. Most of those “options” in the poem are part of her standard routine, and her bread is delicious.

    1. I found it absolutely fascinating how many of the options that the poem suggested might be possibilities during hard times are considered to be very healthy and tasty today. We’ve learned a few things over the past hundred years. πŸ™‚

  4. What a great piece of verse. And it has come to pass that the loaves this poet came to appreciate are now the preferred choice of the discerning bread eater.

    1. A hundred-years-ago, milling practices that made finely ground white wheat flour available were a relatively recent innovation – so the fad was white wheat bread. Fortunately over the years, we’ve learned that some of the more rustic breads actually are healthier for us.

  5. In August a group of us are going to a museum in another town that will be having an exhibit called The War at Home: WW I. Should be interesting. I’ve heard plenty about WW II life from relatives but not much about the first.

      1. I somehow got my dates messed up and posted two posts at exactly the same time- and ended up pulling the one about salads back. It will appear next Thursday. I apologize for the confusion.

    1. I wish our local museum would do the same. I’ve been following WWI pretty closely recently and I’d love to see an exhibit like that. I don’t think people have any recollection how great the impact on the home front from WWI really was in the U.S..

    2. This sounds like a lot of fun. It’s so interesting to learn about how WWI affected the lives of the average person. My sense is that there were some similarities between WWI and WWII in what was happening on the homefront – but that there also were a lot of major differences.

  6. “I’ll miss the tints and deeper shade of morsels that I bite…”

    I love this line. I’ve never thought of bread as being different colors, yet it is. What a fascinating glimpse into the past you have with this poem.

    1. What a beautifully descriptive line! I’m glad you liked this poem. I often skip over poems in old magazines and don’t even read them, but somehow this one caught my eye and really resonated with me.

  7. Beautiful poem and insight into a tough time for our nation. We so take many things for granted. I’ll remember this the next time I eat bread!

    1. It’s nice to hear that you liked this poem. It was really hard for people on the home front during WWI. In addition to food shortages, the inflation rate was extremely high, and many people found it difficult to afford food.

  8. So interesting! I imagine American bakers used to wheat flour learned some things from immigrant bakers, who had traditionally used other kinds of flour–an awakening of the tastebuds!

    1. I really like how the author of the poem recognized that the food shortages caused by the war were providing her with an opportunity to learn to enjoy some wonderful new foods.

    1. Don’t apologize – I always enjoy seeing how my posts inspire some of your posts. It’s fun to see the old WWI posters that encouraged people to conserve wheat.

    1. I sometimes listen to the BBC drama about WW1 and they often mentioned the lack of flour and having to conserve and not waste a crumb. In one episode someone confronted the cook about burned bread that she threw out.

      1. It interesting how they tied support of the war effort to the little decisions that cooks make – like when is an item of food worth trying to salvage. Somehow your comment makes me think of the times that I’ve burnt a piece of toast – and scraped the burned crumbs off so that I won’t need throw it away.

    2. Graham flour is a coarse, whole wheat flour that contains all the parts of the wheat grains. Last year I made a recipe for Orange Nut Bread that contained a 50/50 mixture of graham flour and white flour. The bread had a nice taste and texture – though it seemed pretty similar in taste to bread made using regular whole wheat flour.

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