When Potatoes Are Expensive, Substitute Rice

potatoes

In 1917, food prices were rising rapidly in the U.S. because of World War I and the demand for food in Europe. Magazines were filled with articles about how to cope with the high food prices. One article encouraged readers to substitute rice for potatoes. Here’s a few excerpts:

Who Cares for Potatoes?

When there are cheaper foods that can take the place of Irish potatoes, why do we worry over their increasing cost? Besides, mankind has not always had potatoes to eat. The potato became widely popular only about one hundred years ago. It was the middle of the sixteenth century that the Spaniards found the potato in Peru and took it back to the Continent where it was cultivated as a curiosity.

In our own country we know the potato was cultivated in the temperate sections, for we have record of Sir Walter Raleigh’s taking it in 1585 from North Carolina to Ireland, to be cultivated on his estate near Cork. Its cultivation first became general in Ireland (whence its name) and not until a little more than a century ago did it come into widespread popular usage.

Certainly  we are not wholly dependent upon the potato for a well-balanced dietary since our ancestors thrived without it. To be sure, the potato has justly soared its popularity because of its cheapness, its food-value, its palatability, the convenience with which it can be shipped and stored, and the ease with which it can be prepared in a surprisingly large variety of attractive ways.

Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)
Source: Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

It is true that men and women are largely creatures of habit, but the time has come when the women, as controllers of at  least seventy-five percent of the incomes of the men of the nation, must look to our habits to see whether they are expensive and whether they need to be altered.

Starch is not the only necessary constituent of a substitute for potatoes. The potato is rich in vitamins. This property, however, is possessed by most fruits and vegetables, and by milk.

Rice would more than fit the bill, as it contains nearly three times as much energy-building material as the potato. If we substitute it for potatoes, me must have at the same meal vegetables or fruits that will supply the needed potassium and bulk. Such vegetables and fruits are: Cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumbers, beets, lettuce, celery, string beans, parsnips, rhubarb, rutabagas, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, bananas, apricots, lemons, oranges, peaches pineapple, strawberries.

In purchasing rice we have a chance to economize by buying the broken kernels, which sell for several cents a pound cheaper than the whole grain, and have exactly the same food value.

Not that we wish to taboo potatoes–far be it from that–but since their price is relatively high we can save money by using potato-less menus.

Good Housekeeping (March, 1917)

Hundred-Year-Old Rice Creole Recipe

Creole Rice

Food is expensive. Sometimes I’m shocked by how much I spend when making a recipe, so I was absolutely thrilled to see a page of recipes in the January, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal for dishes that could be made for 10 cents.

Source: Ladies Home Journal ,1916

I tried not to get my hopes up too much, but the magazine promised that the recipes were not only inexpensive, but also nutritious and appetizing. I decided to try Rice Creole.

I was not disappointed. The Rice Creole was simple to prepare, and absolutely delicious. This is a lovely rice-pilaf type dish with a mild onion flavor.  And, diced tomatoes with bits of green pepper and parsley interspersed in the rice create a colorful dish that is a perfect accompaniment to fish, meat, or other entrees.

Bottom line – Rice Creole is wonderful with a surprisingly modern look and taste.  I plan to serve it in the very near future when I have friends over – and I fully expect they will to be amazed when I tell them it’s a hundred-year-old dish.

Here’s the recipes updated for modern cooks:

Rice Creole

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup rice

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1 cup onions, finely diced

2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) green pepper, finely diced

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon parsley flakes (or use 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley)

1 1-lb. can diced tomatoes, drained

Cook rice following the directions on the package. In the meantime, melt bacon drippings in a skillet, then add onions and green pepper; sauté until tender. Stir in salt, parsley, and tomatoes, and heat until it begins to simmer. Stir in the cooked rice; heat until hot.

Since Rice Creole is supposed to be an inexpensive recipe, I decided to cost it out:  1 cup rice ($0.50), 1 onion ($0.50), 1/4 green pepper ($0.32), 1 can tomatoes ($1.29), salt/parsley/bacon drippings ($0.05) for a total of $2.66. It’s a little more than the 10 cents of days gone by, but considering that a dollar in 1916 is worth $22 today, it’s still an inexpensive dish.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)
Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1916)

When I made this dish I used 1 teaspoon of salt (instead of the 2 teaspoons called for in the old recipe), and it turned out perfectly.

The old recipe calls for strained tomatoes. It’s unclear whether this means that the drained tomatoes or the strained liquid should be used in the recipe. I interpreted it to mean that drained tomatoes were combined with the other ingredients.