Frugal Recipes Used During the Depression Era

Missouri woman recalls three frugal recipes that were used often in her community during the depression era

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During the depression era, gaunt faces peered from under tattered "sock caps" and patched faded bib overalls hung from bony shoulders. Pop was tall, but now so thin he appeared even taller as Bud and I reared back to look at him. Our once chubby frames were also thin and bony. Three frugal recipes had become the mainstays of the menu in our community during this time, regardless of the breadwinner's occupation.

Mush consisted of home-grown com, ground at a nearby mill into meal, sprinkled into slightly salted boiling water and stirred continuously until thickened and well done. Addition of butter, cream and sugar made a delicious dish. Omit them and you have just what the name sounds like. Leftover mush (if any) was sliced and fried for another meal.

Poor Do was originally called Chuckwagon Hash. Pioneers served this when no wild game or local flora could be found on the trail. No leftovers or scraps were ever discarded, but combined with water and a sprinkling of salt over the campfire. Cornmeal was sprinkled in and stirred constantly until thick, in the versatile iron kettle.

Soakie was a leftover biscuit or piece of cornbread split open upon a plate; sugar, if available, was sprinkled over and a small amount of boiled coffee poured on. If there was no sugar, sorghum or honey made it nutritious and filling. Extra biscuits were sometimes baked ahead and purposely used this way, especially on wash day.

Puppy Cup, another version of Soakie, was mainly for adults as young children were not allowed that much coffee. The top and bottom crusts were removed from biscuits and stacked in the cup of coffee after cream from the springhouse and sugar had been liberally stirred in. The soft biscuit centers were used to "sop" the usual milk gravy, sometimes the only semblance to meat on the table for weeks at a time.

Virginia Snyder
Bismarck, Missouri


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.