Thursday, September 23, 2010
Victory Garden - Now & Then
The Frog & PenguINN mini-farm produced a lot of veggies this summer. So when looking for new ways to prepare our garden bounty, I relied to one of my favorite cookbooks: The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash pub. 1982 (Alfred A Knopf, New York). While I have cut down on cookbooks – much to Grenville’s relief – this one remains a “keeper.”
Because it’s NOT just a cookbook. Of course it has recipes – more than 800 in over 370 pages, arranged A-Z (asparagus to zucchini). Vegetables are the main ingredients in soups, appetizers, salads, relishes, breads, pies, cakes, cookies. But, this is not strictly a vegetarian cookbook and it includes recipes with meat, fish, and poultry. But it also has lots of gardening tips and information on storing veggies.
The Victory Garden Cookbook evolved from The Victory Garden, a Boston public TV series on WGBH which premiered in 1975 and remains the oldest gardening TV program in the US. The show started as a how-to program for home gardeners with a recipe segment added in. As the show's popularity grew, so did the demand for recipes.
Marian Morash, a self-taught cook, was Chef Marian on The Victory Garden show and also the executive chef for the Julia Child cooking shows. Morash had an all-women kitchen in the mid-'70s, before women had a presence in the culinary scene. When she wrote The Victory Garden Cookbook, her goal was to so show readers the benefits of using home-grown vegetables so that they would garden or shop for the freshest ingredients vs. using canned or frozen goods.
Where did the term “Victory Garden” originate?
This title is reminiscent of the homespun victory gardens of WW I and WW II. Victory gardens or war gardens/food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in both the US, Europe and Canada to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort.
In addition to indirectly aiding the war effort these gardens were considered a civil "morale booster" — in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce they grew. In this way, victory gardens become a part of daily life on the home front as shown in these vintage posters.
Both the government and businesses urged people to make gardening a family and community effort. National magazines like the Saturday Evening Post and Life printed stories about victory gardens; women's magazines gave instructions on how to grow and preserve produce. Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercially canned goods for the troops. In 1943, families bought 315,000 pressure cookers for canning compared to 66,000 in 1942. Was it successful?
Yes, while it lasted. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted. Fruit and vegetables harvested in home and community plots was estimated to be 9 to 10 million tons, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables. But when World War II ended, so did the government’s promotion of victory gardens. In the spring of 1949, many people did not plant a garden and the country experienced some food shortages.