The Evanston Community Kitchen

A food memoir about women in the kitchen and history in the making. Food = Story.


Juney, Mom, and Me (and Shaggy — the Pekingese)

This is a photo of Juney, my grandma holding me. My mom, BA as in Betty Anne is sitting next to her.  Our Pekingese, Shaggy is on my mom’s lap. Shaggy bit me under my nose when I was a young child.  He had a sensitive spot and if touched, he would bite. Otherwise, he was about as Zen as they come. My sister and I would put him on top of our collie (like cowboy in saddle) to provoke him into movement. Shaggy was like a monk — quiet and spiritual.  He was a kind dog.

I wish I could go back in time and ask my grandma all the questions I have for her now.

What was it like to go to Cuba in the 1930s?

Tell me about Speakeasies?  Did you go without telling Granny Dell?

I can hear her answer that one … “Of course, I didn’t tell Mother! I wouldn’t dream of it. Harriet and I used to sneak out. We were very clever like that  Mother was a a member of the WCTM (Women’s Christian Temperance Union).”

I have my little notepad and write her messages to keep a diary and include it ALL. Grandma was a humble woman and very private. She was equally fascinating and is certainly the main character of this memoir.

Grandma and me

Grandma and me

Juney’s story of her past as a gourmet executive chef and business woman didn’t matter at this moment in the photo. What mattered most to her was she was a grandma — she was Grandma. That was the role she loved the most.

The German Shepard there is Penny. Mom got rid of her because she bit us.  There was no reason to it.  Shaggy got the pass because of the Pekingese temperament.  Every Pekingese has a sensitive spot. Mom got rid of Penny when she snapped at us when we were kids. I wish I could call Mom up right now and muse a bit about Penny and get the exact reason.  My mind wanders and wants to know, “Did Penny bite us?  Or did she just snap at us?”

Funny, what we can get stuck on.  I have a deep desire to know every exact truth about my grandma, mom, and great-grandmother, but I can’t really. We are private creatures as humans and most people (besides journalers and writers, don’t share those private moments and thoughts in our heads).

But I am on a quest to find the truth of my Elizabeths — Elizabeth Odell (great-grandmother — Granny “Dell”), Elizabeth Odell Welch (grandma —  “Juney”), Elizabeth Welch Miller (Mom — “BA,” “Betty Anne,”  “Betty”) and me (Megan Elizabeth Miller Oteri, memomuse).

1926: Juney goes to the Big Apple to Work for Alice Foote MacDougall — Takes a Big Bite

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My grandmother left Evanston, Illinois in 1926 for the Big Apple.  She left her job as the assistant manager of the Community Kitchen to go to New York City.  Juney (my grandmother) was single. Why not? She was an independent woman and had secured a great job working as Alice Foote MacDougall‘s manager.

I am sure Granny Dell was not very happy about her youngest daughter going to New York by herself. But Juney did.

Granny Dell must have appreciated it a little. I wish I could ask her. “Granny Dell, how did you feel when Juney left Evanston for the Big Apple?”

For more historic images of New York City, see this article in The Atlantic.

Perhaps Granny Dell would answer something like this, “Well, I went to Spokane in 1880 all by myself from Ohio. I didn’t know anyone in Spokane and I had secured a great job as a teacher, so I understood. Deep down I understood. Freedom is a beautiful thing.”

My grandmother wrote down quotes on little scraps of paper and cut out newspaper cartoons and clippings that were inspiring. I have some of them.

One of my favorites that Juney wrote down is: “Wear your learning like your watch, in a private pocket; and do not pull it out, and strike it, merely to show that you have one.” –
Lord Chesterfield

This certainly was true for Juney. She never bragged about her experiences or career. I sure wish she would have when I was a child. But she sure did brag about her grandchildren and her daughter.  Mary Liz, Juney’s niece did not even know that Juney had been to Europe twice. My mom told me last year about her two trips to Europe. Juney went to Cuba in the 30’s too.

My grandmother, Elizabeth Odell Welch -- "Juney"

My grandmother, Elizabeth Odell Welch — “Juney”

Juney was so elegant.  I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful she was.  Well, actually I can and I will — in the book, which I have to get back to writing.


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Geeking Out Foodie Style

I geeked out last night organizing my Trapper Keepers (I am an 80’s child so they will always be Trapper Keepers to me). I bought three binders, the largest I could find. I bought divider tabs, folder divider tabs, plastic protective sleeves, index cards, and just about every organization tool I could get my hands on. I do have a lot of information to process and synthesize. At times, I have been frustrated that this project is taking so long, but I always have to come back to the fact that the story has to simmer. It takes time. This is brown rice people. It is worth the hour on the stove.

But when it flows, it flows. I have surges (and because I am a mom to young child, these surges usually take place at night). And last night, I only meant to clean off my desk that had open binders, sticky notes, index cards, pencil shavings, books, and a sea of other historic time period items.  I have a book that contains material from 1921 and it is so delicate that when I open the book, scraps of paper flurry onto my desk. I received it through an inter-library loan. I have a helper I have enlisted at the local library. His name is David and he has helped me gather many newspaper articles and books through inter-library loan requests. He has been so helpful that he will surely make the acknowledgement page.

“I had already done a lot of research for Rough Riders, keeping notebooks and old photographs. Some of the books were antiques for that time period, with the covers falling off.” – Tom Berenger 

It feels like I am living in the early 20th century as I am so deep in the research as my focus (and obsession) has been the Community Kitchen.

My husband said the other day, “I appreciate your passion and enthusiasm, but I am Community Kitchened out.”  Oh my, I thought, even my husband has had enough of this story. But you see, I will never have enough of it until it is written and bound in a book. It fascinates me. It takes me on jaunts and journeys to 1880 Spokane, where my great-grandmother was a teacher. Then I hop on a steam train with my great-grandfather heading West to Spokane from C armargo, Illinois. It take me to 1906 Texas where my great-aunt Harriet and grandma are dressed in Mother Hubbards — a red one for Juney and a blue one for Harriet, where they help their grandmother churn the butter.

Image Source: http://www.mamalisa.com

Image Source: www.mamalisa.com

It takes me to 1926 New York City where my grandmother is the manager at one of Alice Foote MacDougall’s tea rooms. It takes me to 1943 Smith College where Mary Liz can’t come home for her Granny Dell’s funeral because of the war. You see, The Community Kitchen is my stage coach back in time. My 1920 Ford. It is my ticket to see my family’s shows and acts. I love it. I can’t get enough of it.

The story of the Community Kitchen, which evolved from an Evanston Woman’s Club food conservation committee in 1918, has so many other stories embedded in the tapestry of American history and family history. There are recipes, stories, and love surrounding this tale. And I am a happy chef in my kitchen of words, memories and translations of text my ancestors wrote, leaving me clues to tie a bigger story together.

Sometimes (OK, a lot) I take out my index cards, which are filled with dates, facts, and anecdotes, and look them over. This gives me great comfort and joy as I have chronicled 1880 well past 1951. I have three binders full of research, which I have organized. The story is taking on a good shape – a shape of its own. The bread is rising and the scent is sweet.

Being alone, while everyone sleeps, gives me great joy. I would rather research and write than go out on the town. I become entranced at night, usually staying up until well past midnight. My son starts pre-school this week so I will have to start going to bed earlier. I will do my writing during the day. But I have to admit that the night is much more alluring as I feel it provides a more daring environment and less distractions.

On that note — good night. I am up well past midnight again.

Today’s treat and tea — I transcribed (retyped) a letter written on my great-grandfather’s business letterhead to my great-grandmother’s (Granny Dell) sister in Connecticut dated May 1896.  I wrote 6,000 words as well. I also had ice cream for dinner.

Sneak peek for this week’s post about the excitement of  coming upstairs from the basement research room when the Dawes House (Evanston History Center) was empty. It was like stepping back in time. This week’s post will focus on the kitchen at the Dawes House. If you are enjoying Downton Abbey like me, then you will enjoy this week’s post.

Kitchen at the Charles Dawes house (Evanston History Center)

Kitchen at the Charles Dawes house (Evanston History Center)


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Memories of Grandma and Beet Soup for Hot Summer Days

I recently returned from a very fruitful research trip to Evanston, Illinois.  I am working on a post about that trip (stay tuned next week). I was very fortunate to obtain travel funds from the North Carolina Arts Council, Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge and Wilson County Arts Council for a Regional Artist Project Grant.  Thank goodness for Arts Councils. They rock.

With that said, I am busy writing writing writing.  I am eating, thinking, drinking, sleeping and even dreaming about The Community Kitchen.  My husband is even dreaming about the Community Kitchen since I have been talking about it non-stop since returning from Evanston Saturday. When I was in Evanston, I was lucky to trace my great-grandmother’s, grandmother’s, and mother’s footsteps by visiting the original location of The Community Kitchen at 600 Davis Street, which is now home of the Mozart Cafe. To think each of them stepped foot in here, along with so many other historical women.

Image
The current Mozart Cafe, which at one time was the location of the store front area of the Community Kitchen.  My great-grandmother and grandmother once ran this famous Evanston bakery (located at 600 Davis Street from 1925-1951).

With that said, My cousin (my mother’s cousin, my grandmother’s niece) kindly fed me nourishing meals while I stayed with her in Evanston. One of the meals she made me was Beet Soup.  It was perfect for lunch on a busy day of researching. Mary Liz used Julia Child’s recipe for beet soup.

The bright red color contrasted with the white bowl, creating a balanced pattern with a dollop of sour cream, garnished with fresh parsley. A white, red, white color collage of beauty. Delicious and delightful.  Mary Liz and I sat and chatted while I took sips of this nourishing, healthy soup. She took good care of me while I stayed with her. She told me anecdotal stories about my mom, whom I am desperately longing for. My mother recently passed away. She passed away on her favorite night of the year, Christmas Eve. Her funeral/inurnment was July 1 at Arlington National Cemetery where she is inurned with my father, who was a Korean War veteran.

My mother often spoke of The Community Kitchen throughout my life and most likely took me by 600 Davis Street as a child when we visited my grandmother at the Mather Home in Evanston.

Interestingly enough, I walked into the lobby of the Mather Home last week and a woman said she remembered me when I inquired about my grandmother. She has been a long-time employee of the Mather Home. My grandmother lived there before it became the great big towers it is today. I was stunned. I asked her if she remembered my grandmother and she said, “Oh yes, of course. She was a really neat lady.” Then she said, “There is something about her that I am not remembering — what it is?” and she uncoiled her memory loops and traveled back to the late 70’s and early 80’s.  I mentioned, “She ran the Community Kitchen on Davis Street from 1947 to 1951 and was an executive chef in New York City.”  Then I took out a photo of my grandmother from my overstuffed backpack bursting with newspaper articles and photocopies of research. Her eyes widened and she said, “Oh yes. I remember exactly. She loved to sit in the dining room and always took her meals facing the garden.” When she looked at the photo of my grandmother, she commented on Juney’s hair style saying, “How can you forget that hair? That hair style is not an easy one to do.” I felt such a burst of joy.

My grandma Juney

My grandma Juney

Then I cried. Then I smiled. Then we hugged.  What a neat lady and what a treat to be given that gift of memory.  Food equals story.

Here is a recipe from Bon Appetit for Five-Spice Beet Soup.

Questions I’d Ask My Grandmother Now

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Questions I'd Ask My Grandmother Now

I wish I could go back in time and ask my grandmother a million questions.

I do remember asking her when I was nine years old, as she sat with her legs crossed like she has in the photo, on the tan plaid couch in our living room with brown thread stitching, “Why do your boobs sag, Grandma?” I remember being very curious why they hung so low.

She was so kind. She laughed a little at my blunt nature and smiled, as if she understood my bluntness from her own experience. She was a straight shooter. I loved that about her.

My dear Megan, “We had to wear corsets when I was young.”

“What are corsets?” I asked curiously.

“They were uncomfortable, but squeezed everything in. You should be happy you will never have to wear one.”

I miss my grandma, but I feel closer to her as I research her life and her mother’s life through The Community Kitchen. My mother recently passed away. She was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery July 1. Her inurnment ceremony was beautiful. Her ashes were joined with my father’s who passed in 2003.

I will be going to Evanston this week to conduct on-site research at the Evanston History Center. I received a Regional Artist Project Grant funded through the North Carolina Arts Council, Pitt Council Arts Council, and the Wilson Arts Council for travel expenses. I am very excited to be able to go to Evanston and all the places my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother stepped before me.

This article is a great link (The History of Meatless Mondays) by Katherine Spiers about the history of food conservation during WWI. As you know, if you follow this blog — the Evanston Community Kitchen sprang from a Evanston Woman’s Club food conservation project (the Food Conservation Committee of the Woman’s Club). My great-grandmother (Elizabeth Hawley Odell, also referred to below as Mrs. James Odell) was one of the three committee chairwomen, along with Mrs. Dawes and Mrs. Kingsley. At the time, my grandmother was 19 years old and living in Evanston.

If I could travel back in time, I would shadow both my grandmother and great-grandmother during this time period. I would love to watch my grandmother’s hands as she helped prepare canned fruits and vegetables from local victory gardens.  These historical moments are what I will be researching when I travel to Evanston this summer.

“During World War I (1917/8), through the Food Conservation Committee of the Woman’s Club, she helped to found (with Mrs. James Odell and Mrs. Homer Kingsley) and manage a community canning kitchen, which produced almost 7000 jars of food over a summer. This Conservation Committee further put on food demonstrations for women at Schools of Domestic Sciences all over the city and trained volunteers to teach others; they also wrote to merchants about complying with the conservation order of the United States, especially to find substitutes for wheat, meat, fat, and sugar.” — Evanston Women’s History Project Database (Helen Palmer Dawes), Evanston History Center

Domestic Revolution: Preserving the Family Meal

Women’s co-op: The Community Kitchen (Link to article in Evanston Now newspaper about a history talk on the Evanston Community Kitchen. See link for details).

Click on link for details of event: http://evanstonnow.com/event/education/bill-smith/2013-03-04/55018/womens-co-op-the-community-kitchen

The Community Kitchen Photo Credit: Evanston Woman's Club

“This Thursday (April 4, 2013) is “Preserving the Family Table,” a presentation covering the fascinating but mostly unknown story of the Community Kitchen.” — Evanston History Center Facebook page

“Women’s history month is year-round at EHC! Join them tonight at 7 pm to learn about the Evanston Community Kitchen, a woman-run cooperative housekeeping venture that sought to revolutionize women’s lives. Presented by Erin Hvizdak.” — Evanston History Center Facebook Page

A wine and appetizer reception catered by Whole Foods Market, Evanston South takes place at 6:30 p.m.

Admission is $10 to the event at the Evanston History Center, located at 225 Greenwood St., Evanston, Illinois 60201, inside the beautiful Dawes House. Event is free for EHC members.

Photo Credit: Jenny Thompson of the Evanston History Center. The event on The Community Kitchen is tonight (April 4) at 7 pm at the Evanston History Center (Dawes House).

The Evanston History Center (Dawes House) ~ Photo Credit: Jenny Thompson of the Evanston History Center. The event on The Community Kitchen is tonight (April 4) at 7 pm at the this beautiful house. Step back in time and attend this wonderful event.

“April Under the Buffalo

A reception catered by Whole Foods Market, Evanston South, kicks off each event at 6:30pm.
Presentations begin at 7pm.
Admission: $10 per event (Payable at the door) EHC Members Free.
Reservations Recommended: jthompson@evanstonhistorycenter.org

“Preserving the Family Table: The Founding of Evanston’s Community Kitchen After WWI”
Presentation by: Erin Hvizdak
Thursday, April 4, 2013 7pm

Learn about the woman-run cooperative housekeeping venture, the Evanston Community Kitchen, founded as a canning kitchen during WWI. At its peak, the kitchen produced hot dinners in state-of-the-art facilities and delivered up to 500 meals per week. Billed as a service of “convenience” for housewives and young single businesswomen, the Evanston Community Kitchen can also be seen as a response to the anxieties felt from shifting gender roles and class relations after WWI.” — Evanston History Center website (http://evanstonhistorycenter.org/events-programs)


Marion Cunningham: Late Bloomer, Agoraphobic, and Food Pioneer

There is a video below of a panel on Marion Cunningham from the New School’s Food Studies Program panel series, Culinary Luminaries.

“Culinary Luminaries: Marion Cunningham

Thursday, February 21, 2013 6:00 p.m.

Location: Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor, New York

Description: Marion Cunningham (1922–2012) started her professional career at age 50 after taking a cooking class with James Beard. He was so impressed with her cooking that he hired her as his assistant, a position she held for the next eleven years. On Beard’s recommendation, Random House selected Cunningham to edit the 13th edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1979). Its success inspired Cunningham to write her own cookbooks, including two for people who have never cooked before. Her dedication to home cooking led former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl to proclaim, “If Beard was the father of American cooking, Cunningham became its mother.” Speakers include Judith Jones, senior editor and vice president, Knopf; Laura Shapiro, author of Something from the Oven; and Anne Mendelson, author of Stand Facing the Stove. Moderated by New School Food Studies faculty member Andrew F. Smith.” – Source: Andrew Smith, New School Food Studies Faculty Member

Photo Source: JamesBeard.org

Marion Cunningham and James Beard ~ Photo Source: JamesBeard.org

Marion Cunningham was an extraordinary person. Her simplicity though and ability to get people to believe in their own cooking abilities and skills set her apart. She was a humble woman and overcame many obstacles before becoming a food icon. She was an extreme agoraphobic and rarely left her home. She was also an alcoholic who quit drinking at the age of 45.

In the New School panel, Laura Shapiro shares a story of Marion confronting her agoraphobia by flying to Los Angeles with two of her closest friends; they sandwiched her with friendship and support, holding both her hands the whole time on the airplane as they all flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles for lunch. Can you imagine the fear Marion had, not only about leaving her safe surroundings,  but also getting on an airplane?

At 45 years old,  this was the turning point for Marion. She came back from her trip to Los Angeles with a fresh perspective. She also quit drinking.   Judith Jones illuminates on this in the panel, “As I heard the story, she got back, walked into her house, said to her husband and two children, ‘I’ve just been to Los Angeles.’ And they almost fainted and then she said fondly, ‘And I’m not going to drink anymore.’ She just knew it was eking away her life and she wanted to do more.”

Shortly after flying to Los Angeles and quitting drinking, she went to Oregon to study with James Beard. She soon became his assistant and worked for him for eleven years. Then Random House needed a cookbook writer to overhaul the outdated cooking bible, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. This is where Judith Jones came onto the scene with her keen vision for talent and editorial skills.  You will have to watch the panel video to hear Judith Jones speak about how Marion became the writer, having never written a word before.

I was so moved by this panel (I watched it online) that I transcribed some of it. It makes me wonder if my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Odell or grandmother, Elizabeth Odell Welch crossed Marion’s path. Perhaps my grandmother knew Marion.  Perhaps my great-grandmother and The Community Kitchen were an inspiration for Marion. The Community Kitchen grew from the same issue Marion promoted: preserving the family meal.

“Yes, I think using your hands is the answer.” — Marion Cunningham

Photo Source: latimes.com

Marion Cunningham ~ Photo Source: latimes.com

“She believed in ordinary home cooking done really well because it had saved her life. She believed it could save everyone’s.” — Laura Shapiro

“Marion was certainly a late bloomer. What really makes a food writer? For one thing we didn’t have such roles in the 19th century into the 20th century. The cook was the cook and not necessarily a writer. But with Marion, the very fact that she was self-taught — she did have a wonderful  Italian grandmother. She learned by doing and observing and loving it and as you (Laura Shapiro) point out, it did save her life because it was that turning point when she was 45 years old and her birthday. As I heard the story, she got back, walked into her house, said to her husband and two children, ‘I’ve just to Los Angeles.’ And they almost fainted and then she said fondly, ‘And I’m not going to drink anymore.’ She just knew it was eking away her life and she wanted to do more.” — Judith Jones, Vice-President and Senior Editor at Knopf (Editor for Julia Child and Marion Cunningham)

Judith Jones is an icon. I enjoyed hearing her speak on this panel. Judith also rescued The Diary of Anne Frank from the reject pile.

“Home cooking is a catalyst that brings people together.” – Marion Cunningham

Judith Jones talks about Marion cooking on Julia Child’s show, touching and packing the ingredients with bare hands. Julia Child questions Marion in her unique voice and tone, “Use your hands?”

Graceful, elegant, and calm, Marion replies, “Yes, I think using your hands is the answer.”

You can watch Marion and Julia make Buttermilk Crumb Muffins in the video below.  I have always been moved by people who overcome life’s obstacles and use their struggles as a catalyst to build a better life and teach others that we are not alone. Marion taught people that we are not alone, but connected through food and story. Food is a way to heal and Marion healed through cooking. It just goes to show how much story is in the food we prepare, eat, and serve our families and friends.

BUTTERMILK CRUMB MUFFINS  Marion Cunningham
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour2 cups light brown sugar2/3 cup solid vegetable  Home shortening2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg1/2 teaspoon salt1 cup buttermilk2 large eggs, well beaten Makes 14 to 16 muffinsPosition rack in oven and preheat to 350°F.  Grease two 12-cup muffin tins.  Put flour and brown sugar into a bowl and stir to mix well.  Break shortening into a few pieces, drop them into the flour, and rub together until mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.  Set aside 1/2 cup crumb topping.  Add baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to remaining crumb mixture and stir to mix well.  Add buttermilk and beaten eggs and, mix until well blended, thick and shiny.  Fill muffin tins two-thirds full.  Sprinkle a rounded teaspoon of reserved crumb mixture onto each muffin.  Half-fill any empty muffin molds with water.  Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Source of recipe: http://www.alacartetv.com/baking/recipes/buttermilk_muffins.htm

Here is a link to an interview with Marion on NPR titled, Marion Cunningham’s ‘Lost Recipes’ Cookbook Author Wants to Bring Americans Back to the Kitchen.

Suggested Reading:


It Takes a Village … to Raise (and Maintain) a Building

It Takes a Village … to Raise (and Maintain) a Building.

via It Takes a Village … to Raise (and Maintain) a Building. Click on the link to read about the history of the Woman’s Club of Evanston.

“In 2013, the Woman’s Club of Evanston will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the building of their clubhouse, so prominently featured at 1702 Chicago Avenue in Evanston.” — From the Evanston History Center Blog.

The Community Kitchen started in the basement of the Evanston Woman’s Club (now called the Woman’s Club of Evanston) in 1918.

Women in the kitchen and history in the making. Food = Story.


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Hooverizing: Food Will Win the War

National Canning Day was October 23.

In the summer of 1918, the women of the Evanston Woman’s Club canned 7,000 jars of fruits and vegetables from local wartime gardens in an effort to aid their community and the war effort.  Food conservation was a growing concern in 1918.  Armistice Day was months away.  Posters were displayed in public areas to conserve food.

Tacking up U.S. Food Administration posters at Mobile, Alabama, Ca. 1918.
COPYRIGHT: American Photo Archive

The women of Evanston, who still did not have the right to vote — organized, facilitated, gathered, cooked, canned and prepared 7,000 jars of fruits and vegetables from local wartime gardens to feed community members and raise money for club’s War Emergency Fund. The three committee chairwomen of the food conservation committee were Mrs. Helen Dawes, Mrs. Elizabeth Odell (my great-grandmother), and Mrs. Nellie Kingsley. These three women were also the co-founders of The Community Kitchen.

Image Source: Evanston History Center Community Kitchen Co-Founders and Evanston Woman’s Club Food Conservation Committee Chairwomen
Left to Right: Mrs. James Odell, Mrs. Homer Kingsley, and Mrs. Helen Dawes

The club’s food conservation kitchen and canning event was in the Evanston Woman’s Club basement.  They raised a total of $250 for the club’s War Emergency Fund.  Woodrow Wilson referred to this successful conservation effort often, as well as rating it the most efficient conservation kitchen in the nation.

Artist: Charles E. Chambers
Issued by: The United States Food Administration to encourage voluntary food conservation

Image Source: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Related links:

Herbert Hoover, United States Food Administrator, appointed by President Woodrow Wilson, started a voluntary food conservation program in 1917, when America entered the Great War, to reduce domestic food consumption by 15%.  “Food will win the war” was the name of the food conservation campaign.

Envelope with slogan, “Food will win the war,” postmarked January 29, 1918
Image Source: ebay

Food conservation was also referred to as “Hooverizing.”

Valentine from 1918
Image Source: National Archives

It’s makes you realize how long women have been working behind the scenes to get things done.  Every time I go to write a post on a subject related to The Community Kitchen, I get lost in research and overwhelmed with what to fit into a short blog post.  This canning event was one of the seeds that grew into The Community Kitchen.  The other seed was a successful emergency kitchen, established during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918.  Guess where this emergency kitchen was set up? Yes, the Evanston Woman’s Club basement.

Food equals story.

Food Conservation Poster 1917
Image Source: http://www.archives.gov

Did you can any food this fall?  If so, please share in the comments. If not, what would you like most to have on your shelf for the winter? My bounty this summer was fresh basal, which I plan on making pesto sauce with.


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Research Treat and Tea: Schrafft’s

My grandmother, Elizabeth Odell Welch (Elizabeth Hawley Odell’s youngest daughter) was the assistant manager for The Community Kitchen.  “Juney,” nicknamed by family, was also the manager for Alice Foote MacDougall in New York.  At the age of 28, she left Evanston and headed for the Big Apple to pursue her own career in the food industry.

Downtown New York from the Woolworth Building
New York: March 2, 1926
Photo Source: http://www.georgeglazer.com

Mrs. Welch’s connection with the business began when it was a wartime project using the facility of the Evanston Woman’s club. She became assistant manager when her mother became the owner of the Community Kitchen, and she continued with it until shortly after it moved to Davis Street.  In 1926 she joined the staff of Alice Foote MacDougall in the tea shop business in New York.  Later she did experimental recipe work for Schrafft’s and before she returned to Evanston in 1947, she was on the staff of General Foods preparing foods for advertising photography.

Source: The Evanston Review Newspaper (May 31, 1951)

My grandmother’s notebook

Inside the notebook pictured above, are index cards with recipes, notations, food conversions, and my grandmother’s beautiful cursive handwriting.  I also found a list of fish entrees.  She must have created the list during her work at Schrafft’s.  How do I know this you say? Well, at first it was a mystery to me as well.

I looked on the back of the paper, wrinkled from time and tinted with age.

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“Fish items Schraffts” was written in cursive.  “Fish,” underlined and written in thick black colored pencil, was my first clue.  A long double dash, then “– items Schraffts” was written in pencil below the black colored pencil.

Photo Source: Shalat Architects

I obtained the 1951 Evanston Review article from my mother’s cousin, Mary Liz Hunt.  I solved the mystery when I read the article. I soon discovered what Schrafft’s was after reading articles about it in The New York Times.

The more research I do, the more I unearth.  This giant puzzle of American women’s history is slowly being put together, recipe by recipe.  I fear writing a blog post that is not up to the standards of Elizabeth Hawley Odell and Elizabeth Odell Welch — two women who were extraordinary women in their time, as well as chefs and business women before their time.  I do believe it would be safe to say they were perfectionists as well.

Some of the examples of fish entrees from my grandmother’s notebook, with Schrafft’s written on the back, including the price from the typed list include:

  • Soft Shell Crabs on Toast a la Schrafft                            Varies
  • Creamed Halibut on Toast (Fresh Halibut)                     .60
  • Grilled Sardines on Toast w. Parsley Butter Sauce        .65
  • Seafood a la Newburg with French Fried Potatoes        .85
  • Fresh Lobster Fricassee w. Biscuits                                  Varies

I imagine my grandmother, in New York, preparing these items in the executive kitchen at Schrafft’s headquarters or perhaps at one of their restaurants.  She is dressed in a white chef coat, her hair perfectly styled, as it always was — not a hair out of place.  Her classic white streak in her hair, which I inherited, showing on the left side of her beautiful thick hair. Her pearls are around her neck; in stockings and heels, dressed glamorously.

Schrafft’s Dining Room — Photo Source: Shalat Architects

Juney’s last words to me were, “Comb your hair, Megan.”  She had a stroke prior to this, and we visited her at the Mather Home in Evanston before she passed away. I was only ten years old when she died.  Her spirit has been with me since I was born.  Juney was strong and elegant.  She was confident in a way I wanted to be, even as a young child.  Her presence was calming and reassuring.  I can only imagine how graceful she was in a kitchen and how elegant she must have been walking on the busy streets of Manhattan in the late 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Experimental recipes sounds fitting, as she was a trailblazer and was never afraid of the unknown.

As I begin the journey of writing this powerful piece of American women’s history, I am channeling her spirit.  I realize I too, am preparing an experimental recipe.

This is an article about Schrafft’s from The New York Times.  

In the kitchen: I am working on a post about contacting the great-grandson of Frank Shatuff — the man who started Schrafft’s.