Contributed by Libby O'Connell
|Red Cross War Cake Ready to Send "Over There"|
Naturally, one big problem for feeding the troops on the front was the safety of the supply lines, which were targets for bombs and other sabotage. Every soldier in the trenches carried emergency rations containing 12 of canned meat or fresh bacon, ground coffee, sugar, and tobacco with rolling papers (and later, pre-rolled cigarettes). The Army purchased canned meat from the French, which was labeled “Madagascar” and promptly nicknamed “monkey meat” by the Americans in disgust. In this environment, hardtack still made its appearance on the Doughboy menu. These “Reserve Rations” were designed to sustain the troops when the supply lines broke down, or when they were too far from the supply depots. The servicemen’s rations defined part of the wartime experience for a generation of men that remained with them long after they shipped home.
In France, the soldiers were billeted in relative safety before and after their service in the trenches. Here they had dependable access to food and might even receive packages from home. Of course, food shipped from the United States had to remain edible without any extra care. Even when stale and crumbled, any food sent by loved ones was always particularly appreciated.
|A Red Cross Canteen in France|
RECIPE: RED CROSS WAR CAKEThe Red Cross also communicated with families about helpful ways to support the troops. Here is a recipe they recommended for folks who wanted to send their soldier a shippable treat.
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups hot water
2 Tbsp lard
3 Tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp each: salt, cinnamon, cloves
8 ounces raisins ( about one package), chopped
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
½ cup mixture of 50-50 dark rum and orange juice
Preheat oven to 350°.
Put all ingredients except the flour and the soda in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a medium low and let it cook at a low boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in flour and soda. Mix well.
Grease a bundt pan. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes.
Pour the ½ cup mixture of 50-50 dark rum and orange juice over it twice.
The original recipe comes with a recommendation: “Cake keeps fresh for a long time and can be sent to men at the front.” Our contributor Libby O'Connell is a member of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission and the Chief Historian of the History Channel. This recipe is "Bite 66" from her historical cookbook, The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites.