Thursday, April 21, 2011

Meatless and Wheatless

Advertisement placed by Dr. C.C. Brink in the Hobart High School Aurora yearbook of 1917. Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

Hobart got its own local food administrator early in December 1917: Dr. Calvin C. Brink. I don't know exactly what his duties were, but I suspect he was to serve as a sort of cheerleader for food conservation. By that time, the nation's food situation was so "serious" that the U.S. Food Administration was asking all Americans "to make greater efforts than ever to save wheat, meats, sugar and animal fats." Conservation could become a shared experience, a sort of pep-rally ritual, as the administration "recommended to every citizen, every home and every hotel, restaurant, boarding house, etc." the following weekly cycle:
  • Meatless Tuesday.
  • Wheatless Wednesday.
  • Meatless Friday.
  • Baconless breakfasts every day.
  • One wheatless meal every day.
For wheatless meals and days, the Food Administration suggested using any of a variety of substitutes for wheat flour, like corn meal, oatmeal, rice, or flour made from non-wheat sources (barley, potato, kaffir, soy, etc.)

To this program was added the general injunction to use less animal fat and sugar. A later article noted that over the course of four months, about 85,000 tons of U.S. sugar had been shipped to France; and while American consumers were paying now about 9¢ a pound for sugar, the News pointed out that sugar had been 35¢ a pound during the Civil War.

Behind the pleas for voluntary public cooperation lay the threat of rationing.

Food became the object of crime. Newspaper readers were warned of a new scam abroad in the land: a stranger would knock at the door of a home, claiming to be an officer of the U.S. Food Administration authorized to collect or commandeer foodstuffs, and the unwary householder would hand over whatever the "officer" asked for. An indignant Herbert Hoover (head of the Food Administration) said "emphatically that no department of the Government has or will ever make such demands on householders." The Gazette also carried a warning for anyone who might be tempted to take food (or anything else, for that matter) from railroad cars traveling interstate: heavy penalties could result, including a $5,000 fine or a ten-year prison term.

In February the Food Administration designed a still more Spartan weekly program that it suggested as a minimum conservation effort:
  • Wheatless Monday.
  • Meatless Tuesday.
  • Wheatless Wednesday.
  • Porkless Saturday.
  • One wheatless meal every day.
  • One meatless meal every day.
  • Daily conservation of animal fat and sugar.
An anonymous poet lamented the effect of food and fuel shortages, and other demands of the war, on daily civilian life:

Conditions up to date

♦ "American Sugar Sent to France." Hobart News 31 Jan. 1918.
♦ "Conditions Up-to-Date." Hobart News 20 Dec. 1917.
♦ "Don't Get Caught." Hobart Gazette 14 Dec. 1917.
♦ "Dr. C.C. Brink Appointed Food Administrator for Hobart." Hobart News 6 Dec. 1917.
♦ "Fraud Warning." Hobart Gazette 21 Dec. 1917.
♦ "Important New Food Rules." Hobart Gazette 8 Feb. 1918.
♦ "U.S. Food Administration Sends Out New Food Rules." Hobart News 7 Feb. 1918.
♦ "U.S. Food Administration." Hobart News 24 Feb. 1918.

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