Friday, January 29, 2021

Episode 17 - War and Spice

Bottles of imitation flavoring from Watkins and Currens
plus one glass jar of Watkins Paprika

Welcome to the supplemental blog post for Episode 17 of the Victory Kitchen Podcast! The availability of many of the popular spices for Americans was put at risk during the war because... well they were shipped in from all over the world and world war affected shipping a lot! We owe a lot to thank chemists and scientists. They created imitation equivalents to replace Americans' favorite spices that disappeared during the war like black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and flavorings like vanilla, banana, and pineapple!

Crescent brand Mapeline - imitation maple flavor

The Birmingham News Sun, 6 June 1943, had a great article called "Your Favorite Flavor" that described the process of making extracts and told about all the cool work scientists were doing to create synthetic flavorings for Americans during the war. They described the process this way: 

            "A synthetic extract is composed of ingredients artificially made. First step is the breaking down of the natural oil into its component parts, then the quantitative amount of each ingredient is estimated. Each constituent in turn is made test-tube style, then assembled in the exact proportion found in the natural oil. Now comes the comparing of the manufactured flavor with the real thing. Sometimes the first batch is an identical twin to the original - but not once in a blue moon. Patient blending follows, more of this chemical, less of another. Taste, then smell - until it's perfect.
            "Imitation and synthetic extracts are an old, old story to chemists, for fruit and nut flavorings always have been made in this fashion if a proper flavor could not be obtained from the original food. Use pure banana for an extract and all its exotic sweetness, its illusive fragrance, doesn't add up to shucks. Some ingredient infinitesimal, but all important, is lost in the process. Chemistry gives a wand wave and the needed touch is restored. Strawberry and raspberry extracts are 99.8 per cent pure juice but a poor flavor if a .2 per cent of esters is not added to give that definite something."

This container is cardboard with a tin top and bottom. In order to save on tin for the war, spice companies switched to cardboard or glass containers. In the case of cardboard "tins" like this one, housewives were encouraged to move the spices to the pre-war tin container they hopefully saved or to a screw-top glass jar and then store them in a cool, dark place to best preserve the spices, whether imitation or the real stuff. 

Warren's Imitation Nutmeg
Check out the ingredient list!

Like I talk about in the episode, Watkins Almanacs had household and farm tips, recipes, and of course their order sheet. Orders could be placed by mail or phone. Notice how Sage is available in 1942, but disappears until 1945. Sage was one herb that was very scarce for America during WWII.

Watkins Almanac 1942

Watkins Almanac 1943
Sage is gone!

Watkins Almanac 1944

Watkins Almanac 1944

Watkins Almanac 1944

Watkins Almanac 1945 (...and sage is back!)

Cookbook Feature: Watkins Cook Book, 1945. I tried four different toast recipes and they were all delicious!

1) Below is Cinnamon Toast made with cinnamon, powdered sugar, and butter stretcher (1/2 butter, 1/2 shortening with 1/2 tsp. butter flavoring and a few drops of lemon food coloring)

2) Butterscotch Toast: brown sugar, cinnamon, butter:
(I'd back off on the cinnamon a bit in this recipe. It was just too strong of a flavor.)

3) Watkins Coconut Toast: cinnamon, coconut, butter, powdered sugar:


4) My second attempt at Watkins Coconut Toast, this time I left the cinnamon out and just sprinkled it on before toasting. It was delicious!

5) Delicious Orange Toast: orange juice, orange peel, cinnamon, sugar, butter:

6) Finally, Maple Toast. Butter and maple sugar. That's it!



 Watkins Spices




A really heavy article from 1941 about price control in wartime


History of Old Bay Seasoning and its creator

Interesting history of Joseph Burnett of the Burnett’s Standard Flavoring Experts who made a pure vanilla extract and was known for his other pure ingredients, including in his work as a pharmacists and his role in the first successful painless dental surgery using ether.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Episode 16 - That Old Banana Magic


Bananas used in a variety of ways
Bananas in the Modern Manner, 1930

Welcome to the supplemental blog post for Episode 16 - That Old Banana Magic! Banana availability during WWII for Americans was a bit of a roller coaster. When they couldn't get fresh, other alternative products were available to them in the form of powdered, dried, and flaked bananas as well as banana flavoring. Due to American obsession with bananas starting in the 1920s-30s, they came up with all sorts of ways to include this nutritious fruit into their diet whether using it as a fruit, starch, or vegetable. 

Enjoy the interesting resources I found during my research!

To check out the Vintage Banana Tuesdays series I did on HISTORY: Preserved click the link HERE:


First up is the classic song "Yes! We Have No Bananas" by Sam Lanin, 1923.

Sheet music cover for
"Yes! We Have No Bananas", 1923
wikimedia commons

Next, here's a fun one you may not have heard before: "I've Never Seen a Straight Banana" by The Columbians, 1927.

And finally, a really quirky song: "I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones" by Chris Yacich and Lorraine Milne, sung by George Elrick, 1936.


Banana Cart, NYC, 1902
wikimedia commons

Longshoreman transferring bananas
New York, New York
July 1937
wikimedia commons

Shop with Bananas
Missouri, 1906

Soda jerker flipping ice cream into malted milkshakes
(bananas in background)
Corpus Cristi, Texas, 1939
wikimedia commons


And here is an original, unopened tin of banana flakes from 1930s!

COOKBOOK FEATURE: to serve them

If you're feeling brave, give this recipe for Banana Chicken Salad a try! 😁



 I’ve Never Seen a Straight Banana by The Columbians, 1927


Yes! We Have No Bananas, 1923

Or if you prefer to hear it from The Muppets…


The Dark History of Bananas

Chiquita Banana commercial (1940s)


United Fruit Company 1940s Banana Production Film (A somewhat rosy view. Go to time stamp 10:06 to see how the banana plant grows)


1930s Iced Banana Cake



 British Mock Banana Recipe


Going Bananas: United Fruit Ripened in WWII


They Became Banana Boats (U.S. Naval Institute)


The Seldom Taught History of the Banana Wars (showing that things weren’t quite as rosy as newspapers made them out to be) (No citation of sources, so read with a grain of salt)



 Banana Cart, NYC 1902


Longshoreman transferring bananas, 1941-42,_New_York_-_Longshoremen._This_shows_the_prevailing_method_of_transferring_bananas_from_the_end_on_the..._-_NARA_-_518791.tif


Shop with bananas, Missouri 1906


Soda jerker flipping ice cream into malted milkshakes, Texas 1939,_Texas.jpg


Yes! We Have No Bananas sheet music cover!_We_Have_No_Bananas.png


Episode 29 - A Wartime Thanksgiving

"Freedom From Want" by Norman Rockwell 6 March 1943 Happy Thanksgiving! Welcome to the supplemental material for the special holid...