Sep 23, 2009

A Taste of Fundraising in the 1940s

I'm reading a fascinating book called The Food of a Younger Land, by Mark Kurlansky. It's a compilation of long-lost material from the files of the Works Progress Administration, which created the Federal Writers' Project in order to put writers to work. And a bunch of them were given the task of describing regional food and food-related traditions.

The various essays provide a marvelous cross-section of American life in the 1900s -- and what cross section would be complete without a little charitable work? Enter Mr. John G. Saunders, City Sergeant of Richmond Virginia. He made a name for himself creating great vats of "Sergeant Saunders' Brunswick Stews" and selling it by the quart -- at 50 cents per, which must have seemed like a lot during the Depression -- in order to support the American Legion and other causes.

Before you're tempted to recreate this intriguing bit of history, here's a quick look at the recipe for 600 gallons of Sergeant Saunders' stew:

240 veal shins
12 beef shins
780 pounds chicken
48 pounds bacon (as a substitute for squirrel)
1,800 pounds Irish potatoes
18 bushels celery
600 pounds onions
24 dozen bushels carrots
360 pounds cabbage
150 gallons canned tomatoes
72 gallons canned corn
48 pounds butter
salt, pepper, and thyme

This mountain of ingredients must all be put into iron cauldrons and stewed for six hours.
Hmm, hiring a caterer starts to look pretty good, yes?