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Struggle Meals Past & Present


Depression Era Recipes


Michigan State University has preserved hundreds of 1930’s cookbooks as a part of its “What America Ate” project. The project’s web page describes the reason that they chose to highlight the 1930s since it was a time of “vast economic and social change” during the economic crisis, now referred to as the Great Depression. These recipes come specifically from the St. Patrick Parent-Teachers Association Cook Book (1931) and it is the only cookbook preserved in this project to come from Florida. (1931)


These recipes may seem like odd flavor combinations, or downright inedible to many people today, but knowing what people ate in the past can make us feel more connected to them, and furthermore, allow us to recognize them as real people. Asking questions about why they ate differently than us can quickly lead to interesting historical answers that you might not expect.

Modern Struggle Meals: 


Struggle meals are a bit of a staple in my regime, as I’m sure many college kids can relate . I’m always looking to stretch a buck in creative ways so I’m not just eating raw ramen all the time (Uncooked, straight out the bag. Barbaric I know). The following are my favorite dorm-friendly cheap eats that’ll actually fill you up. Bon appetit. 


  • Grilled Pb&j 

Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Take your standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or switch it up with marshmallow fluff, bananas, strawberries, nutella, or whatever) and pop that sucker in a pan for a few minutes (or a sandwich press or airfryer). The resulting textures will shock and amaze, trust me. 


  • Bootleg pizza

A true classic from my youth. What’s a girl to do when she’s down to the last bits of food left in the pantry? She takes out whatever bready carb is left (tortillas, pita bread, garlic bread, bagels, you name it), and tops it with tomato sauce and pizza-ish accoutrements. Kraft sliced cheese? Sure! Leftover sliced green pepper that just barely passed the sniff test? You bet. This is a true plug-and-play. Be free my children, and leave nothing to waste. 


  • Rice cooker pancakes 

Stay with me here. Follow the instructions on a box of pancake mix, leaving it a little less liquidy than normal, and then pour that goop into a rice cooker. Add whatever you’ve got to jazz it up, or just leave it plain, then let the cooker steam it into a cake that’s socially acceptable to eat anytime. And if you really wanna act up, do this with your favorite boxed cake mix too. 


People have been making due in creative ways for millennia, and our generation’s no different. The frustrating and often monotonous task of making a feast on the cheap is a chore, but adding a fun new recipe to the rotation can make all the difference. Try these recipes for yourself, and take heart that the art of the struggle meal has a long and storied history.

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About the Contributors
Carlye Mahler, Managing Editor
Carmen Cruz, Executive Editor, The Reporter

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