Food Posters From the Past Are Recipes for the Present

What's Past is Prologue

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A couple of years ago I was surprised to see that the message on a poster from World War II was awfully similar to the messages we were trying to send at TreeHugger, such as growing your own food, walking instead of driving, and conserving everything we have. Two years ago I did a slideshow, Frugal Green Living: Posters for the Movement, and last year I used them as we counted down to Copenhagen: Posters from the Past that Can Guide Us in the Future. I have been collecting American, Canadian and British posters ever since, and use them in lectures on the importance of heritage. The first of two slideshows, this one on food posters comes from one of the best sources, the Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis. Credit: Maine Historical Society

Planting the Victory Garden

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The Minneapolis Library holds The Kittleson World War II Collection, which "includes posters [that] illustrate a variety of themes including patriotism, recruitment, vigilance, conservation of resources, and the value of doing one's job well." Many of them are about planting your garden and growing your own food. Credit: Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis.

Planting the Victory Garden

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Both World Wars were going on for quite a while before the American cleanup hitters arrived; Canada, Australia and Great Britain posters started several years earlier. In Canada, some of the best graphic artists in the country pitched in. Some of the best posters are at the Canadian War Poster Collection at McGill University in Montreal. I find this kid with the shovel a bit scary, I'd be careful. Credit: Canadian War Poster Collection

Planting the Victory Garden

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Dig For Victory

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The British posters I find are generally pretty straightforward, and hard to find; there doesn't seem to be a high quality, coherent collection. (There are a couple of older, lower resolution ones like Weapons on the Wall) Credit: Nip it in the Bud

Dig For Victory

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Vegetable gardening is the political thing to do these days, setting an example for the citizenry. Eleanor Roosevelt did it in WWII and Michelle Obama is doing it now. Queen Elizabeth Grows a Royal Vegetable Garden The Dirt on Sarah Brown's Vegetable Garden 'First Locavore' Michelle Obama to Oprah: Veggie Garden Coming to White House Lawn The White House Vegetable Garden: A Permaculture Perspective Credit: Home Shopping Spy Wartime tips

Beans are Bullets

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But everything changed when the Americans joined the party, and mobilized their artistic resources as well as their military ones. Cory Bernat curated a great exhibit of posters on view this summer at the National Agricultural Library -- "When Beans Were Bullets: War-Era Food Posters from the Collection of the National Agricultural Library." Many are duplicates of the Hennepin collection but it is a goldmine. Credit: Beans are Bullets

Beans are Bullets

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"There is no royal road to food conservation. It can be accomplished only though sincere and earnest daily cooperation in the 20,000,000 kitchens and at the 20,000,000 dinner tables of the United States..." -- Herbert Hoover, speaking to the press the day Food Control was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, August 10, 1917. Credit: Beans are Bullets

Beans are Bullets

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You actually really didn't have much choice about gardening; food was rationed and there was not a lot of it. Credit: Beans are Bullets

Living With Less

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Rationing was a tough sell, but people were encouraged to make do with less. Credit: Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis.

Beans are Bullets

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And don't forget to join a Sheep Club! Credit: Beans are Bullets

Preserving the Harvest

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Once you planted all of that food, you have to preserve it. Canning was time-consuming, but cheap and effective, and promoted north and south of the border. Credit: Canadian War Poster Collection

Preserving the Harvest

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American WWI posters tended to overdo the lady in the flag, but made the same point. Credit: Beans are Bullets

Preserving the Harvest

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Yes, the American posters from World War I were pretty dour. Credit: Beans are Bullets

Preserving The Harvest

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The delivery got a bit more sophisticated by World War II. Planet Green has been spreading the message about preserving and canning since it started; some of its recipes: Preserving the Harvest: Pickled Fiddleheads Preserving the Harvest: Pear, Port, and Thyme Conserve Preserving the Harvest: Canning Tomatoes Preserving the Harvest: Marinated Roasted Red Peppers - Preserving the Harvest: Spicy Dill Pickles Credit: Minneapolis Public Library

Preserving the Harvest

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That could be Planet Green's Kelly Rossiter, who spends half the year preserving the harvest. Some of her recent posts: Preserving the Harvest: Japanese Quince Jelly 29 Delicious Ways to Preserve the Harvest Preserving the Harvest: Crab Apple Jelly Preserving the Harvest: Pickled Red Radishes Credit: Minneapolis Public Library

Choosing the Diet

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There was a big push to eat less meat and more fish, as meat could be easily canned and shipped to feed the soldiers. Needless to say, we have much the same message today for different reasons. Credit: Canadian War Poster Collection

"Fish Feed Themselves"

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Unlike cattle, fish (back then anyways) fended for themselves. Credit: Vintage Posters New York

Fighting Food

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They exhorted the fishermen to bring in more of it. Credit: Beans are Bullets

Green is Good

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The British tried to push the virtues of more vegetables and a vegetarian diet. TreeHugger has been doing much the same, noting that cutting back on red meat is one of the most effective ways of reducing your carbon footprint. TreeHugger founder Graham Hill has been promoting the concept of the Weekday Vegetarian, which lets you cut back without having to completely give up meat. Why Graham Hill Is a Weekday Vegetarian, and Why You Should Be Too TreeHugger is also running a series of recipes: Weekday Vegetarian: Getting Your Legumes With This Cannellini and Kale Ragout Weekday Vegetarian: Pasta with Fava Beans and Pecorino Romano Weekday Vegetarian: Fingerling Potato Salad with Green Chili-Cilantro Salsa Weekday Vegetarian: Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Green Olivada See all posts tagged Weekday Vegetarian Credit: Weapons on the wall

Use local, More Economical Foods

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Wheat was in short supply; people at home were encouraged to eat what was local and available. Credit: Beans are Bullets

Portion Watch

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Canadians were encouraged to eat smaller portions, leaving more food to be shipped overseas. Portion size is still a big issue, a big contributor to the obesity crisis: Food Portion Sizes Keep Growing Have Jesus' Disciples Fattened Up Over the Last 1000 Years How Much is Enough to Eat? Trick Yourself into Eating Less Credit: Canadian war Poster Collection

Lose the Sugar Fix!

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Sugary treats may be fun to eat, but the troops need the energy more. Kids were trained to do without. Another issue that has obviously not gone away. In fact, with the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup, our consumption has just gone up. HFCS Causes Surprising Weight Gain National Soda Tax Would Make Americans 4% Less Fat: Corn Syrup vs. Sugar: Which is sweeter for your diet? Credit: Beans are Bullets

The Greatest Crime In Christendom?

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Waste was a big deal; it still is. But really, I think they are overstating the case a bit here. But food waste still is a crime. The Impact of Food Waste on Climate Change Food Waste Revealed: From Farm to Store to Kitchen (Photos ... 2% US Energy Consumption is Lost Through Food Waste Study Finds Half of All Food Produced Worldwide is Wasted Credit: Beans are Bullets

Don't Waste Food!

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It is extraordinary how big the campaign was about wasting food. Today, over 40 percent of our food is wasted -- and that can feed a lot of people. They promoted cooking with leftovers. And today, so do TreeHugger and Planet Green, for economic and carbon footprint reasons. Get Recession-Ready: Use Your Leftovers Tricks of the Trade: Restaurant Worthy Leftover Meals 8 Tips For Making the Most of Your Leftovers Credit: Minneapolis Public Library

Don't Waste Food!

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In Britain, the message was much the same. Credit: Weapons on the Wall

Don't waste Food!

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The British at least did it with a bit more humour and style. More leftovers from Planet Green: 50 Ways to Never Waste Food Again Clean Out Your Refrigerator and Make Dinner Credit: Weapons on the Wall

Food is a Weapon

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The message about not wasting food is still important. A third of the world's rice crop is eaten by rats; 40 percent of our food ends up in the garbage or the dumpster. Reducing waste is as important as ever. Credit: Minneapolis Public Library

"We Want Your Waste

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Kitchen waste was useful stuff as animal feed. It makes a lot more sense than sending it to landfill. In many cities today, there is a green box collection that takes kitchen waste and makes useful compost out of it instead of burying it. Credit: Wikimedia commons

There is No Such Thing as Waste

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Even when you get down to the grease, it still has value. Then it was for the glycerin for making explosives; now it is collected and made into biodiesel. The reason has changed, but the methods are the same. If we are going to reduce our carbon footprints and use less oil, we have to do what our grandparents did, using the posters from the past as templates for the future. Credit: Minneapolis Public Library