The video was filmed in 2007 and Clara, sadly, passed away in 2013, but her YouTube Channel on Great Depression cooking remains a fascinating and popular source for recipes (and stories!) from hard times.
A sprightly 91-years-old when it was filmed, her video on making the “Poorman’s Meal” has now been enhanced and reposted – and it has regained millions of viewers in just a year!
As you can imagine, people needed to get pretty creative during the Great Depression when it came to making meals in a time of scarcity.
Not only was unemployment high (and therefore income low – or nothing at all), food shortages around the country left many without meat, milk, and even some pantry staples.
Anyone who has been suffering as a result of the pandemic and the economic downturn it exacerbated understands all too well.
“During the height of the pandemic, The New York Times reported empty shelves across the country and the inability of grocers to keep staple pantry items and fresh produce in stock. Essentials such as beans, rice, pasta, and peanut butter became hot commodities. Hot dog sales also spiked. Thanks to modern food shortages — and farmers being forced to destroy food — pared-down cooking habits are once again being embraced. Home cooks are turning to Depression-era foods made with affordable and shelf-stable ingredients to feed the whole family.”
The Poorman’s Meal
Depression-era cooks had no qualms about calling some of their dishes exactly what they were (or what they felt like while making them), hence the very real name “The Poorman’s Meal.”
Clara even shares that her family was so poor during this time that she had to quit high school because she couldn’t afford socks! (Just tell your teens to remember that every time they slip on flip-flops and head off to class.)
The meal consists of hearty foods that were easy to come by at the time – at least for Clara’s family: hot dogs, potatoes, and onions.
You’re going to get some memories throughout her video recipe which make it all the more interesting to watch – and let’s just say some of them involve potatoes, but you’ll want to wait to hear the one about the neighbor trying to “shop in her garden.”
Her ingredients include:
- 4 medium-large golden potatoes
- 1 onion
- 3 hot dogs
- 2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce (or other sauce, to taste)
- 1/4-1/2 cup of water
You’ll just need a knife and cutting board as well as a spatula and frying pan for this.
1. First, start by peeling your potatoes.
2. Next, cube them into pretty small pieces (this will help you spot any brown sections that you might want to throw away). You can also hold the potato and shred it into smaller pieces as Clara does, but that’s up to you.
3. At some point, the stealthy Clara has chopped up an onion as well (by halving it and slicing, it appears). She adds it to the potatoes in a frying pan.
4. Once Clara has the potatoes in the unheated pan, she pours in some vegetable oil. (An amount we would consider “a lot,” and that looks like at least 1/4 cup.) If you’re using a healthier oil and have cooked in a frying pan in the past (especially if you have a non-stick skillet), you may want to add what you consider a more reasonable amount of your chosen oil (and more along the way if your food starts to stick).
Of course, olive oil wasn’t being imported yet in Clara’s day and butter was expensive, so an authentic dish would have included a cheaper oil.
5. Now it’s time to fry your oil, onions, and potatoes.
6. Set the stovetop burner to medium or medium-high and begins to stir as everything cooks.
At this point, expect human instincts to kick in even if you don’t enjoy onions or hot dogs because they just happen to smell really good while they cook! Clara says this is when all the boys come to her yard – her grandson’s friends love to come over for this meal.
7. While the meal fries, get out your cutting board and start slicing the hot dogs. Clara slices them pretty thin (and hers appear to have come from the freezer), but this is all up to you.
As you likely know, hot dogs a pre-cooked, so they really just need to be warmed up by the pan to be ready, meaning you can add them later in your cooking.
8. If your potatoes and onions aren’t getting a golden brown color after about 5 minutes, you may want to turn up the heat. You should hear them sizzling.
9. Now, stir in a few tablespoons of your chosen sauce. Clara appears to have a bottle of pasta sauce, but a plain tomato sauce would do (as would ketchup, if that’s your thing). She doesn’t measure, but simply uses a spoon.
10. Finally, she adds her hot dogs and stirs everything in the pan around so that the food is evenly distributed.
11. The last step is to add about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water to soften up the potatoes if need be. In that case, you’ll need to keep frying until the water is absorbed. Otherwise, your dish is ready when the hot dogs are warmed through.
12. Now simply plate your meal and enjoy!
Be sure to scroll down below for Clara’s charming video recipe. She’ll walk you through the steps along with some stories.
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