Clara's Kitchen by Clara Cannucciari
Cooking and saving ideas from the Great Depression
In Clara’s Kitchen, Clara Cannucciari writes of inventive ways to stretch daily meals in her recipes and stories. At the unlikely age of 91, she began to host the YouTube series Great Depression Cooking with Clara and retired reluctantly at 96.
More than her recipes are her intriguing and heartwarming tidbits of information that give an insight into the Depression years and her message not to waste.
A poignant example of this is her recipe, “The Lonely Meatball,” a recipe for making one meatball and splitting it four ways for her family of four. “We didn’t have enough meat for each of us to get our own meatball, but just the little taste of our slice of this lonely meatball made us hungry for the rest of the filler foods in the meal. This recipe is all about stretching it out….”
Quitting school and going to work at 16 was painful as she loved school but her
family needed her to work support them, her father having lost his job. Growing vegetables in the
garden, eating many meals per week of pasta, filling stomachs with bread and potatoes were common for many families, not only her immigrant Sicilian parents.
Most living though the Depression were affected, even in not impoverished. A family friend's, Dottie Schept, father owned a business and was never hungry during these years but the Depression affected the family nonetheless. In her 90's today, Dottie remembered, “I’m sure my mother never wasted anything. She fed 6 children without any problem. She didn’t buy the most expensive of anything—always the least expensive. I still do the same thing today.”
Clara’s recipes reflect this never wasting and cooking creativly when you don’t have. In a recipe that calls for sautéing vegetables, she instructs, “If you run out of oil, just add a little water to your pan. It will keep food from sticking—and it’s free.”
Harvesting vegetables from the family garden and greens growing wild was common. Clara gives a recipe for fried burdock and gives instructions to drain the vegetable: “Drain the burdock on paper towels and serve. Or better yet, drain on a rag that you can wash and use again.”
Her philosophy is folksy and at times, surprisingly modern. Clara is cheerfully frugal. “If you take better care of things, you can hold on to them longer. That’s how I still run things. If it works, I keep it. If it doesn’t, I see if I can use it for something else.”
Often individuals brought up in poverty never loose their insecurity about food. Meals are important parts of the daily family life. She writes of never eating something on the way home but each family member sitting at the table. “…[D]inner in my day wasn’t something you caught on your way to something else. It was a time for the whole family to come together. It was when we caught up with each other’s lives, talked about school and later. Made the plans we needed to dedicate ourselves to and carry out so we could survive.”
Reading Clara’s Kitchen and watching her videos takes us back to another time. It also gives us a way to handle the future, live with less waste and more gratitude, and as she says, dedicate ourselves to a better future. Although Clara passed away in 2013, you can still enjoy her delightful presence on youtube.
Watch Clara make Pasta with Peas recipe. Notice her instructions to save gas or electricity: “For the last 2-3 minutes, turn off the heat, cover and let the mixture in its own heat.” Click on button to be taken to Clara's YouTube video.