The Lean Table

The Setting the Texas Table exhibit logo showing a plate with a fork, knife and spoon on top of a red outline of Texas
The social, physical and emotional significance of mealtime is never more evident than in troubled times. Texans, like people in all parts of the country, experienced hardship and scarcity during the lean years of the Great Depression (1930s) and later learned to pull together to conserve and ration food and commodities.

People eating the same foods and facing difficulty together is another way that community and social bonds are formed. The state’s promotion of rationing and other strategies for addressing food needs often relied on calling upon the public’s patriotism.

Exhibit Video

Peanut Patty Recipe - Motion Picture, video, and sound recordings, Texas Department of Agriculture Records.
1994/009-03-09

 

Exhibit Items

Cover of the diary showing a tag labeled Compositions. Robert P. Jones’ prisoner of war camp diary, 1944-1945. Jones (Robert P.) collection, Box 2-22/975A photograph of the opened diary showing hand writing with an empty space on the left side. Robert P. Jones’ prisoner of war camp diary, 1944-1945. Jones (Robert P.) collection, Box 2-22/975A photograph of the opened diary showing hand writing and an empty space on the right side. Robert P. Jones’ prisoner of war camp diary, 1944-1945. Jones (Robert P.) collection, Box 2-22/975A photograph of the opened diary showing hand writing and a drawing of a Christmas tree on the right page. Robert P. Jones’ prisoner of war camp diary, 1944-1945. Jones (Robert P.) collection, Box 2-22/975

Robert P. Jones’ prisoner of war camp diary, 1944-1945. Jones (Robert P.) collection, Box 2-22/975.

Robert P. Jones was a soldier fighting in France when he was wounded, taken prisoner, and held in a Prisoner of War camp from August 1944 until May 1945. Jones kept a diary where he listed the contents of a Red Cross Parcel, along with detailed recipes incorporating rations like D Bars (chocolate) and C and K crackers. He also used POW slang, like “Goon jam.” “Goon” referred to German prison guards in the camps. Click or tap on thumbnails for larger images.


 

The front of the type written letter with HEB letterhead and an official RECEIVED stamp on it. Letter from H.E. Butt to Governor Stevenson, July 8, 1943. Texas Governor Coke R. Stevenson records, Box 4/14-136The back of the type written letter the signature of H.E. Butt.  Letter from H.E. Butt to Governor Stevenson, July 8, 1943. Texas Governor Coke R. Stevenson records, Box 4/14-136Letter from H.E. Butt to Governor Stevenson, July 8, 1943. Texas Governor Coke R. Stevenson records, Box 4/14-136.

Due to Texas’ strong agricultural and livestock production, some citizens felt rationing practices during World War II were unnecessary. Grocer H. E. Butt advocated for rationing and price ceiling practices to be lifted to meet market demands. Click or tap on thumbnail for larger images.




 

The opened menu with black text on yellow background with the heading Breakfast Suggestions on the left and Specials on the right. Caddo Lake State Park menu, about 1937-1940. Acquisition and Development files, Texas State Parks Board records, Box 2005/041-12The front and back of the menu showing a wood grain pattern on the paper with black text on top. Caddo Lake State Park menu, about 1937-1940. Acquisition and Development files, Texas State Parks Board records, Box 2005/041-12Caddo Lake State Park menu, about 1937-1940. Acquisition and Development files, Texas State Parks Board records, Box 2005/041-12.

This menu was served at Caddo Lake State Park, one of many state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. This federally funded relief program provided work to unemployed young men in outdoor conservation projects.  Click or tap on thumbnail for larger images.

 


 

An image of a ledger on a sheet of yellow paper. Guide for Food Allowances, undated and Food Preservation and Serving, 1934. Records of the Commission, Relief Commission Division, Texas State Board of Control records, Box 4-19/329An image of a black type on a sheet of yellow paper. Guide for Food Allowances, undated and Food Preservation and Serving, 1934. Records of the Commission, Relief Commission Division, Texas State Board of Control records, Box 4-19/329Guide for Food Allowances, undated and Food Preservation and Serving, 1934. Records of the Commission, Relief Commission Division, Texas State Board of Control records, Box 4-19/329.

The Guide for Food Allowances shows the amount of Texas Relief Commission funds that would be provided to families of various sizes based on the available budget. A division of the commission, the Department of Rural Rehabilitation focused on addressing the needs of rural, mostly farming, families on the relief rolls. The department worked with rural communities to build rural work centers and encouraged their use as food production centers. This list focusing on food preservation and serving was taken from a booklet of suggestions for rural work center activities.

 Click or tap on thumbnails for larger images.
 

 

A photograph of a tractor tilling a field. Soil management, about 1938-1941. Nebraska State Historical Society collection, Box 1992/051-1Soil management, about 1938-1941. Nebraska State Historical Society collection, Box 1992/051-1.

During the 1930s, Texas agriculture was threatened by the Dust Bowl, an event created by drought, soil erosion and dust storms. This image from the Soil Conservation Service in Paducah, Texas and Wilbarger County, Texas, shows soil management practices.

Click or tap on thumbnails for larger image.
 

 

A poster with a graphic of a woman in an apron with her right hand up with the text Keekp the Home Front Pledge. Keep the Home Front Pledge: Pay no more than Ceiling Prices - Pay your Points in Full poster, 1944. Broadsides collection, Broadside 273Keep the Home Front Pledge: Pay no more than Ceiling Prices - Pay your Points in Full poster, 1944. Broadsides collection, Broadside 273.

The federal Office of the Price Administration aimed to curb inflation with price ceilings, which were the highest price that could be charged for a specific good. In addition to paying money for goods, consumers also had to pay with points.

Click or tap on thumbnail for larger image.


 

 

 

A brown card with black text with ration spaces around the border. Army Exchange Service transient ration card, Summer 1945. Chaplain Hebert E. MacCombie, Primary sources, Robert Wagner collection of 36th division materials, Box 1973/121-8The back of the ration card, black text on brown paper showing a listing of food items. Army Exchange Service transient ration card, Summer 1945. Chaplain Hebert E. MacCombie, Primary sources, Robert Wagner collection of 36th division materials, Box 1973/121-8Army Exchange Service transient ration card, Summer 1945. Chaplain Hebert E. MacCombie, Primary sources, Robert Wagner collection of 36th division materials, Box 1973/121-8.

The practice of rationing was meant to ensure everyone had adequate supplies of goods. Almost everyone was expected to ration, including support personnel such as military chaplains.

Click or tap on thumbnails for larger images.

 

 

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Setting the Texas Table Exhibit Pages:

Setting the Texas Table | Cooking Up Texas | The Lean Table | Farm to Market |
Great Eats! Making It Official | Land And Cattle | Celebrating the Taste of Texas |

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Page last modified: September 28, 2018