This project was foremost about food conservation in the United States during World War I. We wanted the WWI Test Kitchen to reflect the changes Americans made in their daily meals, what was considered healthy at the time, as well as the introduction of some foods that are still popular today. Each day we learned how to cook something new, and were surprised by our results. Many of these recipes we would try again, but updated to include 21st century ingredients.
We chose recipes from popular magazines (Ladies’ Home Journal), or publications specifically related to WWI (War Breads, The Wartime Cook Book) that were recognizable, but also used odd or unexpected substitute ingredients. Margarine, wheat flour alternatives, peanut butter, cottage cheese, and corn products were common ingredients. The recipes tended to be vague without strict directions regarding measurements or oven temperature. For example, Apple Brown Betty, our first test, was the simplest recipe, but provided little instruction . We found it appealing for its familiarity and thought it would ease us into the more peculiar dishes. It served us well, and streamlined our filming process for our other recipes.
Sweet Potato Gingerbread was another familiar and sweet treat. Again, we were easing ourselves into the recipes. We were more successful with this dish as it was hard to stop eating. The last day we moved into savory recipes starting with the Bean Loaf, a cousin of Meat Loaf. This was the day we realized everything we were making was a shade of brown. Bean Loaf was probably the healthiest dish we tested.
Cottage Cheese Sausage, our final test, was particularly odd using cottage cheese and peanut butter as substitutes for meat. The food conservation effort effectively launched these products into their current popularity, peanut butter being the obvious star of that outcome. As odd as the recipe sounded to our modern palates, we had tasty results.
Over three days we tried four recipes and filmed our process using a combination of video and stop-motion. Recipe videos are a popular trend on social media. They are simple visual tutorials of how to create different meals, and in many instances, make cooking much more approachable. We wanted to apply this concept to the LCP Test Kitchen.
With a cast iron stove providing the backdrop, and music from earlier eras providing the ambiance we used our Canon 5Dsr camera for stop-motion capture. Stop-motion is a series of still images where each photograph has a slight alteration that animates when played in sequence. Each recipe averaged at 100 images, combined with segments of video shot with the iPhone.
The hardest part about filming was knowing what shots were needed to have the most illustrative and instructional sequence. Our work on Apple Brown Betty required some trial and error. By the last recipe we had our process down with efficiency. We also wanted to add a bit of whimsy to the videos to make them a little more amusing. Animating the apples moving around the cutting board, or the potato chasing its peeled skin were fun additions to the films.