Hoover Stew was served in soup kitchens across the country during The Great Depression in the early 1930’s, designed to give even the poorest families something to eat.
The Hoover legacy
The dish was named for Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, whose term was notably marked by the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginnings of the Great Depression.
During the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and lasted approximately a decade, shantytowns cropped up across the nation as unemployed people were evicted from their homes. They appeared primarily on the outskirts of major cities and became known as “Hoovervilles”. These “shantys” were cobbled together huts and shacks from wood, scrap metal, even cardboard.
As the Depression worsened in the 1930s, causing severe hardships for millions of Americans, many looked to the federal government for assistance. When the government failed to provide relief, President Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) was blamed for the intolerable economic and social conditions, and the shantytowns.
During this period, many things were nick-named after Hoover including the Hoover blanket (a newspaper used for a blanket) and Hoover flags (when a person turned their empty pockets inside out). When people used cardboard to fix their shoes they called it Hoover leather.
My parents and grandparents weathered The Great Depression, and like so many others, did not escape unscathed. Both sets of my grandparents managed to keep the family homes even though they were poor bootleg miners with children to feed and care for. My parents were kids at the time of the Great Depression but were old enough to understand it and had vivid memories of the period.
Both my parents and and grandparents carried the emotional scars and lessons learned from the sacrifices and tough times all through their lives, until their dying days.
“Pinching pennies ’til Lincoln cries”
My folks were frugal and although we never had a lot, what we did have was cherished and well taken care of. “Wasteful spending” was unknown in my Schuylkill County home. Everything that could be put to use was — from recycled household items to leftovers in the fridge. We learned to make do or do without.
Decisions affecting the entire family were discussed by the entire family. Everyone pulled together and we all realized that getting by required give and take from all of us.
We did not focus on what we did not have or wanted but what was in front of us; things we were lucky enough to have that others might be without. And my family taught me that the people who love you are the most precious commodity that you will ever have. Take care of them while you have them.
Those lessons learned from my folks ingrained themselves deep within this Coalcracker and I — like my Mom, Pop, Nana, and Pappy — will take them to the grave with me.
The basics of Hoover Stew
While the “broth” recipes varied somewhat from place to place, the general idea was to combine cooked macaroni with hot dogs, stewed tomatoes and canned corn. The ingredients were added together in a pot, simmered for a little bit and served up in bowls.
Most folks made the best of their situation in order to make ends even come close to meeting. Some of the ways they cut down costs in the kitchen were by using simple, inexpensive ingredients as the main element in a dish and “Hoover Stew” fit the bill.
Even though this Depression-era recipe might seem dull in comparison to the meals we indulge in today, it provides protein and carbohydrates that kept people going through difficult times and can be adapted for today’s cooks. Add a can of beans to kick up the protein and fiber. (You can use many different types of beans; chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, northern beans, etc.)
Kids love the ingredients, the staples to make the dish are inexpensive, and it lends itself to being easily personalized to your family’s tastes and budget. You can use stewed tomatoes for added flavor or plain canned tomatoes. Feel free to saute some onions and / or chopped green pepper and add them to the pot. Toss in some Italian seasonings or a healthy dash of ground black pepper.
Raid the pantry and take the opportunity to use up the assortment of “little bits” of pasta that collect in the bottom of the boxes cluttering up your shelves. Just make sure to use pasta shapes that cook in approximately the same time frame.
Hoover StewCourse: 6 Ingredients or Less, Main DishesCuisine: GeneralDifficulty: Easy
Easy on the budget, this dish combines cooked macaroni, stewed tomatoes, hot dogs, and canned corn for a Depression Era recipe known as “Hoover Stew”
1 (16 ounce) box of elbow macaroni or any mix of pastas that will cook in approximately the same time like shells, rotini, etc.)
2 (16 ounce) cans of stewed tomatoes OR whole tomatoes
1 (16 ounce) package of hot dogs
1 (16 ounce) can of corn (a can of beans may also be added for protein)
- Cook macaroni according to the instructions on the box.
- While it cooks, slice the hot dogs into very thin “coins.”
- Open cans of tomatoes, beans (if using) and corn, but do not drain corn or tomatoes. Beans may be rinsed..
- Combine the contents of the cans and the hot dog slices in a large pot and bring to a simmer.
- Break up the tomatoes into small chunks as the mixture heats.
- Drain the macaroni when it is almost done. Reserve the cooking water to add to the pot, if needed.
- Add the macaroni to the tomato mixture in the pot, and continue simmering until all of the ingredients are thoroughly heated. Season as desired with salt and pepper. Add any reserved cooking water from the macaroni to keep it from becoming dry. Serve.
- This recipe can easily be adapted with quantities and ingredients to suit your budget and tastes. Add any additional seasonings you might like although this was often not “fancied up” during the Depression. You can use many different types of beans; chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, northern beans, etc.)