The Dinner of Natty Gann (#72)
This month, we watched The Journey Of Natty Gann, which is currently available on Disney+ for free. I had never seen this film, but was recommended by one of our movie night members.
This film takes place during the Great Depression. Our dinner theme for the night was depression era foods. For dinner, I made a variation of Hoover Stew. This was apparently a popular dish at the time because it could be made cheaply, but was still filling. Normally, it was made with sliced hotdog, but I made a vegetarian version of it to suit my guest's dietary restrictions. I did this by swapping the hotdog for a can of kidney beans. Here's the recipe:
Vegetarian Hoover Stew
- Set up a large pot of boiling water for the macaroni.
- While waiting for the water to boil, dump all of your canned goods into a separate saucepan. Do not drain any of the cans before emptying them into your pan. Bring the pan to a simmer.
- Once the pot of water starts boiling, add your macaroni noodles. Boil them per the instructions on the box, but do not cook them fully. You want to stop while they are still undercooked, so they can soak up the broth and vegetable flavors later. This will take about half as long as the suggested time on the box.
- Once the noodles are ready, drain the water into a large bowl. You will need it later. Then mix all of your noodles and vegetables together in the large pot and bring to a low heat.
- The goal is to have a stew, so add water to the pot from the water that was drained. You do not want to make it into a soup so don't overdo it.
- Now let it sit for awhile. You want to give the noodles time to soak up the flavors and juices from the vegetable broth. More water may need to be added as the noodles soak up the juice.
The original recipe did not call for any seasoning, but this dish is not as bland as you might expect. I would suggest only lightly seasoning it. I added salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to mine. The goal for me was to bring out the natural flavors and not hide them.
To fit the theme of the evening, being poor travelers, I served this dish to my guests in metal cans. These I collected for the last few weeks and also from the vegetables used to make this dish. I hand washed these cans. This little attention to detail ended up being a big hit and added to the mood that I was trying to set. The only negative is that the warm food made the cans pretty hot to touch. We used napkins around the cans to not burn ourselves while we ate.
Along with the stew, I made some depression era bread. This is simple recipe with minimal ingredients that you may already have in you home.
Depression Era Bread
- Put flour in a large bowl and make a hole in the center.
- Put the yeast and water in the hole and then combine to form a ball of dough.
- Cover the bowl with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Set oven for 300 degrees.
- When dough has finished rising, knead it and split into two loaves.
- Let rise for another 30 minutes before baking.
- Bake until it is cooked through. You can test this with a toothpick, by poking it and making sure it comes out clean without any wet dough.
For dessert, I also went cheap, but did not hold back on the flavor. We made some rice pudding. I had found a depression era recipe, but when I tried to follow it, it failed miserably. So, here is how I made it instead.
Simple Rice Pudding
- Put rice, milk, sugar, and salt.
- Mix thoroughly while bringing it to a light boil. Be sure to not let anything sit on the bottom and burn.
- Reduce the temperature to a light simmer and stir occasionally while the rice cooks. It should take 20 minutes or more for the rice to reach the proper softness and the mixture to thicken.
- Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Stir until butter is melted and everything is evenly mixed.