Recipes of the past century

While browsing a cookbook used by my grandmother, I came across a chapter, where I found some simple recipes, mostly healthy and vegan, with a strange title: “Recipes of the famine”.

The book contains some of the many thousands of recipes that listeners sent to the presenter of a widely followed broadcast of a private radio of the Seventies. Those of the chapter on the famine are about fifty.

To give you an idea, here are some titles: pre-alarm artichokes, poppies and beans, 1943 chestnut cake, chestnut cake for the shelter, chicory (lupine, chickpea, bean, and the like) coffee, chickling soup, dumplings of the poor people, seaweed pancakes, trolley-car bread, omelet of the poor people.

This is the introductory note to the chickling soup recipe: “Chicklings, which are a species of legumes with scarce edible value, but very good feed for animals, made their appearance during the war when the precious legumes disappeared from our tables. Their appearance was a cross between a broad bean and a lupine… “.

Maybe it was the dark atmosphere of the war years that created misunderstandings about these ingredients. The chickling soup has been part of my vegan diet for some time. I was impressed to read that they were regarded only as an “animal feed”. They are delicious, rich in protein and nourishing like the other “precious legumes”. Indeed, now they are perhaps more exclusive and more expensive than other most popular legumes.

However, I used the best of my ability and have tried a few of them, such as the vegan omelet and the dumplings of the poor people. They are delicious, healthy and nourishing. But these are common recipes, which are already part of our eating habits.

It was rather a surprise to literally bring back to life again an unknown “trolley-car bread”. While kneading it, putting it into the oven and beginning to smell its aroma while it baked, it has been like making a journey back in time. It is the recipe for a snack for children of about a century ago. And, when I tasted it, it almost seemed to me to see those children. To give shape, color, taste, odor and to materialize something from the past has been a sweet and exciting experience.

These old tasty recipes are made with ingredients that are natural, cheap, easily available, locally produced, and often personally produced, and with high quality raw materials unfairly downgraded. They are small masterpieces of sustainability.

Paola Morgese, PMP
Civil Hydraulic Engineer
M.S. Sanitary and Environmental Engineering

Various authors, Le mille e una… ricetta – Frijenno magnanno, by Gianni de Bury, Radio Antenna Capri, Edizioni Tursport, Naples (Italy), 1977.

Translation of the Italian blog post: Paola Morgese, Ricette di un secolo passato published at


Author: progettisostenibili Paola Morgese

Ingegnere, project manager, autrice. Convogliatrice di sostenibilità nelle aziende e nella vita. Engineer, project manager, author. Conveyer of sustainability in business and life

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