One brisk day in January we went antique shopping in Hamilton, where by the way the prices are infinitely cheaper than Toronto. In our travels we found an awesome set of Pyrex bowls, one clunky metal lunch box (that we didn’t end up buying), a quirky yellow blown glass vase, and a “porceliron” kitchen table. Deciding that the table was classic and absolutely awesome (and a sweet deal) we swiped it up and took it away in the back seat of the car. After setting it up in our new apartment, I decided to climb under the table and do some research. And there was the stamp… “porceliron, sole manufacturer of porceliron, co. Frankfort, Indiana”. After some internet research, I dated my piece of wartime propaganda back to pre-1920.

When the US joined the war in 1917, Herbert Hoover became the head of the U.S. Food Administration and began to implement his campaign to conserve food. “Hooverizing” inspired new and old ways of providing food, recipes, and an overall outlook on the modern kitchen. The campaign encouraged vegetable gardens, and cutting back on meat. It boasted the slogan, “Food will win the War,” suggesting that housewives could make the difference right here at home. Today we might call a similar movement¬†vegetarianism, but that would have been a terrifying term for a nation that prided itself in meat. So … the creative bunch ended up with delightful sounding recipes such as:

Mock Ham

from Helen Moore's 1918 cookbook titled, "Camouflage Cookery; a book of mock dishes"

Now, the table is related to this believe it or not. Food storage and efficient home cooking inspired kitchens that were resourceful,¬†well stocked, compact workstations for the thrifty housewife. And out of New Castle, Indiana emerged the “Hoosier Cabinet”. It was an all-in-one storage and workstation that swept a nation of wartime homes. As it developed, the manufacturers went through a series of trial ¬†countertops for the workstation. They started with wood; then seeking something more sanitary and durable, opted for zinc; and upon it being pronounced poisonous, joined forces with our beloved manufacturer out of Frankfort, Indiana. Porceliron is made of porceline enameled steel, and began to dominate the marketplace for not only Hoosier Cabinets, but kitchen tables and counters too. The tables were all the same; 4 square legs, a drawer on one side, and raised top edges to keep spills off the floor.

In a March 28, 1918 issue of “The Pittsburgh Press”, a porceliron topped table was selling for $4.98, an absolute steal sandwiched between ads for $5.00 “Smartly Trimmed Spring Hats” and “Sampeck” clothes for boys from $6.50 to $20.00. I’d say my $50.00 find was a bit of a rip off! “Over the Kitchen Table passes the family food and here if anywhere is the place for Sanitary Cleanliness”. Well spoken!

So here it is, our little piece of wartime history, bringing out the inner frugal cook in me…