Saturday, March 3, 2012

3 March 1933 “Reichstag Fire & Decree, Bisquick Recipe Booklet, and Bessie Smith”

reichstagfire I don’t want my posts to seem to be too negative. But, I am not sure I was aware what I was getting myself into when I decided to journey back here to 1933. Innocently enough, I chose the year based on the number 33 (in a nod to 55 my first time travel year) and each day the news does not get better. And, of course, I increasingly see some of the bad news oddly mirror our own current situations. It is hard for me not to draw comparisons. Perhaps, it is simply my way. It may be far too many years studying things in an analytical way of compare and contrast, but there do seem to be rather many parallels popping up this year.

In an effort to not be too dark, yet still needing to share what is actually happening here in 1933, I shall try and counter such posts with useful or fun thing of the year as well. Today, after our discussion of the Reichstag fire and Decree, we can enjoy some fun recipes from a new product available here, Bisquick.

Now, the fire: On 27 February 1933 at 9:15 p.m. the Reichstag building in Berlin, their house of Parliament, was reported ablaze. The fire burned into the night and the building was essentially gutted destroying all paperwork and leaving only a shell.

The fire was blamed on a sole individual, the Dutch Communist Van der Lubbe.

The next day, the Prussian Press Service reported that "this act of incendiarism is the most monstrous act of terrorism carried out by Bolshevism in Germany". The Vossische Zeitung newspaper warned its readers that "the government is of the opinion that the situation is such that a danger to the state and nation existed and still exists"

Prior to this fire Hitler, the new chancellor, wanted to secure the position for the new Nazi party and to put down the current government. He was unable to do so, as the number of elected officials who were against it out numbered his own party. So, therefore, a convenient fire, which many believe today was part of a Nazi plot, was started. This was blamed on five people, brought to trial and only Van der Lubbe was found guilty.

Hitler had been trying to stir up fear of a Communist take over for some time. He previously, prior to his election as Chancellor, was actually less concerned with this and only took this up after being backed by a group of German Corporate leaders who helped put him in power.

The resulting fear stirred up, as stated in the papers, a fear of terrorist activity. The talk of terrorism and that of fear and danger to the state and nation rather scared me with its similarity to President Bush’s speech which lead to the signing of the Patriot Act, not dissimilar to the Enabling Act which will be signed this month in Germany in 1933.

What made me most shocked was the similarity between this act, the Reichstag Fire Decree and our own NDAA act signed into power 31 December 2011. They both remove personal freedoms of the citizens of the country. Create the ability for leaders to take citizens without the right of trial if they are considered terrorists. And terrorism, of course, being an open definition to be determined.

This act so worried many Germans, that those who could afford to do so, literally left the country.

Now, I don’t want my readers to think I am trying to say that our current U.S. is akin to Nazi Germany. I am simply stating two facts that, in my view, seem to hold a similarity. One, rather a planned or actual act of terror, conveniently lead to an act that removed the obstacle of democratic freedoms to a powerful government, such as the Patriot Act following 911 did. Second, that the eventual signing of the Enabling Act by the German people holds very similar wording and power as the NDAA act signed into service by our current President on 31 December 2011. As I state so often, history is there for our use. We have free access to it and can use it as a crystal ball to our own futures. Learning from others mistakes is perhaps the most important element to history.

What does this parallel mean? I wish I knew. I only know that I stumble upon bits of history as I simply follow along a timeline, this year happens to be 1933. And boy, what a year! I think of the middle and working class people in Germany. How many people just wanted to live there life and cared little for the general comings and goings of the government. And, in many respects, had little power or sway (and less as these acts were signed) to affect any change. Today, many people simply associate all Germany with the attrocities of Nazism, but there were countless German citizens who did not want what was happening to happen. But, what could they do? Where could they go? This, I think, scares me the most. As it makes me feel for them in my own confusion. Sometimes I do not agree with the direction my own country is going, but what matter I? What can I do and if I do try, now I have the fear of trial-less arrest? It can see how quickly one becomes silent out of fear for ones own safety and that of their family.

Perhaps I am simply becoming paranoid, I do not know. I only know that even writing this post makes me feel nervous. And five years ago such thoughts would never have even entered my mind. Freedom of Speech was simply accepted as a right. Today, I see, even those who protest are quickly put down. Rather one believes in what one is protesting, should they not be allowed to do so? Our not agreeing with one another, yet getting along is what freedom is about. I might want to march a protest against people wearing yellow hats and others might think it stupid or say, “Why don’t you go get a yellow hat like the rest of us” but should I know be allowed my own opinion and the right to want to demonstrate it?

Our religious and personal freedoms were born out of this notion that we each, as individuals, have rights contrary to what the popular notion may be (such as a monarchy) in which we formed a nation against. And the freedom to worship in a way we chose and not what was told to us by a government/monarchy.

Who knows what the future brings? But I know what the end of 1933 brings, us closer to a new World War, more hard times, and suffering of innocents. I want, however, for us to help each other and to possibly come to conclusions that can be good for our community. What changes can we make to better improve our life in these hard times?

I know that being frugal and learning to be more self-sufficient are good, but at the higher levels, what if the freedom to do those things, grow our own etc, are also up for appeal? Are there solutions for the small people are are we just the flotsam and jetsam to be tossed ashore by the decisions of those far above us and far more powerful?

What do any of you think? I will be happy to be proved wrong about the dire straights of our world. And would love to believe what I hear, that our economy is getting better and more jobs are out there, though in my own life I see the very opposite. The cost of fuel and food, at least in my area, continue to rise. I know of people still looking for work after losing careers. There is no interest rate worth having for savings or in CD’s, so even saving money is an issue. People laugh at others stuffing money in their mattress in the Depression, but with the rates to keep money in a bank and yet almost no interest paid, it is cheaper than having a savings account.

Now, to end on a happier note, to the kitchen:

bisquickad Bisquick was introduced to the General Mills line of products in 1930. The story of its invention goes that a General Mills executive complimented the chef on a train journey for his biscuits (American biscuits aka savory scones not English biscuits, our cookies). The chef told him how he made up a pre-mix mixture to keep on hand to make baking them easier and quicker. This ‘insipired’ the exec to put this into action at General Mills.

The train chef’s version contained real butter and was stored on ice. General Mills wanted one with a shelf life longer and no need for refrigeration. So they substituted the butter with hydrogenated oils. Back in 1933 the oil was Sesame Oil and was labeled on the package as ‘Ingredient S’.

Now, I don’t use Bisquick. I make a version of premix for myself, but simply omit the fat. You can make it with good fat, such as butter or lard, and keep in refrigeratored for up to 4 months. The reason I don’t use the hydrogenated fats is because of how they are created.

Hydrogenated fats/oils are made by heating vegetable oils to over 400 degrees in the presence of an aluminum or nickel catalyst and bubbling hydrogen through the super-heated oil for about six hours. Thus, trace elements of these chemicals are picked up in the oil as the chemical reaction occurs. Aluminum is not a healthy thing for anyone, so I try to avoid such oils. Oddly enough, this increase in the use of such vegetable oils begin to really appear here in the 1930’s. Just thirty years ago, in the 19th century, people use animal fats as their main source of fats, and yet there was essentially no heart disease or talk of cholesterol, but I digress.

My recipe for homemake Bisquick is as follows:

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Then I simply add cut cold butter to any recipe with it until it becomes crumbly. I start with a few tablespoons and go by look and feel. But if you want it to be more exact simply add 1/2 cup butter to the above, mix it all together, and store in a sealed glass container in your icebox (refrigerator). This will work as a substitute for any Bisquick recipe including these that follow.

bisquickbookThe first promotional cookbook for the product came out this year, 1933.  It featured recipes with photos and testimonials from movie stars and socialites such as Mary Pickford, Claudette Colbert, and Gloria Swanson.

Here are a few of the recipes from the book to try out.

Fresh Fruit Rolls

4 medium sized apples (or 3 cups berries or other fruit)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
Sugar and cinnamon

Prepare syrup by putting sugar and water in a 6x12 inch pan 2 inches deep. Cook about 5 minutes over a slow fire. While syrup is cooking make up the biscuit dough. Roll dough into an oblong shape, 1/2 inch thick. Spread with finely chopped apples or any desired fruit and roll up like a jelly roll. Cut this long roll into pieces, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place pieces cut side down in the pan of hot syrup. Dot with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake in a hot oven (450 F) until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve the slices of roll with some of the syrup and with cream also if desired.
Note: Fresh cherries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, peaches, are just as delicious as apples in this dessert. Canned fruit may be used by draining it and adding the juice to the syrup. Amount: 10 to 12 servings of delicious dessert.

Fruit Puffs

3/4 cup berries
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Grease 6 little custard cups or pudding molds well. Place 2 tablespoons berries and 1 tablespoon sugar in the bottom of each mold. Combine Bisquick with sugar and mix well. Beat egg and add milk. Combine with Bisquick mixture. Pour batter over berries in molds, filling each cup a little less than 2/3 full. Tie waxed paper over the top of each cup. Steam 1/2 hour. Serve with cream or any desired pudding sauce. This makes 6 individual puddings.
Note: Blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, blueberries, cherries or sliced peaches may be used.

Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

1 lb ground beef, browned
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 cup Bisquick baking mix
2 eggs

Heat oven to 400. Mix all ingredients with a fork until blended. Pour into pie plate. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.


Impossible Chicken Broccoli Pie Recipe

2 cans chunk chicken drained, or 1 cup cooked chopped chicken
1 pkg frozen broccoli 10 oz - thawed
1 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/4 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp dried thyme leaves

Heat oven to 400. Layer chicken, then broccoli and then cheese, in a greased 9 inch pie pan. Beat remaining ingredients except topping in a blender on high for 15 secs.
Pour into pie plate and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the topping below and bake till center comes out clean, about 15 to 20 min. Cool 5 min.

Here's how you make the topping. Mix 1/2 cup Bisquick mix, 1/4 cup chopped nuts, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp garlic powder. Cut in 2 tablespoons of margarine or butter.


Coconut Gogetters

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 beaten egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 cups Bisquick
1/2 tsp. soda
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar, add beaten egg yolks and salt. Add 1 cup sugar. Mix soda and cream of tartar with Bisquick and add to above mixture. Add vanilla. Form into small balls. Make a depression in each ball and fill with jelly, then cover with coconut. Bake 10 minutes in quick, moderate oven 375 F.


I hope you enjoy trying out these recipes. Be sure and share your results if you do try them.

Now a fun song from this year 1933 sung by Bessie Smith:

Happy Homemaking.


  1. I know what you mean about feeling helpless as a citizen. 1933 was an ominous year.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful blog posting! I too feel there are a great number of similarities between the 30s and today, in more ways than one (not discounting the Great Depression, but in addition to). There is a famous quote, I cannot remember who by, something along the lines of "those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it" or similar....very scarey indeed.

    On a more cheerful note, there are "master mix" recipes available through many Internet sources if one should care to do research. University of Nebraska (US) had one such mix available along with many recipes utilizing the mix. Almost any Bisquick-type recipe can be made with these master mixes, and OH it seems it would be SO much less expensive to have the homemade mix on hand!

    Again, thank you for your thought-provoking post.


  3. Try not to worry to much about current events. A little foresight about what the future could bring goes a long way, but do keep time for happy thoughts. We are among the first generation to have constant news on cable and internet. They need to find something to fill all that time with and can sometimes overanalyze things.

  4. anon-that would be more comforting, only I don't get news from any news programs. I simply find things in the past in old articles or such, look them up and then find parallels. I had heard about the NDAA and was curious. Then when I came upon the Reichstag situation it seemed oddly familiar. So, they are making such comparisons on the modern news as well? I am not sure that makes me feel better. You are right though, stiff upper lip and all that.

  5. This sounds odd but in the first picture you posted with the fire, I vaguely noticed In the fire a really disturbing image of a face! Does anyone else see this?! oh my!

  6. I just had to comment on the "impossible cheeseburger pie" recipe! I laughed out loud when I saw it. My mother used to make it and I hated it! To a 6 year old, being told you're getting "pie" for dinner and then realizing it was not exactly dessert probably ruined it more for me than the actual meal. It is actually a long-standing joke in our family now! My mom had discovered the recipe on the back of a bisquick box and gave it a try. Thanks for that quick trip down memory lane!

    A thought-provoking post as always!


  7. Keep up the posts as you see fit. Don't sugar coat history. Keep it all real. The good , the bad and the fun! :) You keep bringing up things that have helped me link one event with the next in history and now the puzzle is more complete. Yes the times are were the 50s as you know. So many people keep saying they wish they had been born in the 50s and yes they were prosperous times etc. Yet growing up then you were constantly hearing about the communist countries and how they wanted to take over the world and having bomb drills at school etc. How they could push the button and we would all be gone etc. Also there were like all times, layoffs and such in our little town and many others too,where for most of the years most fathers would be out of work from their factory and mine jobs. No time is perfect. I will admit now seems more ominous. Is it that I am older and have seen more of life and therefore am just more weary? Probably not. Do not fear scaring us off with your honest thoughts. We came here because we Do think you have good insights and know how to write honestly and intelligently. Sarah

  8. Why are two of the pies named "impossible"?

  9. I think the news today of Iran is creepy. I can see the parallel of hearing scary news reports from across the ocean and feeling nervous because we don't know what to expect. But yes, stiff upper lip and all that! ;-)

  10. The Austrian Economics MomMarch 5, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    I'd like to be reassuring and tell you that you're just seeing parallels that aren't there, and that everything is getting better, like the media and government are trying to tell us they are...unfortunately, I believe you're right on the money. But we have to be philosophical, we homemakers. We buckle down, prepare for the storm as best we can, and then make sure we're making the most out of the cards we're dealt, right? We might be heading straight into an inflationary or deflationary depression, the government may be quietly erasing the people's Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms and centralizing dangerous amounts of power, but darn it, I'm making a banana cake with cream cheese frosting, and we'll eat like kings tonight. :)

    And thank you for the primer on how shortening is made. It's enough to make the can in my pantry the last one I'll ever buy.

  11. The Austrian Economics MomMarch 5, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    I meant to ask if, since you don't use shortening, you grease baking pans with butter or with lard?

  12. I'd use butter for baked goods and olive oil for casseroles and savory pot pies.

    Sarah H

  13. I am so impressed by your thorough research and analysis - you are quite the scholar, and a well-rounded one at that, because you can mix the political along with the domesticities of the day, which makes history so much more alive. Thank you for your diligence -- yours is my favorite blog. (I do want to ask you though -- are you aware that you use the word "rather" for the word "whether?" I've noticed it in many of your blogs, and it throws me off every time! Not that it takes away from anything; it's just something I've noticed.)

    Keep on keeping on... I find it comforting in times of uncertainty to keep my little household going so that it may serve as a sanctuary from The Outside World. All these domesticities are heartening and help us to keep that famous "stiff upper lip."

  14. lynne-thank you. I hadn't realized that, but I am a horror when it comes to grammar and editing. In fact I often just sit down and fire off my blog from my various researched ideas and never even edit once! I shall try and fix that, however, as it can be annoying I am sure.
    Austrian economics mom-I use butter and lard and saved bacon fats.

  15. For anyone wanting to use lard instead of shortening, beware of the lard you buy at the grocery store! Read the labels. Many brands of "lard" are made with hydrogenated vegetable oils. Only use it if it is 100% animal lard.


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