The Spanish Flu 1918-1920

The Spanish Flu was a world-wide pandemic that began in early spring of 1918 and lasted until December 1920. Approximately 500 million people worldwide were infected with the flu, one-third of the world’s population at the time. The world was also in the midst of the First World War. Similar to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the flu’s spread accelerated quickly due to travel, specifically sea travel and the movement of soldiers throughout Europe and North America. Just like today, public places such as schools, churches and entertainment venues were closed. Canadian provinces put legislation in place making wearing masks in public mandatory. Coughing, sneezing and spitting in public were criminal offences in some places. The extent of the danger of the Spanish Flu was downplayed by some media outlets as world governments wanted to avoid panicking citizens and there was still a war to worry about. Some historians have theorized that the pandemic brought a quicker end to the war as so many soldiers fell ill.

Cooking During the Pandemic

We are currently finding ourselves in a similar situation as Canadians in 1918. Some grocery store shelves are empty due COVID-19 panic buying and hoarding; now so many of us are cooking and baking at home with limited resources. In 1918, food resources were also limited due to the war effort. Staples and essential food items like sugar, flour, eggs and meat were being reserved to be sent to soldiers overseas. Hoarding was illegal. We can take some inspiration from the innovative recipes home cooks were using at the time. Check out our Spanish Flu menu and try some of these recipes at home! Click on the recipe names for printable PDF pages.

The Menu

Bread & Muffins
Boston Brown Bread
Corn Batter Bread
One Egg Muffins

Cheese, Please!

Soup & Sandwiches
Dainty Sandwiches
Ox-Tail Soup
Split Pea Soup
Tomato Soup

Pies of All Kinds

Fruits & Veggies
Creamed Spinach
Stuffed Cabbage
Fruit Salad
Potato Salad
Waldorf Salad
More Veggies

Meat & Meat Substitutes
Boiled Beef
Camouflage Roast
Chop Suey
Liver Balls
Mock Chicken Cutlets

Fish & Seafood
Fish Casserole
Fried Oysters
Pickled Herring

War Butter

Grape Wine and Hop Beer

Brown Bread Ice Cream
Macaroon Ice Cream
Butter Tarts
Chocolate Jell-O
Maple Mousse
Paradise Pudding
Applesauce Cake
Burnt Leather Cake
Wedding Cakes