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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sow the Seeds of Victory!

They say spring is here in Central Virginia, but I think they lied.  I base this on the recent snowfall and 40 degree temperatures we've experienced recently.  However, in the middle of the downright freezing start to spring, there is one thing that confirms the new season's arrival: the Memorial's annual Victory Garden program.  

This year students from a local elementary school work with adult volunteers to plan, plant, and care for the Memorial’s on-site garden.  Since its inception in 2007, approximately 120 students from seven different schools have benefited from this cooperative project.

From mid-March through August, students will visit the Memorial one afternoon a week to work on the garden.  The time spent at the Memorial provides many benefits to our young gardeners.  For instance, our adult volunteers teach "hands-on" Victory Garden lessons that focus on climate, plant life, history, nutrition, and garden wildlife.  Additionally, students stay active while working in the garden, develop a good work ethic, and experience satisfaction that comes from completing a project.  Students even get to eat "soil" their first day on the job!  (Don't worry!  It's only pudding!)  Perhaps, most importantly, the program serves another long-term goal to enhance the self-esteem of participating youth. 

It is no wonder that the Victory Garden has been so well received and supported by a number of organizations in the Bedford area.  The Victory Garden is also one of my favorite programs offered by the Memorial.  It is inspired by the wartime gardening phenomenon that helped feed our nation in the 1940s, but it also honors the lifestyle so many of our citizen soldiers left behind to go to war.  Maybe best of all, it gives students a chance to get dirty while experiencing a small part of history for themselves. 

To learn more about Victory Gardens be sure to check out an earlier post here:Digging for Victory


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lunchbox Lecture: Fly Girls and Aviation

I enjoy the fact that March is Women's History Month.  It gives me a chance as a young, American women to reflect on female pioneers and frontrunners from various fields that helped create a more free and equal existence for women today.  One such group of pioneering women were the Fly Girls of World War II.  These 1,100 women were breaking social and cultural barriers in the 1940s as part of their patriotic duty.  They filled a void in the American workforce left by men sent abroad to fight for freedom.  And in the process they showed the world that they were as competent and dependable as their male counterparts. 

Their story starts early in the war when officials quickly determined that a desperate lack of domestic service pilots existed to ferry new planes across the country.  Because so many male pilots had been sent oversees, a few prominent female aviators like Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love saw this as a unique opportunity to train women to fly combat aircraft for domestic purposes.  With the help of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and famed General, Hap Arnold,  Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love each received their own female training classes.  Cochran, clearly the more influential of the two women, convinced Arnold that the two classes should be combined into one under Cochran's command.  Arnold complied and the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot) was born.

In 1942, the inaugural class of WASPs was made up of women from various locations and socioeconomic backgrounds, but they shared one factor among them: they all had prior flight experience.  However, these women did not have experience with combat planes. So Cochran convinced Hap Arnold that they needed their own separate training facility, and the Fly Girls (as they were called) took over Avenger Field.  Word spread quickly about the all-female air base, and soon a surprising number of male pilots were "forced" to make emergency landings at Avenger.  Jackie Cochran put a stop to the so-called emergency landings and imposed strict rules on the female trainees.  After all the training program lasted six months, and it was strenuous.  The gals needed to stay focused on the mission.  In fact, only one in three women made it through the program to receive their silver wings. 

After completing the program at Avenger Field, the new graduates were soon called upon to perform a variety of demanding and dangerous tasks for the sake of the war effort including test flights and even target practice.  Yes, I said target practice - Some women had been asked to two targets behind their aircraft so ground artillery units could practice their aim.  One WASP was among the first asked to test the first jet plane.  Two other women were asked to train male pilots to fly the infamous B-29 Superfortress which most men initially refused to fly due to potential dangers.  There is no doubt that these women contributed greatly to the war effort and modern aviation. 

By the conclusion of the war, 38 women had given their lives in service as WASPs.  Even considering the WASP's contributions, in June 1944 Congress refused to militarize the WASPs and halted women's training programs.  In a matter of months American society shifted its opinion about the job of a WASP.  Women in these roles were initially seen as heroic.  By mid-1944 the public saw the women that continued to fly as unpatriotic because they were holding jobs that should belong to returning servicemen. In response on the WASP program was officially disbanded on December 20, 1944.  In spite of the obstacles setbacks, the Fly Girls defied stereotypes to help inspire future generations of women to achieve more and fight for equality.



Ladevich, L. (Producer & Director). (1999). Fly Girls: The WWII Women's Airforce Service Pilots.[Motion picture]. United States: PBS.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ration-Era Recipes: Potato Pancakes

Snowday Fun
Yesterday morning my family was delighted to wake up to about 4 inches of snow on the ground.  We quickly bundled up and trekked outside to enjoy (hopefully) our last snowfall of the season.  I love contrasting playtime in cold, wintery weather with a warm, comforting meal.  So after we played awhile in the snow, we trudged back into the house to warm up.  I'll admit, the snow provided me with the perfect excuse to catch up on blogging while experimenting with my favorite comfort food: the potato.  

I returned again to the Victory Cookbook and found a recipe for potato pancakes that sounded promising.  Be advised:  If you lack patience, this is not the recipe for you since the peeled potatoes must sit, submerged in cold water, for 12 hours.  But I wasn't about to let time prevent me from testing this recipe, so I got up early (pre-snow adventure) to pare and soak the potatoes so we could enjoy potato pancakes by dinner time.  This recipe is clearly ration-point friendly as all of the ingredients used would have been abundantly available during wartime and none of the ingredients required ration points.  Hooray! 

So, here's the process:
After letting the potatoes soak, I grated them with a standard box grater.  Because I am terrified of any encounters between my fingers and the grater, I made sure to leave a substantial potato barrier - as you can see from the photo.  Grating the potatoes took nearly an eternity.  And after said potatoes were grated, I squeezed out as much liquid as possible from the potato shavings.  That part was a little gross but painless.
 You can see the freshly squeezed potato pulp in the photo above.  Next, I added eggs to the potatoes.  (Caveat: I cheated and used egg substitute, but they didn't seem to harm the pancakes in the least.  I'm sure regular eggs, beaten into a frenzy would work just as well.)
 Then, very gingerly I mixed the eggs into the potatoes.  Finally flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper were added and mixed thoroughly with the potatoes.
For the final step, I lightly sprayed a non-stick skillet with a non-stick spray and dropped the potato mixture by spoon into the pan.  Once the pancakes had browned on one side, I flipped them so they could brown on the other. You'll know the pancakes are browned on a side when they no longer stick to the pan.  The finished product was hashbrown-y and delicious.  My two-year-old especially couldn't get enough of the stuff.

The cookbook recommended that the pancakes be served with a side of applesauce, but personally, I think I'd prefer it served with sour cream or ketchup.  For those of you that are interested in testing the recipe for yourselves, here it is!