When you think about Veterans Day food you probably relate to the staple menus of most patriotic holidays: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, etc. But did you know that President Woodrow Wilson ran his kitchen a little differently on the first Armistice Day?
President Wilson had declared Armistice Day would fall on November 11 in 1919 and every year thereafter to commemorate the end of World War I. As our troops were returning home, he noted that they'd likely be eager to eat a good home cooked meal after surviving on military rations.
At the time, the nation was in a bit of a food shortage and rationing was taking place. This meant no extravagant steak dinners for our veterans - but there was still hope for a hearty meal. This was a time when America was looking for filling, staple foods that could easily be produced and stored for long-term consuming, and the commercial canning industry was born.
One of the new trends in food was ravioli, an Italian import that usually provided a serving of grain, dairy or meat, and a vegetable in one meal. It was also easily mass produced and canned for easy meals and long-term storage. President Wilson decided that since America was embracing this pasta dish, so would he.
At a dinner serving 2,000 soldiers who had returned from the war, President Wilson and his kitchen served up ravioli that night. During his Armistice Day speech to Congress, he remarked that a "lack of food strains mental illness," and shared his concern about the emotional toll war rationing had taken on our nation.
So, at your Veterans Day dinner this year, maybe consider going a little off the usual path and give a real throwback to the original holiday with a heaping bowl of ravioli!
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