This is from a 1922 Good Housekeeping article on keeping a pantry stocked for emergency guests. The principles and general advice are good. My emergency stock would look totally different from this one, though. I’ll share mine below the article.
“In order to maintain the true spirit of hospitality it is essential that the unexpected guest shall be greeted with the same feeling of delight and cordiality which is accorded the arrival of the expected guest. But how can this be done if the condition of the larder makes the housewife sigh in desperation, ” What can I have for dinner? I only planned a picked up meal tonight?”
This condition of affairs is generally followed with a mad rush to the corner grocery or provision store, provided there are any available. Lacking such, the poor housewife in her despair becomes a worried and flurried individual who can by no means perform the duties of a true hostess. And the pleasure which should be derived from the yisit of a friend has vanished far into the background.
How unnecessary all this excitement is may quickly and easily be demonstrated by introducing the practicability of a wellplanned and carefully stocked emergency shelf. This emergency shelf may be modest in its equipment or it may be more elaborate depending upon the demands which are likely to be made upon it. The most important factor of all is that a special place in the storage cabinet or pantry be set aside for this particular use. The top shelf often proves the most convenient place of all because it is far enough out of reach so that the temptation to use the supplies for other than real emergency use is somewhat eliminated.
As to what should be placed on the emergency shelf, personal choice will necessarily decide. If home canned products are at hand, store your shelf with these by all means. But do not depend upon the fact that you know you have raspberries in the preserve closet, because you may have used the last jar when last you used raspberries. Keep the jars for the emergency shelf on that shelf, and not in the preserve closet with the rest of the stores. Otherwise select your stores from good reliable brands of commercially canned goods.
The following list has proved practical enough to cover all needs of emergency dinner luncheon and party service. Select:
2 cans salmon, 1 large, 1 small
2 cans tuna, 1 large, 1 small
1 can sardines
2 cans tomatoes, No 3 and No 2
2 cans peas
2 cans corn
1can ox tongue
1 can deviled ham
1 can mushrooms
1 can peaches
1 can cherries
1 can halved pears
1 can sliced pineapple
1 small can pimientos
2 small cans cheese
2 cans evaporated milk or 1 can powdered milk
1 small bottle Maraschino cherries
1 bottle pickles
1 bottle olives
1 can tomato soup
1 can consommé
1 can vegetable soup
1 can chicken soup
1 package rice
1 package macaroni
1 tin box crackers
2 tin boxes cookies
1 jar jelly
marshmallow cream, sirup
Each housewife will probably wish to add to this list other products and omit some of those given. It is not necessary to buy all this list just at first. Select those products which will combine for a given menu and then add to the original store each week until a well stocked shelf is the result. After the emergency shelf is equipped to your satisfaction use it whenever necessary, but make the infallible rule that the goods removed from it shall be replenished the very next time an order is given at the grocer’s. Otherwise just the product you want most may be missing, thus defeating the purpose of the special store.
The above list is compiled with the understanding that all staples such as coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, flour, salt, butter, potatoes, etc are always on hand. It well to open the packages of rice and macaroni and put them into glass preserve jars.
In addition to the above store of nonperishable goods for emergency use, it is always the better part of wisdom to keep supplied at all times with a few more or less perishable products. These include
eggs, bacon, salad dressing, bouillon cubes, and some green vegetable such as lettuce, a green pepper, and a bit of parsley. The last three may be varied to include for variety, watercress, a cucumber, or a few radishes. Just a touch of something green and fresh will help wonderfully in making a real meal from canned products. Some fresh fruit too is always an asse,t A few oranges and always a lemon prove practical standbys.
To make the emergency shelf a real workable unit and all the name implies, have at hand some carefully planned menus which can be made from the emergency supplies. Then when the critical moment arrives it will not even be necessary to plan what to serve for that will all have been taken care of. With the menus, keep copies of any recipes which might be needed. With such well laid plans, how can the results be other than those desired- a calm, composed, and smiling hostess, a cordially greeted guest, and a well served dinner?
An emergency dinner is always well started with a soup because it is easily prepared and adds zest to the meal. If some fresh fruit is at hand, a fruit cup may be concocted by combining it with some of the canned fruit, if preferred. The menus on this page will be suggestive of what can be done in the way of emergency meals. Some of the recipes called for are given.
To make the Tomato Bisque, open a can of tomato soup heat it to the boiling point, add a tiny pinch of baking soda, and then stir in gradually an equal quantity of hot milk. Serve at once with Imperial Sticks. [GH assumes you know what they are. I googled and found this from another vintage cookery source: Cut stale bread in one-third inch slices, remove the crusts. Spread thinly with butter. Cut slices in one-third inch strips, put on a tin sheet and bake until a delicate brown in a hot oven. Pile "log cabin" fashion on a plate covered with a doily, or serve two sticks on plate by the side of cup in which soup is served. - See more at: http://www.vintagerecipes.net/books/fiftytwo_sunday_dinners/imperial_sticks_1.php#sthash.FYnKAdf9.dpuf]
Salmon puff is used as the piece de résistance of this menu. Open a large can of salmon, drain the liquor from it, and flake it after removing the skin and bones. Add to this flaked salmon, of which there will be two cupfuls, one cupful of dried bread crumbs 0r cracker crumbs, one egg- beaten, one teaspoonful of salt, one fourth teaspoonful of pepper, a teaspoonful pepper and two cupfuls of hot milk. Mix all together and pour into a buttered baking dish. Bake at 400 F about one half hour. Serve at once.
If potatoes are not at hand, rice may be served in their place. Cook one cupful of rice in boiling salted water. Drain and pour cold water through it. Add one/fourth cupful of tomato catchup, and mold into individual mounds.
Canned Peas au us are a pleasing variation. Cook in the top of a double boiler a small onion, minced, in two tablespoons of butter until yellow. Then place the boiler over the hot water and add one can of peas, drained. Cook fifteen minutes. season with salt and pepper and serve.
For the Pear and Pimiento Salad, arrange halved pears and pimientos cut in strips on lettuce. Serve with mayonnaise. Serve with mayonnaise.
The second menu is another simple but delicious one. Heat the consommé according to directions on the can.
To make the Paprika Crackers, spread saltines sparingly with butter, sprinkle with paprika and brown delicately in the oven.
Tongue in Tomato Sauce- Combine one pint of tomatoes one onion, sliced, one teaspoonful of salt, one fourth teaspoonful of pepper, and two whole cloves. Let simmer until soft, strain, and thicken with one tablespoonful of corn starch mixed with an equal quantity of cold water. Remove the tongue from the can, place it in the tomato sauce and simmer fifteen minutes, basting it frequently with the sauce. Then add one can of peas, drained, and cook for ten minutes longer. Remove the tongue to a hot platter and surround it with the sauce.
Make the Cherry Tapioca in the usual way and serve with Yellow Sauce, unless fortunate enough to have whipped cream at hand. To make Yellow Sauce: beat one egg well and add one cupful of sugar, gradually continuing the beating. Add one teaspoonful of vanilla.Pass with the pudding.
In the third dinner menu Chicken Pudding is the main dish. Open a large can of chicken and cut it in dice, there will be about two cupfuls. Butter a baking dish and put the chicken in it. Over this pour the following mixture- Beat two eggs slightly, add one teaspoonful of salt, one/fourth teaspoonful of pepper, two cupfuls of milk, and one can of corn. Put in a pan of hot water and bake at 350 F until set. This mixture may be baked in ramekins if time is a factor.
Pineapple Rounds are most attractive and make a particularly nice dessert. Cut out rather large rounds of bread, spread them with margarine, and brown on each side in a frying pan- keep very hot and put on a hot serving plate. Just before serving lay a slice of cold pineapple and a little of the juice on each. A candied cherry or a bit of red jelly may be put in the middle of each if desired.”
We live out in the country, so it is unlikely that we would have drop in guests, and, at any rate, my pantry is nearly always full these days. Back when were much younger and lived in base housing, we were likely to have from one to five unexpected guests, mostly hungry young men, drop in at dinner time unexpectedly. This happened regularly enough that it was no longer unexpected.=)
On the one hand, few of us eat as formally as the above menus suggest. On the other hand, few of us would ever, ever, offer canned tongue to anybody. I’m also of the viewpoint that people who are fed at the last minute are going to understand that you aren’t serving them steak and a 4 course dinner. They take potluck.
What I liked to have on hand:
Canned beans, all kinds and sizes
tortillas (in the freezer)
flour, baking soda, baking powder, powdered milk, and my own biscuit mix
canned refried beans
popcorn, which was often a side dish for lunch or an after dinner snack
Spaghetti, prepared spaghetti sauce, parmesan cheese
Here are some of my go-to last minute meals or meal additions:
Biscuits are quick and easy, and almost everybody loves hot biscuits with butter. Keep your own biscuit mix on hand to make this even quicker. If you need a dessert, you can use that biscuit mix to make coffee cake (recipe at the link), or drop uncooked biscuits into hot fat and deep fry them, then sprinkle with powdered sugar for sweet and yummy doughnut holes.
Soup: I used to combine a can of potato soup with a can of creamed corn and add about 1 1/2 cans of milk for a creamier and very filling soup. Stir in some cheese (or cream cheese) for added protein. Add bacon if you have it (I almost never did).
Burritoes or quesedillas- keep on hand tortillas, grated cheese (these keep nicely in the freezer), a can or two of refried beans and your own taco powder. Mix up burritoes, fry some cheese tortillas with whatever fillings you have. Salmon Quesedillas are extra tasty, IMO.
Peach Cobbler; requires only one or two large cans of peaches, flour, baking powder, milk and butter. Or make the What’s In Your Hand version.
Chili: This is more of a bean soup than a chili, but everybody who has had it loves it, which is kind of embarrassing. All I do is mix several different cans of beans- black, pinto, turtle, kidney- undrained, a jar of salsa, some dried minced onion, garlic, chiles and chili powder to taste, and then I add sliced sausage, the cheapest kind. I keep that on hand in the freezer, or try to. Add water as desired, adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with cornbread, which I made in muffin tins as they cook faster.
Sliced apples with this quick and easy crispy oat topping
Burritoes or an Enchilada pie
Small quiches- they are made with a biscuit dough crust that lines muffin tins, and then filled with milk, eggs, and whatever you have on hand.
Almost any frozen green vegetable will do.
What are your go-to emergency meals?