As a nation, America owes scrapple a heck of a debt. The much-maligned and misunderstood, but incredibly delicious meat loaf has for many decades endured insults to its appearance, texture, ingredients, and even its name, which has the not-inaccurate “scrap” and the unfairly off-putting “crap” baked right into it. But in the early days of World War II, the National Live Stock and Meat Board’s Department of Home Economics published Meat in the Meal for Health Defense—a homemaker-friendly guide to making the most of cheaper, less popular cuts. Defense Scrapple was at the center, alongside Kidney and Bacon Loaf (touted as “Famous Food Affinities in New Role”), Beef and Kidney Stew (“A Good Stew Is No Hardship”), and Veal Hearts with Noodles (“A Thrifty Dish with Flavor Plus”). Plus what exactly was a question that remained unanswered, but Defense Scrapple (“An Old American Favorite Up-to-Date”) had a clear mission.
The book operated under the nutritional parameters set by the federal government’s National Nutrition Program (slogan: “Food will build a new America!”), and included recipes and tips for eking the most possible flavor from a non-prime cut and—more importantly—augmenting it with cheaper ingredients to extend meals and fill bellies for less. Scrapple—a breakfast meat traditionally made from ground pig livers, hearts, heads, and other parts, blended with herbs, spices, and cornmeal or other grains—fit the bill perfectly. Defense Scrapple goes above and beyond, incorporating cracker crumbs (no hifalutin whole crackers needed here, save those for our boys in uniform) to bulk up the loaf even further.
With the world in a state of extreme uncertainty, might Defense Scrapple make a resurgence on the national breakfast place? It remains to be seen, but we’ll surely be paying rapt attention.
From Meat in the Meal for Health Defense, 1942
1 pound lean pork
1 quart water
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon celery leaves, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon sage
Lard for frying
How to Make It
Simmer meat until tender enough to slip from bones. Remove meat, cool, and grind. Measure remaining liquid and add enough water to make a quart. Bring broth to a boil. Add cornmeal slowly, stirring constantly. Add seasonings and meat. Pour mixture into a loaf pan and chill until well set. Slice, dip in beaten egg and then in cracker crumbs. Fry in lard until the slices are crisp and nicely browned.