Great Depression Cooking: Get Budget-Minded Meals from the Online Cooking Show Created by 93-Year-Old Clara Cannucciari

“The Depres­sion was not fun,” the late YouTube star, Clara Can­nuc­cia­ri, states in the very first episode of her Great Depres­sion Cook­ing web series, above. Her first recipe—Pasta with Peas—would like­ly give your aver­age urbane food­ie hives, as would her knife skills, but Clara, who start­ed mak­ing these videos when she was 93, takes obvi­ous sat­is­fac­tion in the out­come.

Her film­mak­er grand­son Christo­pher Can­nuc­cia­ri wise­ly kept Clara in her own kitchen, rather than relo­cat­ing her to a more san­i­tized kitchen set. Her plas­tic paper tow­el hold­er, linoleum lined cab­i­nets, and teapot-shaped spoon rest kept things real for sev­er­al years worth of step-by-step, low bud­get, most­ly veg­e­tar­i­an recipes.

Her fruit-and-ging­ham ceram­ic salt and pep­per shak­ers remained con­sis­tent through­out.

How many tele­vi­sion chefs can you name who would allow the cam­era crew to film the stained tin­foil lin­ing the bot­tom of their ovens?

Nona­ge­nar­i­an Clara appar­ent­ly had noth­ing to hide. Each episode includes a cou­ple of anec­dotes about life dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, the peri­od in which she learned to cook from her thrifty Ital­ian moth­er.

She ini­tial­ly dis­liked being filmed, agree­ing to the first episode only because that was grand­son Christopher’s price for shoot­ing a pre-need funer­al por­trait she desired. She turned out to be a nat­ur­al. Her celebri­ty even­tu­al­ly led to a cook­book (Clara’s Kitchen: Wis­dom, Mem­o­ries, and Recipes from the Great Depres­sion), as well as a video where­in she answered view­er ques­tions with char­ac­ter­is­tic frank­ness.

To what did she attribute her youth­ful appear­ance?

Clean liv­ing and large quan­ti­ties of olive oil (poured from a ves­sel the size and shape of a cof­fee pot).

How to avoid anoth­er Great Depres­sion?

“At my age, I don’t real­ly care,” Clara admit­ted, “But for the younger gen­er­a­tion it’s bad.” In the worst case sce­nario, she coun­sels stick­ing togeth­er, and not wish­ing for too much. The Depres­sion, as we’ve men­tioned, was not fun, but she got through it, and so, she implies, would you.

The series can be enjoyed on the strength of Clara’s per­son­al­i­ty alone, but Great Depres­sion Cook­ing has a lot to offer col­lege stu­dents, undis­cov­ered artists, and oth­er fledg­ling chefs.

Her recipes may not be pro­fes­sion­al­ly styled, but they’re sim­ple, nutri­tious, and unde­ni­ably cheap (espe­cial­ly Dan­de­lion Sal­ad).

Home­made Piz­za—Clara’s favorite—is the antithe­sis of a 99¢ slice.

The tight belts of the Great Depres­sion did not pre­clude the occa­sion­al treat like hol­i­day bis­cot­ti or Ital­ian Ice.

Those on a lean Thanks­giv­ing bud­get might con­sid­er mak­ing Clara’s Poor Man’s Feast: lentils and rice, thin­ly sliced fried steak, plain sal­ad and bread.

Right up until her final, touch­ing appear­ance below at the age of 96, her hands were nim­ble enough to shell almonds, pur­chased that way to save mon­ey, though crack­ing also put her in a hol­i­day mood. Food­ies who shud­der at Pas­ta with Peas should find no fault with her whole­some recipe for her mother’s home­made toma­to sauce (and by exten­sion, paste).

You can watch all of Clara’s video’s on the Great Depres­sion Cook­ing chan­nel. Or find Sea­sons 1 and 2 below.

Sea­son 1:

Sea­son 2:

Sea­son 3:

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New York Times Makes 17,000 Tasty Recipes Avail­able Online: Japan­ese, Ital­ian, Thai & Much More

Sci­ence & Cook­ing: Harvard’s Free Course on Mak­ing Cakes, Pael­la & Oth­er Deli­cious Food

MIT Teach­es You How to Speak Ital­ian & Cook Ital­ian Food All at Once (Free Online Course)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She recent­ly co-authored a com­ic about epilep­sy with her 18-year-old daugh­ter. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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  • Bill Oetjen says:

    PLEASE exclude Tough Mud­der events from your feed. It’s noth­ing more than a us mil­i­tary indoctrination/recruitment/pr stunt.
    For fuck­’s sake!

  • Jason says:


    I believe Bill is expe­ri­enc­ing anoth­er issue. I will speak with his moth­er. Please con­tin­ue to bring taco’s to the par­ty, your moth­er and I are look­ing for­ward to them.

    See you soon.

    lol (lots of love)

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