“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.
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.