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Apr 2, 2013 09:05 AM

"Chicago fritters" - whatever were they in 1917?

I am currently researching food during the Great War and have come across a reference to "Chicago fritters". The letter home is written by a British soldier who is cooking for his battalion's officers. He serves these up between the soup and the main course stew.

Google turns up no mention of them but I wonder if anyone might have a clue what they were. Knowing the city's historical link with meatpacking, etc, my assumption is that this is something meaty. A possible early name for a burger patty? Of course, it may just be a name that Private Burke gave to a dish he'd created.

Your help would be appreciated.

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  1. Harters, I think it's Chicago Apple Fritters but I might be wrong. I think Hemingway may have mentioned them in a short story. This is my best guess.

    1. Harters,
      Did you post this to the Chicago and Midwest boards? You may get more info over there. My first thought was corn fritters, but IIRC, corn was not considered fit for human consumption in Europe. Then again, maybe that would be a good reason to call them “Chicago fritters”.
      There is a Chicago food chat forum, LTH, which may be another good spot to post your question.

      And apologies if I am overstating the obvious, but the Chicago Public Library may be of help.

      And the New York Public Library houses a huge cookbook collection of more than 15,000 items. Contact info here:

      If you are still stuck, let me know. I have a few other food research resources that may help.

      1. My thanks for the comments.

        I've now had the opportunity to read a full transcript of the letter which puts the fritters in a different part of the meal than I'd been given to originally understand.

        The running order had been - lentil soup, stew with vegetables, Chicago fritters, blancmange with apricots, bloater paste on toast.

        I had been coming round to the view that this was possibly something using canned corned beef - Chicago's meat packing industry included British owned companies canning the beef and, certainly, it would have readily available in the trenches. However, I think I'm now more inclined to think that pinehurst's suggestion of the apple fritters might be more on the mark. Certainly, that would fit being served after the main course and there is the occasional online mention of "Chicago apple fritters" in American newspaper articles of the late 19th and early 20th century.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Harters

          I hope it pans out for you -- hubby and I both grew up in the Chicago area, but I've never heard the term. Will be interesting to see what you finally find...

        2. Man, I can't get enough of that there bloater paste. May just have to whomp up a vat right now!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            When I was a lad, it was something supermarkets used to sell in little jars (alongside the even better potted beef). Havnt seen it in years.

            And I do like the idea of the savoury after the dessert. It's very rare to see it these days on a restaurant menu - although I do know a couple of places that have one in amongst the dessert listings.

              1. re: EM23

                Excellent. Thanks for that. I hadnt appreciated it was still sold (and the beef). Shippams was, indeed, the producer of the stuff from my childhood. Must look out for it when I'm next shopping. Mmmmm.

                The best bit of that link is the comments from readers. So many old favourite products. Or, in some cases, definitely not favourite - such as "sandwich spread" which, as someone notes, was always reminiscient of "sick in a jar".