Given my newfound interest in eating cheap taken to the extreme, you can imagine my excitement when I came across this snippet from December’s issue of Harper’s. Abridged and slightly paraphrased:
From a list of recipes from residents of Leningrad during the Nazi siege (September 1941-January 1944). The letter, dated 1942, is from a Russian compilation, “I Saw It: New Letters about War,” published by Vremya in 2005.
Leather-belt soup: It’s better to use undyed belts. Cut the belts into small pieces, then rinse them in water and let soak. After boiling, season with nettle, saltbush, chickweed, or other herbs. It’s good to add a little bit of vinegar.
Soup from pets and domesticated animals: Meat is ranked by taste in the following order: dog, guinea pig, cat, rat. Gut the carcass, wash well and place in cold water. Add salt. Cook for one to three hours. For aroma: bay leaf, pepper, any sort of herbs, and, if available, grain.
Of course, the food choices available to you when your town is under siege isn’t quite the same constraint as simply being poor. Also, I’m skeptical about the nutritional value of a leather belt, but since there isn’t really anything even close to it in the USDA nutrition database, that will have to remain a suspicion.