Episode 16- Food Scarcity and Women’s Daily Lives in the Early Franco Years

Episode 16 with Suzanne Dunai

Immediately following the Spanish Civil War, Spain faced a terrible food crisis.  Suzanne Dunai examines how the policies of the early Franco dictatorship brought on this crisis and how ordinary Spaniards, particularly women, dealt with it on a day-to-day basis.  From ration cards to bartering, from canning to buying on the black market, Spanish women showed a remarkable resilience as they sought to feed their families in this time of devastating scarcity.

The Episode

The Guest

Suzanne Dunai is a PhD candidate in the History Department at the University of California, San Diego under the advisement of Dr. Pamela Radcliff. Her research interests include the Spanish Civil War, the Franco dictatorship, the history of women, food, and everyday life. Her dissertation examines the food policies implemented by the Franco regime in the early dictatorship, a time popularly known as “the years of hunger.” Her dissertation sources range from official policies and governmental documents to women’s magazines and cookbooks, and she has utilized several archives across Spain and the United States. Suzanne holds a Dual BA in International Studies and History from Texas A&M University, and she received her MA from the University of New Mexico under the advisement of Dr. Enrique Sanabria. She has received funding for her research from the Fulbright program, the Hispanex grant, the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of New Mexico.

Recipe Examples

Below are a few examples of recipes used by Spanish women during the Franco dictatorship. This particular collection of recipes was written by the grandmother of one of Suzanne’s friends. Dolores Fuentevilla Calderón lived in Polanco, Cantabria, and cooked from these recipes.  Follow along with her instructions and try some of these dishes yourself!

Recipe 1

This page includes many vegetable recipes, suggesting the vegetables were in high supply. The recipes include very little meat, however, suggesting that animal products were scarcer. Of the seven recipes on this page, only three contain animal products. The peas include bacon, the stuffed string beans have ham and bacon, and the fried artichoke recipe calls for one egg. Otherwise, the recipes are completely vegetarian. The recipe “Spanish-style Lentils” contains no meat, which is quite different from how lentils are usually prepared in Spain today. Also missing are any kind of stock or broth for preparing the dried legumes. The recipes keep the dishes simple, calling for pure water for soaking or boiling the vegetables. Bread crumbs are another interesting feature of these recipes, and they are included in both the lentils and mushroom recipes. Bread was a great way to bulk up a meal, and old bread was the best to use for potted dishes such as these.  Bread helped to make the vegetable meals thicker and more filling. It also helped for the dish to feed more people. During the hunger years, nothing went to waste, not even stale bread. Everything edible was used to make filling meals for Spanish families.

Recipe 2

This section of the recipe is for different broths, and the preparation of the broths can reflect a lot of the food situation during the Franco dictatorship. For example, the first broth recipe is for “bird broth”, not chicken broth. This can be interpreted in several ways. One, it allows for flexibility in the preparation of the broth in that the type of fowl does not matter and can be adapted for what was available. Second, it suggests the importance of hunting and the opportunity that rural women had to incorporate game and wild fowl into their cooking repertoire. The next recipe, “improvised broth”, calls for beef extract to make the broth rather than actual beef parts. The name suggests that this broth could be used when nothing else is available. The use of extract shows how housewives relied on non-perishable foods in their pantries to cook day-today meals. Goods like spices, salt, and extracts would not suffer from market fluctuations the way that fresh foods would have during the hunger years. The final broths are based on vegetables and grains, goods that would have been cheaper and more accessible to Spanish women than meat products. The vegetable and bean broth is noted as being beneficial for children and those recovering from sickness. Maintaining health, raising children, and recovering from diseases were all concerns for many Spanish families in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Home remedies such as this broth was the most common form of treatment for Spaniards during the dictatorship. And from these different broth selections, family meals were made each day that sustained the Spanish family during the hunger years.

Suggested Reading

  • Atkins, Peter J. and Peter Lummel and Derek J. Oddy, eds. Food and the City in Europe since 1800. Burlington: Ashgate, 2007.
  • Barranquero Texeira, Encarnación and Lucía Prieto Borrego. Así Sobrevivimos al Hambre: Estrategías de supervivencia de las mujeres en la postguerra española. Málaga: Servicio de Publicaciones, Centro de Ediciones de la Diputación de Málaga, 2003.
  • Cazorla Sanchez, Antonio. Fear and Progress: Ordinary Lives in Franco’s Spain, 1939-1975. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • Cenarro, Angela. Los niños del Auxilio Social. Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 2009.
  • Del Cura, María Isabel. Alimentación y enfermedad en tiempo de hambre: España, 1937-1947. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones, 2007.
  • Giraldez Lomba, Antonio. Sobrevivir en los Años del hambre en Vigo. Vigo: Instituto de Estudios Vigueses,  2002.
  • Miller, Montserrat. Feeding Barcelona, 1714-1975: Public Market Halls, Social Networks, and Consumer Culture. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015.
  • Morcillo, Aurora G. True Catholic Womanhood: Gender Ideology in Franco’s Spain. DeKalb, Ill: Northern Illinois University Press, 2000.
  • Rodríguez Barreira, Oscar, ed.. El Franquismo desde los márgenes: Campesinos, mujeres, deatores, menores… Lleida: Editorial Universidad de Almería, 2013.
  • Román Ruiz, Gloria. Delinquir o morir. El pequeño estraperlo en la Granada de posguerra. Granada: Editorial Comares, 2015.
  • Vernon, James. Hunger: A Modern History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.

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