Rumtum Diddy

It’s a funny name, but this inexpensive Depression-era dish will feed a family quickly and deliciously.

While researching Depression-era recipes for a different project, I came across several versions of an old New England supper staple during these hard times –– “Rinktum Diddy” or Rum Tum Diddy or Rum Tim Ditty. No one seemed to have any idea where this funny name came from, but some cookbooks alluded to its origins being a non-beer version of Welsh Rabbit that one could serve to children and invalids.

A Welsh Rabbit cousin

Like Welsh Rabbit, it is a hearty and cheap meal with no meat, using pantry ingredients and cheese to make a sauce to pour over bread or saltine crackers. It is quick to come together, and tastes absolutely delicious.

There are many variations to this, so feel free to experiment. The version I came up with bore little resemblance to any of the others! What they have in common is tomato, cheese, and saltine crackers or bread to pour it over. I chose a lovely baguette from the local market, although my grandmother certainly would have used the ever-present saltine crackers.

 Make it your way!

Some recipes omit the onions, some use both onions and sweet peppers. The tomato can be anything. I used whole peeled tomatoes that I cut up myself; I like the flavor of these better than canned diced tomatoes, which often have peelings with a hard texture. Some recipes used just tomato juice or pureed tomatoes, while others used canned tomato soup, so I think this was probably created anew each time it was served, using what was on hand.

The cheese was varied as well, ranging from sharp Cheddar to American or processed Velveeta cheese. I opted for the Cheddar.

What you have on hand

Not all the recipes used eggs to thicken the sauce more, but the eggs do add some protein and the sauce had a lovely, thick consistency. Some versions used less cheese and some evaporated canned milk, also a pantry staple. I didn’t have any canned milk, so I went straight for the cheese.

It was a hit! Clean plates all around, so this is highly family recommended. Recommended by the cook as well since it takes about 20 minutes to make!

In addition ot a main-course supper, this is delicious as breakfast with an egg on top. The male teenager of the family ate the leftovers the next day with an egg on top and had to cut an additional piece of baguette to mop up every drop of sauce! If you are making it just for this purpose, you could probably omit the eggs in the sauce.

You could also put this in a big bowl with small baguette slices to dip at a party!

I may rename this “Do Wah Diddy, Diddy” since it made me dance as soon as I tasted it.

Rinktum Diddy is a New England Depression-era supper dish that used what was on hand and served a family heartily with little money. Photo: Dorothy Grover-Read.©

Rumtum Diddy

2 tbsp. butter

1 small onion, diced

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

4 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. Worcester sauce

Tabasco or hot sauce to taste

1 tsp. sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten

Bread or saltines

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and add the onions. Sauté until the onions are soft but not browned.

Sprinkle the flour over all, and mix in with a wooden spoon. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.

Add the tomatoes, and stir until heated through.

Add the cheese and stir until melted, then add the mustard, Worcester, hot sauce, sugar, taste, and add salt and pepper.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and add a little of the sauce at a time to temper them, to bring their temperature slowly up to the sauce heat so they don’t become scrambled eggs.

Add the mixture back to the pan and continue warming just for a minute or two.

Ladle a half to three-quarters of a cup of sauce over toast or saltines, and top with some fresh herbs if available. You can also be a little naughty and sprinkle on some more cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.

© Copyright 2019 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read, The New Vintage Kitchen. 

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Interesting recipe. 🙂

    1. Thanks! It doesn’t taste as funny as it sounds!

  2. Ally Bean says:

    I wonder if this was all that I had to eat if I’d resent the silly name or embrace it? As a well fed woman of this century I like the name, but during the Depression… I dunno… the name almost sounds demeaning.

    1. I know what you mean, but during the Depression, they often gave happy names to lots of things like the song “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” and keeping on the Sunny Side of Life, to remind people that the economic lows did not mean there wasn’t good in their lives. So I guess it is not a stretch to have them take a humble meal and give it a silly name, better, I suppose, than thinking of it as desperation food.

      1. Ally Bean says:

        Good point.

      2. Anne says:

        Makes perfect sense.

      3. Angela says:

        Sometimes these names that sound silly or meaningless to us were Americanized aberrations of Old World names. American regional dialects are loaded with examples. This dish also sounds a lot like the “baked tomatoes” that a late friend with Yankee roots used to make. Delish regardless of what you call it.

      4. How right you are Angela!

  3. Alicia says:

    This looks like a meal that could be made any time of year with home-canned tomatoes and whatever else was around. It sounds like one of those really simple but really delicious comfort suppers. The sauce sort of looks like Cheddar cheese tomato soup.

    1. That’s a good point about the canned tomatoes Alicia, most rural folks had their own canned tomatoes on hand, as well as cans of inexpensive tomato soup if that is what their recipe called for.

  4. trkingmomoe says:

    My mother made this and she just called it bread tomato pudding. I grew up eating it. Thanks for the memories.

    1. You’re very welcome! I’m sure it’s a good memory!

  5. Averyl says:

    This recipe pops up my vintage British and depression era cook books yet I’ve never tried making it. It looks yummy!

    1. I was surprised at how simple it was to make, and delighted by how good it tasted!

    2. Angela says:

      There you go… the name is doubtless British in origin.

      1. And I’m sure there is a good story behind it!

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