Although I’ve been eating wartime rations this week, apart from experimenting with some soup recipes, most of the meals have been family dishes my mother cooked when I was growing up. Mum and Dad married in 1938, so with rationing introduced in 1940 and not ending completely in the UK until 1954, she spent 14 out of the first 16 years of her married life feeding her family under rationing conditions. I was born l-o-n-g after the war ended (although not so long after rationing finished), so perhaps that’s why the meals I’ve cooked this week have felt ‘familiar’ and reminded me of my childhood.
But at least all those evening meals – so far – have contained meat. Today – apart from treating myself to a toasted bacon sandwich from my rations for breakfast – our evening meal had to be meat free as I’m just about out of our meat ration for the week. I turned to Marguerite Patten’s book for inspiration. With so many ingredients not available during the war, the index revealed a lot of ideas for ‘mock’ meals; mock apricot flan, mock cream, mock crab, mock marzipan, mock chocolate. I decided I would give ‘mock goose’ a try – even though I’ve never actually eaten real goose in my life.
Consisting of apples, potatoes, cheese, stock and sage, it resembled – and tasted – more like scalloped potatoes than anything else. And it tasted fine – for a side dish. I can’t believe I actually found myself craving a juicy steak, lamb chop or chicken leg this evening. And that’s after only 5 days. I’m eating wartime rations out of curiosity, to try to learn a little about what it must have been like on the home front, but in many ways I’m kidding myself. If I’d really wanted to, I could have nipped down to the supermarket and easily bought a steak to put on the BBQ this evening. But imagine 14 years of wartime rations. Four-teen years. How did they do it? Of course they did it because they had to, but for the regular person who couldn’t afford to go to a fancy hotel for dinner, it must have been so drab.