Wartime Rations – Day Twenty

January 25th. Robert Burns Day.  Even eating wartime rations, there was no way I could let today pass without a nod to Scotland’s famous bard. But haggis?  Was it even available in wartime Scotland?  My grandparents were English and didn’t celebrate Burns Night, so Anne was unable to answer that question for me.

haggisSo I checked out vegetarian haggis recipes online and decided upon this one from The Guardian newspaper.  The recipe included mushrooms (available in the summer), red kidney beans (available on points) and a lemon (very – very – hard to come by and probably only afforded by the rich), so it was a bit of a wartime cheat. It definitely smelled and looked like haggis, but although it tasted great (my husband gave it 8/10) it didn’t taste like any haggis I’ve ever eaten before.


Staying on the Scottish theme, I decided to make some potato scones to go with our mid-morning cup of tea today. I haven’t made these since I was in Miss Lennie’s cookery class back in the day, but straight out the oven with butter melting on them… excellent.  And easy!

My husband’s work colleagues know he’s been eating wartime rations with me, so every morning he goes in to work he has to recount our meal from the previous evening. What they don’t quite believe is how cheap my weekly food shopping has been for the two of us over the past few weeks – around $60Cdn.  ($54.22US, $62.22Australian, 32.85British pounds.)

I’ve worked out next week’s menu and pulled together a shopping list. I’m heading to Safeway tomorrow morning, so will have an itemised bill to show you to prove (hopefully!) that you can eat really well and cheaply.

Wartime Rations – Day Eighteen

Dinner tonight was two very simple courses.

mince slicesMain course:  Mince slices, from a recipe in We’ll Eat Again, using the last of the mince I cooked the other day. Mix together the mince (or any cooked meat) with mashed potatoes and breadcrumbs, turn onto a floured board, cut into slices and either fry or grill for about 8 minutes. Comfort food on a cold day.

Dessert: Fresh pear.

* *

What was it like being evacuated to a new school and then going back to your ‘old’ one?

anne2013For the first few months I went to the Kippen village school and sat the ‘Qualifying’ exam. It was fun, though the poor headmaster didn’t know what had hit him with all these new pupils that he could hardly accommodate. No wonder he appeared so distracted. Then he got another blow: pupils MUST have PE twice a week. He couldn’t accommodate that either and told us it would have to take place in the playground – weather permitting. As for gym shoes – “Dinna’ bother. Any old bachles will do.” I can still hear his voice.

As you already know, I almost hated Hillhead School and found Balfron with its many teachers from Hyndland much easier going, and I did well there. Back in Glasgow, it was back to Hillhead but this time the Secondary School which was just as bad as the Junior one. Then my parents gave me a choice: two more years at Hillhead or one year at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Commercial College in Pitt Street. Of course I opted for a year at the College – so here you see a woman with no school certificates whatever – not even the Lower Leaving one. (Partly because I’d had to repeat a year in junior school because illness had kept me away for nearly 4 or 5 months.) Still, I got by.

Wartime Rations – Day Seventeen

Tonight was an evening of leftovers, and struggling to not make them look like leftovers! Also, I’m trying to eke out our meat ration – one pound between the two of us for the week – over three meals.

Main course, cottage pie (mince topped with mashed potatoes, heated in the oven, then sprinkled with cheese and browned under the grill) with carrots and beetroot.


For pudding, the remains of the syrup cake I made the other day, with stewed apples and apple juice (liquid left over from stewing the apples) on top. My husband poked it with his spoon a few times, not too sure about the combination, but we both really enjoyed it.

I’m really interested in the war from a child’s point of view, so asked Anne some more questions about her schooldays. What was it like having to take her gas mask to school every day? Did they have air raid drills?

anne2013(Taking a gas mask to school was) a nuisance; it was on a string or tape over my shoulder. I never had a back satchel like many of the pupils; I always had to carry an attaché case – and over a mile to walk to get the school bus from Kippen to Balfron. But talking about the school bus: one day the bus didn’t arrive at 4 to take us home, and eventually we all started walking.

The two girls with me were all for getting to the front, but I encouraged them to hang back till we were the last of the crowd by quite a distance – I’d figured out that something would come up behind us to give us a lift! And so it turned out and we were able to wave to all the eager beavers ahead of us.

Air raid drills?  Oh yes, quite a lot to begin with, but they gradually tailed off.

Wartime Rations – Day Fifteen

I’m now officially addicted to wartime ‘oatmeal’ soup –  although it should probably be called leek and carrot soup as the oatmeal is only added to thicken it. Anyway, I made a big pot at lunchtime and there was plenty left over for dinner this evening.

MacaroneFor dinner, macaroni and cheese – adding a rasher of bacon and half a fried onion for a bit of flavour – with red cabbage coleslaw on the side. Very tasty.

Then, instead of pudding, and given that I still have 1/2 a jar of golden syrup left, I decided to make a syrup loaf. You’ve got to know that I haven’t made a cake in years, so I wasn’t holding out much hope for it. Especially when I saw the recipe. I was under the impression you needed fat, eggs and sugar along with flour to make a good tasting sweet loaf… but apparently not.

The picture doesn’t do the loaf justice because it tasted really good. And easy! The recipe comes from ‘We’ll Eat Again’ – Marguerite Patten’s recipes from the war years reissued by the Imperial War Museum.


Cooking Time: 30 minutes.  Quantity: 1 loaf.

4 oz self-raising flour, or plain flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

pinch salt

2 tablespoons warmed golden syrup

1/4 pint milk or milk and water

METHOD: Sift flour or flour and baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Heat the syrup and milk or milk and water, pour over the flour and beat well. Pour into a well greased 1 lb loaf tin and bake in the centre of a moderately hot to hot oven (200C) for 30 minutes until firm.

anne2013Having talked about going to the cinema during the war last week, here are Anne’s memories of going dancing in wartime Glasgow.

Going dancing was the prime evening entertainment and Glasgow had lots of dance halls – the biggest one was the Green’s Playhouse in the city centre; Mary and Connie* used to go to the Plaza on the other side of town, but when it came to my day, I liked the smaller Astoria at Charing Cross even though it didn’t attract the big name bands. I loved dancing. I didn’t go to find a feller – I just wanted to dance, so kept my eyes open till I saw one dancing well, and when it came to a ‘Ladies’ Choice, there I was in front of him – didn’t matter what he looked like. Of course, we were doing real ballroom stuff – foxtrots, quicksteps etc and it was all very sedate. Hands had to stay where they ought to be – if they didn’t the MC (Master of Ceremonies) or one of his minions would have a word with you and if that didn’t work you were encouraged to leave. When the US Army moved in we were introduced to mild jitterbugging, and I enjoyed that too.

*Two of Anne’s sisters

Wartime Rations – Day Fourteen

I’m now at the half-way point and really starting to get into the flow of this. I’ll be honest, the first few days were a bit hard and I felt like I was depriving myself – mind you, it was just after the excesses of Christmas – but now I’m really enjoying it. This was supposed to be a history challenge, not a weight-loss diet, but amazingly, in spite of having three courses which include a pudding every night, I’ve lost 6 pounds in two weeks. I have more energy and I’m sleeping better. I wonder if it’s because all the food I’m eating now is fresh and made from scratch?  The only processed foods I’m currently consuming are bread, flour and sugar.

An interesting experiment in Britain nearly ten years ago, saw a group of schoolchildren being fed wartime rations while their classmates continued to eat 21st century meals. Eight weeks later, the ‘wartime’ children had grown in height, while the 21st century children had grown in width. The modern-day 9-year-old now weighs, on average, 17 lbs more than the 9-year-old of 70 years ago. Sober reading indeed.

baconAnyway, back to my rations.

With it being Sunday morning, I decided to forgo my regular porridge for some bacon and eggs. The bacon was great, but the eggs…  I only had powdered left so I scrambled them.  Not a great success. The only way I found them edible was to put them on toast and add a piece of bacon to every bite. From now on I’ll keep them for baking. But in the reading I’m doing, it sounds like children who grew up eating powdered eggs preferred them over the real thing for a long time after the war ended.

Roll on Week Three!