Wartime Rations – Day Three

No food photographs today as breakfast was toast and marmalade, and lunch will be leftovers from yesterday’s evening meal. I’m heading out to ‘the pictures’ with a friend this evening, so will be grabbing something to eat at the mall. Keeping in the wartime spirit, I’m planning to enjoy a fish supper/fish and chips. If fish isn’t available, I’ll make do with chips.

Sunday post 1October 8th 1944 was a Sunday. There was no edition of The Glasgow Herald on Sundays during wartime, so I tried to find examples of other newspapers online, especially The Sunday Post which was a fixture in most Scottish households. I was unsuccessful, but I did find a link to a documentary on the 100th year anniversary of this iconic Scottish paper which also includes accounts of the paper’s experience during both world wars. (Minutes 37.55 – 40.30 for WW2.)

Anne worked for The Daily Record in Glasgow, so I asked her about what Sunday papers were available, and also about her experiences working in a newspaper office.  I also asked:  Given there was no edition on Sunday, I assume they didn’t work on Saturday, but must have had to work on a Sunday to get the Monday edition out.  How did that square the very Presbyterian notion of keeping the Sabbath holy?  Do you remember?

One of the things I love about eye-witness accounts are the details you can’t find in history books, so here are Anne’s memories.

anne2013No memories really of its interfering with church.  I can’t see that anyone would have accepted having to wait till Monday for write-ups about the dozens of football matches on Saturday afternoons.

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The Broons in The Sunday Post, February 1944

Most households would take The Sunday Post along with one or maybe two others; the Sunday Post was the demand of children for Oor Wullie sitting on his up-turned bucket and, of course, The Broons.

Most newspaper businesses did publish a Sunday paper but under a different name. You could perhaps find out by looking up Outram Press on Internet.  I worked for the rivals: the Kemsley Press in Hope Street.  My first job there was to sit with headphones on, from about 3 in the afternoon till 10 or 11 at night, taking ‘stories’ from correspondents all over Scotland for Kemsley’s morning paper, ‘The Daily Record’ , straight on to the typewriter for local calls and using shorthand for ‘long distance’ or ‘trunk’ calls.  These could be anything from the latest news in a court case to the prices obtained at the latest cattle auction, and had to be taken straight to the chief reporter.   Kemsley also published ‘The Evening News’ and on Sundays ‘The SundayMail’.  I got one day off a week and, not being involved in The Sunday Mail’, had Saturday off as well, so was having a 5-day week when most working people were still working half-day on Saturday.

I loved the feeling of ‘things happening’, was fascinated by the men operating the Linotype machines which pulled down the tiny lead (I think) characters (known as slugs) from the slots which surrounded the operator and was used to form the text; loved to go down to the basement and watch the huge, noisy presses in action as papers poured out, and watching as photographs from distant parts printed themselves oh-so-slowly, dot by dot, line by line, and eventually made a picture – do you remember those pictures? If you looked carefully you could see the individual dots, all varying shades of palest grey to black which resolved themselves into a printable illustration.

There were newsboys (sometimes rather old boys) waiting to get their supply to hawk in the city streets; and other boys loading sheaves of papers into waiting vans for further afield.

The Kemsley building was many stories high but with the war, the upper floors were redundant since paper was scarce and the papers had very few pages.  When war ended a decision was made by someone (Lord/Lady Kemsley?) to fit the empty space with hospital-type beds and offer them as accommodation to Empire servicemen who had been serving in Europe and wished to visit Scotland, sometimes the land of their parents perhaps, during their last leave before returning home.  They were also free to use the canteen.  So I met men from all over the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand and S Africa.  Have to say I liked the New Zealanders best and happily took four of them (safety in numbers!) to the carnival in Kelvin Hall to have a go on the bumping cars etc.  All good fun.

 

 

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War Time Rations – Day One (again!)

It can get pretty boring looking a food pictures, so I’m not going to take pictures of EVERYTHING I eat over the next month. But as it’s the first day, I thought I’d show examples of what will be my typical weekday morning and lunch.

PorridgeWeekday breakfast will be porridge, a little milk and smattering of sugar for taste. (I’m going to save my egg and bacon as a treat for the weekend.) Because I only get 3 pints of milk a week, I’ve decided to divide that up into Mon/Tues allowing myself 1/4 pint each day and thereafter 1/2 pint daily for the rest of the week.

My weekday lunches will be a variation on The Oslo Meal. Essentially, it’s a sandwich (lettuce and tomato), a piece of cheese, glass of milk and piece of fruit, but given that lettuce and tomato are not in season in October, I’ve modified it to a bowl of homemade vegetable soup with some bread, homemade coleslaw (some days I’ll substitute an apple) and a cup of tea. My family seem to like my veggie soup and it’s really easy, so here’s the recipe.

RATIONSDiana’s Homemade Vegetable Soup:
Pan of water, one stock cube, 1/2 cup of lentils, 1/2 cup of split peas (if desired), one chopped onion, one chopped potato and one chopped carrot. Put everything in the pan, bring to the boil then simmer for at least 1 hour. The longer you simmer it the better.

minceDinner. Having grown up in Glasgow, I’m very fond of ‘mince and tatties’ but I decided to do the potatoes just a little differently tonight.  I mashed them with fried leek, moulded them into hamburger sized patties and then fried them which gave them a great texture.

And then pudding.  Ah, pudding.  I only ever seem to eat a dessert whendessert I’m eating wartime rations – go figure. However, with apples and blackberries as the only fruits available to me for October, I’m going to have to get creative. Tonight I made the old standby; apple and raisin crumble. The crumble is dead easy; rub 2oz of butter into 4oz flour then mix in 2oz sugar. I only used a small amount of the mixture tonight so have stored the rest in the fridge for the evenings I need to pull something together quickly.

Just as well I have to take the dog for a walk tonight as I feel pretty full!

anne2013Anne’s asked me to remind everyone that, “When you’re talking about rationing, don’t forget fuel and soap.  Remember it was a time of coal, electricity and gas, so Britain then didn’t have the benefit of hydropower and nuclear stations, nor did local users have wind farms.  So, electricity often meant blackouts of light as well as heat for cooking (in the middle of making dinner!), and the coal ration was only enough to heat one room, so most families lived in the kitchen, often undressing there and dashing through the cold hall to get to their cold bedrooms.  As for soap, there were no detergents beyond soap in block, flake or powder form and the ration was meagre.  In Glasgow we didn’t feel it badly because we had such nice soft water from Loch Katrine and mother used often to send a soap coupon or two down to relatives in Derby and Nottingham where the tap water was very hard. There was also washing soda but that was extremely harsh on hands and fabrics.”

As for what was being reported in The Glasgow Herald on this day 70 years ago, despite the continued posting of the blackout times for Glasgow – 7.10pm until 7.01am next morning – there appears to be a growing sense that people are looking beyond the end of the war.

Page One: Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit was playing at The Alhambra.

Page Two: The Army, unleashed after its dogged punishing weeks in the Caen sector, is gathering an amazing momentum.

Page Three: Questions were raised in Parliament on the shortage of teats for babies’ bottles, and, as happens too often, the matter was glossed over with meaningless explanations.

Page Four: Soviet troops were within 10 miles of Belgrade.

Page Five: France. Marshall Petain and 50 former members of his Vichy Government were charged with treason and intelligence with the enemy.

Page Six: After a four-day Court Martial, Private Thomas Montoya (24) of the US Army Air Force was cleared of murdering Joan Long (22) in an air raid shelter in Blackpool but was found guilty of manslaughter. He forfeited all pay and allowances, received a dishonourable discharge and a sentence of 10 years hard labour.

Page Seven: A shortage of round coal was accentuated this week by a number of illegal stoppages in Lanarkshire and by a continued high rate of absenteeism.

Page Eight: Situation Wanted.  Scottish doctor, graduate with varied experience, at present doing war-time locum in busy practice, is anxious to settle in Scotland after the war; age 32; family man; temperate; Presbyterian; he would consider assistantship with view partnership, or buying outright; preference for Highlands and Islands area or small county town, but is interested in any reasonable proposition.

Wartime Rations – Day Twenty-Seven

SausagemenatIt’s been a bit of a weird few days, so the menu I’d hoped to follow this week hasn’t quite worked out as planned. But I stuck to my rations and made sausage meatballs with mashed potatoes for dinner. I made them with breadcrumbs, onions and carrots, in the slow cooker, but next time I will add a few more spices and maybe some minced onion to the meat.

This is the second to last day of my month of wartime rations. I’m going to leave the last word to Anne tomorrow, but here are a few of my thoughts on the experience.

I’m very aware I’ve just been ‘playing’ at this. I haven’t had to worry about not being able to buy groceries or having to start a fire before I can boil the kettle for a cup of tea.

Here in Calgary we’re experiencing a cold snap, but all I have to do is turn up the thermostat. I can’t imagine what it must have been like during wartime, particularly with fuel shortages, getting up on a cold morning and having to light a fire before doing anything else.

My grand-daughter, who is still in nappies, is coming round tomorrow. Changing them is a breeze because they’re disposable. Pity my poor mother who lived in an attic flat with no running water and had to haul cold water all the way up the stairs to wash her baby’s clothes.

Apart from the first couple of days, as my body adjusted from the extravagance of Christmas to wartime rations, I haven’t felt hungry on this eating plan at all.  (And I’ve lost 7 lbs to boot.)  The food has been good and nutritious and I’ve rediscovered a few veggies I’d turned my back on after leaving home as a teenager.

And some of the things my Mum – and other women of her generation – used to do now make sense. She didn’t waste a thing. If bread went stale, it was toasted. And it wasn’t just bread. String tied around parcels was unpicked, rolled up and saved for a later time. The same with jam jars which she used for her homemade jam and lemon curd in the summer.

One of my friends could never understand why her mother, even after she emigrated to Canada, kept a cupboard filled with dried and tinned foods – just in case. For the women who lived through the war and had to provide nutritious foods to keep their families fed and healthy on limited rations, it must have been a constant worry. No wonder they always made sure they wouldn’t be caught short again.

So the big lessons I’ve taken away from this experience? That we waste so much food nowadays. That we spend so much money on processed foods while ignoring the simple fresh foods that are so much better for us than anything that contains a chemical on its list ingredients. How cheap the weekly shopping bill becomes when you purchase fruit and vegetables in season.

That I’m very lucky to live where I live, when I live.

That the women of war were true, unsung heroines.

Wartime Rations – Day Twenty-Four

Many thanks to my writing friend Mahrie G. Reid for offering her perspective on Wartime Rationing from a Canadian point of view.  Mahrie’s first mystery novel is scheduled for release this spring.  If you would like to check out her website for more information, please click HERE.

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photoThanks to Diana for inviting me to participate in her War Rations experiment. I was born in 1949 and many of the meals my mother served in my early years originated during the war rationing era.

My mother, Mary Grace Ross, was born 101 years ago this month. The changes she saw in the world were astronomical. She lived 90 years and 10 months and had her life changed dramatically by two world wars. During WW ll her five brothers served overseas and Mom, who lived along the east coast, was a plane spotter, trained to identify every plane flying during that time and in particular enemy planes.

Although sugar, tea, butter and meat were rationed, Canadians ate more and better than during the depression and the healthy eating guidelines used during the war are the foundation for the current Canada’s Food Guidelines.

Canadians were encouraged to eat “patriotic” food, and apples and lobster were the first foods labelled as patriotic. Home canning was also encouraged and the process reached an all time high during the war years.

“Magazines such as Canadian Home Journal repeated such messages by publishing articles with titles like “It’s Patriotic and Pleasant to Eat Canadian Lobster” and which included recipes for patriotic dishes like Lobster Cocktail, Lobster à la King, and Lobster Sandwiches.” (Catherine Caldwell Bayley, “It’s Patriotic and Pleasant to Eat Canadian Lobster,” Canadian Home Journal 37/3 (July 1940), 28-29 and Canadian Home Journal 36/8 (December 1939), 1.)

The cheaper ground meat came into its own during the late forties. An episode of the Canadian TV show, Bomb Girls, realistically featured instructions on turning ground meat into a meal as tasty as steak. In Nova Scotia, fish was also a staple. Even after the war, these two items remained on the menu in our household.

The meals I chose for my War Ration Day were Fish Soup (no milk so not chowder) and a no-crust version of meat pie topped with “icing” made of mashed potatoes. Both include potatoes, carrots and onions as well as a small amount of butter, salt and pepper. I added dried dill from a home garden to the cod-fish soup and served the meat pie with previously home-pickled beets.

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An Apple Betty for dessert rounded out both meals. Made with apples and cinnamon topped with oatmeal mixed with one tablespoon of brown sugar and some water, this tasty dish met the December 1939, Department of Agriculture instructions to: “Serve apples daily and you serve your country too.”

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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.

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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.