Wartime Rations – Days 27 and 28

My last entry for this month’s wartime rations. When I spent a month eating wartime rations earlier this year it was really easy; perhaps because it was in the middle of winter when everyone hibernates at home. This month, with anniversaries, birthdays, Thanksgiving… well, I’ve probably ‘eaten at the Savoy’ just as frequently as eating rations.

meatballsSo my last entry for this experiment was the final dish I made with the remains of my ground beef ration for this week; meatballs made with the same ingredients as the burgers (chopped onion, breadcrumbs, seasoning, bound with tomato sauce), baked in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes and then covered in gravy. On the side, home-made fries and my newest favourite, shredded cabbage fried in a little bacon fat. For dessert, we chopped up and shared the remaining toffee apple. Given that November 1st brought snow here in Calgary, reminding us that winter has finally arrived, it really was the perfect comfort food.

If you’re wondering why I’ve used archived copies of The Glasgow Herald as my go-to paper during the past month, it’s not just because I come from Glasgow, but my Uncle Alex, Anne’s big brother, used to be a journalist with the paper. An RAF pilot during the war, when he returned to Scotland he became the Voice of Scottish Golf, not just on the radio, but with The Glasgow Herald and then as the editor of Golf Monthly. When he died in 2000, both The Telegraph and The Glasgow Herald published obituaries.

anne2013Anne says: He started as a general reporter; he ‘covered’ the launching of the Queen Mary, I know, because he came home saying, ‘She did it!’ – but whether he was talking about Queen Mary successfully throwing the bottle of bubbly or the great ship successfully floating instead of sinking to the bottom, I don’t know, ships always being referred to as feminine. Then he started covering sport and eventually as you know became Scotland’s prime golf journalist.  He was sent to the first post-war American (Open Golf/Ryder Cup?) and his boss told him proudly that he would be flying there (flying being a great rarity at the time).  Alex of course was disgusted after his years and years as a bomber pilot DFC, so they let him travel one way on the QM.  I remember a photo of him with some famous golfer (Henry somebody I think) which appeared in the paper and of which there was a print at home.

Alec & Anne  crop

Anne with her big brother Alex (Percy) Huggins, early 1940s.

Another memory from Anne: After Alex had done many, many more than the stipulated number of bombing flights he was transferred to the Azores on anti-submarine patrol. Here there were bananas, and when he came home on leave (after VE Day), managed to bring us a few – Mother made sure their skins were put right on top of the rubbish bins so that when the lid was lifted the dustmen could wonder at them!

Having bombarded you with almost daily posts for the past month, I’m going to take a break for a few weeks and plan to return with my usual schedule on December 15th – although I may add the occasional post before then. Looking forward to catching up with you.

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Wartime Rations – Day 26

burgerDinner tonight was real hot comfort food before going out into the cold Hallowe’en night trick-or-treating; homemade hamburger, roasted squash and mashed potatoes.  Burger: ground beef, breadcrumbs, chopped onion and seasoning to taste, bound with a little tomato ketchup.  For the squash; I chopped it into  bite sized pieces, sprinkled the pieces with a tiny bit of sugar and cinnamon, tossed them in some melted butter and roasted them uncovered in the oven at 190C for about 35 minutes.

For dessert, my husband and I chopped up one of the toffee apples I made yesterday into pieces and shared it. It tasted so delicious that we decided we’re going cut up the apple next time before dipping it into the syrup and leaving it to harden. Sounds decadent… but within our wartime ration allowances!

I’m heading out trick-or-treating with my granddaughter shortly (her first time!) so a very quick catch up with The Glasgow Herald for October 31st, 1944.  One article in particular caught my eye.

The Population Problem:  Scotland is definitely a younger country than England or Wales, but an examination of the Registrar General’s figures show that in both countries the population is ageing. Women of child bearing-age between 15-45 in 1937 formed 24.2% of the population but within the next generation they will drop to 18.5%.

At the end of the South African War, children formed 1/3 of the population, today they form 1/4. If the same story continues, in 70 years time the number of children in Scotland would be halved to 1/6th.

Population breakdown: Scotland 1944
Population 5 million
2 million live in 4 cities.
1 million live in 26 large towns
1/2 million live in 66 medium towns
1/2 million live in small towns
1 million live in rural areas.
2/5 of the population live within 20 miles of Glasgow

Given that it’s now exactly 70 years since that report looking into the future, I thought I would check out the current statistics. It makes for interesting reading.

In 2011, the population of Scotland was 5.2 million.

The population of the 5 major cities was as follows:
Glasgow:   592,820
Edinburgh: 486,120
Aberdeen:  217,120
Inverness: 56,660
Stirling:  89,850

If children are defined as aged 0-19 years of age, they made up 22.39% of the population in 2011.

If children defined as aged 0-14 years of age, they made up 16.14% of the population in 2011, almost the exact prediction from 1944.  Fascinating!

Wartime Rations – Day 25

toffee apliesI know it’s not Hallowe’en until tomorrow, but I thought I might get ready early and make some traditional toffee apples.  After all, apples are within my rationed fruit for this time of the year, and I have plenty of sugar left over. So even in the midst of war, there would be some cheer for the children. It turns out that the recipe is extremely easy (this would have made enough for 4 large apples); 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, half a teaspoon of vinegar.  Heat until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for about 20 minutes. When the mixture hardens when you drop a little into a bowl of cold water it’s done. Being very careful, dip the apples into the mixture and place on some greaseproof paper to set for about an hour.

But what of a traditional Hallowe’en (October 31st) or Guy Fawkes (November 5th) in wartime? An editorial in The Glasgow Herald of October 31st, 1945 (page 4) suggests that both customs disappeared during the war but had quickly resurfaced: One peacetime practise of Scottish youth has already established itself – guising. A colleague reports that on Monday night three urchins liberally bedaubed with soot, came to his door with the traditional chant of, “Please, sir, gie’s war Hallowe’en”. The black-out banished the ‘guisers’ – or galoshans -and it is pleasant to see that at least one old Scots custom has survived the war.

anne2013Here are some of Anne’s thoughts on Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes back in the 30s and 40s.

The full title was All Hallows Even(ing), the day before All Hallows’/All Saints’ Day in church, the night the dead were liable to come back to haunt you.  So Hallowe’en was the time for dressing up (to disguise yourself to avoid the ghosts)and fancy dress parties.   I’ve often wondered if guising, not guysing was the word originally used, but transformed itself into Guysing for Guy Fawkes’s 5th November.

At Hallowe’en parties there were usually a few sparklers, the sparking fireworks children loved to hold in their hands – though the sparks were hot if you didn’t hold the sparkler carefully.   Children did go knocking on people’s doors – any doors, not just their neighbours’, and the usual request was, ‘Please, missis, gie’s oor Hallowe’en’. (for 5th Nov, the plea was ‘Penny for the guy, please’, but this usually happened in the street, not at the front door, and was more common in England).

For the Hallowe’en children, Mother always had apples and handfuls of nuts or sweets to hand out: ‘Don’t give them money, their parents are often waiting round the corner to take the cash to the nearest pub’.  For these goodies the children were expected to perform in some way, maybe sing a song or recite a poem.  We were taken aback once by a girl of about 7 or 8, hand-in-hand with a much smaller brother, who said, ‘I’ll sing and he’ll harmonise’ – difficult to keep one’s face straight till they’d performed and left!

dookin 1

Dooking for apples

dookin2

Dooking for apples with a fork.

Yes we all dooked for apples, both at home and at school where we’d been told to bring two apples – in the genteel fashion of kneeling over the back of a chair and dropping a fork from your mouth in the hope that the prongs would stick in one of the apples floating in a bowl or bucket of water – there were many failures if the bucket had a wide top!  Less genteel was the practice of kneeling beside the bucket and grabbing an apple with your teeth.

scone

Scones with treacle.

I much preferred the other game when Mother dropped the ceiling pulleys halfway down, tied strings around them to ‘mouth height’ and tied on large triangular scones liberally doused with black treacle.  These we tried to bite a chunk off with our hands behind our backs – great fun;  the floor had to be washed afterwards, as did our hair, unless we did the dooking afterwards and washed out the treacle in the apple water.

The other treat was the Hallowe’en dumpling, which ranged from wealthy folks’ almost Christmas-rich puddings down to a plain one with a few sultanas, or even down to a potful of mashed potatoes – what was special were the tiny silver charms, wrapped in greaseproof paper, which had been mixed in before boiling or mashing – each ‘charm’ would tell your future: a little silver threepenny coin was the best, or there could be a baby, a horseshoe, a ring etc.  During the war it was usually mashed potatoes!

Wartime rations – Day 24

fishpieWar time meals, in this experiment at least, seem to involve eating a lot of leftovers. I had baked fish yesterday, so tonight made fish pie with the leftover fish and cheese sauce, topped with mashed potato and a little grated cheese, then cooked in the oven at around 180C for about 20 minutes. For lunch… I ‘broke down’  and used a whole fresh egg in an egg mayonnaise sandwich. Very extravagant – but completely delicious!

As I’m getting close to the end of a month of wartime rations, I thought I’d jump ahead a little in the newspapers and see what they were saying about the end of the war. But when DID the war end exactly? My understanding was that World War Two ended on May 7th (8th in the Commonwealth) with VE Day in Europe (Glasgow Herald May 8th 1945 Page 4) and then VJ Day on August 15th 1945 with the Japanese surrender.

But as with everything to do with the war, nothing is clear-cut. I clicked on this great link on Yahoo which offers the following:

The Japanese surrendered on August 15.45 THEIR time, which was August 14th in the US.

However the paperwork on surrender was not completed until September 2nd, Japanese time, September 1st US time. (Check out this edition of the Glasgow Herald from September 3rd, 1945 which gives all the details on page 3.)

But those were papers of surrender. Technically, according to the reply on Yahoo, wars don’t end until a treaty of some kind is signed.

Who knew?!

In that case, a peace treaty with Japan was signed on September 8th, 1951 but the US only ended their occupation of Japan on April 28th, 1952. I couldn’t find an entry from The Glasgow Herald for September 8th but did on the front page of The Calgary Herald. If you click on the link, it appears that 48 countries signed the treaty despite Russian objections.

In Europe, the French, British and US all ended their formal occupation of their areas in West Germany on May 5th, 1955, but had effectively done so on May 23rd, 1949. (Glasgow Herald, May 5th, 1955 Page 6.)

Interesting.  (And for all you high school history students out there wanting to impress your teachers, it’s those little nuggets that get you extra marks in exams!! ) :o)

Wartime Rations – Day 23

It’s been a busy day today so I’m just getting this blog post in under the wire. My daughter and her husband flew out tonight to spend the next three months in South East Asia. (If you’d like to read her travel blog, please click on girltrieslife.) They will arrive in Bangkok in just over 24 hours. Back in 1944, it would have taken weeks to get there by ship – several days, I would imagine, by plane. The world has certainly changed in the past 70 years.

fish and saladGetting back to my wartime rations; for lunch today I had white fish baked in a cheese sauce with a spinach salad on the side. For dinner at the airport tonight… not quite wartime rations.

 As for what was making news in The Glasgow Herald on October 28th, 1944:

On the front page, under the Birth/Marriage/Death announcements was one for Prisoner of War.  Girvan.  Official information has been received that Private William Girvan, Cameron Highlanders, reported missing in August 1944, is now a Prisoner of War in Stalag V11, Germany; thanking all friends and neighbours for inquiries and information of broadcasts.  Mrs W Girvan, 103 Cartside St, Glasgow.

Jordanhill Church, Woodend Drive, Glasgow. Collection for both Sunday services for Christmas Gifts for Our Members in the Forces.

Two hundred thousand cases of Spanish oranges, weighing 10,000 tons coming to the UK from Spain. A Ministry of Food spokesman stated… “There will be some for the public, but details of the division between manufacturers and the general public have not yet been worked out.”

Sinking Standards in Schools: “It seems to be a general opinion among secondary teachers that the standard of elementary proficiency in reading, writing and speaking is steadily sinking among the pupils of 12 or so who enter secondary school.”

As a writer, I’m really taken with human stories and the Undefended Divorces listed in the paper is fascinating. Several were given to soldiers currently POWs in Germany. One was given to a woman whose husband, current address unknown,  had deserted her. One was given to a woman in the W.R.N.S and another to a woman based on her husband’s cruelty. But I’m particularly fascinated by those given to the men in POW camps. What was the legal mechanism that permitted that? Who initiated those divorces; the husbands or their wives?

Wartime Rations – Days 20, 21, 22.

bakeTalking with Anne last week, she said that my grandmother usually chose some kind of ground meat (eg mince) over a cut of meat to use as the basis for her meals; a cut of meat might be tough when cooked, but you could be fairly ‘safe’ with ground meat. So this week, I’ve decided to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and bought one pound of minced beef for our joint meat ration this week. Tonight I made a cottage pie with sliced potatoes and a mustard sauce on top. It tasted good and was just the kind of comfort food suited to the chill in the weather that arrived yesterday. For veggies (and colour) I fried some white and red cabbage together.

Looking through The Glasgow Herald for October 27th, 1944 I found quite a few articles that interested me. The war news remained ‘encouraging’ with reports that Japanese losses included 2/3 of their battleships sunk or damaged, and 600,000 German Home Guards had recently been armed and were ready to leave to defend East Prussia and Western Germany. One commentator remarked, “In a few weeks winter will begin in Western Europe and the question arises whether the Germans can somehow prolong resistance to it.”

A resolution was passed regarding the creation of The Forth Road Bridge just outside Edinburgh. (It would be 20 years before it was completed and opened to the public.)

The new double ration of dried eggs meant that everyone now got the equivalent of 6 eggs per week.

A bottle of whisky cost around 25/9d.

A Scottish firm had plans to create a Global Air Service based out of Prestwick Airport(Used by the military during WW2 and still, I believe, used by them as well as by civilian traffic.) The proposal was very ambitious:
A night sleeper service to New York, for passengers, 1st class mail and freight. There would be one stop either at Goose Bay or Labarador (both in Newfoundland).
A day service to and from Canada and the US via Iceland, Greenland and Goose Bay.
Prestwick to Northern Europe with flights to Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Oslo and Stockholm.
A global route around the Northern Hemisphere via Moscow, Peking, Vladivostok, Alaska and Vancouver, with ‘loop lines’ serving Central Europe, The Middle East, Karachi, Calcutta and Hong Kong.
The initial planes would be converted military aircraft.
(A piece of trivia; Prestwick airport is officially the only piece of UK soil that Elvis Presley ever stood on!)

Over 1,300 Liberators and Flying Fortresses of the US Eighth Air Force, escorted by more than 600 Mustangs and Thunderbolts, yesterday hit targets in Germany including Munster and Hanover at 3.30pm.

Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria, died yesterday, aged 87.

As someone who has done a lot of research on Army Nursing Sisters, this article caught my eye: RAF Nursing Sister: Largs Sister’s Work.
In the four months since D-Day, 34,000 seriously wounded British, Canadian, French and Polish soldiers, airmen and sailors were flown from airstrips in France and the Low Countries to a great RAF Hospital in Southern England.
For the few days that they remain in the Casualty Clearing Hospital – the only one in Britain – these men are in the hands of the most highly skilled nursing sisters in the British Services. They are members of Princess Mary’s RAF Nursing Service, the least publicly known of all the women’s services.
A typical member of the hospital staff is Sister Janet Hastie from Largs. She was working day and night in the RAF hospital in Cairo when the 8th Army retreated to Alamein. She wears the Africa Star and the clasp of the Western Desert Air Force.

Wartime Rations – Day 17

It’s somehow very telling that when you look through various WW2 recipe books in search of meals to do with turkey or chicken that you find nothing. Nada. Unless you bred your own, was it possible to purchase chicken or turkey during the war?
turkey hashGiven that I had turkey left over from ‘Canadian Thanksgiving’, it meant I had to use my imagination to use up my leftover turkey tonight. I ended up adapting a recipe for Corned Beef Hash to Turkey. (Fry chopped onion, chopped cooked potato and cooked turkey, cover and cook for 15 minutes.) To my meal I added leftover mashed carrots and fresh red cabbage and carrot coleslaw.

October 22nd, 1944 was a Sunday, so no newspapers on that day. (At least, none I can access through the archive.) Instead, Anne has written a great article for this post. I asked her about what she found were the worst (and best) things she could remember about rationing. Obviously food rationing was an issue, but there was so much more to rationing and wartime deprivation, and she paints a fascinating portrait of everyday life on the home front.

anne2013I remember being hungry at times, though that was probably because I had just turned 11 when the war started – rationing started at the end of 1939 – and so was entering my teenage years, the hungry years and rationing went on till about 1954.  Hunger didn’t stop me from selling my sweet coupons apart from reserving a few for an occasional bar of chocolate; I preferred the cash, to buy a sausage roll or scotch pie.  I also contributed to black market goings-on by selling clothing coupons as well – but all my ‘dealings’ were within the family.  There was one occasion when the fighting had ended and a police sergeant friend of the family came visiting when Mother was ironing on the kitchen table and he laid a couple of things on the table, saying These are for you. I think it was a packet of tea and a bag of sugar – rationed stuff, anyway.  Mother was silent, and I could see the thoughts that were rushing through her head: What was this?  A policeman on the black market?  Was he testing her to see if she would accept?  If she did would he arrest her?
Seeing her hesitation and doubting eye, he explained that they had just arrested some big-dealing Black Marketeers and the food would officially be destroyed. (I think my memory is right; the incident left a strong impression.)
My top things would certainly be: the tastelessness of much of the food and the bread in particular – and the meagre scrape of butter didn’t help; the monotony of the meals because there was little importing of fruit, spices etc;  no ‘branding’, everything in the melting pot and ‘National’;  fish was scarce and there was little choice and it seemed we always had to queue for it, not knowing what would still be there when we got to the end – but if we were unlucky we might get fried something from the chippy;  queueing itself would be on my list, it became a part of everyone’s life – imagine rushing to join a queue to get a box of matches when word got round that ‘So&So’s had a supply. In my list I’d include power cuts which affected so much of everyday life: not just going off when you were cooking, but also electricity for ironing so we had to unearth a pair of old flat-irons and heat them on a gas ring – so ironing had to be done in a particular order, eg linens and cottons while the iron was newly heated down to wool when it had cooled off – there were a few disasters.  Public transport was hard pressed: trains could be cancelled at the last minute because of the movement of servicemen; fewer trams and buses and all of them packed to the gills and nearly all in the hands of women conductors since men had disappeared into the Services; often the driver would have to come round and help the poor woman with some drunk and disorderlies, or when would-be travellers were insisting on boarding in numbers way beyond the legal limit.  And of course the winter journeys on street and rails when the only light was a glimmer of blue, certainly not enough to read by.
But of course, we put up with it, and cheerfully.  There was a war on, wasn’t there, and to stay cheerful was part of doing ‘our bit’.  And I was young and able to take it in my stride.

 
On the good side were Mother’s ingenuity in somehow producing nice, if rather monotonous, meals and all her jam-making and fruit bottling in summer (though storage jars were a problem and treated like Ming vases).  Dad’s constant supply of veg: one thing I really loved were boiled turnip tops which had a lovely flavour similar to spinach but tastier.  Recently I mentioned to someone that I couldn’t think why they weren’t sold on veg counters and was told they were banned because they contained something vaguely narcotic – don’t know if that’s true or not.  And there was always the canteen at work to fill up on stodge.