Wartime Rations – Day 19

turkey burgerI found myself really craving salad today. Maybe it was something to do with the fact we’ve only got a few more days of sunshine forecast before the temperatures start to drop below freezing. I’ve been limiting myself to tried and true winter vegetables so far, but when I had another look at the vegetables in season, I noticed spinach. Yes! Something green and salad-y. But it’s still ‘wartime’ and I had about 2 ozs of turkey and mashed carrots left over from the weekend, so I really had to use them up.

The solution? Turkey ‘burger’ (1 medium mashed potato, small amount of chopped fried leek and chopped up cooked turkey meat all mixed together, shaped into a burger and then fried in a little butter) with carrots, spinach, blackberries and a little chopped apple on the side. It’s funny… just a few odds and ends yet it made a really nice lunch. In fact, it made two ‘burgers’ so I have leftovers for tomorrow. More importantly, I really enjoyed my salad!  Yay!

anne2013Rather than comment on what was in ‘today’s paper’  on October 24th, 1944, I thought I’d let you in on a conversation I had with Anne this morning.

It’s been interesting seeing the blackout times in the paper get longer and longer now that they were going into the winter months, so I asked Anne about it. Basic questions like, what was the blackout made of? What did it feel like once the blackout was up for the night?

The blackout was made of a black material that went inside the normal curtains next to the window. Once it was blackout hours, you couldn’t turn a light on in a room without ensuring the blackout curtains were closed, which often meant stumbling across the room in pitch darkness first. She can’t remember if coupons were needed to buy the material, but it was cheaper to buy than other fabrics. And she can remember some people making clothes out of it.

Outside, you could use a torch, but it had to be taped so only a small beam of light showed. The same with car lights.

Which got me wondering what it was like to be outside in the blackout when there was a fog. Even I can remember the filthy smogs we had in Glasgow back in the 60s, and having to go to school with a scarf over my face to protect my lungs. What must fog have been like during the blackout? Anne’s reply was that the fog didn’t just spoil your vision, but also your hearing. It was the absence of sound that she says she hated more than anything. You’d be standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus and have no sense of it until it loomed out of the fog less than ten yards from you.

She has a particular memory of being sent to the chemist’s shop to pick up a prescription for her parents. It was only a few steps away from their flat in Byres Road in Glasgow, but she especially hated going there when there was a fog outside. The 40s was still a time when chemists prepared their own pills and potions, so there were always vapours hanging in the air inside the shop which seemed to affect her particularly badly when she went back out into the fog, burning her throat. She’d run home to the kitchen and the fire where the family congregated. Not only did fire keep the fog away, but with fuel rationed, it was the only room they were able to keep warm.  “Everyone lived in the kitchen,’ she said.

We discussed a few other wartime nuggets  – little things that you can’t find in the history books –  but I’ll keep them until tomorrow.

 

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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.

 

Wartime Rations – Days 13/14/15

In celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving a week late, I always knew this would be a hard weekend food/ration wise. And yes, I slipped – badly – even though Canadians already received way more in rations than the Brits. But, in getting back on track today, it got me thinking a lot about food.

turkey

On the left hand side of the picture you can see my (British) wartime ration of 8 ozs of turkey meat to carry me through the week. On the right, in the brown bowl, the turkey leftovers my dog will be eating over the next few days in 2014.  It makes me remember my parents’ (who lived through the war) frustration when I wouldn’t finish my meals as a child – Don’t you know there are people starving in other parts of the world? – and guilt at what I’m ‘wasting’ on an animal, even though she’s much beloved.

Hmmmm. I really don’t think that we, in the west, who have the wherewithal, sometimes remember just how fortunate we are.

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Given that we had turkey left over from our Thanksgiving meal, I’ve decided to use that as the basis for my meat ration this week even though I’m not sure how common turkey meat would have been in Britain during the war.

My experiment for tonight was full of good ideas, but didn’t quite make it in the execution: baked potato with a turkey, cauliflower, raisin curried white sauce, with fried apples on the side.

curryIt tasted ‘okay’, but I think that either a ‘regular’ curry sauce or one made with mayonnaise and curry powder might have tasted better.

Canadian Thanksgiving in 1944 was celebrated on Monday, October 9th, 1944. The Calgary Herald was not issued that day, but here is the editorial from two days earlier.

Happy (belated!) Canadian Thanksgiving to you all.

Thanksgiving

 

 

Wartime Rations – Day Ten

31LntU63M+L._AA160_It seems I’m doing a lot of ‘Eating At The Savoy’ this week, so dinner is taken care of tonight. That leaves lunch. With cheese being so heavily rationed for my lunchtime sandwich, I’ve turned to Marguerite Patten’s book We’ll Eat Again for some different ideas. What do you think of her suggestions?

1) Shredded cheese and chutney or cooked beetroot.
2) Cooked mashed potato, yeast extract and chopped parsley.
3) Chopped grilled bacon and lettuce.
4) Mashed sardines, pilchards, herring or haddock, mixed with shredded fresh carrot.
5) Minced crisply cooked bacon rinds and toasted oatmeal.
6) Fish paste and chopped parsley.
7) Brawn, shredded swede and chutney.
8) Vegetable or meat extract and mustard and cress.
9) Chopped cold meat and mashed cooked vegetables with seasoning.
10) American sausage meats and watercress.

I’m going to hedge my bets and have a cold sausage sandwich with my soup today.

October 15th, 1944 was a Sunday, so I can’t find any links to any newspapers for that day. Instead, I checked out this great site which has a lot of information on Rationing in Canada during World War Two. Here are some of the main points from the article.

Food was seen as a ‘weapon of war’ so, as in Britain, the Canadian government took control of:

1) Rationing.
2) Promotion of ‘Patriotic Food’.
3) The launch of an unprecedented national nutritional campaign.
4) Controls on the price, production and distribution of everyday foods.

Coupon rationing of sugar in Canada began in April 1942, followed by tea and coffee in August, butter in December, and meat in March 1943. Meat was limited to 2lbs per person per week. (Compare that to the half-pound of meat per person per week in the UK!)

Restaurants offered meatless Tuesday and Friday menus.

Petrol/gasoline was rationed in April 1942.

Alcohol was also rationed – but I couldn’t find a start date or amount for that.

Two hundred cookbooks were published during the war years, and Canadians ate more, and better, than they had for over a decade. (The Great Depression.) Members of the RCAF received approximately 3,900 calories per day.

What were the ‘Patriotic Foods’? Apples and lobster. Lobster! Canadians were encouraged to eat Lobster cocktail, Lobster a la King and Lobster sandwiches.

After the Fall of France in May 1940, Canadian food exports became an essential lifeline to Britain. By the end of the war, Canadian exports accounted for 57% wheat and flour consumption in the UK, 39% of their bacon, 15% eggs, 24% cheese and 11% of their evaporated milk.

Canadian housewives were encouraged to save fat and were reminded that one pound of fat supplied enough glycerine to fire 150 bullets from a Bren Gun. Two pounds supplied a burst of 20 cannon shells from a Spitfire or 10 anti-aircraft shells.

Another great movie set on the Homefront in Canada (Alberta) during World War Two is Bye Bye Blues. Based on the true life experiences of the director’s mother during the war (she found work as a pianist/singer with a dance band to pay the bills when her husband was taken as a POW by the Japanese) it’s extremely hard to find, but well worth it!

Wartime Rations – Day Twenty-Six

toadToad-in-the-Hole tonight using one of my precious eggs for the batter. My Mum made the best Toad-in-the-Hole in the world, but sadly I don’t seem to have her knack.  I followed the recipe precisely, used a hot oven and had the fat smoking before I added the batter, but although it tasted fine, it didn’t rise all light and fluffy the way my Mum’s used to. Ah well…I’ll blame it on cooking at altitude – Calgary is 3,400 feet above sea level.

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Anne shared a few of her thoughts about my experiment versus what it was really like to live under rationing.

anne2013How did you feel about rationing? Often quite hungry. I’ve written more at length already (in an earlier blog) about school meals that were often just a pile of mash and a small piece of cheddar of slice of corned beef, with maybe a milk pud to follow. From your blog, I think, you are doing rather better although my memory of points is that we got 20 a month. Potatoes and bread were there to satisfy hunger, but dull fare when there was nothing to spread on them! Later, when I was working for the Daily Record I had the benefit of their canteen for a cooked supper – not brilliant, but food.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I haven’t had any ‘shortages’ during my experiment. Yes, you have – we usually got eggs around Easter time but hardly any for the rest of the year, and then usually on ‘Blue Books only’ – children. Supplies of fresh stuff were still tied very much to the farming year.

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.

photo 1photo 2

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 Twenty-Three

One of my writing friends – Mahrie G. Reid – will be taking over my blog tomorrow to give the Canadian perspective on Wartime Rations.  Mahrie writes mysteries with a touch of romance.  Her first novel, set in Nova Scotia and titled Sheldon Harris Came Home Dead, will be available this spring.  You can follow Mahrie on her blog at: mahriegreid.blogspot.ca

hash

A very simple meal for dinner this evening: soup, corned beef hash and pear crumble. The hash was very simple and tasted better than it probably looks in this picture. Next time I make it I think I might add some onions.  And my husband insists corned beef hash isn’t corned beef hash if you don’t add a splash of hot sauce!

* * *

Continuing with Anne’s memories of being evacuated to Kippen with my mother Mary, I asked her about some of the houses they lived in. I remember my mum telling me that they lived in the attic in one of the homes and she had to haul buckets of cold water up to the top floor to wash my brother’s nappies. What were Anne’s memories?

anne2013We stayed in a total of 4 different houses in Kippen. The first was on the main street, with a woman and her child (maybe her husband was in the Forces). I can’t remember much about the cooking facilities there, but do remember the kettle and one large pot of black iron, both 10-12″ high which were used on trivets on the living-room fire. (As I said before, we had oil lamps and battery-run radio.)

The next house was also on the main road and that was the attic one. One large attic room was already occupied by a lady of Mary’s age, called Mary T, and the two Marys were friendly.  Mary T was an amusing companion and a great mimic, the sort of person who can keep you laughing , so it was sad to learn later that she died of TB when she was 28. Mary and your brother slept in the other large room, and I had a sort of cupboard on the landing with a skylight, and a little camp bed only inches off the floor.

House no. 3 was right on the edge of the village and more than a mile from the centre in an area or sub-village called ‘Cauldhame’, so I had a very long walk to reach the bus-stop to take me to school in Balfron, and in the winter suffered from chilblains. Living there was OK because I’d made a friend of one of the village girls nearby. Her father had worked for the railway company and on retirement had bought a railway coach for their retirement home. That was interesting. But I can’t remember much about the inside of the house – maybe we weren’t there for very long, though its setting just beside a little wood with a stream was very pretty, so games like ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood were believable.

The last house was the most modern – a block of 4 flats in pale coloured masonry. We had the upper flat on one side, so there was a big flight of stairs behind the ‘front door’.  The occupier was a Mr T, a big, bluffly cheerful man who was the local gravedigger and presumably acted as a general groundsman when there was no-one to bury. He was kind and always in a good mood. I think Mother had him to stay a few days at Byres Road at least once – to see the Big City. We shared the living room with him, and Mary and I were in a double bed in a bedroom.  It was the most spacious of our billets.