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 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.