Tuesday, September 13, 2011

World War II Rationing – The Original Diet

I know, bad taste old chap, but I can’t help thinking that those of us who were born in Britain during the war should, according to dieticians, live forever.
Starting in 1940 bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed by meat, tea, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and canned fruit.
One of the few items not rationed was fish.

Not much in the way of fried food either because fat was virtually unobtainable and there was not enough meat in the weekly ration to be able to scavenge the fat for the fryer.
In other words, all the things deemed bad for us in this day and age were either not available or available in very limited quantities.
Rationing in Britain did not officially end until 1954 when I was 9 years old so my memories are mostly of the bleak austerity of the post war period.

In fact the peace time rations were, at one time, reduced to below wartime levels.

Now despite the rationing we did not starve, children were provided with dietary supplements but mostly we ate what we could grow. I hated standing in line with my siblings for a tablespoon of malt and a tablespoon of cod liver oil dispensed, with great seriousness, by my mother from huge and threatening jars kept on top of the piano.

As soon as we were physically able we were sent off into the garden to pick berries and that progressed to weeding, mulching and harvesting as we got older.
I think that this is where I developed both a green thumb and a love of gardening!

We practically lived on home grown salad, potatoes & green vegetables and these were supplemented by wild mushrooms and other wild edibles in season.
Many a country walk was taken in search of wild strawberries, elderberries etc., and if a country friend should surreptitiously bag a rabbit with a wire snare we would have extra meat on the table.
Blackberry, gooseberry, raspberry and rhubarb tarts were the desserts of choice (or of availability).

I just loved the smell of fresh earth, the colors of the growing things, the orderliness of the garden surrounded by the chaos of daily life.

One of my favorites was banking up the dirt around the celery to keep the stalks properly blanched, too much dirt – dead celery, too little - sore bottom from a paternal spanking.
My reward for this chore was the celery "cob" with my Sunday salad.

I think that living on the fine edge between famine and plenty in those years is the reason why I now plant far more than we can possible consume. However the excess is not wasted, it goes out to friends and neighbors.
The pity of it is that food banks do not accept fresh produce, how much better would the health of the needy be if they were not eating out of cans.
Midsummer Garden

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