Monday, September 03, 2012

How We Ate Then...!

Had a heck of a job getting the comp to accept the photo below, but eventually managed it. Hence the delay in starting my blog (was at the comp an hour ago!).

As far as I could manage, have collected the rationed foods for one person, and do remember this had to last a WEEK all fitting on one tray. I couldn't be bothered to clear the kitchen table, so tastefully draped a teacloth over the packets at the back. Excuse the mess!

At the back of the tray are 2 x 1ltr cartons of milk. More than allowed (should have been just 3 pints) but didn't want to open a new carton of fresh milk and decant it as it would have 'gone off' sooner that it should.
In front of the milk, working from the left you see a small jar of marmalade, and this is TWICE the amount allowed for one week (normally bought 1lb per month). I chose one can of baked beans and one tin of pilchards for my 'points' allowance of canned foods. On top of the beans is half a bar of chocolate and this was probably more than the sweet allowance (the article in the paper said 12 oz sweets a week, am sure than was meant to be a month.
Then we see the one egg (and during winter months it was one egg every alternate week). At the back of the egg is the butter, lard, margarine (in those day only hard marg.) and in front a bag of cheese (had to show it grated as B ate up all the hard cheese before I got to it).

At the front of the tray are 12 tea-bags (don't have loose leaves), two bags x 4 oz sugar, the bacon (as by weight, our rashers being thinner than most), and behind (difficult to see) a small bag containing dried fruit. On the right is a 1lb of minced beef that has already been cooked (as all our meat is in the freezer).
Haven't as yet worked out how much the above cost, but obviously it is low compared to what we would normally spend, even allowing for the foods that could be bought that were not on ration. For once hope that others will work out the cost (why should I do everything??), and one or two of you may send a comment re their pricing. Hope so.

During the war everyone had the above, although the food on 'points' could be the shopper's choice (but usually only a couple of tins/packets a week). Anything not on ration was usually difficult to find, the fishmonger might say "expect a delivery on Tuesday", and then everyone would dash to the fishmonger and start to queue, then he would come out and say "no fish as the weather was too bad for the boats to go out" etc. etc.
With a limited supply of any off ration foods, it was first come first served, and the ones at the end of the queue (often queueing for over an hour or more) ended up with nothing or perhaps a fish head, or some bruised apples....

Other ingredients we take for granted today: flour, oats, rice, macaroni (the only pasta regularly used in those days) were all available but again in short supply, to be carefully eked out when lucky enough to buy some. Bread was not rationed, but only one kind - called the National Loaf - this being a grey colour and probably also limited to one small loaf a week for a single person.

Fruit and vegetables were always seasonal and again in short supply, the farmers concentrating on growing wheat and potatoes as far as I remember. Most people had to rely on growing their own fresh produce, and as said before an onion was worth it's weight in gold. Many meals in those days were vegetable based. The "Woolten Pie" being one of the most famous.

Have to say that today it would not be unusual for me to use most of the food on the tray to make B's meals for just for one day. Plus extra bread and veg., other than the sugar (too much by today's nutritional guide). Having to make it last a week would be a real challenge.

When B came into the kitchen he saw the food and asked what meal I was making. I told him it was wartime rations for a week for one person and waved the little pack of butter at him. "Imagine you having to make this last a week" I said (he uses that amount each day on his toast and sarnies).
B then went nostalgic and said how his mother used to be able to buy a joint of meat to roast each weekend, but then I said with seven ration books that adds up to several pounds of meat, so a joint was possible, the 'leftovers' made up into dishes to eat later in the week (as always done with a joint in the old days). "The butcher always used to add a bag of 'something extra' when the meat was collected" said B. I asked what she had to do to get this (nudge, nudge, wink, wink!!!) and he said it was because she had two sons fighting in the war (one eventually was captured and ended up in a famous German concentration camp).

If nothing else, when we can actually SEE the rations, it does make me at least feel slightly ashamed at the way we eat now. Maybe this is the problem with today, youngsters don't realise they've 'never had it so good', and like anything taken for granted, when they have to give up some of it they feel deprived. We older folk would have to give up a great deal more before we begin to feel any real loss.

Got in a bit of a mess when jotting down comments on my notepad (ready to answer), am sure there were several, but a couple or so from 'anonymous', and one from Les giving information (thanks) but it doesn't need a reply.

The comment from Cheesepare was interesting regarding choice of meats preferred. Belly pork is a favourite with me (because it is cheap), and especially with B as he likes 'fatty meats' and especially pork crackling (you get a lot of crackling with belly pork).
I've successfully cooked breast of lamb as 'spare ribs' as served with a Chinese meal. First I braise the breast to tenderise the meat, then cut it into ribs and coat with a sticky sauce, then finish off in the oven (as we would cook pork ribs).
Another good meal using breast of lamb is my 'Poitrine d'agneau au Choux' (breast of lamb with cabbage). Have given this recipe several times but can repeat it if anyone wishes.

As to 'front leg' of lamb, can only assume this is similar to 'lamb shank', so would slow-roast (or casserole) this in the oven where it would take about 3 hours (or more) to become tender.

Was a bit miffed yesterday as I was just about to finish my work on the computer, and then set off down to the prom to see the Red Arrows when what happened? One of the planes zoomed over our house, and a couple of minutes later the rest of them. I'd missed the display!!! So decided to stay indoors and photograph the rations.
When B returned home late afternoon he said there were thousands of people on the prom watching the Red Arrows, and as well as there regular weaving in and out and the usual red, white and blue smoke they trail behind them, they ended up with two planes pouring out pink smoke and making a perfect heart shape in the sky.
For once the weather was good. Plenty of sun, some cloud but high enough for the planes to fly beneath (the last time the Red Arrows were to give a display it was cancelled because of low cloud). So a good time had by all at the Morecambe Festival weekend.

Maybe I'm more unusual, but the above is of little interest to me (been there, done that and so why bother to see/do it all again?). My holidays would not be sitting on the beach or by a pool, even when the weather is warm or even hot. My idea of a good holiday is to visit ancient ruins (Roman etc), and visit museums and art galleries.
It was wonderful when I had two weeks in Tunisia, visited two Roman 'towns', and because of the climate these were still in good nick, only lost their roofs, broken mosaics still on the floor, some statues still in niches in corners.
We visited El Jem, almost the same size as the Coliseum and we could walk down steps to underground level to see cages where the lions (or Christians) were kept. When not visiting ruins, we played bridge (and I did go twice to a Bedouin feast as had a weakness for the men who were dressed like Arab sheiks, and eating meals served to me by a lovely 'sheik' in a tent made it easy for me to feel , well - pretty good!!).
There was a wonderful museum in Tunis, also a smaller one in Sousse (the townwhere we stayed), both were full of the most amazing mosaics. Some so intricate they were like patterns on our woven carpets.

Once went to France for a weeks' 'Gourmet trip' arranged by a local (English) restaurant, and this also interesting. No ruins to visit, but plenty of 'eateries' (although not at all gourmet, all mainly local inns and pubs where they served 'peasant food'. Quite an experience.
One place we ate supper (all sitting at one long trestle table), we were each confronted by a pile of about 7 plates in front of us, and just one knife, fork and spoon. The idea was that each course would be served on the top plate, and when finished we then had to get up and waltz around the floor to the music of a man dressed in a striped shirt wearing a beret and playing an accordion (very French!!). Then as the topmost (dirty) plate had been removed, we sat back down and the next course plonked on the top plate. After each course the same thing happened, we all got up and had to dance again, the dirty plate removed, etc. Still using the same knife and fork throughout though.
By the end of the seven courses have to say we were all exhausted. The waltz in France is not like in England, it was done at twice the pace. Not really my idea of a night out 'feasting', but nevertheless different enough to be (sort of) enjoyed.

Yesterday switched on (again!) to see what was happening on the Food Network and saw a programme all about a shop run by two sisters who made 'famous' cupcakes. They had to make 1,000 for a charity event. Now, have noticed similar programmes, one making wedding cakes, another shown yesterday after the cupcake (he was making cakes for a competition), that such a lot of thing 'go wrong'. Either an elaborately iced cake collapses, then has to be repaired in a matter of minutes, or cakes have been removed from the oven before fully baked.... and yesterday they had to take a sledgehammer and bash the wood frame from the doorway as the cake-on-a-board was an inch or two too wide to fit through. Most of the programmes seem to cover all sorts of 'happenings', and none of them seem really true to life. Almost sure most are staged just to make it 'more interesting', when to me it seems very false. Even the spoken word comes across as sounding more like being read from a script (which it probably is).

Obviously when making programmes such as this there must be hours and hours of nothing worth filming, but the above seem more to deal with the problems than bothering to show us actually how to make the cakes etc. Did quite like seeing them filling cupcake cases using a type of ice-cream 'scoop' so that each had the same amount of cake batter. So something learned.

Not going to give a recipe today as the 'rations' have made me feel so guilty that anything I mention would be beyond what my mother was able to make during wartime. So today will have a rethink and try to come up with some seriously inexpensive dishes which probably covers our needs for this day and age.

Before I leave, must remind readers that 'Wartime Farm' starts this week - think on Thursday, so all interested in those day, please remember to watch. I can't wait.
Believe a Hairy Bikers' repeat (BBC2 late afternoon) are covering 'wartime food', not sure on what day (hope it wasn't last week), but also worth watching. Valentine Warner often appears on the 'Yesterday' channel, also talking about and making wartime fare.
We should be interested and for those with children, record it and make sure they sit down and watch, in the vague hope they might just realise how lucky they are now. Who knows, we might have rationing again. We don't need a war, another volcanic explosion in Iceland (the next is expected to be worst than the last, and could be any time) could cause great problems. Planes might not be able to fly, crops would fail due to pollution and lack of sunlight.
We should also remember that there are probably twice as many people living in this country now than in wartime due to many Brits fighting abroad, and now many immigrants and asylum seekers coming to live in this country. If rations were small then, they could be halved this time around! As ever, I like to role play Girl Guide and always 'be prepared'.

Looks like being another lovely day and can see the apples shining in the sunlight and growing larger by the week. Hope we don't get high winds that will knock them from the branches. The more we can gather when full grown (and they can get quite large, being cookers) the more 'free fruit' we can enjoy through the winter.
For the first time this year one of my strawberry plants had come into flower, if lucky might just manage to have a taste (and for once it will be me that eats the fruit, B doesn't even realise I do grow strawberries).

Must get on, so the usually farewell from me, have a good day and hope to 'meet up with you' again tomorrow. TTFN.