The Wartime Kitchen:
Living off Rations with Ration Book Cooking – Day One
How we lived and how we ate during the war, as in WW2, has been well publicised recently with the excellent BBC programme Wartime Farm, but, my plan to try to live off wartime rations started earlier this year, when I attempted to live on £1 a day – Meal Planning Monday: Live Below the Line ~ Live on £1 a Day for 5 Days to understand Food Poverty. It was hard, and I fell off the wagon on a couple of occasions, but it brought to mind how it must have been to live on rations not for one week, as I did, but for more than fifteen years, as the population of Great Britain did during and AFTER the war. Wartime rationing is well-known, but what is not so well-known is that rationing in the UK went on until 1954…….that is a VERY long time of coupon cutting and trying to be inventive and thrifty in the kitchen. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that I wanted to attempt to live off WW2 rations for at least a week. So, I asked two of my friends, Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen and Fiona, from London Unattached if they would like to join me, and thankfully (it’s always better to have some moral support) they both agreed.
Never has ration book cooking been so relevant in the modern-day kitchen as most of the population struggle to make ends meet during the recession; and, apart from the obvious relevance to thrift and frugal cooking, I also wanted to post my week’s ration book cooking challenge in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday (and Armistice Day on the 11th November). Without making any political statements, I have been wearing my poppy with pride for the last few weeks; to me, it’s a small and humble gesture to all those men and woman who gave up their lives in all the wars, and by buying a poppy every year, I am happy to be donating something to the Royal British Legion, who continue to support all of those whose lives have been touched by war and conflicts. And now it’s my time to attempt to live off rations for one week.
So, what are the rations then? The list shown below is for one adult, a general list, as rationing and amounts changed and fluctuated throughout the war, and, there were different rations for children, pregnant women and those who worked for the war effort in factories etc.
WW2 Rations 1940: per one person (adult)
Butter: 50g (2oz)
Bacon or ham: 100g (4oz)
Margarine: 100g (4oz)
Cooking fat/lard: 100g (4oz)
Sugar: 225g (8oz).
Meat: To the value of 1/2d and sometimes 1/10d – about 1lb (450g) to 12ozs (350g)
Milk: 3 pints (1800ml) occasionally dropping to 2 pints (1200ml).
Cheese: 2oz (50g) rising to 8oz (225g)
Eggs: 1 fresh egg a week.
Tea: 50g (2oz).
Jam: 450g (1lb) every two months.
Dried eggs: 1 packet (12 eggs) every four weeks.
Sweets & Chocolate: 350g (12oz) every four weeks
Funnily enough the lack of sugar and fat doesn’t appear to be a problem for me, as I don’t take sugar in any of my hot beverages and I am always very scant with fat as I am on a low-fat diet! However, it will impact me when it comes to baking, which I do a lot. The eggs, or should I say the egg, will be a problem; but, as I live in the country, I have chickens and according to my dad, whose uncle ran a green grocers and had a small holding with rabbits and chickens, you could give up you egg ration in return for chicken meal, which I plan to do this week. Anyway, the first thing I did yesterday before I started my ration book cooking, was to make a loaf of bread, a National Loaf, with wholemeal flour and, curiously enough, a vitamin c tablet sometimes. Whereas we are used to wholemeal bread now and it has become part of the artisan bread movement, the UK was a nation of white bread lovers before the war, and the National Loaf was met with suspicion and dislike for most people. It was in 1942 that the government introduced the National Wheatmeal Loaf which used all of the wheat grain including the husks. Bakers were banned from making any other type of bread except the national loaf, and The Federation of Bakers was formed in an attempt to assist and organise wartime production and distribution of bread.
Recipe: The National Wheatmeal Loaf:
(Makes 2 loaves)
From: Ministry of Food – Jane Fearnley Whittingstall
1 ½ lb wholemeal bread flour
1 ½ tbsp salt
1 ½ tbsp dried yeast
1 dsp honey or treacle
450 ml tepid water
1) Mix together all the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave until dough has doubled in size (around 2 hours).
2) Knock back the dough, give a short knead then cut into two equal pieces. Place in 1.5 litre loaf tins, allow to rise for a further 2 hours.
2) pre-heat oven to 200°c then bake loaves for 30 min. To test the loaves turn them out of their tins and give the base a tap. if it sounds hollow they are ready. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
And now on to my meal plan for today, Monday 5th November:
Breakfast: One slice of National Wheatmeal Loaf with a scraping of margarine and 1 teaspoon of marmalade. Two cups of tea with milk and no sugar (about 1 tablespoon milk 30ml)
Lunch: Menu One from One-Pot Meals – Ministry of Food leaflet number 35:
Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam
High Tea: Beetroot Sandwiches made with a scraping of butter
Some of the ingredients I used for my first day were not on ration, such as the sausages (although they were hard to obtain sometimes) and I also made my steamed sponge eggless too……but here’s what I have left for the remaining six days, based on two adult’s rations, as my husband is also joining me for ration book cookery week!
WW2 Rations 1940: Two Adults
100g (4oz) Used about 1 teaspoon – 3 3/4 ozs (90g) left
Bacon or ham: 200g (8oz)
200g (8oz) Used 1 1/2 ozs (40g) – 6 1/2 ozs (160g) left
Cooking fat/lard: 200g (8oz)
450g (1lb). Used 1 1/2 ozs (40g) – 14 1/2 ozs (440g) left
Meat: To the value of 2/4d – about 2lb (900g)
6 pints (3600ml) Used 300mls – 5 1/2 pints (3300mls) left
Cheese: 8oz (200g)
Eggs: 2 fresh egg a week – NOT taking this ration up as I have my own chickens
100g (4oz).Used 1/2 oz (15g) – 3 1/2 ozs (85g) left
900g (2lb) every two months. Used 2 tablespoons jam/marmalade – about 120g (41/2 ozs) left
Dried eggs: 1 packet (12 eggs) every four weeks
Sweets & Chocolate: 700g (1lb 8oz) every four weeks
Ingredients I used not on ration: flour, honey, salt, pepper, gravy browning (Bisto), leeks, sausages, onions, herbs, beetroot, breadcrumbs, carrots and potatoes.
Thus far, day one seems okay – the one pot meal menu was a Godsend and the other menus on the sheet are also tasty and easy to use within rationing. I also used my grandmother’s old Indian Tree plates for the meals, as, modern-day plates are larger, and the portions that these wartime meals yield are much smaller than today.
I also used an old “Quick Cooker Bowl” for my sausage roll, which, should have been steamed in two old baked beans tins, but there were none handy when I came to cook the meal…….hence the recipe name sausage roll I suspect!
In addition to the numerous books I used for reference, and I will list them throughout the week, plus all of the vital first-hand information and tales that I gleaned from my parents, who both lived through the war and rationing, I was very kindly sent a copy of “Wartime Farm” by Fiona Smith over at Octopus Publishing Group, and I will be posting my review towards to end of the week, as well as sharing what I learned from the book too. The book accompanied the very successful series that was aired on BBC2 and BBC HD recently.
That’s it for Day One, I will be sharing LOTS more recipes, tales, information and photos throughout the week, as well as a post on how I managed cooking in a Hay Box! As this is a meal plan of sorts, I am sending this over to Mrs M and her Meal Planning Monday link up, and, as you may see, I also have a link-up at the bottom of this post, where all of our collective post will be added from me, Fiona and Janice – so you can all visit them and see how they are managing with their living of rations for a week too. I hope that you will join me every day for my Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations week……see you later, Karen.