Frugal January - step back to war-time

Long before Back in time for dinner hit our screens one of our team would enter a time machine and sample a war-time diet. She was inspired by a war-time kitchen exhibtion she curated entitled the Home Front. It comprised three entirely different kitchens: two up, two down, London mansion flat and surburban semi. Each kitchen demonstrated the constraints war placed on them and the resources available. Together with the very different kitchens came a range of foods and recipes created for each household's budget.

Although none of us would wish to sample life in wartime, some of these dishes were remarkably edible - despite everything we thought we knew from Dad's Army and Goodnight Sweetheart. So much so that our colleague introduced some of the recipes to her family and war-time week became a regular post Christmas peek into social history.

The Ministry of Food had a tremendous propaganda machine encouraging all sorts of creative dishes to deal with rationing and food shortages. Brand characters such as Potato Pete and Dr Carrot had all the characteristics of post war marketing campaigns.

Homegrown potatoes were a staple and there were a 101 recipes that they could be used in, including this one for a potato pancake which stretched 4ozs of sausagemeat to four people. Grated, they would also be used as a substitute for flour in baking and dumplings.

Long before our desire for carrot cake, the ministry was advocating the preparation of carrot jam, carrot cookies and used Dr carrot to promote usage. High in natural sugars, they were actually amazingly tasty.

Imaginative recipes came from a team of home economists, the most famous being Marguerite Pattern who continued her recipes for decades after the war ended.

Marguerite produced many, many cook books and about 20 years ago revisited the war and post-war era with a series produced in conjunction with the Imperial War Museum*.

Rationing and shortages meant that substitutes needed to be used and recipes appeared for mock duck or goose which used scant amounts of mutton. Tinned and fresh salted cod could be turned in to no end of fish dishes - although tinned snook from South Africa was generally considered disgusting by most people.

Oatmeal would be used to stretch meat, or to thicken soups and stews or even as a substitute for flour in pastry. People were encouraged to grow harricot beans to add to meat, or in this case, a dish called cheese beans. 

Despite the limited availability of course national flour, margarine, dried eggs and rationed sugar, baking was possible, even though the potential for anything delicate and decorative was almost impossible. The use of dripping was encouraged, as was potato. This recipe for syrup loaf without any fat just about passes muster.

* We'll eat again; Victory cookbook; Post-war kitchen. All published by Hamlyn.

Posted in New Year

Published on 03/01/2024 00:00:00
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