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Rationing during the War


Carrot Top
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I found my curiosity piqued by a post made yesterday in "The Old Foodie" blog titled "Wasting Food is an Offense".

Janet wrote about fines being levied for specified food wastage, and among the offenses listed were feeding pets bread and milk, or feeding livestock bread products.

I'd like to know more about rationing during those times and how it affected things, and am most curious to hear about how people managed to feed their pets and livestock if rationing was so tight for humans!

My knowledge is very general and based mostly upon snippets dropped by Elizabeth David within her broader-based writings or odds and ends of other people's stories now and again.

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I found my curiosity piqued by a post made yesterday in "The Old Foodie" blog titled "Wasting Food is an Offense".

Janet wrote about fines being levied for specified food wastage, and among the offenses listed were feeding pets bread and milk, or feeding livestock bread products.

I'd like to know more about rationing during those times and how it affected things, and am most curious to hear about how people managed to feed their pets and livestock if rationing was so tight for humans!

My knowledge is very general and based mostly upon snippets dropped by Elizabeth David within her broader-based writings or odds and ends of other people's stories now and again.

According to my mother they fed the pets to the humans, at least that's what happened to her rabbit. Eeeeh and kids today think they have it tough!

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'Foreign' fruit was in short supply. Both my parents had never seen a banana until long after WWII ended and oranges were in short supply for ages. My grandfather was a butcher and did a lot of bartering with local farmers for milk, butter etc to 'enhance' the rations!

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There is a very good paperback by Nicola Humble called "Culinary Pleasures". It is a history of British cookery books from Mrs Beeton through to now. There is an excellent chapter "Mock Duck And Making Do" that covers the 1939-1945 period and describes what food was available and some of the bizarre recipes devised to get around shortages.

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INterestingly, meals out at restaurants were 'off ration', which caused a lot of resentment (those with money could afford to eat more and more widely), though by the end of the war there were well over 200 'British restuarants' being operated by the LCC for bombed-out (and other) cvilians which served good meals for a ridiculously low price, which preumably made the council the biggest restaurant chain in the country at the time.

My Grandad was a butcher in Epping (at Church's), and my Dad tells a lot of stories about slightly black-market operation involving raising pigs in the forest and delivering them to people across Essex. Mind, he also says they used to shoot a lot of squirrels for 'forest pie'. There was also a concerted effort to keep livestock from chickens to pigs, and 'dig for victory' through allotments.

The Mass Observation Diaries suggest that a lot of the working class were far from antagonistic to the institution of rationing--it being seen as a fair way for everyone to help the war effort--, and many were opposed to its ending. Its always been said (though with how much evidence I'm not sure) that the British population at the end of the war was far healthier than its ever been, before or since, thanks to official nutrition guidelines, official cookbooks, etc.

That's healthier if you hadn't been killed or injured by the war itself of course.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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My dad was stationed at Basingbourn. He was a B-17 pilot (in fact, the lead B-17 pilot on D-Day) and to this day he cannot look a brussel sprout in the face. Even the aroma of them cooking is enough to send him from the room.

He says that's the only green vegetable that was available, at least for the yanks, and they served them at every meal. And when he sees them or smells them, he's right back there. A 24-year-old risking his life every day, smelling the acrid flames, and watching his friends and comrades fall from flak-filled skies.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I remember as a young man in the early 60's there being limits on the amount of sugar you could purchase. Not sure if that was a post war hang over or not?

SB

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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My dad was stationed at Basingbourn.  He was a B-17 pilot (in fact, the lead B-17 pilot on D-Day) and to this day he cannot look a brussel sprout in the face.  Even the aroma of them cooking is enough to send him from the room.

He says that's the only green vegetable that was available, at least for the yanks, and they served them at every meal.  And when he sees them or smells them, he's right back there.  A 24-year-old risking his life every day, smelling the acrid flames, and watching his friends and comrades fall from flak-filled skies.

And, god bless 'em all, shut up in an airplane with a bunch of young men who have been eating brussel sprouts at every meal. That's why they had oxygen masks.

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These stories have been wonderful to read - thank you for posting them.

And I will definitely get that book.

I have to admit that part of my mind is still snagged on what people were feeding their dogs. Admittedly this is giving short shrift to the people that lived through this time but somehow this question just got stuck in my mind somehow. Considering the relationship that is espoused as being between the English and their doggies - one of great respect and all that - it just worries me how everyone managed.

For some reason I don't think that canned pet food was widely available then, and that table scraps were the thing. But when there are no table scraps, what does one do?

...........................................

Aside from my little obsession here, I'd love to hear more stories about rationing and how it affected people too during this time. :smile:

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I remembered my grandmother told me when she was a little girl during World War II under Japanese occupation (In the Philippines) that her father would watch the Japanese troops during their meal times and whenever they throw out their leftovers and wash their dishes. When the troops retire to their offices, he would pick up every scrap of food and rice grains on the ground/sewer and wash it several times in the river. They would subsist on this plus root crops that they can find in the nearby mountains/hills. Her uncle would also would go fishing and whatever he caught he used to barter for rice, coffee and sugar. The tiniest fish was left for the family dinner.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

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. Considering the relationship that is espoused as being between the English and their doggies - one of great respect and all that - it just worries me how everyone managed.

I think dogs can normally look after themselves when their owners stop feeding them, forming packs to hunt down rats and cats etc and, I am afraid to say, doggies are not averse to munching on corpses.

They probably ate better than their owners!

s

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I remember food rationing quite well but my Gran's dog was considered as much a part of the family as we kids and got her fair share of whatever we were eating. The dog lived to the ripe old age of 15 years so it didn't seem to do her much harm. Even when there was no food rationing, most dogs that I knew lived on table scraps.

I still have a hard time wasting even a grain of sugar, putting both butter and jam on toast or bread, and a recipe that calls for more than 2 eggs still makes me catch my breath! I think that for the most part we ate frugally but well. Lots of stews and braises made from meats that most people turn up their noses at these days - tripe and mutton neck bones and such. The women in my family seemed to be very capable of making meals from next to nothing but wasting food was not tolerated. We ate what was put in front of us or went hungry - it was no time to be a fussy eater.

I recall refusing porridge for breakfast and faced it cold and glue-like for lunch and even colder and more disgusting at tea time when I finally was hungry enough to eat it. After that, I ate it at breakfast when it was at least warm and just edible. :biggrin:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I found my curiosity piqued by a post made yesterday in "The Old Foodie" blog titled "Wasting Food is an Offense".

Janet wrote about fines being levied for specified food wastage, and among the offenses listed were feeding pets bread and milk, or feeding livestock bread products.

I'd like to know more about rationing during those times and how it affected things, and am most curious to hear about how people managed to feed their pets and livestock if rationing was so tight for humans!

For the most part, pets and livestock can eat things that folks would either derive no benefit from or would rather not eat at all. So pigs get fed slop buffered with things from the tail end of the human feeding process. Cattle, sheep, and goats can graze for sustenance. And cats and dogs can eat the stuff we aren't going to eat, like lungs. Obviously offal is trendy these days, but for most folks and for recent history western eaters have focused on the "choicer" cuts. I'm sure people did eat a lot of the offal in this time of shortage, but I've not heard of a chitterlin tradition coming out of the war years.

Note that the violation listed above was for feeding bread and milk to pets and livestock. Thems people food, I reckon. I know a good deal of concern in rationing was devoted to getting milk to children, as milk has traditionally been considered very important to health and development in children. I'm sure production was limited on the island, so love your pets but don't give 'em any milk. And I believe Britain was very dependent on grain brought from America on Liberty Ships through the wolf pack gauntlet, so again if you have to cut somebody out it probably should be Fido and Bossie. Sure, some pets can be fussy about what they eat, but one time my grandmother told the grocer in a little store in Ellijay, GA that her dog wouldn't eat a particular kind of dog food. He told her, "Ma'am, let me have that dog for a week and I'll have him chasing rocks 'cause he's hoping they're donuts."

I had been under the impression that Marmite and Bovril were developed during this time period in order to provide nutrition during a time of shortage, but apparently it was the Great War and not the Second Great war. Would a dog eat Marmite?

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"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

MY BLOG

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'Foreign' fruit was in short supply.  Both my parents had never seen a banana until long after WWII ended and oranges were in short supply for ages.  My grandfather was a butcher and did a lot of bartering with local farmers for milk, butter etc to 'enhance' the rations!

I remember there being no fresh foreign fruit in the greengrocers, fruits such as bananas, all citrus fruits, and peaches. Kids like us livimg in the East End didn't taste fresh citrus for about six years. It was widely rumored the black market had small quantities available, but we certainly didn't get any of it.

It was true that restaurant food wasn't rationed but again the rumors were that the product was questionable, horsemeat being served for steak for example.

Actual rations at the time were bacon or ham 4 ozs-Sugar 8 ozs-Cheese 3ozs-Preserves 2 ozs- and butter or margarine a total of 6 ozs, but this could not exceed 2 ozs of butter. Fresh eggs were intermittently available and were generally rationed to one per person, although we usually could buy dried eggs, and there were many recipes for using them. Meat varied widely depending upon supplies but usually came out to about 1-1/2lb. These quantities were for one adult per week, however the Ministry of Food would adjust the amounts allowed

per ration book coupon, depending upon supply.

All canned goods, dried fruits, condensed milk, and biscuits were strictly controlled and required "points". Home grown fruits such as apples, pears and strawberries were not rationed but rarely available in the shops.

Meat remained officially rationed until 1954, nine years after the war's end! Bread was never rationed during the war but was rationed to everybody's disgust in 1946. It was extremely unpopular and did not last too long.

There were also some differences depending on the type of ration book one had. Children and expectant mothers received a special allocation of cod liver oil and small bottles of concentrated orange juice. Every year there was a special allocation of sugar during the fruit harvest period for making jams and jellies, and brides-to-be could also obtain a one-time special allocation of sugar to make the wedding cake and pastries that the British love to have for a wedding celebration.

Generally speaking, farmers and country inhabitants did better than city dwellers as home grown meat and vegetables were more available, but bomb sites in the cities were frequently turned into allotments to grow vegetables.

There were some horror tales of evacuees being taken in by country people and then living on starvation diets while the hosts were enjoying having another set of "coupons" at their disposal. but I believe this was very rare and most city kids benefited from their enforced country stays.

It is true that the population was a lot fitter and healthier at the war's end than they have been since.

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I had high a school teacher here in the US who was stationed in UK during WWII. Their job had something to do with keeping US supplies from ending up on the black market. He really admired the average Brits intolerance of it.

During the Berlin Airlift the Allies used the formula the UK used for rationing during WWII. I think it was 1,400 calories a day and low fat at that. I think that is about the same as a Mc Donald's supersized quarter pounder meal with a dessert and probably twice the fat.

I saw a documentary here about dogs where they showed them making dog food. Heart, lungs, intestines and fillers. Pretty much the ofal mentioned before.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Lungs not suitable for humans?

Not heard that before!

Yes, "lights and lungs" were considered quite a good thing at one time weren't they?

So pigs get fed slop buffered with things from the tail end of the human feeding process.  Cattle, sheep, and goats can graze for sustenance. 

[ . . .]

some pets can be fussy about what they eat, but one time my grandmother told the grocer in a little store in Ellijay, GA that her dog wouldn't eat a particular kind of dog food.  He told her, "Ma'am, let me have that dog for a week and I'll have him chasing rocks 'cause he's hoping they're donuts."

I guess my thoughts were running along the line of pig slop that I vaguely think of as being made on a base of corn (maize) or oats or other grain, and the lack of grain seemed to be one of the issues.

:laugh: Butchers that talk like that are a huge part of the charm of places like Ellijay, GA. :wink:

Actual rations at the time were bacon or ham 4 ozs-Sugar 8 ozs-Cheese 3ozs-Preserves 2 ozs- and butter or margarine a total of 6 ozs, but this could not exceed 2 ozs of butter.  Fresh eggs were intermittently available and were generally rationed to one per person, although we usually could buy dried eggs, and there were many recipes for using them. Meat varied widely depending upon supplies but usually came out to about 1-1/2lb. These quantities were for one adult per week, however the Ministry of Food would adjust the amounts allowed 

per ration book coupon, depending upon supply.

All canned goods, dried fruits, condensed milk, and biscuits were strictly controlled and required "points".  Home grown fruits such as apples, pears and strawberries were not rationed but rarely available in the shops.

Meat remained officially rationed until 1954, nine years after the war's end! 

Why did they continue to ration meat for so long?

And why is it that when I think of "rationing during the war" I think only of England? Was that the only place it happened and if so why?

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"Why did they continue to ration meat for so long?

And why is it that when I think of "rationing during the war" I think only of England? Was that the only place it happened and if so why?"

Live Stock on the European Continent and much of Asia were decimated. Locals reasoned advancing armies would confiscate theirs so would slaughter even the breeding stock. So you had to repopulate almost 1/2 the worlds livestock. I believe this is how the 4-H clubs got their start.

I'd be surprised if any Allied or Axis country escaped rationing. From what I understand every Axis occupied country's industries were required to "gift" 50% of there production to Germany.

We even had rationing in the States though for food I think it was largely for show.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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And why is it that when I think of "rationing during the war" I think only of England? Was that the only place it happened and if so why?
Certainly not - meat, butter, oils, sugar, and various processed foods were rationed in the US. And it wasn't just for "show" - a significant amount of the food being produced was being shipped out to feed the troops rather than going into the domestic food supply. The shortages in the US weren't as dire simply because more people here had room and opportunity to grow supplemental food of some kind. There was also a fairly active black market in meat and sugar - sugar being one of the primary raw materials for, er, "artisanal distilling." :wink:
"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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Carrot Top my godmother has a copy of a recent book called 'We'll Eat Again' (groan) which I think she got from the Imperial War Museum in London. It's a collection of war time recipes, and also gives a lot of background to rationing. It's written by Marguerite Patten who worked as a demonstrator for the Minstry of Food - it's very interesting, although not many of the recipe inspire me to try them!

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And why is it that when I think of "rationing during the war" I think only of England? Was that the only place it happened and if so why?
Certainly not - meat, butter, oils, sugar, and various processed foods were rationed in the US. And it wasn't just for "show" - a significant amount of the food being produced was being shipped out to feed the troops rather than going into the domestic food supply. The shortages in the US weren't as dire simply because more people here had room and opportunity to grow supplemental food of some kind. There was also a fairly active black market in meat and sugar - sugar being one of the primary raw materials for, er, "artisanal distilling." :wink:

Right. Everybody had a "victory garden."

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Allow me to paraphrase from "Life in Wartime Britain" by E.R. Chamberlin for those interested in food rationing during war time:

On Jan 8, 1940 food rationing began in Britain with bacon, ham, sugar and butter being the first. Soon followed meat and in July tea (the unkindest cut of all!). Later cheese, cooking fats, and other foodstuffs were added to those already rationed. The allowances were small as evidenced by one egg per person per week!

To encourage the Brits to go along with the rationing the Ministry of Food put out such jingles as:

Reflect when ever you indulge

It is not beautiful to bulge.

A large untidy corporation

Is far from helpful to the nation.

The U.S. supplied the Brits with dried eggs, milk, potatoes, etc., starting in 1942.

Animals were supposed to be slaughtered under strict controls but "accidents" among farm animals skyrocketed and these injured animals had to be dispatched promptly!

Decorated crockery became scarce as the pottery firms produced only for export and saucepans and cutlery were in short supply as metal was needed on the Front.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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