It’s the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain this week – which has made us think about life back in 1940. As if it wasn’t tough enough, food was on the ration and most people were stuck with whatever they could get their hands on, or growing their own. So here’s a look what we were eating, back in those days…
A joint of beef was such a luxury; you’d use up every last bit of meaty joy before returning to muddy veg and dried beans. Dripping is what’s left in the pan after the beef is cooked, and you’d spread it on your Wartime Loaf (made with wholewheat flour and oats) for lunch. No Pret rocket and crayfish here…
Lord Woolton, who was Minister of Food, popularised this cheap, nutritious and very dull pie, made from potatoes, cauliflower, swede, carrots and, possibly, turnip. Rolled oats and chopped onions were added to the vegetable water, which was poured over, before topping with potato pastry and grated cheese. Nobody starved on this – but nobody had much fun either.
Revolting and unlikely, the Minsitry of Food’s attempt to convince the population they were almost eating meat failed at Mock Goose, a flat cake made from lentils, breadcrumbs and sage. It was enlivened, when possible, with a tiny bit of cheese. More grim than goose.
Almost as good as a modern vegetarian offering, this was loved by land girls as it featured potatoes, leeks and apples, all easily found on farms. An open-topped pie; the veg was sautéed, put into a wholemeal pastry case and topped with cheese. It would keep you going for hours.
Liver and onions
Meat rationing meant that offal was necessary – so even those who loathed liver and were terrified of tripe were forced to create recipes featuring the more alarming cuts of cow. Onions were what made this dish bearable for many – or you’d bury it all in mashed potato!
These crispy little fritters, made from tinned compressed meat dipped in batter and fried in lard may not sound too tasty – but they were in fact quite the treat. Served with a lettuce and tomato salad and if you were lucky, some chips. Eggs were rationed, so you couldn’t have them often, sadly.
With eggs so scarce, making a cake was an undertaking – and you did not want it to go wrong. Eggless sponge was made with margarine, cold tea and wholewheat flour, with sultanas if you could get them, to liven it up. It probably still tasted like bitter regret, but it you ate it with a very hot cup of tea, you’d barely taste it. Hopefully.
The weekly ration for one:
- Bacon & Ham 4oz
- Meat to value of 1s 6d (about 1/2lb minced beef)
- Butter 2oz
- Cheese 2oz
- Margarine 4oz
- Cooking fat 4oz
- Milk 3 pints
- Sugar 8oz
- Preserves 1lb every 2 months
- Tea 2oz
- Eggs 1 fresh egg per week
- Sweets 12oz every 4 weeks
For brilliant 1940s recipes, see https://1940sexperiment.wordpress.com