If you follow this blog regularly you’ll know that over the past two and a half years I’ve carried out many challenges, from living on the equivalent of the state pension and the jobseeker’s allowance, to introducing wild food into my diet and making homemade toiletries/washing my hair in egg.
But to be honest, I don’t think I’ve found them anything like as tough as the task I’ve set myself to live on World War Two rations for a week. I’ve long been impressed by how resourceful and courageous people were during the war, but now I have a renewed respect for them.
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve spent most of the past week thinking about my stomach. For the first few days especially my tummy felt strangely hollow and grumbling. It wasn’t really that I wasn’t having enough to eat – each meal was fairly hearty, if bland – but I still felt constantly hungry. DJ asked me what I’d been eating and laughed and told me it was probably all in my head and I think he’s right. It’s the psychological notion of knowing that you’ve only got a finite number of things you’re allowed to eat, besides the vegetables etc. that are off-ration.
I said last week that I thought it was just like being on Weightwatchers, but I was wrong. It’s far worse. When you’re on Weightwatchers you can go and do some exercise to ‘win’ some extra food points if you’re peckish, but you can’t do that with this challenge. I can see why during WW2 people tried so hard to work the rationing system and, as Wendy and Elizabeth were saying on the blog over the weekend, traded items with friends or kept their own rabbits and chickens for meat. I’ve always been a bit of a Jessie when it comes to the idea of keeping animals for meat. So I was shocked to find myself looking hungrily at a big fat wood pigeon on our fence the other day, and wondering what it would taste like. Obviously I’m more of a carnivore than I thought.
I feel as though I’ve been eating nothing but potatoes all week. I’ve been cooking baked potatoes for lunch and made a potato and vegetable hash thing I found in the Eating for Victory cookbook that I own. Things improved on Friday when I made a lovely vegetable casserole – with tomatoes, carrots, leek and swede (zero potatoes, thank goodness) – and ate it with some suet dumplings. I practically licked the plate clean, it was so flavoursome and I was so hungry.
But I’m not complaining. The whole experience has made me thoroughly appreciate my normal diet and how lucky I am not to have endured the years of rationing during and after the war. How on earth did they put up with it all? Perhaps what made it easier was that everybody was in the same boat. Plus, if you had two or three people in the household, you would actually be able to pool together the resources and make things like pies and flans. I flicked through many of the recipes in The Ministry of Food and Eating for Victory realising that I didn’t have enough meat or butter to make a lot of them or I didn’t want to use them up. It’s made me wonder how people who lived alone during the war managed to make their rations last. Perhaps as Flo and Bill suggested last week, going vegan was the way forward.
The strange thing is that while I’ve eaten my pork chops now, I still have plenty of butter, sugar and 2 rashers of bacon left so I will have to think about how to use them up. Weirdly I’ve got more things leftover than I expected to have – probably because I was afraid to use them up too soon. I’ve restrained myself from using my single egg too, so perhaps I could treat myself to an end of challenge flan.
What would you find hardest to give up if you were living on rations? Leave a message and let me know.
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