Rationing challenge: Day Six

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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8 Responses to Rationing challenge: Day Six

  1. Kevin says:

    I have been following your blog with interest. Your mention of feeling hungry (or is it empty) gives us an insight of how it felt to live in the war years, not counting the other real dangers of course.Kev

  2. Kerri says:

    Hi Piper, have you tried out any of the recipes I sent you such as the carrot fudget and pastry made with potato rather than flour? I would suggest it is fair to say that people during the rationing years had other things to worry about other than what foods they were missing out on. Plus, we have such a varied diet these days that we have much more to miss. Good luck with week 2!

  3. clarissa says:

    There is no fish specified in your list of things. I would find it very difficult to live with out fish. Is that something people could catch for themselves during the war? I think I would be OK on mostly veg. Were lentils available? Eggs would definitely be difficult to give up. I love to bake and living on my own I would only get one egg per week.

  4. Piper says:

    I think you\’re absolutely right, Kerri. People would have been more concerned about losing their lives or their loved ones than the lack of food on offer. Perhaps it would have added to the general sense of unease. I\’m feeling guilty for complaining about my rations now! I got your email, thanks – I emailed you back yesterday as you forgot to put the link in to the recipes so please send it again if you can. Thanks. Good point, Clarissa – there was also a monthly points system for fish, meat fruit and peas. Cod & haddock were in short supply. I think lentils would have been available. Thanks for the kind comment Kevin.

  5. Bill says:

    Have yer tried a full pint of water before each meal, or even as a "snack"?It fills the stomach, & slows the passage of material through the entire plumbing, therefore minimising that hungry feeling, as also improving the efficiency of the digestive & ingestive plumbing system. Lernt it in Hereford. Yer would have been much better off commencing each week with a complete 2 day fast, nil by mouth the fust day, & only water the 2nd day. It would prepare the entire system, including the controlling computer twixt the lugholes for the new regime. Lernt a lot from Hereford, they have been consuming, & selling it, since ca. 1940. Used by troops when cut off from supplies & communications, also when left, or sent solo on reco (spying) missions deep in enemy territory. Sabotage squads/individuals also use it as a means of survival, where they need to sustain over consideral periods totaly devoid of any backup, & without leaving any trace of their own existence, fers obvious reasons.Oft called "deniable ops", they are oft extremely close ter the legal wind, & any begging, borrowing, or theft might seriously compromise their extremely unstable "tenancy". Such operators could, & would, legally, be shot on site if caught.Hard times back then, not much better today, in some cases even worse.Adequate measures of Adam\’s Ale (water) is also a fantastic detox. It helps ter keep elite front-line troops top-fit. Too much water can be seen as balance, or even reflux problems. The simple cure is not ter push it too far, as it can become fatal, due ter low blood sugar.

  6. Flo says:

    That pigeon that sat on your fence would have been a meal for some family. They were just another resource. Wood pigeons are quite edible if cooked right, bit strong in flavour but nothing wrong with them. Mother was good at it and she could pluck, gut and hang them. Dad the farmer resented them feeding off his crops and him not getting a return on what he grew. So pigeons were on the menu as he was a decent shot. Once a hen was not fit to lay, it was also for the table so it was not just productive for manure for the garden and eggs. There was a lot more than just making food last. You had to be out of the door to go shopping as soon as word got round that there were supplies in shops as if you were late you didn’t get what you wanted or even your ration in some cases. You would not have been able to feed that cat of yours in the war either. Pets didn\’t happen – working animals such as ferrets and terriers which could be taken hunting were acceptable but not pure pets. Did you realise that soap of all sorts was rationed? That would have made cleaning hard – and the washing up. Also bread was on the ration and white bread was a luxury – brown is the natural colour of bread. White flour takes more refining you see. Tea was loose tea as tea bags weren\’t available. You would have hoarded the sugar for making your own jam if you had fruit trees, a glut of strawberries or could get to blackberries or elderberries. Even as a teenager in the 60s, I was packed off along the hedgerows to collect blackberries, sloes and crab apples. We had no freezer but the family had collected kilner jars which were oven proof and went into the bottom of the range filled with fruit to be preserved for the winter. Jam jars were also filled with home made jam (blackberry and raspberry). We had large cool cellars on the farm and apples were stored for the winter, carrots too, down there. This may have been the 50s and 60s but was just a carry on from war time ways with recipes handed down through the family. With clothes on the ration, my granny thought that it was essential for me to be able to unpick, knit other things and to patch, darn and turn. My best teddy ever was made from scraps by said granny. My doll\’s bed was made out of what I had had in my own pram which was probably made from something else. My first dresses were cut down from ones my mother wore as a teenager. I remember the pictures. Nice dresses in both cases. Mine went on to dress my dolls!

  7. Bill says:

    I gave up plucking/dressing ducks, pigeons etc. many years ago, as I found it much easier, & quicker, ter simply slice the legs off, slit \’em open ter remove the bone, then pare the meat from the skin. I also do the same fers breast, simply slice each breast from the rib-cage, remove the rib-cage, then pare the corpus delectum from the skin. The wing tips & feet, complete with tendons are removed in advance, leaving only one bone in each wing, which is easilly tunnelled out, pre stuffing. I normally coat the breast in fresh chopped oats or maize, fers baking, or poach, sometimes even steam.I oft minced the leg meat & tossed it inter the sauce ter cook.I still nash free blackberries from the National Trust in season.Back in the 50\’s & 60\’s we still yet had me father\’s allotment, brim full of fruit down 2 sides, pure rhubarb all down 1 side, goose- rasp- black- logan-berries & black currants, all in season. Me mother made most inter jam, or pies.

  8. Kerri says:

    Doh! sorry Piper, i\’ve just resent the link – I rarely check my Live inbox so hadn\’t seen your message.

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