Thursday, October 16, 2008


After writing about the wartime diet on Tuesday, I went shopping for a few special ingredients. They cost a little more than the old 3d per lb of the years of rationing but were still very cheap. I spent a total of £5.05 for this array of lentils, barley and oats. I always have a good selection of vegetables in, so I just had to buy a little cheese (very little since the ration was only 2oz for a week) and some eggs. I rarely eat meat but will probably try out some of the meat recipes at the weekend.

Wednesday, Day 1
This isn't mentioned in We'll eat again but my usual muesli, fruit and orange juice is in keeping with the grains and cereals of the rest of the meals.

Vegetable soup and bread
I had to start preparing this on Tuesday night by soaking 6oz of the soup mix of pot barley, lentils, oats and split peas. In the morning I chopped onions, leeks, carrots, celery and potatoes and cooked them in chicken stock with the lentils etc. I have lots of corn cobs in my vegetable box so I added the kernels from two of those before remembering that they were probably not available to English housewives in 1943.
With only 2oz butter to last for the whole week, I had my slice of bread without any spread.

Mid afternoon
I had spent so much time in preparing the soup that I had no time to bake any of the potato-based teatime recipes. I ate an apple instead.

Baked potato with tinned mackerel.
Not very imaginative but I had no time to spend in the kitchen. I had seen tinned fish mentioned in the book but it was only after I had devoured the contents of the 4oz tin that I read the recipe properly - it was meant to feed four people!
Feeling too depressed by this discovery to make a dessert, I ate an apple.

  • I must be better organised. I should have started this on a day when I had nothing else to do but cook. On the other hand, most women had to prepare meals from these meagre rations after long hours of war work.
  • I thought the soup was very good, it was certainly very filling. My husband called it 'interesting' and added lots of Lee and Perrins!
  • I am writing this at 03.00 hours because I woke up feeling very hungry and have just had another bowl of the vegetable soup that I made for lunch.
  • Tomorrow (today really) I shall make lots of mashed potato and try some of the more unusual recipes.


  1. The authentic experience would require you to keep this up for six years, and gradually tail off over the eight years beyond that. You'd be exceptionally healthy though. I still have my last ration book!

    How about doing clothing as well?

  2. I didn't manage my first day very well, Stephen, so not much hope for years! I will persist with trying out some of the recipes, most of which seem to be based on potato.

    I can remember lots of barley in my mother's soups and stews but now that I have read more about the different types of preparation, I realise that she used pearl and not pot barley. Perhaps that would have produced a less 'interesting' soup.

    I'll let you try the wartime clothing, thank you.

  3. OK, M, so that'll be sardines (or maybe just one sardine) on toast when you come to lunch next. On second thoughts, I doubt that the sardines would have made it up the Bay of Biscay and across the English Channel. Pilchards instead? And maybe a nice dried egg something or other on the side.

    And I'll dig out an old eye pencil - for those trompe l'oeil stocking seams, shall I? (Just so that we can enjoy the full WWII home front experience.) Sorry no longer have dad's old gas mask but I'm sure we can improvise.

  4. That sounds lovely, D. I can't wait. I do wish I had an old gas mask case though, there are instructions in the book for making one into a portable hay box for hot lunches. I really need one.

    My mother used to tell us about the ways of getting round the stocking shortage. She and her sisters used to stain their legs with gravy browning and then do the 'seams' for each other with the eye pencil. No wonder they took to wearing trousers.

  5. I have some of those wartime cookbooks too. I have tried a few of the recipe but am not too impressed. They overcook the vegetables and manage to turn the vegetables into a rather bland and unappetizing meal - and I suppose most vitamins have disappeared.

    But on the whole I use the same ingredients in my cooking - tubers, bulbs and root vegetables are pretty much the base in our kitchen together with grains, pulses and pods.
    As for clothes, I don't do the seams - which actually must be better than having real seams. I never managed to keep my seams straight - the usually were corkscrewing around my legs. But I use my clothes until they fall in pieces and reuse parts of the fabric.

  6. Margaretha
    The recipes seem to use far more salt than we would, perhaps to compensate for the loss of flavour from the overcooked vegetables. My book explains why the recommended oven temperatures are so high, the food needed to be cooked more quickly because there was little or no fat.

    I never got on with seams, either.

  7. What exactly is 'pot barley'? It's a new one on me, though from your picture it looks like barley before the husk is removed. If that is so, it would be far more nutritious than pearl barley, and yes, more 'interesting' also. Does your book speak of the extra bits that came to good customers from 'under the counter'?

  8. Crinny, according to my book, pot barley has been partially hulled but not polished to make it pearl barley. It is the whole grain as far as I can see. It tasted better today when I reheated the leftovers from yesterday's lunch and my mid - night feast.

    Nothing in their about any special arrangements.


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