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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Herring Sandwich & Sago Jelly: Sepia Saturday War & Peace 6

What were your ancestors eating in Britain during the Second World War?  How do these dishes appeal.
    • Economy Omelet - made with dried egg.
    • Herring Sandwich
    • Savoury Bread Pudding - made with bread, suet and oatmeal
    • Savoury oatmeal pancakes - made with thick cold porridge.
    • Sago Jelly
    • Semolina Cake
        The dishes above  are among recipes that feature in a little booklet published during the Second World War by the Women's Guild in the village of Earlston in the Scottish Borders. (Ercildoune in the title was the old name for the village).

        Treats were not forgotten, with many biscuit recipes - ginger and oatmeal were favourites and a "Wartime Shortie"

        "Work 1 dessertspoonful of sugar into 4 ounces of margarine.  Add 1 cupful of flour and work in half a cupful of custard powder.  Roll our thinly and cut into rounds.  Bake in a slow oven. 

        Puddings seemed to require 3-4 hours of boiling/steaming and the prospect of a "Flourless Plum Pudding" was less appealing when I saw it was made with 3 tablespoons of tapioca.

        One recommended tip for prunes advised "No cooking or sugar required if they are soaked in water with a clove for two days."

        One ingredient predominated in the recipes - dried egg. Imported from the USA, it was the government response to a wartime shortage of fresh eggs. which were rationed in June 1942. Dried eggs were easily transported and were "non perishable". But they were universally hated, mainly due to not being reconstituted correctly. 

        Before the Second World War, Britain imported about 55 million tons of food a year from abroad and supply ships were an obvious target for German submarines. On 8th January 1940, rationing was introduced  to control the amount of everyday items people could buy in the shops and to ensure fair shares for all at a time of national shortage.
        Every man, woman and child was given a ration book with coupons. Housewives had to register with particular retailers.  to buy most rationed items - no supermarkets on those days. The shopkeeper was provided with enough food for registered customers. Purchasers had to take ration books with them when shopping, so the relevant coupon or coupons could be cancelled.  

        People were also encouraged to provide their own food at home. The 'Dig for Victory' campaign started in October 1939 and called for every man and woman to keep an allotment. Lawns and flower-beds were turned into vegetable gardens. Chickens, rabbits, goats and pigs were reared in town parks and gardens.

        Sample 1943 rations of basics for a week for 1 person:

        3 pints of milk
        3 1/4Ib - 1Ib meat
        1 egg a week or 1 packet of dried eggs (equal to 12) every 2 months
        3 to 4 oz cheese
        4 oz combined of bacon or ham
        2 oz tea, loose leaf
        8 oz sugar
        2 oz butter

        2 oz cooking fat 

        Although bread rationing ended 1948 and clothes  rationing a year later, it was 1954 before all  food stuff rationing finished. 

        The Earlston booklet had an introduction by the BBC "Radio Doctor" - Dr. Charles Hill who during the Second World War gave advice in a daily broadcast from the Ministry of Food called "Kitchen Front". His distinctive voice with his frankness & down to earth approach made him hugely popular.

        Chapters also featured on diet, child welfare, first aid, fresh air, care of the teeth, feet and hair.  In the  First Aid section, along  with the standard ailments of burns & scalds, shock, stings, bleeding nose, was something that perhaps reflected the rural life of the readers;

        "For  "Lime in the Eye" - bathe the eye with a weak solution of vinegar and water  (eight parts water to one vinegar),  Try to remove the lime with the corner of a handkerchief.   Put a drop  or two of caster oil into the eye".

        A Handy Hint advised " Keep potato peelings, for after being dried in the oven, they are useful for lighting fires instead of wood."

        And not forgetting livestock - there was a recipe for making "wet mash for domestic poultry" 

        The booklet is in the collection of "Auld Earlston" -my local historical society and is an example of the fascinating little local publications which can can be unearthed and add so much colour to writing about the lives of our ancestors. 


        Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.

         Click  HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday are commemorating 
        this month's theme of War and Peace.


        1. Very interesting. I recently found some ration books of my father's and his parents but wasn't able to ask about he details because they are all gone. My mother had a few interesting stories, but hers are from Canada, my father grew up here in the States.

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        3. No matter how you dress them up those recipes just don’t sound appetising do they? They had to make the best of what they could get. Very interesting documents.

        4. Interesting post! I remember looking at some unused meat ration tickets my Mom had in her cedar chest. I have both the chest & the ration tickets now. :) And it wasn't during the war, but when Mom was growing up the family didn't have much money, so one Thanksgiving my grandmother shaped hamburger into a turkey shape because it was cheaper than turkey. Now the opposite is true. How times change!


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