A View into Yesteryear and how they coped...We could learn a trick or two...

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This is from my genealogy net. I found it fascinating...Hope you do too! Merry Christmas everyone!!



by Ronald Caseby Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 4DN KFHS No. 6796

In 1994, Rachel, my daughter-in-law, told me by telephone that her class at school was preparing an exhibition about the conditions children lived in during World War II. I still had my last ration book from 1954 and so I sent it to her as a teaching aid with her 8- and 9-year-old pupils at Thame (where the river Thames rises which flows through London), Oxfordshire.

The fact that so little confectionery was allowed (about two ounces per week) amazed her young students who consumed about two pounds weight on average per week some 40 years later. This raised a spate of questions about food and diets in general, which I attempted to satisfy with the following notes.

I think that we six healthy and fast-growing children living at The Manse, Newmills, were more fortunate than most, for my late father used all his agricultural skills to grow and store a profusion of vegetables, salad greens, and fruits to bulk up the meager protein rations of milk, meat, fish, eggs, butter, and cheese, and other essentials such as sugar and flour.

We were not keen on sweet foods and so most of our sugar rations were exchanged with the Howie family for their cheese allowance. We enjoyed cheese moulds where corn flour was cooked with it to bulk it out. This concoction was also served with salads or as a filling with cress for fresh bridge rolls. As I write I can smell the delicious Marmite covered toast topped with bubbling grilled cheese which was an alternative as the hard rind of the cheese could be used for this treat. If the cheese was maggoty then grilling it as a "Welsh rarebit" or grating it as a topping for a warming winter main course of Macaroni Cheese was another way to capitalize on the added protein. My parents, like everyone else, could not afford to waste any food during wartime.

Mr. Howie owned the "flea pit" called "The Kinema" cinema. There we children could have an enjoyable and magical Saturday afternoon watching films of "goodies," such as Tom Mix or Roy Rogers, riding the range and beating the "baddies." All this for the price of a jam jar entrance fee which was used to help the war effort. Afterwards I would gallop home, whacking my bottom with my hand as my horsewhip, with my brother Charlie for our favourite high tea of the week. We would stop our gallop home at "Batty" Makin's bakery. There we would happily wait for his rolls, "Curly Kate" tall bread loaves, flaky pastry bridies, minced beef and lamb pies, savoury sausage rolls, treacle scones, huge round sticky ginger biscuits and fruit slices to come straight from his Dutch oven on his long handled wooden "shovel." All the while we would savour the cooking smells. Then, with a basket loaded with some of these goodies, and some times with a home-made Steak and Kidney pie he had "fired" for Sunday lunch, Charlie and I would trot home at full speed to enjoy our weekly feast of good things for tea as one big happy family. Sometimes "Batty" gave us coconut tasting biscuits with red cherries on top as a treat to chew on the way home, "for being good boys," as he would say.

"Batty" Makin had been a sailor and would tell us tales of the sea when I went with one of my brothers or Bobby Talbot, to help in his bakery by pressing out pie cases or cutting out scones. He always had a hand rolled cigarette in his mouth as he kneaded the dough for the bread. He rolled his cigarettes using only one hand like the "baddie" cowboys did (the "goodies" never smoked in those days) and this skill impressed my young mind greatly. With secretive chuckling we would watch as the ash on his "fag" grew longer and eventually fell into the bread dough. Later at home it was considered to be very good luck to have a slice of his bread with a length of his ash still recognizable.

At the end of each day's work "Batty" would have a collection of odds-and-ends mixtures and contents in jars and cans from the day's baking on his working surface. Wanting to waste nothing he would chop and mix with molasses (which I think came from farmers who were supposed to use it in the making of silage for their over-wintering cattle), liquid egg, spices, lots of dried currants, sultanas, raisins and re-hydrated dried apple rings. All this would be used as the filling for his "fruit slices," which were one of my favourites. My dad said that lots of dead flies also went into them, but he like me loved the fruit slices.

Our milk supply came from "Geordie" Hedrick's farm at the top of the village, near the border with Valleyfield. Every other day I would accompany one of my older brothers to collect the milk in a quart metal container with a tight lid. What fun it was for me to watch the cows being milked, to see the hot milk running through the sieves, filters, and coolers and into the white enameled milk pails. What sheer delight it was to be given a glass of fresh buttermilk. What comfort it was to enjoy some of the thick cream from the top of the milk can on a bowl of porridge before going to bed on a cold winter's evening.

Once, being entrusted to collect the milk on my own, just after seeing a Carmen Miranda film in which a conjuror swung a pail of water over his head in a circular motion without spilling a drop, I decided to try this trick with the milk and drenched myself, as my resolution wavered when the churn swung directly overhead! I went crying to Mrs. Hederick and told her what had happened and said I would be spanked when I got home and so she cleaned me up as best she could and replenished the milk. As it was a hot summer's evening, it was not long before my cheesy smell was noted at home, my stupidity was soon discovered and I went to bed with a well "slippered" bottom that night. Dad always had to do the spanking when we were naughty, but Mum was the one who decided the punishment and saw that it was carried out. As you may have guessed, dad always used the sole of his "baffie" (slipper) because he said our thick hides hurt his hand and so he would feel more pain that we boys would.

In hot or thundery weather the milk would go "off" quickly, even in the cool larder. So, nothing ever being wasted in our household, there would be lovely hot girdle scones or Scottish thick pancakes for tea, sometimes with fruit in them. They were mouth-wateringly good when munched hot and with a little butter plus lots of home-made strawberry, raspberry, plum or rhubarb and ginger jam on them.

At school in Torryburn the third-of-a-pint milk bottles with their collectible round cardboard tops would arrive early in the morning and be frozen solid. Then the teachers would heat the crates by the big stove in the central hall and so we would enjoy a warm drink with our "leave piece" at about 10:15 a.m. In an attempt to experiment with nourishing everyone better during wartime, the Ministry of Food seemed to use Torryburn school pupils as guinea-pigs for some of its nutritional tests. For example, I recall having daily white colored Crook's Cod Liver Emulsion, malt with and without fish oil, foul tasting concentrated orange juice and, worst of all, milk tablets. These rancid smelling square milk tablets replaced our daily fresh liquid supply for a time and seemed to be made from dried milk, chalk and vitamins flavored with either vanilla, orange, raspberry, strawberry, peppermint, or almond. All were revolting, especially the almond, which put me off marzipan for life! Few pupils would eat this "confection." Many were violently sick after their first bite. Regardless, because records were being kept as part of the test, we had to accept the tablets, say we were not hungry and promise to eat them later. Then we threw them into the sea on our way home after school for the fish to enjoy. After about six months of this deception by most students in our school the experiment came to an end and our liquid milk deliveries restarted.

My "leave piece" which I mentioned earlier was always a large round "Batty" Makin white bread roll (called a bap) filled with something tasty such as butter and strawberry jam, scrambled dried egg or salad mixture, taken in a thick brown paper bag to keep it clean. I would sit on this parcel from start of lessons until our first break time when this warm flattened delicacy went down very well with the school milk. Many children would not drink milk for their parents could not afford it at home and so thy were suspicious of it, therefore I often had two or three one-third-pint bottles, otherwise it would be wasted.

Occasionally a pig's head would come from the butcher and this led to frenzied activity in the kitchen. I would watch with gruesome fascination as this head with its large ears sticking out from the stock it would boil away in the jelly pan on the big black kitchen range. As I write I can still imagine the pig's bulging eyes sadly staring at me for the indignity being done to it. Then the messy and macabre ritual would continue as my mother would strip everything edible from the skull including the gray brains. She would chop it all finely so that nothing could be recognized and put it into small jelly moulds. These were then filled to the brim with the further rendered down and seasoned juices from the pot.

The moulds would set overnight into rubbery, glutinous and translucent shapes. These tasted very peppery when they were served up cold with salad things, or hot with vegetables. I always had to shut my eyes and swallow hard when I ate my "potted heid" pig's brawn. I hated every mouthful but knew that Mum was doing her best to feed us on the small stipend Dad had then as a missionary of about 130 pounds sterling per year. Fortunately, Mum always made many jars of chutney of every description and the stronger ones, such as apple or beet root and onion, green tomato, or mustard pickled vegetables, could be spread over, or eaten with, the "heid" to disguise it and kill its flavour and odour. To my young mind, one pig's head seemed to make enough moulds to last for weeks and no sooner was one finished than another would turn up. How curious, I used to think, eating a pig's head that finished up shaped like a raspberry jelly, because the moulds used were the same ones as were used to make fruit jellies for a party!

The pig's head brawn may have been off-putting as well as nutritious like the "soused" herring. Sometimes herrings were plentiful and cheap from the fishmonger's van and a large quantity would be bought. I would cover my eyes with my hands and squint through my fingers in horror as my mother would clean the entrails out of the fish and chop off their fins and heads. The cats, Trixy, Cora, An, and Nation, would have the heads and Dad would bury the "guts" in a trench under a fruit tree in the garden as a "valuable fertilizer," as he would tell me.

One of my favourite fish dishes was herring fried in oatmeal. The remaining fish would be rolled up, each tied together with precious string, arranged in rows in a deep dish, covered with vinegar and chopped shallots and then baked gently in the slow oven of the open coal-fired kitchen grate. This dish kept well in the larder and was then usually was served cold with salad on a Sunday lunch time and for me it was another excuse for eating more than my fair share of chutneys or pickles to disguise the taste! [To be concluded next week]

-- Ynott (Ynott@incorruptible.com), December 24, 1999


Ahh, yes, pigs heads. There used to be a concoction here in NC called head cheese, which wasn't cheese at all, rather the pieces and parts of the pig's head cooked and solidified in the gelatin that oozes out of it when it cooks. It sounds terrible but it is actually quite delicious when seasoned with red pepper. 'Chitlins' are another matter. These are small square pieces of the pig's gut fried hard like potato chips. Very chewy. And souse meat, sort of a proto-sausage.

Everything but the squeal.

-- Forrest Covington (theforrest@mindspring.com), December 24, 1999.

Yep, and tounge and kidney and tripe and blood sausage and ....any of you vegetiarians still sittin' upright [g]

-- spun@lright (mikeymac@uswest.net), December 24, 1999.

Britan would have not had these rations if the former colonies (austraila, canada, america, etc.) had not been shipping tons of food and other supplies to them with theirs or britan's own ships.

WW2 would have been very different had British intellegence not cracked the enigma code for the german U-boat communications. Without it, many more ships would have been sunk. Britan was barely staying fed as it was.

Without international aid orginizations, starvation in parts of the world are a certainty. There is enough food to feed everyone, but it takes resources (oil, money, will) to get them there.

-- Lonelyroads (Lonely@faraway.net), December 24, 1999.

If you put head cheese on a plate and then turn away slightly, you will see it slowly moving as it tries to edge out of sight. I have looked it in the eye (or fragments thereof) but could not not eat it.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), December 24, 1999.

I didn't mind the head cheese so much, except for the occaisional hair which would be found in it...

-- Cherokee (Cherokee@qtmail.com), December 25, 1999.

You folks have obviously never tried Scrapple.

Makes head cheese look yummy.

I've had both.

That's why I'm stocked up on Spam. (Actually the WalMart generic)


BTW, did you folks know the Civil War was fought over grits?


Yup, the looser had to eat them.


-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), December 25, 1999.

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