Sunday, December 13, 2009

Of Veg and Cheese

There's less than two weeks until rationing begins and I'm starting to feel the crunch of getting prepared. In the midst of the holidays and multiple family birthdays I know in the back of my mind that I've got to get our ducks in a row, so to speak, for December 26th. I've already covered gasoline (and rubber) rations, and sugar, meat and coffee rations. As far as edibles go, that leaves fruits/vegetables and oils/fats and cheeses.

Fresh fruits and vegetables were never rationed during WWII (thank goodness), but the market was very much effected by transportation limitations caused by the war. As a result, most produce was available on a local-level only. So, no Mexican strawberries in February or New Zealand kiwis in...well...ever during the war. In our part of the central plains this means virtually no "exotic" fruits and vegetables and extremely limited amounts of citrus fruits during the rationing year. Banana availability was sporadic, which is how we will handle that particular issue with our younger daughter who, if given her druthers, would consider making bananas half her diet.

U.S. fresh produce production sky-rocketed during the war, both commercially and in private "victory gardens." Victory gardens will be covered (repeatedly) at Rational Living during the growing season, but to get a sense of how much was produced consider this: in 1943 3/5ths of the U.S. population tilled and weeded and harvested in non-commercial gardens, producing over 8 million tons of food that accounted for 40% of the fresh produce consumed that year. Wow. Make no mistake, the pressure will be on for this avid vegetable gardener during the rationing year. We'll be able to supplement our fresh produce through the farmer's market and conventional grocery stores as long as the produce is seasonable. Here's a great list of locally seasonable produce we'll be following during the rationing program.

If we want to eat "outside the chart" then it will have to be either canned, frozen or dried produce. We'll use the green (or blue, depending on the period) points following a system similar to the red point/meat rationing program previously described. For our family of four we'll have 192 green/blue points to use each week (or 768 per month), and we'll be using the same handy-dandy chart as with the red point program. One note: our family is way more reliant on frozen produce than the typical 1940s family. In the 40's having a freezer was a bit of a luxury, hence limited availability of frozen foods and their inherently high point value. Sigh. But make no mistake, I'm willing to pay (the extra points) for that luxury.

The same chart outlines point values for fats/oils and "soft" cheeses - part of the red point ration program which we will have to split with meat purchases. Traditional hard cheeses such as cheddar and mozzarella will be rationed at eight points per pound, per historic example. Of course, there were some lower-point alternatives, such as Velveeta, available - and to be honest, Velveeta will always have a place at the Rational Living household. Fresh milk and (uncreamed) cottage cheese served as readily available un-rationed sources of protein.

One last food for thought (or is that thought for food?): grains were never rationed in the U.S. so we will typically have rice and pasta and plenty of flour for bread, pancakes, etc. That is, unless we experience a sudden shortage via our Marketplace Scenario Randomizer which we'll be using on a weekly basis...but more on that later!

--Rational Mama

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