Greetings, readers! Today's topic is that much-hated scourge of middle age: fat. But I'm not talking about a spare tire or love handles. I'm talking about...well...fat! Cooking fat!
In the 1940's it was not unusual for the dutiful housewife to keep reusing her cooking fats until there was nothing but sludgy grit and granules left. Then, down the drain or out with the trash the remaining gloop went. While this may sound especially reasonable during WWII rationing restrictions this practice actually caused a dilemma during the war: the U.S. government needed those fats to extract the glycerin necessary for making bullets and bombs!
Thus, in the middle of all the rationing hype you find plenty of reminders (such as this one from the March 30, 1943 Topeka Daily Capital) for women to not dispose of their waste fats but instead to set aside an amount for Uncle Sam.
With cooking oils being high-point items on the rationing list and consumers inclined to keep the waste fats for their own use (plenty of WWII recipes include a tablespoon of bacon or meat grease in place of shortening and/or oil), how was this campaign ever going to be successful?
In typical American fashion, the answer was bribery! Yes, for one pound of grease per month you could earn an additional two red ration points. Aha! Now we're talking! Civilians could bring their jars or cans of stored waste fats in to their butcher for the bonus two points.
Just by setting aside one tablespoon of waste fats per day the average household would have their one pound donation by the end of the month.
It takes our household much longer to come up with that much waste fat since we do not fry as much food as was typical in the 1940's. In fact, most of our waste fat has come from the two times I've made fried chicken. As such, we have been able to turn in two one-pound containers of fat so far. I don't see that number increasing dramatically as one of the things that rationing has taught me is that I'm absolutely repulsed by shortening. Ugh.
Oh, and one final thought here: anyone who touts U.S. WWII rationing guidelines as a weight-loss scheme isn't being honest with you. While certain things like fats, cheeses, butter and meats were rationed, most grain-based items were not. So, while you might not be allowed your thick-cut steak you can fill that void with crackers, bread, potatoes and a heaping handful of sweets if you portion out your sugar ration just right. Civilian rations in the U.K., however, were quite Spartan and more than one example exists of that type of system leading to weight loss.
In the meantime, I'm happy to stick to our U.S. civilian rations, especially with the prospect of fresh fruits and vegetables just around the corner. Summer will clearly be the golden age of the rationing year.