Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Of Pie, Hunger and Nachos

There is so much I want to tell you about living on 1945 U.K. rations.

I want to tell you that with all the limitations and restrictions menu planning gets tricky fast. Our weekly menu for the first week of U.K. rations included:

Friday: Vegetable-Garbanzo Soup with Dumplings
Saturday: Dinner at Friends' House (previous engagement)
Sunday: Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Fresh Green Beans, Grilled Zucchini and Gravy
Monday: Woolton Pie
Tuesday: Spaghetti Noodles and Homemade Cheese Sauce
Wednesday: Chicken and Dumplings (using the chicken carcass from Sunday)
Thursday: Stir-fried Vegetables and Eggs with Rice

I want to tell you how all these restrictions make for very brief and focused shopping excursions.

I want to tell you that for breakfasts we've been eating yogurt (not rationed but available) and toasted oats and/or oatmeal. On Monday morning I made a batch of (reduced butter and sugar) cinnamon rolls for a special treat, and to literally butter up the girls for the Woolton Pie that evening. For lunches TMOTH and I have been eating leftovers and skimpy chicken sandwiches using leftover meat from Sunday and our very modest mayonnaise rations. We've been keeping the girls' lunches solid (peanut butter and honey sandwiches, crackers, local fruit) since during the War they would have had additional lunch options at school.

I want to tell you that snacking is severely limited on U.K. rations. The general rule is that if you didn't make it then it's not available, and your supplies are almost too tight to make anything. On Sunday I made a homemade granola bar type concoction that was snacked on for several days. Otherwise, snacking has been mostly limited to carrots and the local apples/pears we picked last month.

I want to tell you that I wouldn't want to be on these rations in the dead of winter, with few fresh vegetables available.

I want to tell you that I was finding the transition from one cup of coffee per day to one cup of tea per day very difficult.

I want to tell you that the results of the Woolton Pie were very predictable (Eowyn loved it, Sissy loathed it).

I want to tell you that the soap rations haven't been too terrible and that we managed to stay under our 157 allotted miles for the week.

I want to tell you how hungry we've been. Nearly every night we've needed an evening snack for the girls, and usually for the adults as well. One night we popped popcorn, but had to use lard since the butter and margarine were reserved for other purposes. Another night we made carrot cookies (surprisingly good).

I want to tell you that I was looking forward to making bangers and mash and sharing with you next week's menu and how I "spent" our points...but I don't have to.

Last night, after a very busy day AND night, TMOTH and I found ourselves driving home alone.

"I'm hungry," TMOTH said quietly.

"Me, too." I replied.

I thought about how many times the four of us had said those words over the past six days. I'd heard it from the girls more than once each day we'd been on U.K. rations. I thought about hearing it for another eight days.

And then I said, "Maybe six days is enough."

We had learned our lesson. What the civilians of the United Kingdom dealt with was far beyond the situation handed to the Americans. As Sissy put it, "They [in the U.K.] had only what was needed, but in the U.S. we could also get things we wanted." And that doesn't even include the air raids.

So I want to tell you how last evening we picked the girls up from their grandparents and told them that we were done with U.K. rations. They cheered. They were actually happy to be back on U.S. rations.

And then they told us they were hungry. We all agreed that we wanted cheese. Lots of cheese.

So we went home and had nachos for a bedtime snack.

--Rational Mama


  1. I commend you for even giving it a go! Wow. It is hard to have hungry children so good for you for knowing when enough was enough. I bet nothing ever tasted as good as those nachos, especially to your girls!

  2. Glad to hear about the nachos. I can't imagine being hungry all the time and dealing with the bombings! Glad to have you back in the U.S.!

  3. I stumbled on your blog last week and found it fascinating. I don't know you or your family, but am thoroughly impressed that you put so much dedication towards this project of yours. If only we could all be so diligent towards our own projects and goals. It's very motivating to read of your experiences, hardships and careful calculating.

    Congratulations to all of you for making it through what I'm sure was a very tough year!!

  4. Yeah... I suspected you'd be driven mad by our UK rations!

    They're quite easy to deal with when it's just two adults in the house, but the privations of children must've made it impossible.

    You may have missed my two main tricks. The first one is that every meal - EVERY MEAL - comes with a side of potatoes in one form or another, usually mashed. If you have a mostly-potato meal, then it comes with a side of wholemeal ('National') bread. This may be dull, but it makes every meal filling. And it allows for snacking, so long as you don't mind a scoop of cold mashed potato or a slice of bread with (shudder) Marmite.

    The other is that everything is so very very bland, so you need to unblandify by adding gravy to *everything*, or learn to like Worcestershire Sauce, Henderson's Relish, Maggi, Aromat and other yeast-based flavor enhancers and load *every* meal with them.

    And Woolton Pie is great, honestly. Just don't have it very often. Or at all.

    And I miss cheese more than I'd miss breathing, to be honest.

  5. Jessica - welcome to Rational Living! Glad to have you along for the ride!

    Mr. Graham - alas...having your sweet children look at you with their doe eyes, informing you that they are yet again hungry is enough to break a mother's heart. In hindsight, we could have done more to bulk up meals, but it already seems liked so much starch. Oh well. Thanks so much for all your help!

  6. I think you gave it a heroic go, frankly. The idea of my little lad going hungry is precisely what's prevented me from trying a rationing experiment until he's older, and able to understand and make a choice about it.

    For what it's worth, I think what you did was pretty admirable. And it's fabulous that your daughters were so excited to be back on US rations. Talk about making them grateful for what they have!