Monday, October 4, 2010

Ribena = Crack

I'm not sure what the general opinion of Ribena is across the pond, but I can tell you that in the Rational Living household Ribena is now a legendary favorite.

Let me provide some background for those state-side readers.

When I was preparing for our two weeks of U.K. rations, I asked Mr. Graham (from On the Ration) if the 4 oz of loose tea per person was per adult only, or if children also received a tea ration. His response: "Your tea is per adult - the children get Ribena squash (blackcurrent cordial) instead."

Now, in the U.S. the term "cordial" is most frequently refers to thick, sweet alcoholic beverages...hence, I thought he was being silly by suggesting that the adults receive tea rations and the children get booze. But, thanks to my friend Google I was set straight.

Ribena is, in fact, a concentrated blackcurrant syrup that is then diluted with water to produce a juice-like beverage. During the War its high vitamin C content helped make it a popular nutritional aid for children in the U.K. (it's true vitamin C content has come under attack in recent years).
I felt very fortunate to find bottles of Ribena at our local grocery store in the "British" section. What else is in the "British" section? Some biscuits, cans of spotted dick (giggle) and those most definitely non-American cans of Heinz beans in tomato sauce. There are some other items as well which, I imagine, the store's ordering manager consider "classically British." Teas, jams, and candies.

Anyhoo...back to Ribena...this stuff is good. It's like liquid candy - or something even more addictive. When I called the girls into the kitchen to try some they were a bit skeptical - with it's dark color I think they thought it would taste like that hideous cough syrup. After a quick taste they promptly downed their glasses and loudly proclaimed that we should buy Ribena even when we aren't rationing. It's good enough that TMOTH and I have found ourselves making small glasses of the stuff for ourselves (shhh! don't tell the girls). Maybe a bottle of Ribena will make it into the girls' Christmas stockings this year...

Oh! Another gem I found in the "British" section was gravy granules. If you're a regular reader of On the Ration then you're familiar with Mr. Graham's semi-frequent mention of gravy granules. We have no such product here in the U.S. - our instant gravy items are typically powdered and consist mostly of corn starch which can (if overused) turn a wonderful gravy base into a brown paste.

I purchased the granules (the label ensures me that the kind I purchased are the "Nation's Favourite Gravy") to use on the gravy I was making with last night's roasted chicken (our special meat purchase for the week). When I first open the package I was alarmed by what appeared to be fish food. Seriously, the granules are gray and look like the pellets used to feed cichlids. Unfortunately, there is no way this product would fly as-is in the U.S. unless it was loaded with artificial dyes. Ugly but true.Anyway, last night I diluted the roast chicken drippings with a little water, added the granules and brought it to a boil. The resulting gravy was a little on the thin side but had a nice flavor and in no way resembled paste. This is all good, since tonight I will use the extra gravy as part of the Woolton Pie I will be making for dinner. Another classic U.K. wartime food, Woolton Pie is a concoction of cooked vegetables, oats and mashed potatoes.

I'm already preparing for Sissy's revolt. Maybe I can appease her with some Ribena?


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