The Spirit of 1940
When NAH and I were on holiday in Cheshire last November, we visited the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port, one of three centres celebrating the heritage of our canals. On the day we visited, the museum was holding a wartime weekend, so there were lots of additional activities to show the role canal folk and the canal network played during WWII.
Food was a central feature and whilst the pictured typical 1930s garden behind the canal workers terraced cottages was a little lacking on the Dig For Victory front, this wasn't the case in the museum's cafe, where we both decided to pass on the spam fritters and have corned beef hash instead.
It got me mulling over my Incredible Edibles strand at the time and whether we might need to return to those days of rationing if we fail to meet our growing demands for food when the cost of importing around 70% of it (which is what we do at the moment) becomes economically unviable. I'm currently reading the government's Food 2030 Strategy (more in another post) which of course doesn't include this nightmare scenario, but I'd still like to know more about rationing and the wartime diet my parents experienced.
Tomorrow (15th January) there's an opportunity to do so because Yesterday (formerly UKTV History I believe) is showing a programme called Ration Book Britain at 5pm which commemorates the 70th anniversary of food rationing starting. Valentine Warner will cook some of the dishes found in wartime cookbooks, such as Woolton Pie (a vegetable pie, named after the then Minister for Food) and eggless sponge cake for his mum plus Marguerite Patten, who originally developed some of the recipes.
This is the first of six shows under the banner The Spirit of 1940 and Yesterday have also launched a companion website. As well as more from Valentine Warner, there's also a blog, where a mystery person is spending a month living off wartime rations. I'd be fine with my weekly 2oz tea ration (I'd donate mine to NAH as I can't drink the stuff), but I'm not sure how I'd cope with my alloted portion of butter and bacon (2oz and 4oz per week respectively). The blog is already building into a useful set of resources and recipes.
As well as these goodies, Yesterday are asking for help in compiling an online library of stories and memorabilia from WWII. This could be in written or picture form and scans of any precious documents are accepted rather than sending the originals. I'm going to have a look at the family recipe book we have downstairs: it dates back to NAH's great grandmother's time and has been added to by successive generations. There might just be a wartime recipe to share. We also have a gardening book dating back to the 1940s which shows how to convert your garden onto a Dig For Victory footing which I'll send in if I can get our scanner to work!
If you or members of your family have any WWII experiences to share (not just rationing or food growing), Yesterday would like to hear from you. You can send your memories in any format by email and the best will be chosen to display on the website for all to see. Getting involved is easy, you can either visit here or email your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday can be found on: Sky 537, Virgin 203, Freeview 12.