The Reality of Rationing: Week 2

Keep Calm and Jam On

BY LYNDA BRYERS

We’re now well into week 2 of the challenge and still enjoying the fun of living within our rations and thinking about the source of our food.  This week’s focus is on the Dig for Victory campaign, so I’ve focussed more on the fruit and veg part of our diet.

Suprisingly, we’re finding that keeping within our rations is pretty easy! We have significantly reduced the portion of meat used for some of our regular family favourites such as Spaghetti Bolognese, Cottage Pie, or even a roast chicken dinner.  Our eating pattern and recipe choice hasn’t changed that much, but the meat meals are better balanced and food is stretched much further. A simple tomato Ragu makes a pasta Bolognese one night and transforms into chilli con carne the next.

The Egg issue…

This is the only part of the challenge that has proved an issue for me.  As I said last week my usual low carb/high protein diet means I can consume at least two per day.  This isn’t possible even if I barter my chocolate (which I don’t particularly like) to take the rest of the family’s egg ration for the week.  So, I have reverted back to my previous breakfast staple of rolled-oat porridge made with water with a tea-spoon of golden syrup stirred-in.  Not a bad start to the day.

Strawberry Fields Forever

A particular challenge for the ration pack last weekend was when my daughter’s boyfriend came to stay and we all went camping at a local eco-farm in the Fens.  It was lovely to see him, and we cheekily were able to add his rations to ours to eek our way through to the end of the week.

On a lovely sunny afternoon we visitied Lidgate Farm, as my daughter had never done PYO strawberries. We sqeezed and squished our way between the fruit beds, and as many juicy berries were popped into mouths as made it into the punnets. They proved both tastier and much cheaper than supermarket fruit and we had a fun day out too.

By Sunday the fruit was going over ripe so we decided to make jam for the first time ever.  I searched out Delia Smith, one of my favourite cooks as many of her recipes are modern interpretations of old (and possibly wartime) classics.  A pound of sugar is a stupidly huge amount, but after hulling and boiling we produced the equivalent jam ration for one person per month.  It’s not as sweet as the shop-bought stuff, and we have fun baking mini tarts using our fat ration.

Dig for Victory

Lastly, I thought I’d show you my garden to demonstrate digging for victory and show how much you can grow in a miniscule urban garden.  A keen organic gardener, I have been tending my plot (which is about 9m2, including a pond) for 15 years.  It’s based on a Potager design – an old French name for an ornamental kitchen garden.  The front garden consists of an ungainly rhubarb plant and 12 upcycled recycling boxes from when the council changed bins.  Currently in these are three varieties of potatoes:  Desiree, Maris Peer and Carlingfords – not ready quite yet, but should be by mid-August.

In the  raised beds we’re growing runner beans, tomatoes, rhubarb, chard, courgettes, golden beetroot, salad leaves, lettuce, radishes and cucumbers.  Interspersed is the herbage: a gangly bay tree, rosemary, thyme, mint (several varieties), basil, oregano, chives, a curry plant, lemon balm, lavender, lady’s mantle, and the odd nettle.  Old-style roses and sweet peas are allowed to ramble where they will, and a Braeburn apple tree provides shade as well as a bounty of orbs for eating and stewing.  An exciting new addition this summer has been a brassica cage (thank you husband) which protects purple sprouting broccoli and savoy cabbages from hungry caterpillars. It also provides a frost free sanctuary in which to grow leaf-veg such as spinach and chard in the winter months. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to start using our own produce as part of the challenge.

I hope our efforts will inspire others to live off the land, even from a tiny patch in the heart of the city!

Next time:  Spam, spam, spam, spam (if it’s good enough for Monty Python its good enough for us)…