WWII Rationing Challenge Reflections

BY LYNDA BRYERS

Hoorah! Obviously it’s not the overwhelming celebratory hysteria of VE day or the resigned relief when rationing was finally lifted on 4th July 1954… BUT we made it to the end of the challenge!

I wish I owned a set of scales so I could have weighed myself before and after. I’ve definitely lost several pounds over the four weeks, while having pleasingly saved some pounds in my purse too.  I feel more energetic and healthy, and am surprisingly not craving things I’ve had to cut out – except the egg issue of course! 

Our final week: SPAM and fudge fit for a friend

SPAM (canned cooked meat with its own Wikipedia entry if you’re interested) was first produced in 1937. However, it probably didn’t become the familiar addition to our store cupboards until the US joined the war and thousands of UK housewives were able to supplement their rations with imported tins.  Allegedly it can be fried like bacon or used in sandwiches instead of ham, but personally I found it a bit bland and slimy.  I managed to survive a few days of spam salad lunches before I gave up and gave the rest to the dog.

The traditional WWII fudge recipe was much more of a success, simple enough to make, but it used a tooth-juddering 450g of demerara sugar – that’s two people’s total weekly ration! We added dried fruit and chopped almonds and hazelnuts to add texture and reassure ourselves that it was slightly healthy.  It was well received by our friend, although I’m not sure his dentist will appreciate our WWII goodwill.

Lessons learnt

And now it’s all over – what will I take away?  Well, I’ve enjoyed the challenge immensely and haven’t found it particularly hard to keep to the rationed amounts. If anything, my family hasn’t noticed the reduction of meat in the usual meals I’ve produced.  What has been interesting is the capacity to stretch ingredients further and make flavoursome use of frugal leftovers. I enjoyed using bones and peelings from the Sunday roast to make tasty stock, which I then froze for future use, rather than relying on shop-bought cubes.

My awareness of local and sustainable produce has certainly been heightened. I’ll continue to read packaging to reduce air miles, and consider how to source local food in the leaner winter months. I’ve also learnt the value of my own small garden for fruit, veg, and herbs, and will continue to dig for fun, if not for victory.

Thank you to Cambridge Sustainable Food for this fun opportunity. It’s been fascinating to take time out from our modern day lives to focus on how we used to live and where our food comes from. I definitely intend to keep calm and carry on considering my family’s food consumption in this way. And well done to everyone else who completed the challenge!