Friday, April 09, 2010


My aunty Hilda was a landgirl. I thought of her this week as Ms T and I finally got around to the Ministry of Food Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. It's a great display with handily presented films, a wartime greenhouse complete with a simulated cup of tea and many recollections - written and also available for you to listen to - of the people who Hitler came close to starving.

Some of the food the British were eating in the 1940's looks pretty grim. Not nutritionally deficient necessarily, but definitely fairly sparse, and dull with an acccent on our less interesting veg. The gravy was dubious. The rich eat out, because there was no rationing in restaurants. The rest of us struggled with a shortage of onions and not much fruit. It was roughest on the children. Imagine growing up without ice cream! There's a brilliant picture of two perplexed kids looking at carrots on sticks.

Everyone knows about rationing but I didn't realise it only finished in 1957. Infact it got tighter after the fighting ended, with bread and potatoes being rationed in 1946 and 1947. At one point the rationing of sweets ended, then had to be reintroduced after there was a rush. Scandalous. The exhibition finishes next Feb.

UPDATE My friend Jo-Anne says her parents' experience was that rationing was largely an urban phenomenon. Her mum in London kept chickens in the back garden and experienced rationing in the raw. Whereas her dad, who moved between Liverpool and North Wales, had access to many market gardens and so experienced no real shortages. Her grandad also kept a pig in a factory yard.

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