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Monday, 9 May 2005
Reaping Your Reward
Topic: Memories
Watching all those nostalgic memories of war-time Britain on the television last night, made me think of how we coped with food rationing; I know my parents did without many things themselves. I can remember my mother reminiscing about the war when she was old and frail - she was telling me about one of my older sisters who had complained about the shortage of butter. So, my mother said, she divided the butter allowance into little individual dishes labelled for everyone. My sister soon realised she had been eating my mother's ration too! I can remember my sister once giving me a bottle with the cream from the milk in it. I had to shake it up and down for ages to 'make some butter'! I don't think the resulting 'solid' tasted particularly good!

Now, my mother was a very kind and generous person, perhaps too much so. But one particular kindness was amply rewarded during the years of wartime rationing. For several years before the war, a blind man had been coming round each week with his little trolley selling bags of sugar at the door. My mother felt very sorry for him and had a regular order of (I think) two packets a week - 4lbs of sugar. She knew he relied on his few customers to augment his tiny pension. The problem was that my mother did not use anywhere near that amount of sugar each week but she was too kind to tell the blind man that she wanted to cancel her order! I have no idea what my father thought about it or whether he even realised that one of the enormous kitchen cupboards, which had deep shelves up to the ceiling, was gradually getting stacked with hundreds of bags of sugar! I can still remember, as a toddler, seeing four or five shelves of row upon row of sugar bags. I was born at the end of 1941 so, goodness knows how many were there when the war started.

Well, when war was declared, the poor blind man stopped coming. Rationing was introduced. You were allowed something like 8oz of sugar a week - not much if you put sugar in your tea and made puddings. It certainly made it impossible for the normal housewife to bake large cakes or preserve the fruit from her garden. Well, not for my mother! And she was able to supply the lady next door with sugar in return for lovely, fresh eggs from the hens she kept at the bottom of the garden! She would also give her neighbour potato peelings to feed those chickens. Nothing was wasted during the war. In addition, my mother gave bags of sugar to neighbours and friends as presents - they were always absolutely delighted - and sometimes we got something in exchange from their gardens.

After the war ended, food rationing for many items, including sugar, continued for several years. I have a vivid memory of winning third prize in the summer raffle at school one year. I must admit I wasn't too pleased with my cornflake box full of cooking apples but I remember well my mother's exclamation of great joy when she opened the back door to me and saw what I was carrying! We had stewed apples for tea that day.

Yes, God does sometimes reward real kindness in this life!

Posted by Noviomagus at 16:30 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Wednesday, 11 May 2005 - 01:29 BST

Name: doubledog

That was a lovely story.
My only memory of rationing was during the Korean War.
No one had butter. For bread spread, you bought sticks of lard in the same shape as sticks of butter. Everyone found that hard to tolerate, so after a while the sticks came packaged with little tabs of yellow food coloring. You softened the lard and worked the food coloring into it with your fingers and then shaped it back up and put it into the fridge. As a child that stuff made me shudder. I gave up spread on bread and toast and have never been able to tolerate even good butter on bread since that time. It seemed to me sick and wrong to put meat fat on bread. Yecch!

Wednesday, 11 May 2005 - 17:19 BST

Name: Tessa

We used to have beef dripping on toast or that lovely jelly from chicken juices, with a little salt, when we could get it. I agree, lard sounds really unpleasant on bread! Sometimes, we had sweet condensed milk as an alternative spread on bread.

Another thing my mother used to do was to put a bottle of milk in the sun for a while so that it turned into curds and whey. She would use the whey in cooking and we had the curds as a pudding, with lots of sugar of course! (Can't do that with today's pasteurised milk!).

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