As part of my business I’ve looked at certain eras of food history in particular the recipes that the everyday person would have cooked and eaten. I’m currently working on WW2 and rationing. This has partly been spurred on by our visit to the Ministry of Food Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum back November.
Unlike many things during WW2 Bread wasn’t rationed until 1946, however it was illegal to eat white bread due to precious flour supplies so the National Wheatmeal Loaf was developed which used 85% wholemeal flour with added calcium and vitamin, plus extra salt and other padding out ingredients if you were a cash tight baker. Frankly it was not very popular due to its stale, coarse texture that made it almost undigestible, but people put up with it as there was no other alternative. I was also a crime to waste bread.
Bake me some Wheatmeal
As fast as you can:
It builds up my health
And its taste is good,
I find that I like
Eating just what I should.”
The wholemeal loaf I attempted as part of my research thankfully was quite edible. During the rationing years it has been argued that people’s diets were the best they had ever been, but it didn’t stop people craving the foods that they couldn’t have and this is where mock versions of products appeared. Mock banana is simply boiled parsnips mashed down with a bit of sugar and banana extract. Perfect consistency to spread in your sandwich with a rather acquired taste. Not my first choice of sandwich fillings and probably put a whole generation of children off banana sandwiches but it was better than no banana. The other sandwich filling you can see in the picture is simply grated carrot with a smidgen of mayonnaise and grated cheese, surprisingly tasty. Almost like a stripped down coleslaw. Parsnips, carrots and other root vegetables are readily available in the winter months so were used in many dishes and even as a substitute for sweets when they were rationed. Not sure what children would think of this now!
What Hubs doesn’t realise is that I’m inflicting a Woolton Pie on him in the next week plus there is a packet of skimmed milk powder in the kitchen just waiting to be turned into Household Milk all in the name of research.
Makes 2 loaves
from Ministry of Food – Jane Fearnley Whittingstall
1 ½ lb wholemeal bread flour
1 ½ tbsp salt
1 ½ tbsp dried yeast
1 dsp honey or treacle
450 ml tepid water
1) Mix together all the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave until dough has doubled in size (around 2 hours).
2) Knock back the dough, give a short knead then cut into two equal pieces. Place in 1.5 litre loaf tins, allow to rise for a further 2 hours.
2) pre-heat oven to 200°c then bake loaves for 30 min. To test the loaves turn them out of their tins and give the base a tap. if it sounds hollow they are ready. Allow to cool on a wire rack.