Ria Chambers from Ria’s Rosy Lee Tearoom in Wellingborough on a time of reflection.
As is tradition in November we take time to remember events from the past, particularly around the World Wars.
Of course this year has seen a lot of events surrounding the centenary of the First World War.
This has made me contemplate how food was affected at this time, and many don’t realise that rationing first occurred during the Great War.
Soon after the outbreak of war in 1914 there was a food shortage caused by panic-buying.
But the public soon fell into a routine and there was self-imposed rationing which was seen as part of your duty.
This ensured enough resources were available, which were supported by supplies which were still getting through on the ships from America and Canada.
However, in 1917 Germany introduced submarine warfare which was very effective, including stopping the ships on the Atlantic, cutting off most of Britain’s food supplies.
With no control on purchasing and rising costs, only those who could afford it kept well-stocked larders.
For most of the population it resulted in high levels of malnutrition and risk of starvation.
Faced with this crisis the government introduced rationing in February 1918 using the Defence of the Realm Act.
By the end of April 1918 most foods had been rationed including sugar, meat, butter, cheese and margarine.
Ration cards had been introduced, and everyone had to register with a butcher and grocer.
These actions helped prevent a disaster in time before the war ended.
The lessons learned from this conflict were applied quickly when the Second World War started, as rationing was introduced by 1940.
The government issued several leaflets and books to help the public make the most of what they had, with advice not only on frugal recipes, but on how to preserve fruit and vegetables, gardening tips to Dig for Victory, and keeping animals as a food supply.
Food manufacturers had to change their products, issuing packaging stating the recipe had been ‘adapted to the conditions arising from wartime restrictions’, and with official government suppliers stamps on the wrappers.
Bakers were even ordered by law to sell bread by weight not loaf, and to not sell bread until 12 hours after baking to ensure it could be thin-cut easily to last longer – fresh bread being more difficult to cut thin so would be eaten quickly.
Rationing this time did not end until 1954 as part of the recovery process after the war ended in 1945, but it prevented the near stravation of the population which almost occurred in 1917.
The Waste Not Want Not spirit continues in the tearoom though.
I often use leftover bread in scrap bread pudding and over-ripe bananas get turned into banana cake.
I will be making Anzacs throughout the month, which regular readers will recall comes from the First World War.
I shall also take poppy seeds from our embelm of remembrance, the poppy, and use them in cakes as our part towards making sure we never forget.
I hope if you visit the tearoom this month you’ll take a moment to do the same.