I have spent this dreadfully long winter rather out of commission with one bout of viral Hell after another. Many days, I didn’t have the energy to do much but read and binge watch YouTube videos. During the last couple of weeks I used my enforced down-time rereading The Wartime Kitchen and Garden and indulging in all eight episodes of The Wartime Farm. For those of us interested in preparing for hard times, these made for some inspiring reading. Here were some of the take-home lessons.
Planning for food shortages began years earlier.
War had been on the horizon for years. England had experience with what war did to food supplies during World War I. This time they wanted to take steps to ensure at least basic nutrition could be provided, especially for pregnant women and children. Rationing was instituted to provide a fair way to distribute food. People were willing to endure hardship as long as they felt the burden was fairly borne by everyone. Even the Royal Family had ration cards. By the time war was declared, a system for upping food production to make up for lost food imports and distributing supplies of critical food stuffs like milk, meat, eggs and fats was ready to be rolled out.
The government made the education of the populace on how to grow, preserve, prepare and make the best use of every scrap of a food a priority. As our County Extension Services are defunded, we will have to seek out opportunities to learn all we can about making the best use of our food supplies.
Food was a weapon of war.
The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle For Food by Lizzie Collingham is an excellent, although dense, look at how food was used as a weapon throughout World War II. Hitler’s goal was to starve England into surrender. This should have been easy as England imported an enormous amount of it’s food and livestock feed. It became critical for all people to use any available plot of land to grow fruits and vegetables to supplement the family diet. Digging for Victory became the rallying cry for urban gardeners using government issued allotments to raise what had been previously imported.
We are all aware of just how fragile our just-in-time delivery system is. When we say we are nine meals from anarchy, we are referring to how little food is stored in markets across the country. It wouldn’t take an act of war to cause serious distribution problems.
Eating local was a necessity.
Because of the shortage of fuel and rubber for tires as well as the manpower needed to transport food, a local diet was not a choice but a reality dictated by circumstance. Now is as good a time as any to explore how you can use local options for shopping.
Cutting waste was as critical as producing more food.
Every scrap of food was used. Fats in particular were in very short supply. Extending the meagre ration required a lot of kitchen creativity. Nothing was thrown out, not a calorie wasted. How much food do you throw away? If you are anything like me, the answer is, “Too much”.
Spring has arrived, bringing some of my energy back with the returning light. I plan to spend the afternoon, arranging my food storage room. As I plan for my garden and the summer bulk purchases I shall do so with the voices of the men and women who have lived through far harder times than anything I have ever experienced whispering in my ear. I hope to remember the lessons learned form this long hard winter.