Food

Well we All have to Eat


There are many many sources of information about food and family life during World War 2.
Here is a brief summary, with some recommended reading.

Before the first World War, Britain had imported a lot of food, and when the reality of war and blockades hit, it was a culture shock to the population. There were food shortages where previously there had been plenty, and those who could afford it stockpiled food; those who couldn't simply went without.

At the outbreak of World War 2 the government was determined that this situation should not occur again. Rationing, was introduced in January 1940 so that everyone got a fair share of what was available and they appointed Lord Woolton as Minister of Food in April of the same year. His background was in business, not politics, and it became his onerous task to ensure that the nation didn't go hungry. He introduced food and nutritional guides and recipe leaflets to help the housewife adjust to the new regime.

Lord Woolton's Pie (a vegetable pie topped with pastry) was a particular favourite. Food information posters were distributed freely, and posters of Potato Pete and Doctor Carrot were widely known. Lord Woolton encouraged the housewife to donate food scraps to feed pigs, to make the most of the food she had, and to make soups and snacks from unlikely ingredients. He also introduced the British public to other sources of protein, such as whalemeat, dried eggs, and a particularly pungent fish from South Africa, called snoek, which didn't catch on with the British public.

If you lived in the countryside you may have had more access to certain foods, such as wild brambles, hedgerow fruits, nuts, wild garlic, or you may have known a farmer to get your milk eggs and cheese from directly, but things were tougher in the cities. There were food shortages of course, and lots of people went without certain items, but overall people managed okay.

Experts from the Ministry of Food, such as Marguerite Patten, were sent out around the country, to demonstrate new recipes, and better cooking methods to eager housewives. Fuel was scarce, so cooking methods that used less fuel were demonstrated, and encouraged.

Allotments became popular, and many people grew their own food for the first time, with the 'Dig For Victory' campaign. Vegetable gardening and allotment use is still popular today.

Rationing continued for some years after the war had ended.

Eggs Or Anarchy, by William Sitwell - biography of Lord Woolton
Marguerite Patten