A Life in a Year – 8th January, the Introduction of War Time Rationing

This seems almost unreal but it was only in 1954 that war time food rationing was officially ended.  It began in January 1940 when bacon, butter and sugar were rationed and this was followed soon after by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.  As the Second World War progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed along with clothing and petrol.  My parents were issued with a ration card for me but never had to use it because it all stopped three weeks after I was born.

The last food item to be released from the shackles of rationing was bananas, which for me is quite a significant fact.  Dad loved bananas and I could never quite understand why but I suppose he was only twenty-two in 1954 and hadn’t had the pleasure for fifteen years and in fact it is quite possible I suppose that he had never had a banana before in his life.

Bunch of Bananas

He liked all sorts of strange banana combinations, weirdest of all being banana sandwiches on brown bread with sugar, but he was also very fond of chopped bananas with custard.  Personally I’ve never been that keen on bananas at all but this rationing fact explains a lot about my dad’s unusual dietary preferences.  Once a week we all had to have bananas for a pudding until one day when I was about fifteen I could take it no longer and I refused to eat them.  It was the only time I can remember him getting really upset with me but I stood my ground and after he had severely chastised me and refused to let me leave the table I think he ate them up for me.

For Mum preparing food when things were not as available as they are today took up a lot of every day because there were no convenience meals and everything had to be prepared from scratch.

There was complete certainty about the menu because we generally had the same thing at the same time on the same day every week, there were no foreign foods, no pasta or curries and rice was only ever used in puddings.  The main meal of the week was Sunday dinner which was usually roast beef, pork or lamb (chicken was a rare treat and a turkey was only for Christmas) served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, which for some reason mum always called batter puddings, and strictly only seasonal vegetables because runner beans weren’t flown in from Kenya all year round as they are today.

We had never heard of chicken tandoori, paella or lasagne and the week had a predictable routine; Monday was the best of the left over meat served cold with potatoes and on Tuesday the tough bits were boiled up in a stew (we would call that bouef bourguignon now) and on Wednesday what was left was minced and cooked with onions and served with mash and in this way one good joint of meat provided four main meals with absolutely no waste.

Icelandic Fisherman

Thursday was my personal favourite, fried egg and chips and Friday was my nightmare day with liver or kidneys or sometimes faggots because I liked none of these (and still don’t!)  I complained so much about this that later I was allowed the concession of substituting sausage for liver but I was still obliged to have the gravy (which I didn’t care for much either) on the basis that ‘it was good for me!’  If we had been Catholics then we would have had fish I suppose but we didn’t have things out of the sea very often except for fish fingers, which were first introduced by Birds-eye in 1955.

On Saturday we would have something like a home made meat pie or pudding or very occasionally a special treat and dad would fetch fish and chips from the chip shop, wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper and covered in salt and vinegar.  Later on I used to have chips on a Wednesday night as well when David Newman’s dad picked us up after wolf cubs and took us home in the back of his battered blue van which smelt permanently of stale batter.

After main course there was always a pudding which was usually something stodgy like a treacle pudding with golden syrup, spotted dick (suet pudding), bread and butter pudding or jam roll.  There was always lots of jam in our house because my Nan worked at the Robertson’s factory in Catford in London and I think she was either paid in jars of jam or bought it at a discount, I never knew which.

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