Lessons From WW2
What Did They Know?
One of your readers asked about how to prepare for uncertain times. With the increase in unemployment and talk of war, it seems appropriate to learn how tough times were handled in the previous century.
I have been searching for books in the library that deal with America at home during the depression and World War II. Perhaps you have readers (or their children) that can remember specifics about rationing and other sacrifices during World War II. I found some information on the Internet about "Bundles for Britain" and victory gardens.
There could be some good stories out there.
There is a lovely cookbook entitled Square Meals
by Jane and Michael Stern. It contains a large central section on the cuisine of WW2, including rationing at home and what the GIs were fed. It is full of little anecdotes about the period and some of the recipes are excellent. There are several that use tomato juice in wholly unexpected ways that might prove helpful for parents whose kids think tomatoes are yucky. Also one suggestion for a Victory Garden dinner that is entirely vegetarian and seemingly yummy.
For some great recipes and short stories about the folks who contributed them, check out a copy of the cookbook put out by the Green Thumb Program, which is called Green Thumbs in the Kitchen. The recipes are primarily from folks who lived through war and depression and could make almost anything with basic staple ingredients. The short stories they share are just as enjoyable! The Green Thumb program is a federal program which provides part-time employment to senior citizens...one of our countries greatest resources!
A Reader Remembers
Here's a thumbnail sketch. First we had air raid wardens and sky watchers in New York. No lights to show outside of a home during alerts. Cars had stickers on the windshield that authorized the days and amount you could receive plus gas ration booklets. Food was generally available though soaps, butter and some meat cuts were not easy to get. Chocolate and sugar items were always hard to get although our family was in the coffee roasting and major brand candy distribution business so we had ours. We also had meatless Tuesdays. All meat fats (bacon grease etc) were saved in cans along with recyclable paper and cans. We were paid for what we turned in and a lot of us kids made extra money, all bottles were sold with a deposit. Most meat and dairy, clothing and other products were rationed using a book of stamps. You could trade with other people. All old clothing was collected and sent to where it was needed. Bundles for Britain started before our entry into the war. We had air raid drills in school and usually ducked under our desks. War bonds and savings stamps were constantly being promoted and sold. Henry
I Was Nine
I was nine years old when the war was declared and remember vividly the sacrifices we made. We lived in a row house in Philadelphia where we had only a small front yard of grass the rest being concrete. People all over grew vegetables for their own consumption in that grassy area. We got margarine packaged in plastic that had a yellow "bud" inside that you had to knead to get it to break and it then colored the margarine yellow. Some people called it "margareen". Butter was rationed as well as meat, shoes, gasoline, sugar.
My grandmother who did most of our family's cooking was very inventive in making meals that made the most of stretching the supplies we could get. We did not have meat a lot of the time but neither did anyone else. We each had a pair of everyday shoes and people put newspaper linings in their shoes to lengthen their life and we had shoemakers that would put new half soles and heels on your shoes. Not many shoemakers around today.
I remember our family car was a Mercury that when new was a burgundy or maroon color which was faded to almost pink on the top half. It was "babied" along because no new cars were available. When the war ended and cars could be ordered again there was a very long waiting list and when we finally got one you took what color you were given and glad of it. One thing always puzzled me was that Lucky Strike cigarettes were once a deep green package and then they changed it to a white package saying that Lucky Strike green had gone to war. What that had to do with the war effort was beyond me. My mother was an air raid warden. She had a flashlight and hard hat and went to meetings in the neighborhood. I also remember going to the New Jersey shore which we had to reach by train (who could afford the gas stamps) and the lights along the boardwalk were blackened on the ocean side. Everyone just made the best of what they had and I learned valuable lessons in being frugal. I still have a couple of war ration stamps.
Good Publications to Check Out
Reiman Publications (the folks who bring you Country, Country Woman, Reminisce, Birds and Blooms magazines, plus more!) publish many books on World War II and the Great Depression. I have bought every one they made.
Some of the titles are:
- We Had Everything But Money (Great Depression)
- When the Banks Closed, We Opened Our Hearts (Great Depression)
- Tough Times, Strong Women (Sections on both plus more!)
- We Pulled Together and Won! : Personal Memories of the World War II Years
Good Old Days
magazine also has many good books on these subjects as well as their monthly publications.
Check It Out
I have a cookbook called Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked by Joanne Lamb Hayes. The book covers US government food rules ration books, substitutes, entertaining, etc. with lots of recipes. Living in New York City with the possibility of war immanent, it may come in handy! And as a longtime buyer/seller on half.com, I'd look for it there first.
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