Austerity Era: Day One

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Back a few weeks, KB decided to try out a social experiment in historical eating. We've been wanting to know: how did it come out? He's about to tell us.

Austerity Era – Day One

A ration book

It's Monday, and I'm just out of bed. No coffee today, thanks, I'll just have orange juice. Oh, wait. The orange boat was torpedoed somewhere off the Bay of Biscay. I'll never do this without waking up; I'm having coffee first.

7.30: Breakfast. A big bowl of porridge. Proper porridge, with a touch of salt, oats cooked in water, and no syrups, sugar or dried fruit. Brilliant! A better breakfast than I usually eat, and all of it was ration-coupon-free. Well, apart from the little annular eclipse of milk around the edge of the oats. And more coffee – once it's made, it can't be unmade, right?

10.15: Tea break at work. There's chocolate. Mountains of it. Everyone seems to be eating those rich wee cake bars, or a Mars, or a well-buttered scone. I'm feeling peckish, but luckily I came prepared with a boxful of blackberries I filled on the way to the train station this morning. Good stuff, and ration-free! I used some of my eight ounces of tea to make a mugful, and there's as much left as there was before. Tea's brilliant! It weighs nothing!

12.30: Lunch. Lunch was brilliant. Soup and bread: leek, potato, celery, barley, onion, carrot and potato. All boiled up with the bone from a sheep and a bit of salt for stock. That piece of mutton used up half my meat ration, but I'll be damned if it doesn't earn it! I'll spare you the exact recipe. Soup-making is as easy as keeping up bad habits, and everybody has a different 'right way' to do it. The worry is that I used about a third of my weekly butter allowance on the bread! I may need to pickpocket a cow for extra cream before the week is out...

I had some snacks too, intermittently. Mainly blackberries and dulse – but not at the same time.

Dinnertime, and the livin' ain't easy

For dinner, I've fallen back on a genuine WWII-era dish invented by Lord Woolton, of the British Ministry of Food, to persuade home cooks that good food was still possible under rationing. Welcome to Lord Woolton's Pie – below is the offical recipe, published in The Times:

Now, 'brown gravy' worries me. I don't like cooking by colour rather than flavour. And I'm not sure what vegetable extract is, but I'm assuming it's not-a-kick-in-the-arse-off Marmite, so that's what I'm using.

Result: This is absolutely, unmitigatedly, bum-shrivellingly awful. And what's worse, I made enough for about eight good-sized portions of it. I'm going to have to be generous and force myself to share it with friends and family.

Nah, it's not really that bad. It's not foul-tasting, just a bit bland for my tastes. But then I've been raised with more than enough to eat, and ingredients people back then wouldn't have heard of. If I lived during the '40s, I would have wolfed it down gladly! Filling, economical, and nutritious. In fact, with added cheese it could be great. But it's just Day One, and I'm zealously guarding my fifty grams of cheese.

Overall impression? It isn't bad, so far. I haven't felt hungry once, today. But the prospect of Day Two doesn't thrill me. There's still an awful lot of Lord Woolton's Pie left...

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