At the outbreak of World War II when food was rationed and even basic items were scarce, the ladies of the house had to be quite inventive when it came to cooking nourishing, interesting food.
Let’s put the emphasis on ‘interesting’ here. Fried pork brains anyone? How about brain soufflé? The kitchen was a place where people really got creative in the face of hardship.
In Australia, rationing regulations for food and clothing were introduced on 14 May 1942, in a bid to manage shortages and control civilian consumption. Ration coupons was limited to clothing, tea, sugar, butter, and meat. Every now and then, eggs and milk were also rationed under a system of priority for vulnerable groups. But Aussies were not rationed as heavily as people in the UK because Australia was not as short of food.
Stale bread can be miraculously turned into Fairy Bread.Picture Findmypast
The British housewives really felt the impact of food shortages. There was a sense of pride in being able to create weird and wonderful dishes with only a limited supply of food. Recipes were shared in magazines and newspapers as a way to entice people to eat the less popular cuts from the local butcher.
Let's take a look at some of the most popular dishes during war time, that perhaps wouldn't have seen the light of day pre-and-post WWII. Many of these recipes were created in a bid to entice people to choose the cheaper, less-popular cuts at the butcher.
Fried Pork Brains
.Fried Pork Brains was a popular go-to dish during the War. Picture Findmypast
. The brains behind this recipe supposed that using a fancy word like soufflé might make it taste better! Picture Findmypast
Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cake
. This cake might be more appetising and nutritious than today’s ‘gluten-free’ cakes. Picture Findmypast
Spam & Grated Cheese
. Spam. Say no more. Somebody put it in a sandwich with grated cheese and gave it a fancy name. Picture Findmypast
. Anything with potatoes in it, is nutritious. No sign of doughnuts here. Picture Findmypast
Pink & Green Puree
It wasn’t easy to get fresh vegetables but this dish was a healthy choice. Picture Findmypast
Nutritionist and author Karen Fischer said the obvious problems with this diet is that it was high in sugar and unhealthy -- especially with the dripping.
"The sugar is often necessary to preserve the food so, in the lean times, there's really not much choice. The milkless, eggless, butterless cake is all sugar. Thank goodness there were spices! So it's quite nutritional, supplying anti-oxidants. I imagine their teeth rotting from all of this. Looking at this diet, it's clear their overall dental health would be shocking. There could have been a risk of birth defects too as the diet was very low in folic acid," Fischer said.
"The Potato Doughnut is quite nutritious. Luckily potatoes were plentiful as it's high in vitamin C, to protect against scurvy, which is a common disease from not eating enough fruit and vegetables. But potassium is the saving grace, so at least they were getting some vitamin C."
As for the Chocolate Potato Cake, Fischer told Huffington Post Australia it is probably more nutritious than the gluten-free cakes that are popular today.
Nutritionist Karen Fischer. Picture supplied
"Potato gets a bad rap but, during WWII, that was one of the most nutritious ingredients. When you compare it to the gluten-free cakes, the current ones are loaded with sugar. I suggest making cakes that are virtually sugar free, with grated carrot. Gluten free is just as unhealthy as with gluten, because they have plenty of sugar to make it taste good. But if you add a carrot or any vegetable to a cake, it makes it more nutritious."
"Also you get your protein with the whites. There's none of this modern method, where the yolk is removed and you only use the white. The yolk is the nutritious part, so this is somewhere the cooks in WWII are doing it better than some of today's cooks."
Fischer said the 'pink and green puree' wins the prize for the healthiest meal, due to its inclusion of carrot and watercress.
"Watercress is very rich in B Vitamins and Potassium and Calcium. It's also made with potato so you've got Vitamin C covered as well as carrots which are rich in beta carotene and anti-oxidants. If they had been able to add protein-rich beans, it would have been a cheap alternative to meat," Fischer said.
"One thing that would have been great is making a traditional broth. All you need to do is boil vegetable scraps and bones for six hours, let it set, cool overnight, then skim off the fat. The broth is a good source of magnesium and calcium."
As for the Spam, Fischer had little to say, apart from, "At least there is some protein there!"
All photos courtesy of findmypast.com.au