Monthly Archives: March 2008

Wartime Eating

Taken from the website:BBC Magazines

Wartime lessons for the credit crunch

By Fiona Wickham and Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

As Jamie Oliver calls for a return to a wartime diet, a new book documenting how ordinary families survived the austerity of World War II provides some useful lessons in belt tightening.

Get a pint of milk and half a teaspoon of salt, put them in a pan and bring to the boil. Add three tablespoons of corn flour, mix to a paste and boil again until stiff.

Nella Last’s recipe for home-made margarine might not get people’s taste buds salivating these days but in 1943 it was considered “amazingly good”, according to her diary.

[The project] was about using writing to record something about a life that otherwise might vanish
Dorothy Sheridan, Mass Observation archive director

It would definitely have impressed TV chef Jamie Oliver. His latest campaign is inspired by wartime values towards food. Back then people were encouraged to make the absolute most of their limited rations and grow their own food. Oliver wants us to take the same approach.

Nella was one of the hundreds of ordinary British people who volunteered to write diaries for the Mass Observation social research project between 1939 and 1945. Extracts of her story, along with those of 14 others, are published in a new book, Our Longest Days.

The Mass Observation diaries were collected from across the country, to provide personal accounts of how everyday life was lived during horrifying times.

“It was about using writing to record something about a life that might otherwise vanish or hold still,” says Dorothy Sheridan, director of the Mass Observation archive.

So with the country facing a downturn in the economy, what wisdom can be gleaned from people who managed the grim hardship of the war years?


We made up the margarine with corn flour but this afternoon it looked like blancmange! It was amazingly good… no one grumbled and we had no complaints
Nella Last, 16 July, 1943

The country is not on rations in 2008, but the wartime attitude of making the most of what you have is a valuable lesson for people nowadays.

Today it’s about using what you have and cutting down on the huge amount of food that’s thrown away – 6.7 million tonnes, according to the government. Back then it was about not being able to waste a mouthful because food was in such short supply.

Wartime queue for horsemeat

All food was used during the war

“Things like sugar were rationed,” says Ms Sheridan. “People had to be more inventive and grew fresh veg themselves.”

Wrap, the government’s waste reduction agency, says we can learn from the food values of that time.

“It’s a mentality a lot of older generations who lived through the war still have, you don’t just scrap leftovers into the bin but use them for another meal,” says a Wrap spokeswoman.

“It’s a skill that many people have lost, but it is so valuable. It not only cuts down on waste but cuts down on your food bill.”


The chemist said people aren’t taking anywhere near the amount of medicine they did before the war, especially nerve tonics. You’d think in these times they would want three times the amount… never believe it, they don’t.
George Springett, 9 October, 1940

With money and time on our hands, it’s human nature for some to become more self-indulgent. While there’s nothing wrong with a bit of “me” time, for some it can become all about “me, me, me”.

When times get harder, people are forced to refocus on what really matters and forget little moans and groans.

Waving at soldiers returning home

People had a common purpose during the war

The outcome can be positive. During WWII there was a reduction in reported mental illness and depression.

“I think that was related to people feeling perhaps they had more purpose,” says Ms Sheridan. “In a way you didn’t have decisions to make, you just had to fit in.”

It’s a common psychological phenomenon in times of crisis or conflict, says Dr Dorothy Rowe, psychologist and author of The Real Meaning Of Money.

“People are anxious, but their minds get a new focus,” she says. “To get depressed you only think of yourself, how bad things are for you. In hard times you don’t have that luxury.

“During the war people’s time was consumed with necessities like food or clothes. Some people are having to do the same in the current financial climate.”

“While no one wants anyone to lose their house, being forced to focus on what’s important is not a bad thing. Too often people now consider luxuries to be necessities when they’re not.”


There was a knock at the door, a woman living in the opposite wing of these flats said ‘Would you accept these?’ holding out a paper bag. It proved to be four eggs. I said with pop eyes that of course I would accept them! She said she had had some sent her and thought she’d like me to share… what a beautiful thought!”
Edie Rutherford, 16 March, 1944

Often tough times can bring out the best in people, like sharing eggs (which were like gold dust) with a complete stranger. Situations may force people together, but in doing so they rediscover a sense of community.

During WWII people weren’t inherently better than they are now, but their situation made them co-operate, says Ms Sheridan.

VE Day, May 1945

People had to help each other

“Because of rationing and the conditions, people were having to co-operate,” she says. “Generally speaking there was a shared purpose and it pushed people from different backgrounds and classes together.”

Applied to today’s society, that wartime sense of having a shared purpose can have the same effect. Having to tighten our financial belts is one of the reasons local bartering schemes are gaining popularity. As well as providing services, they create “village communities”, say members.

“Affordability comes into it a lot but it’s not just a material gain,” says Carol McArdle, of the Local Exchange Trading Scheme (Lets) in Yeovil and South Somerset.

“Friendship is the main thing it’s good for. It’s a huge trust builder and a very interactive thing. We have engineers, barristers, painters and decorators, dressmakers, all across the social strata. People appreciate each other for what they can do and are so grateful.”


I don’t think a great deal about the war in general – try to only think of the day-to-day – even the hour-to-hour. As for next week, next year – they are in God’s pocket as Gran used to say
Nella Last,16 July, 1943

The Mass Observation diary-writing provided a psychological support for people in a way we’d now recognise as therapeutic. Nella Last repeatedly describes losing herself on purpose in cooking and dressmaking.

“Nella’s son went to war and he was injured,” says Ms Sheridan. “And like millions more, she lived with the horribleness of it and the waste of it and the fear.”

“That’s how it’s relevant now. The diaries are not a nostalgia-fest. There will be 49-year-old women in the country whose sons are fighting in Iraq who identify with Nella Last.”

Digging for victory on London's Clapham Common

People ‘lost’ themselves in the ordinary

In wartime, small scale domestic efforts like “make do and mend” were incorporated into national campaigns as a patriotic force for good. People could feel rewarded by their own small-scale behaviour in the way it collectively propelled the war effort forward.

Even now focusing on your daily routines and personal responsibilities can help you navigate your course and regain a sense of control.

“In times of adversity people often feel they are not in control of their future and can’t plan ahead, so they focus on the day-to-day as a way of coping,” says Dr Sheila Keegan, a psychologist with business consultancy Campbell Keegan Ltd.

“Change is a good thing, but there has to be a balance between stability and change. If there isn’t that balance you feel out of control.

“It’s about controlling what you know you can and leaving what you can’t.”

Earth Hour

I wrote this in my diary weeks ago, I also told Rhys that this Saturday was Earth Hour and I thought we should take part, but I still forgot.

Bye-Bye Jelly Bean Babies

Thursday night I got a phone call from a very nice man asking about the Jelly Beanie Babies.

The ad for them has been up on for about three weeks now and I’d just started to think I needed to put another ad in the Herefordshire Times. But I emailed some photo and he said “yes, we would like them” so me and Muma dropped them off this afternoon… Eekkk.

They didn’t look too happy with me when we drove off so I really do hope they settle down well. Their new owners have said that they will email to let me know that they are getting on ok and contact me if they’re are any problems at all.

Catch Up

The last couple of days have felt really busy.

Tuesday was Mothers birthday, we didn’t really do much for it but it was also a day off for me. I had a good look at my goats for signs of who was pregnant; I only put one in kid last year but Jerald (mothers GG male) did get out once, so I just thought I’d check. Everyone is looking very well, I think if there’s some nice weather at the weekend I’ll try taking them out for a walk.
Mother and me spent a while in the garden putting some garlic and pea plants in that had been started off in paper pots, it was great with my bulb planter, I put the holes and mother dropped the little pots in and then we just pushed the earth back around them.

I made hobnob biscuits and garlic mayo, which were both great and very tastie. Mayo was eaten with chips for dinner.

Other than that, I cleaned out all the quail, there was a lot less feed waste than there has been before I got the new feeders. Now I know which ones are working best I think I’m going to get some more so as everyone can have the same. And cleaned out the chicks who are getting a bit big for the brooder so are going to move into a nice new house soon. Did loads of washing and dried it by the fire, cut loads of wood for the fire and pottered a bit.

Yesterday and today I was at work, on the way home yesterday I bough a load of animal feed

Yesterday I spent a while sitting watching the younger quail, I think have an extra male who is either going to have to be meat or sold, but not sure that anyone is going to want a single male so more likely he’ll be eaten.

Whispa has settle down with her lamb, who is doing fine, Whispa would really like to go out with everyone else but the lamb won’t go out with her so she just stands shouting just outside the polytennel. There were two new lambs, both boys, when I got home from work.

Wales set to ban GM crops

Happy Birthday Mumu!

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear mumso, happy birthday to you!

AnnieRose’s new home

I got an email from the people I gave AnnieRose to this morning letting me know that she’s settled in well, after spending the first two days getting out of her new paddock, and has made friends with their other goat and is behaving very well with their small children (she always was very good with little people.)
I do miss her and it still feels like someone is missing when I do a head count but I’m really glad that she’s has got a new home.

AnnieRose was an accident, one of the angora males got in with one of my anglo nubians and AnnieRose happened, I always planned for her to be a meat kid but before she was big enough (she never got bigger than a pygmy) her mum die and I just didn’t have the heart to send her off for meat.

Jessica, her mum, was the reason I started keeping goats again after the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak when my first goat die because of bloat, there just wasn’t a vet willing to come and treat her after we’d done all we could as it would have meant that they wouldn’t have been able to go onto another farm for a week. I decide I wasn’t going to get another goat after that, until Jessica came along.

Her and her friend, Maud, had been given to a couple as ‘they will have to go for meat if you don’t taken them’ (don’t even get me started on it… just thinking about it makes my blood boil) the couple had never kept goats before and didn’t know anything about them really, but they did a good job and they were both well looked after. The problem they had was if they were home and not out in the garden with them then they would shout ALL day. So they put an ad in the paper, Muma saw the ad in the paper and went and had a look and then took me to have a look as she ‘wanted to know what I thought’ (or knew I would love Jessica if I met her) Jessica was meant to be the quiter of the two, willing to stand back and let Maud have the fuss but when I went to see her she all over me. Licking and nibbling my hands, scraching her head on me and following me wherever I went in her pen. She had to come home with me.

Deep-down I’ve known that it wasn’t the most sensible of ideas to keep her, after all I have Anglo Nubians and that’s the bread I like. And it’s not just AnnieRose, it wouldn’t really be fair to keep her and not let her kidded whist everyone else had their own babies and was being milked, for a start it would mean her always being bottom of the pecking order. So I now have the Jelly Bean Babies, who I also don’t have the heart for them to be meat kids.

So I decided to re-home them to someone who isn’t nessaccliary interested in breeding, or who just wants the milk instead of a breed and AnnieRose now has a really nice home, with a friend, children to play with and is taken on lots of walks. I couldn’t ask for anything better for her. Hopefully something just as nice will come along for the Jelly Beans too.

It’s snowed the last two night when we’re been bring the ewes and lambs in for the night. Yesterday we finished as the snow stopped and the clouds cleared to reveal a almost full moon. Tonight the snow is landing on the sheep’s backs in white little nuggets so I think it might settle. I hope not, I have work tomorrow and we get snowed in up here with just the smallest amount of snow settling.

Badger lambed today, a girl, she’s been looking like she was going to bust for the past week or so. Badger normally has really pretty coloured lambs but this she’s just had a white one. Whispa also lambed, her first, a boy. She also had a very small mummified lamb. She’s being a little bit funny with her lamb, she didn’t want to be put in the polytennel without the mummified lamb and kept trying to come back to the top of the garden for it. Her lambs having a top-up bottle tonight but hopefully by tomorrow she will have settled more.

One of my younger quail was dead in the bottom of the cage when I got in. There’s no marks on it and I can’t see anything else wrong with the other birds. Just one of those things I guess. 

Cleaning out and washing

It was my day off yesterday (next day off Monday, when we’re going to have a family roast) I had some freelance work in the morning, so not a complete day ‘off’ but a day off from the ‘day job’, it was the last of a number of workshops I’ve been doing in secondary schools and I think the project has gone well. I really enjoy my work in schools; primary schools a little more than secondary as I find the kids aren’t so cautious of possibly making a fool of themselves, but it’s all enjoyable. A little ironic as I never went.

Muma got some Ross Cob chicks, they are so much bigger than quail chicks even at a week old they’re almost the same size has my adult quail. (I have a photo to load but the computer is playing up)

I spent the afternoon cleaning out and re-arranging quail housing and doing washing. I have such an exciting life, my friends just don’t seem to understand what I spend so much time doing (or Rhys’s friends don’t, my friends are a small select handful of people who possible think I’m mad any way, and hopefully all understand how enjoyable it is to do something ‘real’

I got woken up before light this morning by a Muma’s new Light Sussex cockerel, which was in my room (???) until he went in with his hens today. It was a very strange way to be woken up, every quarter of an hour, but nicer than the noise that my phone alarm makes, that noise is just harsh in a rude way. Not that that means he has any chance of staying in my room, he’s now nicely installed outside in with the hens.

Learning to knit… Again

I use to be able to knit when I was younger, I know I could, I remember doing it. But I just can’t seem to now.

I haven’t had any reason to knit for many years, and I haven’t really wanted to. I’ve always had a big pile of books that I wanted to read (still do), something I wanted to watch on the tele or sleep to catch up on (a very important pastime in your teenage years.) Until the other day when I noticed that my phone is getting very scratched just being chucked in my bag or in my pocket with my keys, and then I saw it go fly across the Co-op car park the other day leaving a very big scrached on the back of the case and camera lense, I thought I’d knit it a case, seeing as I’ve got wool and needles and even a book and DVD telling me how.

It seemed like such a simple, moneysaving idea, I really just don’t know where it went wrong.