Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and Drink

Remembering the home front

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George V, then King of England, declared Remembrance Day in 1919, one year after the signing of the armistice on November 11 that officially ended World War I. The original intent was to commemorate throughout the British Commonwealth the sacrifices made by civilians and members of the armed forces.

A mere 20 years after Remembrance Day was created, much was forgotten and the horrific conflict of World War II began. Canada joined the Allied war effort in 1939, one week after Britain did, and stuck it out until the end in 1945.

Over time, the spotlight of Remembrance Day has been on the battlefield. Other than the private pain of those who have had loved ones hurt or killed in war, remembering the home front, as King George intended, has pretty much been overshadowed.

So here, to ameliorate that, is a wee peek at life, namely the food end of things, during the second great war. Our main guides are two sources I promise you we can trust who've been there, done that, namely my mom and dad, along with a little booklet my mom still has.

Called Fifty Nifty Years of Cooking with Gas, 1923-1973 , it was published by the Blue Flame Kitchen, the home service department of Alberta's natural gas company. Aimed at housewives on farms and in small towns, as most Canadians were during the war, as well as those in cities, it neatly reflects what the home front faced during the war, a nation of people who had lived through the depression of the Dirty 30s by surviving on their gardens, their wits and a good measure of Canada's wilderness - hunting and fishing - and had learned to "make do or do without."

Like Britain, Canada issued food rations during WWII for staples such as butter, meat, sugar and coffee, and for other necessities like gasoline and soap, to direct supplies to the war effort and lessen the need for shipping. Canada alone had 1.1 million people to feed in the armed forces, and Britain had quickly learned during the first great war that the enemy would restrict food supplies by shelling ships.

"A coupon book was given to each member of the family," recalls my mom. "That way if you had six children to feed you automatically got more food. If there were only two of you, you didn't need so much."

Many of the war years' recipes in the booklet reflect the restricted supply of goods. For instance, thimble cookies, small simple cookies made by pressing down in the middle of the cookie with a thimble, or your thumb, to create a hollow for homemade jam, were made with 1/4 c. of brown sugar, 1/2 c. shortening, 1 egg, 1 c. of flour and 1 tsp. of baking powder - that's it.

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