FOOD FLASH - There's spud in your eye!
April 30, 2013 5:06 PM   Subscribe

The Ministry Of Food was a British government ministerial posts separated from that of the Minister of Agriculture. A major task of the latter office was to oversee rationing in the United Kingdom arising out of World War II. They made many newsreels and PSAs to inform the citizenry how to use the food rationing system: Rationing is introduced in 1939 The new ration books are coming! Cod Liver Oil Here's spud in your eye Don't cut that bread! DON'T WASTE FOOD! Dig For Victory! Milk is here! In addition, some short films instructed people in how to best use the new rationing system : Two Cooks And A Cabbage How To Make Tea Rabbit Pie Buying black market meat: a Partner in CRIME A US view explaining UK rationing to the States.
posted by The Whelk (15 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, it reminds me when Shepherd and I went to the Imperial War Museum in late September of 2010 when they had a WWII exhibit about this and the Land Girls at the time. I loved it (mostly because I love history and food and am a geek). Thanks for this.
posted by Kitteh at 5:51 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why were bones so important? They used them to make fertilizer, glycerine for explosives, and a lubricating oil which worked in a pinch to poison water supplies. They also used the bones in animal feed.
posted by aw_yiss at 5:53 PM on April 30, 2013

That guy from "Here's spud in your eye" looks to be having fun...

Three things come to mind with rationing which are still with us today:

1) Apple crumble. Although it was known before the war, it became popular because it used less fat than pastry.

2) Ribena. The lack of fruit meant that there was often too little vitamin C in the diet (though potatoes have a lot of it). Folk were encouraged to gather blackcurrants nationally and they were made into a blackcurrant drink given to every child to ensure they had enough vitamin C. The codliver oil mentions free orange juice which must have been a similar scheme.

3) Railing stubs. Not a foodstuff, but metal was collected in such quantity (not all of it even used) that the stubs of railings are still incredibly common.
posted by Jehan at 6:25 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

America had rationing in WWII purely for the propaganda value.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:53 PM on April 30, 2013

Whelk, these are simply wonderful. I think Sally taught my mother how to cook cabbage. I'm saving this to show my father, who will get a real kick out of them.
posted by arcticseal at 7:33 PM on April 30, 2013

Folk were encouraged to gather blackcurrants nationally
We used to gather rose-hips too, which were also processed into syrup for the vitamin C. This wasn't just a do-it-yourself thing, but was organised by the govt. I was too young to remember now what the collection process was, though I do remember enjoying my daily spoonful of the syrup.
posted by anadem at 9:37 PM on April 30, 2013

These are terrific! Thank you very much The Whelk.

In the "Cod Liver Oil" video: "Now it's winter, so you'll want to watch the children, you don't want them to catch cold. The under-fives are entitled to cod liver oil. While the under-threes can get cod liver oil and orange juice too! It's ready and waiting, so come and get it." Meanwhile two adorable children run up and grab a bottle with such enthusiasm that I can only imagine that no one told them that one of the bottles contains oil of fish.

"Dig For Victory" is awfully persuasive concerning the vegetative benefits of a "ten rod plot" relative the effort involved. Seriously guys: if you have thought about starting a garden and only need that little push of enthusiasm and information to get you started this is it.

Those British accents in "Two Cooks and a Cabbage" are great. Have any people ever in the world sounded so genteel? Music sounds like the Little Rascals are playing in the next theater over though. "Never boil green vegetables in great quantities of water. You lose the flavor and the food value -- and produce a most unappetizing dish." Good to know, Ministry of Food Narrator! I actually hadn't considered that. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing Joel/Mike and Co. have a shot at this.

"Rabbit Pie" is actually not a wartime video, it's a generic cooking instructional film from 1934. "First of all the skinned rabbit is washed in salted water. If it is an elderly one, leave it to steep. The lungs and heart are removed." With visual demonstration. Er... moving on...

"Partner in Crime" has a surprise, fourth-wall-breaking ending. "YES MRS. WILSON YOU'RE QUITE RIGHT, IT IS ONE OF THOSE PROPAGANDA PICTURES!"
posted by JHarris at 11:32 PM on April 30, 2013

Wow, now I know why my family always "fills" a bathtub by running a little puddle into the bottom and stopping. It wasn't until I'd lived away from home for about 10 years that it occurred to me it could be fun to fill it most of the way up and soak underwater. And it blew my mind to learn that everyone else had been doing it that way all along.

(My mother grew up during wartime and I wonder how many of her other idiosyncrasies are based on rationing.)
posted by lollusc at 11:47 PM on April 30, 2013

There was a real issue with the British working class' obsession with white bread, which was a real issue for nutrition and the waste of germ. Hitler worked very hard from the moment he was in power to make the german agriculture sector self-sufficient and diverse. Unfortunately for him that meant that all the small farmers were heavily into the black market from 1942 onward.

This is an excellent, comprehensive look at food and agriculture in WW2.
posted by wilful at 3:13 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

My mum was a war baby and has a lot of memories of rationing, Dig for Victory and rearing rabbits and growing some veg in the tiny back garden at their place. Her dad didn't fight overseas because he was a toolmaker at Vauxhalls which made tanks for the duration and so was in a reserved occupation (still did turns on the anti-aircraft guns at the factory nights). He turned out to be a dab hand on the allotment too.
I'm sure those years shaped her cooking for life, as we grew up on hearty sensible food made from scratch with the plain basics that was more about filling and nutrition than cordon bleu, though she spared us the pig's brains on toast she recalls as one of the wartime delights they sampled.
posted by Abiezer at 3:15 AM on May 1, 2013

Things were so bad here in the 30s that when rationing was brought in the poorest peoples standard of living actually went up, while the rich dined at the Savoy and threw food away. And we are going back that way now.
posted by marienbad at 7:22 AM on May 1, 2013

Wasn't there a scandal at the beginning of rationing because some hotel served a banquet with caviar shortly after rationing was announced?
posted by Jehan at 9:22 AM on May 1, 2013

Could some kindly moderator loan the FPP some commas?
posted by IAmBroom at 3:11 PM on May 1, 2013

Things were so bad here in the 30s that when rationing was brought in the poorest peoples standard of living actually went up

I have been told that selling the NHS as an idea was framed as a national security issue cause they drafted all these poor folk who where in no condition to fight cause they where so undernourished. SO grew up in Yorkshire in the 70s and said you still heard of rickets and stunted growth, and the only place in the States he saw comparable where the worst hollers in the Appalachians and ex-mining towns.
posted by The Whelk at 7:01 PM on May 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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