Rationing in WWII Do you know what “Rationing” is? Have you ever been affected by Rationing? If you are 60 years old or less, the chances are very good that you have never been affected by Rationing. Webster defines “Rationing” as: “The setting of an allowance of provisions or food or other commodities, which restricts the purchase and use of such items within any given period of time” One pound of coffee per family per month; one auto tire per each 6 months per vehicle owner, are examples of rationing. Has the United States ever been involved in Rationing by law? Yes, of course it has. But Britain was involved in rationing long before we ever got involved in it. However, many of us ‘old-timers’ who served in the military services during 1940 to 1945, during WWII, were never really affected by rationing, as the military supplied us with most all of the necessities of life, in reasonable amounts as the situation dictated. So, we were never concerned with rationing. We were not concerned with how the system worked, but those folks at home, were truly affected by such rationing. In Britain, the civilians were used to rationing long before we were here in the United States. If British civilians looked ‘dowdy’ and badly dressed, it was not because they did not like chic clothing, nor how to wear them. All clothing was rationed. A man was allowed to buy a new suit ‘every two years’, and to buy a shirt every ‘twenty months’! Trousers came without cuffs, pleats or zippers. All commodities that were scarce in the United States, were even scarcer in Britain, where there were shortages that Americans never experienced, like blankets, bottles, drinking glasses, pots and pans, cutlery, soap, newspaper, paper bags, bed sheets, towels, paper clips, needles, carpets, combs and golf balls. If hairpins, common in those days, were unavailable, pipe cleaners were found and used for this purpose! Of course, gasoline and heating oil were not to be had, and coal was extremely scarce, and the roads were empty of most all civilian traffic, and houses and office buildings were colder than usual. Going to the movies, recitals, concerts or other sport functions, the audiences sat bundled up in overcoats, scarves and mittens. Baby carriages, nursing bottles and nipples almost disappeared, and so did commercial children’s toys. Paper became much more precious than in timber rich America, and newspapers dwindled to four pages per day, and envelopes and greeting cards were difficult to find. For the British, almost all normal conveniences, and even some necessities became rarities: fountain pens, chamber pots, wedding rings, all kitchen utensils, cigarettes, tobacco and matches, toothbrushes and razor blades. Standard wooden pencils came without paint or varnish. Wood was so scarce, that the manufacture of furniture was severely restricted. The nightly ‘blackouts’ became even more tedious and dangerous, once flashlights and batteries became unavailable. To this list of shortages, could be added such a former convenience and necessity as window glass, to replace all of the shattered windows, damaged by the incessant bombing, but which had to be replaced with cardboard, if and when it could be found. The iron railings and gates around parks disappeared, presumably to provide metal for weapons, vehicles and other military materiel. Railway station signs were removed, like road signs, for their metal content, and a secondary reason was to confuse the German invaders, if and when they ever did land, in getting around the cities and rural areas. Added to all of these deprivations, was the total lack of ‘service’ in the stores, and shopping queues were the common thing of the day. You could spend a whole day waiting in lines, acquiring the most basic items. Food was much harder to come by than in America, as there was such a limited supply from the limited amount of agricultural land available for growing crops, and maintaining dairy cows, hogs or cattle. Almost one half of all of the food consumed by the Britons, had to be brought in by ship, mostly from America, and these supply and cargo ships were systematically sunk by the overwhelming number of German U-Boats, plying the Atlantic, and lying in wait for the next convoy to come along. The British Ministry of Food announced, “Food is a Munition of War, Don’t Waste It!” Severe rationing began in January 1940, and it did not end in its entirety until 1954, nine years after the beginning of the war! Virtually everything you liked to eat or drink was available only in miniscule quantities: meat, butter, cheese, eggs, sugar, sweets, fruit, fats, white bread, (the staff of life, we were told), teas, coffee and whiskey! The most prevalent item was fish, including whale meat, but also an ample supply of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cabbage and turnips. Perhaps more than anything that was available in the meat line, was ‘mutton’, a tough tasteless, old male sheep. Animal ‘offal’ was occasionally offered by the friendly neighborhood butcher, which led to serious cases of gout due to so many livers and ‘lights’ being consumed during the wartime. Many substitute items were offered in place of the genuine items: carrot marmalade, soya links – in place of sausage, pot pies made with potatoes, carrots, parsnips and turnips, with perhaps a bit of fish stock for flavoring, or by adding a bullion cube to the water that the peas were boiled in, and even thicken it with oatmeal for a variety in flavor. Fried crow, or ‘crow a la Lyonnaise’, or even Starlings were substituted. Dried and ground up acorns were a common substitute for coffee, and if real coffee were ever available, the grounds were dried and used over again – more than once. Ground up blackberry leaves substituted for tea! Mashed potatoes were used as filling for lunchtime sandwiches. The ads read: eat potatoes often, they give you the extra energy you need for your daily duties in wartime, and they guard you against illness. Cook them often! Potato pancakes are a delicacy for supper!! When some of the Britons wished to be hospitable, and entertained an American soldier, they offered them ‘Mock Hamburger” – two thirds potato! One official’s wife worked for the Food Ministry, writing and preparing recipes, and writing snappy slogans to promote enthusiasm about powdered eggs, which she pointed out were the real whole egg with nothing added, certainly not plaster or wood chips, as rumor had proclaimed, and nothing had been removed except the shell and the water. When a whole egg was found in the market, it was ‘caveat emptor’, (buyer beware), as only too often after getting it home, it was found to be rotten when cracked open, especially those stamped “Canada” – how old could these have been??