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Category Archives: The Homefront

Fifth Avenue Fashions 1940

Fabulous fashions photographed New York in March 1940 – 

  
   

Holland’s Menaced Frontier, February 1940

My grandfather was Dutch. He emigrated to Australia in 1956 and when I was a teenager he told me stories of his time in the war. He was in the bicycle Corp of the Dutch Army, and told many tales (some exaggerated I’m sure) of being in work gangs for the Germans. My grandmother gave birth to two children during his ‘internment’. 

 This page made my think of today’s media, where sometimes we ignore or pass over what’s happening, thinking, “it won’t happen” or “it doesn’t affect me.” This is from 3 February 1940. Germany invaded Holland on 10 May 1940.

 

Pennsylvania 65000, The Menu, and Postum

Today while googling doing serious research I came across the The New York City Library website.  The Library has collected more than 40,000 restaurant menus dating from 1851 and have digitized them. They are now available on the library’s website for all to enjoy, including this 1942 menus from the Pennsylvania Railroad –

vintage 1940s menu 

Note the mention of rationing under beverages, and also the term “Postum.” I had to look it up On Wikipedia –

Postum is a powdered roasted-grain beverage once popular as a coffee substitute. The caffeine-free beverage was created by Postum Cereal Company founder C. W. Post in 1895 and marketed as a healthful alternative to coffee.

The “instant” drink mix version was developed in 1912, replacing the original brewed beverage.[2] Postum is made from roasted wheat bran, wheat and molasses. This 10‑calorie beverage is caffeine-free, fat-free, trans-fat-free, sodium-free, and kosher.

Although the Postum Cereal Company explicitly stated in its advertising that Postum did not taste like coffee and was not a coffee substitute, the drink enjoyed an enormous rise in sales and popularity in the US during World War II when coffee was rationed and people sought a replacement.

Aha!

There are more wartime menus on the website, but I picked this one as it reminded me of that great 1940 swing song “Pennsylvania 6-5000” recorded by Glen Miller and also the Andrew Sisters (which you can listen to here). 

  

Sewing Bees in Wartime

We hear a lot about ‘Make do and Mend’ during Wartime, especially when clothing rationing was in effect,  but maybe you haven’t heard about sewing bees. Quilting Bees were popular in America in the early 1800’s, as a way for women to meet others and tackle large quilts that would be cumbersome by themselves. They provided socialization, friendship, wisdom and sharing of supplies and tools,  and basically involved a group of women getting together and sewing.

The first mention I have found of a wartime Sewing Bee is in this article from December 1939 –

dec39

30 December 1939 Australian Woman’s Weekly

Red Cross Sewing Bees see to become popular in Australia.

bee27april1940

27 April 1940  Australian Woman’s Weekly

Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) was probably the one who began to make Sewing Bees popular in England and Australia during the War, forming a Red Cross Sewing Bee for the women of the royal household at the palace each week from as early as November 1939.

queenbee

15 June 1940 Australian Women’s Weekly

You can also watch a little video her Great Sewing Bee of 1939 here.

This article from the American Woman’s Weekly in March 1942 is a little different, as rationing is not really mentioned, and the ladies are sewing more for themselves than the troops, but it is interesting to ‘see’ these ladies in action at their sewing bee.

sew1.1

sew2

sew3

Sewing Bees are obviously meant to be a cooperative event. There is a recent British TV show called ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ which is a reality TV contest type show, which to me loses the point of sewing bees, but you can watch it here.

Have you joined a Sewing Bee or thought of doing so? Tips for joining an online sewing bee can be found here.

Finland’s Women Face War Horrors, December 1939

 Not a cheery Christmas tale, but interesting reading none the less. I never really think of Finland being involved in the war, but it really was a World War, wasn’t it?

finland during WWII  
finlands women face  war horrors 

Australia’s First Wartime Christmas 

 December 1939 saw the first Christmas of WWII, and in Australia the day also marked the fiftieth wedding anniversary of Prime Minister Menzies and his wife. The Menzies always tried “to have a completely English Christmas Dinner,” a mentally shared by many Autralians at the time – which explains why Australia entered WWII so quickly.

  

This little snippet from the same issue of the magazine shows how some women were feeling at the time.
 

 Living with wartime rations – Day 3 and eating meat

 Living with wartime rations – Day 3 and eating meat

Monday…my least favourite day of the week. Miss Ten has band practice and needs to be at school by 8am, which is forty five minutes earlier than usual and sends us all into a spin. I managed to get up just in time to put on a pot of oats for breakfast (1 cup rolled oats and 3 cups water).  I usually soak the oats the night before, but hubby cleaned the kitchen as he was so impressed by last nights dinner, that I forgot. Miss ten of course hates porridge, and will usually eat weetbix, but as we were out I made her an old wartime standby – bread and milk. Both had one teaspoon on raw sugar on top, and Miss Ten really enjoyed her breakfast!

Porridge and bread with milk, great wartime breakfasts

I made the children leftover lamb sandwiches with sliced tomato and shredded beet root tops (the ducks ate the lettuce, which is a wartime no no, but they are transitioning for their old home still). They also got a carrot, an apple and a small blueberry cake ( from the freezer, as I haven’t baked this week).

We work from home, so usually eat lunch at home.  Today I made Scotch broth from the rest of the left over lamb (about a cup), the lamb bone, a cup of soup mix (barley and split peas) and a cup of vegie trimmings that I keep in the fridge and add to during the week – waste not want not!

Ministry of Food recipies for vegetable soups

I served it with some bread and dripping from last nights lamb, saving the butter ration, which is quite tasty but a different idea to get used to. It’s also surprisingly firm, and can sit on the kitchen bench without melting, unlike butter. My husband says its like eating a heart attack.

 

Scotch broth and bread & dripping for lunch

 
For afternoon tea, knowing the children would be starvingafter school, I made wholemeal pikelets, with a recipe from 1941 (19 July Australian Women’s Weekly). I doubled the recipe, except for the sugar and added a teaspoon of cinnamon.

   

pikelets served with 1 tbsn of maple syrup – seriously popular!

 
For dinner we had chicken livers with pasta (macaroni was eaten by wartime Australians and offal was not rationed). Well, when I say we, the kids refused to eat chicken livers, so had the rest of the scotch broth instead. I used the ‘Liver in Sauce Mexicana’ recipie from 1945, below, but used chicken livers instead of calves liver, as that’s all I could buy. 

Tips for ratiioning from 1945

Tips for ratiioning from 1945

 

Chicken Livers ala Mexicana with a green salad

 
My husband loves meat, and would eat it for every meal if possible, as I imagine would many men of the 1930s and 40s. I’m not so fussed – I was vegetarian for eight years and vegan for half of those. I only started eating meet when my first child was two and started demanding sausages at bar b ques (despite being told where that meat came from). 

In 1939 Australians still ate more meat than anyone else, according to an article in ‘The Longreach Leader’February 1939, beating even the Americans, with an average 226lbs a year ( or 102.5kg, an amount which did not include wild foods like rabbit and kangaroo).

 

Meat eating facts from the Longreach Leader, February 1939

Meat eating facts from the Longreach Leader, February 1939

 
According to the Business Insider Australia, in 2015″ Australia tops the list again, with each resident consuming on average nearly 100kg of meat a year — or around 250g a day.” So we are actually eating less meat than we did in 1939, prewar.

Unfortunately a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that many Australians are now consuming too much food that is high in fat and sugar and not enough vegetables or wholegrain cereals. Apparently Australians exceed the world average consumption of not only meat, but alcohol, sweeteners, milk and animal fats, while consumption of vegetables and cereal is below the world average – 90% of people aged 16 years and over are failing to eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day.

 

the 14th biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

the 14th biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

 
There is a simple solution. Rationing! We are now eating less than 200gm of meat and animal fat a day, at least five serves of veg, 1/2 to 4 tablespoons of sugar/sweetners, at least five serves of whole grain cereals, 2 pieces of fruit or equivalent home made juice, lots of water, less tea and coffee, one or two eggs a day for all of us, less to no alcohol and 1 (adults) to 3 (kids) cups of milk. We don’t snack between meals (the kids are allowed fruit from the bowl), we even sit down for afternoon tea, and we don’t go out or get takeaways (we don’t do that often anyway).

If we lived closer to shops, rather than just the local conveniance store, I would try and be more like a wartime housewife and walk to the shops each day. Instead I have tried to get to the supermarket every second day after driving the kids to school (it’s 10km away) and buying fresh, using what I have grown in the garden or bartered with neighbours, and walking the dog morning and afternoon. I am cooking from scratch, which takes some time, but I don’t have to stand queuing for hours, which gives me time to actually go to work and have some time for blogging!

Living on Wartime Rations – Day 2

Being a Sunday I decided to make something different for breakfast.  I found an easy recipe from 1943 – savoury breakfast patties.

recipes from 1943

recipes from 1943

The lemon tart recipe looks interesting too, I might try that one day.

 

ingredients for savoury breakfast patties, mixed batter & grated onion & cheese

  

breakfast patties served with a spoon of yoghurt, spring onions & a side of shredded lettuce

 

The patties were excellent – my husband loved them so much he said he would make them next time, as he saw how easy they were. The recipe served four (one daughter was away), and it used one weeks ration of egg and cheese for one person. Yoghurt was available in the early 40s, and could be delivered in 1/2 pint bottles. Some cookbooks books advised making your own yoghurt from the bought stuff, using part of the powdered milk ration.  As to the lettuce with breakfast, food ministry leaflets remind us that –


For lunch we had beetroot sandwiches. I did think about using grated beetroot but I had a can in the cupboard and used that instead. They were “interesting” according to Ms 14 and “yuck” from Master 10, but we grownups enjoyed them. We drank iced tea, made from yesterday’s leftover tea and the juice of one orange – refreshing and not too sweet.

  
For dinner I bought a shoulder of lamb on special (still $20, but hopefully it will be enough for sandwiches on Monday) and decided to slow roast it, as per the following wartime leaflet advice.

  

I sliced the fat on top in a criss cross pattern, like for Christmas ham, sprinkled on salt, pepper, dried oregano (I’m out of Rosemary, which I love), and a bit of red wine vinegar, covered it in foil and baked at 150 degrees Celsius, fan forced, for four hours. We ended up with just over three cups of dripping, and I used a little of that to roast the potatoes in.

 

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb just  about to be carved

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb just about to be carved

 
It did shrink a bit, as you can see the bones sticking out.  The potatoes were in for about an hour with the lamb getting warm (instead or parboiling) then I took the lamb out at 6pm and turned the oven up to 190 for half and hour and browned the Spuds. We just had some steamed broccoli, carrot and cabbage with it, and horseradish cream rather than sauce or gravy.

 

slow roasted shoulder of lamb and veg, wartime food

Looks boring but tasted fantastic!

 
The verdict? Lamb is our new favourite! Tender, moist and delicious., and super easy. The small shoulder fed six of us, with enough left over for the kids sandwiches for school tomorrow, and a pot of soup.

Passed the evening watching the fabulous ‘1940s House’ documentary/ reality show, which you can find Here.

Living on Wartime Rations – Day 1 & The National Loaf

    Yesterday was Saturday, the first day of our week of living on wartime rations. Given that the children are meant to be having around 7 slices of bread a day, we had toast for breakfast, from day old bread, with a little butter and plum jam that I made last Summer.  The children had one glass of milk each and hubby and I had a coffee with a spoon of cream.

    Day old national loaf, homemade plum jam and almost a weeks worth of butter for five

      

    Toasted national loaf, a smidge of butter and jam and coffee with 1 tbsn cream

     

    bean and grated carrot sandwiches – I love my ‘new’ vintage op shop cloth ($1)!

     
    We ate sandwiches
    with homemade bean paste and grated carrot for lunch with a glass or two of water each, followed by a small locally grown mango each.
    I usually bake a loaf of bread every second day – grain and wholemeal – so the kids are used to it for their school lunches. It won’t be a shock like it was to millions of white bread eating Britons when the mainly wholemeal National Loaf, was introduced. Bakers were banned from making any other type of bread except the national loaf, made with national flour, and many people hated it.  But being high in vitamin B, wholemeal flour was nessessary for people eating smaller amounts of meat and eggs.
     
    why eat wholemeal bread

    from The Australian Women’s Weely, November 1944

     
    Recipe: The National Loaf (makes 2 loaves)

    • 1 ½ lb national flour (wholemeal with 15% white or potato flour)
    • 1 ½ tbsp salt (this is a LOT but it helped to preserve it)
    • 1 ½ tbsp dried yeast
    • 1 dsp honey or treacle
    • 450 ml tepid water With 1/2 vitamin c tablet dissolved

    1) Mix together all the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave until dough has doubled in size (around 2 hours).

    2) Knock back the dough, give a short knead then cut into two equal pieces. Place in 1.5 litre loaf tins, allow to rise for a further 2 hours.

    2) pre-heat oven to 200°c then bake loaves for 30 min. To test the loaves turn them out of their tins and give the base a tap. if it sounds hollow they are ready. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

    (I often use the juice of half an orange in my mix instead of the vitamin C tablet, it helps the bread to rise and means less kneading, and provides the sweetness for the yeast instead of the honey. My mix is usually two cups wholemeal, one cup grains, 1/2 cup rye and 1/2 cup white and just a pich of salt which makes 1 loaf. I find a tablespoon of oils helps the bread keep and makes it softer. Sometimes I leave out the grains and do a different shape, like ciabatta, or rolls, just to mix it up a bit!)

     

    the wholemeal grain loaf, this one didn’t rise very much!

     
    We had an exciting afternoon tea – left over bread with jam, no butter, for the kids, who also had milk in their tea, and just black tea for us grownups. I have just been rewatching the first episode of ‘the 1940s house’ and have been inspired watching the ladies go without so the kids can have more! I am pretty sure my son sneaked a mandarin as well.

     

    the world’s most exciting afternoon tea

     
    Dinner was a stew – kangaroo. We don’t have rabbits here in Queensland, but kangaroos are plentiful, and although it has only recently hit our supermarket shelves, country people have been eating ‘roo’ for decades. My stew recipie is based on the brown stew guidelines below, from my new goto book (which you can find as an ebook on Amazon).

     

    my new go to book, Eating for Victory

     
     

    tips for good wartime stews

     
     I used 500gm kangaroo for the meat and added one clove of garlic and some dried oregano for flavour. The tomatoes were a gift from a neighbour and the veggies were scrubbed instead of peeled for less waste and more vitamins.

     

    Kangaroo stew ingredients, including 1 clove of garlic. Note the flour, I had just kneaded the bread and didn’t want to waste it!

     
      
    Being Saturday I did have one cocktail, but the rest of the night was water. We had a square of dark chocolate each and an after dinner coffee for the grownups.

    Not a bad first day, and I also op shopped, gardened, put up a new fence for the ducks and did laundry. And finally found my elusive tape measure and measured vintage tablecloths for the Etsy store. Yeh me!

    Wartime Food Storage Tips

    This wartime article from 1944 has great tips on how to store food in your fridge and pantry, and how to store things if you don’t have a fridge. Not everyone had a fridge in the 1940s – I know my grandparents didn’t have one until the 1960s, and used a Coolgardie safe instead, a very basic form of fridge which works on the simple principle of evaporative cooling, developed from the old meat safe.

    Image

    Image

    I already have a cat, so I am off to a good start!  I think we may try and build a coolgardie safe next – some ideas here, and a plan for a meat safe here.

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