What did people eat during WW2 Britain?
This was a time when queues would wind around outside shops and groceries were rationed per person, and no we’re not talking about Lockdown and the restrictions on toilet roll. During the Second World War, food imports took a hit both literally, with German submarines being very effective at sinking ships transporting food to Britain, and figuratively, as the government wanted to free up valuable shipping space for transporting war materials and weapons.
Britain in the Second World War learnt a lot from the First World War so ended up doing a much better job at managing food supply and ration coupons the second time around. One of these changes was to not apply rationing to seasonal items, as the government was unable to ensure supply of these items year-round so instead rationing was only for items that it could be sure people could always get - this had a big impact on confidence that the ration coupon would always be honoured. Another one of the biggest changes was the conscious effort to educate your average household on how to put together frugal but nutritional meals. Cooking demonstrations were held in many stores (see photo below of Ministry of Food Advice exhibition in London, 1943) and practical advice was broadcasted on radio programmes and in short movies.
Porridge was a filling way to start your day but was often made with water and salt since milk and sugar were both restricted at the time. There was also such a thing as ‘dried eggs’ which would be mixed with water to create a substitute for fresh eggs. And carrots were a popular choice influenced by government promotional campaigns (see Dr Carrot below - photo credit: Imperial War Museum) and they were easy to grow yourself, often ending up in stews or in cakes and desserts adding sweetness and moisture. Many dishes were created as a way of using up old leftovers - with bread for example, stale slices made their way into puddings (Bread and Butter Pudding is a classic for this) or were made into breadcrumbs for creating dumplings in stews. Even the fats from meats wouldn’t go to waste, after roasting a beef joint the melted fat would be collected and kept as cooking fat or for spreading some flavor onto a slice of toast.
Note: beef dripping/tallow has made a comeback in recent years among chefs and is used in our bread making program which you can check out here.