Egg cutlets, dripping cake, savoury potato biscuits, creamed sardine pie and mock-friend egg. What do all these dishes have in common? Well, yes, they don’t sound very tasty, but the answer is they were all meals cooked during World War II and they all appeared in the Imperial War Museum’s new exhibit the Ministry of Food.
It takes its name from the very Government department that was formed during the war years to coordinate rationing and to make sure everyone in the country ate a healthy balanced diet. People may have been hungry – they probably yearned for chocolate and a thick bacon and egg sandwich – but people didn’t starve and our grandmothers developed some canny and innovative ways to make those rations stretch.
In a book called Eating for Victory I found the most curious recipe called Mocha Whip, in which the ingredients for this luxury drink were 8tbsp flour, 3oz sugar, 1tbsp cocoa and 1 pint of black coffee. I can’t quite imagine the taste – maybe I’ll try it some day.
I would heartily recommend this exhibition to any food lover. It cannot fail to make you appreciate the abundance of food we enjoy today. How is it we have lost the skills of our grandmothers to make things stretch and last, to not waste any precious morsel of food? We might not want to give egg cutlets a go, but we can certainly learn a thing or two from the Ministry of Food.
Oh by he way, they are also selling some of the fantastic Ministry of Food posters, which advertise everything from ‘Go easy with bread, Eat potatoes instead’ (because potato crops were more worth while than growing wheat) to ‘Turn over a new leaf: Eat vegetables every day to enjoy good health’, which I have bought to put up in my kitchen.