Thursday, February 07, 2019

Literature in a time of rationing …

… Remembering the Hungry Novels of post-war Britain | Laura Freeman. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Twenty million people across the world died from starvation and malnutrition in the Second World War. But Britain kept her larders stocked. Her people did not starve, but they were hungry. Hungry for something good to eat, something sweet, something satisfying, something other than spam, snoek, spuds, stodge, suet and spicy sheep’s head. Rationing began on January 8, 1940, with bacon, butter and sugar, and came on in dribs and drabs until the offering was very drab indeed. Meat only came off the ration in 1954. Two of Barbara Pym’s excellent women, painting the walls of a rectory in the lean years of the peace, puzzle at the instructions on a paint pot. “Of the consistency of thin cream”, reads Miss Enders. “Of course it’s difficult to remember what cream was like”, replies Miss Stathan. As we mark the eightieth anniversary of the war, we might remember the make-do-and-chew recipes and housewife’s cheats of the period. We should remember, too, what they meant: fear, uncertainty, tyranny. And what true food, food as it was before the war, symbolized: peace, prosperity, freedom.

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