I’ve been looking through the little cookery book I bought the other day; first published in 1944, it takes account of the situation ordinary people cooking at home faced – having to accommodate rationing. Food – and other things were rationed during the war, and not for the first time; certain foods were rationed in the First World War as well, which i didn’t realise! I knew the Germans had submarines in that first war but didn’t realise although I should have done, that they were not used as offensive against the British Navy but to try and starve Britain into submission. They started what’s known as unrestricted submarine warfare and in response, voluntary rationing was introduced in February 1917. Seven months later, bread was subsidised from September and three months after that local authorities introduced compulsory rationing between December 1917 and February 1918. The country was running out of wheat and in July ration books for butter, margarine, lard, meat, and sugar were introduced.
Rationing started almost from the beginning of the Second World war, so by the time Nell Heaton wrote ‘Cookery To-day and To-morrow’ it was just a way of life. Petrol was the first item to come under rationing, and at teh beginning of 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were added to the list, followed by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk, canned and dried fruit. Knowing this makes her introduction to her book ,ore telling:
When planning meals we must concentrate on making the foods both appetising and nutritious, remembering that malnutrition is found not only amongst those who are short of food, but also amongst those who eat the wrong foods. An ingenious cook is able to make ordinary meals both interesting and varied; good cooking does not need a large income. Cooking is an art and the garnishing and serving of the meals play an important part, since sauces and garnishes give added zest and nutrition, besides improving the appearance of food.
It is one of the outrages of our modern country, that there are people who are malnourished and hungry because they just cannot afford the food their family needs. Think of Marcus Rashford and his campaign! Another point Nell makes is the idea of ‘eating with your eyes first’ so making food attractive and appealing in appearance can make a genuine difference in appreciating it.
Foods that are a luxury to some are everyday fare to others, and this is due to the available supply, economic and geographical conditions. Yest even when food supplies are restricted it is not difficult with a little ingenuity to plan, cook and serve a thoroughly good meal.
Plan ahead whenever possible, and if you are a beginner, try the simplest recipes first, before going on to more complicated dishes.
Always have order in your kitchen and clear up as you go.
In some cookery books I’ve read, especially those who are aimed at cooks who are just beginning following recipes, there’s a very patronising slant to the writing; I don’t feel there is here with Nell’s introduction, just common snse.
The section on recipe building and checking should prove helpful to you and I hope the recipes which follow will give you some new ideas, if you are weary of planning. If you are just beginning to cook, once you know the basic proportions you will soon find you can make your own recipes, or adapt those I have compiled for you.
This really sounds as if Nell has confidence in the new cooks and that she’s not harshly dictatorial about following recipes to the letter! (Some cookery writers are, even today!)
It has not ben possible to give you as many recipes for each specific food as I would have wished, or t set out the ingredients in all sections owing to paper rationing, but I hope you will find in Cookery To-day and To-morrow some helpful suggestions which will make your meals attractive. A meal which is enjoyed is digested and utilised more effectively than one which is eaten without appetite or relish.
I didn’t realise, or maybe I had forgotten that paper was also rationed. I describe Nell’s book as ‘little’ – well of course it was, in size as well as in font size and number of recipes and how she’s written them! I wish I could find out more about her… I shall keep investigating!