Fascinating insight from wartime cookery books

� Tony Bartholomew 07802 400651'mail@bartpics.co.uk
� Tony Bartholomew 07802 400651'mail@bartpics.co.uk
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by Jeannie Swales

It’s the 70th anniversary of D-Day tomorrow – a good time to remember the privations that our forbears experienced in the War, both at home, and at the front.

Our picture shows three cookery books from the Scarborough Collections. The first was published in August 1940 by the Navy Army and Air Force Institutes, known, of course, as the NAAFI, the organisation which runs cafés, bars and shops on British military bases and aboard naval ships. It’s a fascinating manual of cookery techniques and recipes for the forces cook.

Its front cover sternly announces that ‘All previous recipe books [are] cancelled’ and ‘No deviation in the prices of sizes of portions given is to be made with the prior sanction of Headquarters’.

It really does cover everything from the absolute basics – instructions are given for making tea ‘in half-gallon Tea Pots’, using three-quarters of an ounce of tea to half a gallon of ‘Freshly Boiling Water’, three-and-a-half ounces of sugar and one-and-three-quarter ounces of Unsweetened Condensed Milk – to the (slightly) more glamorous, such as Vienna steaks, which were basically burgers made with minced beef, mashed potato and rice with various seasonings, coated with flour and fried ‘in hot fat until a bright brown colour’.

Meanwhile, back at home the conscientious housewife would listen to the weekly radio programme The Kitchen Front, which gave housekeeping and cookery tips, including how to make rations go further and the latest from the Ministry of Food, and from which the other two books are culled.

How to Cook in War-Time is by food writer Ambrose Heath, who tells us that, in peacetime, ‘few things horrified me more than to have to take a ‘short-cut’ in cooking’; in wartime, he says, ‘if we have to eat strange dishes, then we must do our best to make them appetising and attractive’.

And there are certainly some strange dishes to be found between its covers. Instructions are given on cooking ‘river fish’, including barbel, bleak, chub, dace, minnow and tench (‘when not too muddy to eat, fillet and fry, boil, or stew’). The thrifty cook could also tackle ‘Suet Crust with less Suet’.

The third book is The Kitchen Front, and includes the tempting-sounding French Canadian pea soup (ingredients: ‘bacon rind, all you can collect; 1lb lentils or dried peas; a thick slice of stale bread per person; a carrot or turnip; chopped parsley’), followed by pea pod soup, which used the liquid from the vegetables above, and 3lb of pea pods.

For further information on the Scarborough Collections, please contact Collections Manager Jennifer Dunne on Jennifer.dunne@smtrust.uk.com or 01723 384510.