Monday, August 16, 2010

One for my brother in the army

When the biscuit tin circulated you could always get extra rations from my grandad if you asked for 'one for my brother in the army'. Finding out what the actual rations were in Australia during the war is not so easy. By all accounts we were far better off than Britain. At that time a good deal of British land lay fallow as it was simply cheaper and easier to import goods from the Empire. With shipping lanes closed or limited, Britain had to convert vast swathes of countryside to agriculture and many non-essential crops were converted to wheat and potato production (for example, this included land for nurseries, with the bulb industry taking years to recover). Harsh rationing came into effect to counter these shortages. Australia had a role as Britain's breadbasket, and exported much of its food to Britain, as well as providing food for troops.

So what were the rations like in Australia? The most gruesome statistic is that for tea: originally half a pound for five weeks, then eased late in 1942 to half a pound for four weeks. This is about 227g a month, or 56g a week, or 8g a day! A standard Twinnings tea bag these days contains 20g of tea. I think I should die. Kate Darian Smith in On the Home Front - Melbourne in Wartime claims that this ration is enough for three cups a day. I'm guessing she's not a tea drinker...

Sugar was rationed at 1 pound a week (about 450g). This seems like a tremendous amount to me but it seemed that folks in those days liked their pudding. You will find heaps of recipes for using carrots as a natural sweetener, something I'm pegging satisfied no one. The sugar shortage was most crucially felt in jam making, which made government moves to promote preserving doomed to failure.

Most of our dairy products were exported to Britain, leading to rationing of supplies at home: 8 ounces of butter in 43, 6oz in 44. This is about 170g a week, about 24g a day. Remember, you don't have oil to cook with so this has to cover that as well. Influenced by her mother, my mum used to keep a dish of dripping in the fridge, which she used for roasting potatoes.

It was the meat ration that caused the most resentment. At around two pounds, this works out to about 900g a week, 130g a day. This was also affected by a complicated classification scheme where better cuts of meat used more coupons than the cheaper cuts. Things that weren't rationed included: sausages, canned meats, offal (oh goodie!), bacon, ham, poultry, fish and rabbits.

Apart from the tea, this is all looking fairly manageable. But it's not the rationing that's going to get you, it's the shortages. More about that (and how I used an entire week's meat ration in one night) next time. Still don't have my new spectacles.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

6 comments:

Curvy Kitty said...

Bugger. Just fed the cats and realized that's more than my daily meat ration.

Sailor Lily said...

have you see n the 'Supersizers go wartime' episode about eating for one week based on the Ministry of Food English war diet?

if not here is the link- you have to watch it in six part on youtube but you will lvoe this episode:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOE0VP0EZ0M&p=6F9123AA8DE02045&playnext=1&index=6

Curvy Kitty said...

Oh I missed that one! I wonder if it's available on DVD? Thanks for the link!

donnasoowho said...

darn I'd like a cup of tea right now but I think it will make my reflux worse. No new glasses = pain! Is SpecSavers not providing you with the service you require?

Pollyanna_H said...

I think you might find that a tea bag is closer to 2 g than to 20 ...?

Curvy Kitty said...

Really? Oh. I'm so glad to know that because it's been really bothering me! Hurrah! I should have survived the war after all!