Becci Sharrock, the writer-in-residence at Beamish Museum, recently undertook a challenge to live for a week on a diet of Second World War rations. Between 7th and 13th July, Becci stuck to the exact amounts and types of food that would have been permitted for a citizen in that period.
For the whole of the week, Becci could only have one egg, three ounces of sweets, four ounces of bacon, two ounces of cheese and four of margarine. But, luckily for her, there was no wartime limit on fresh fruit and veg – especially as families were encouraged to “grow your own” – and chicken, rabbit and game were also not subject to rationing.
“I worry about being hungry,” Becci admitted before beginning her challenge, “but I’m pleased that bread and potatoes weren’t rationed. You can also have as many vegetables as you want, so I might actually be healthier from it.”
Becci planned her meals with the help of cookery books from the museum’s own collection. She said, “Seeing how food and recipes have changed has been really fascinating.”
Becci chronicled her experiences on her blog. On day six she complained, “The monotony is definitely starting to hit and I’m feeling a little bloated from all the vegetables.” But she felt happier about sampling the wartime speciality of ‘mock duck’, which was actually made from sausage meat. “It was really tasty,” she wrote, “layers of apple, onion and sausage meat with a nice crispy outside. I don’t know if it looked or tasted like duck, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed.” Becci tended to have porridge for breakfast – made with half milk and half water to eke out her milk ration – and to snack on toast and jam. She also enjoyed a ‘Sunday roast’ with plenty of roasted veggies – but no meat. Becci commented, “In terms of planning, it’s making sure you have variety across the week while not using up any of your rationed goods in just one day.”
Rationing started in 1940 and didn’t end until 1954. Summing up her experience, Becci said, “As well as getting an idea of what it might have been like for home cooks in the Fifties, it will make me think a bit more about what I’m eating and encourage me to be a bit less wasteful. When things are rationed so tightly you have to make the most of all the food you have and I think that could be a really useful lesson.”
You can discover more about Becci’s week of rationing on her blog: www.beamishtales.co.uk