Food rationing, revisited

Did you ever wonder what home cooking was like back during World War II, when so many staples and other foodstuffs were rationed?

You need wonder no more, if you’re in London (or have the wherewithal to book a flight), as the Imperial War Museum has mounted a new exhibition, The Ministry of Food, covering the practice of food rationing that began in Britain in 1940 and lasted for (and this was news to us, we have to admit) 14 years, an era in which propaganda featuring a character named Potato Pete urged Brits to get their starch not from bread, which was made with imported (and therefore difficult to obtain) grain, but spuds

As a Time Out London restaurant review describes, the exhibition “explains how our food imports were reduced by enemy attacks on our merchant navy, and how we had to reinvent the ways that we grew, transported and consumed food.”

The exhibition was cited in a restaurant review because the museum’s cafe, which has been redubbed Kitchen Front, is now serving “authentic war-time austerity recipes,” though the reviewer warns that “for a more fortunate generation brought up on meat, sweets, fats and deftly used spices, the drabness of austerity cooking can come as a bit of a shock.”

We can only imagine that WWII reenactors all over the world are planning their excursions even now, excited (if not quite salivating) at the prospect of reenacting a family dinner comprising home cooking impacted by the severe food shortages of the day. Here’s hoping they don’t leave 1940’s-era gratuities to the serving staff.

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