I’d been intending to do another Kitchen Front post for a while, but sadly, my attempts at authentic 1940s meals have not been a success. The vegetable part has been easy – I like vegetables – although I must admit, quite a lot of British recipes of the time seem to involve boiling the poor things to death, then smothering them in a margarine-based white sauce.
No, the problem has been meat. Meat was rationed during the war, of course, but what made it tricky for me was that it was rationed by price, not weight. Each adult was allowed one shilling and ten pence worth of meat each week, although this had fallen to one shilling’s worth by 1941 (while food prices had soared). I think this would have bought a couple of chops or about twelve ounces (340 g) of mince or stewing beef. That doesn’t seem so bad to me (it’s as much meat as I’d usually eat in a week), but I had to remember that in pre-war Britain, families who could afford it ate meat at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It must have been a real hardship for them, trying to adapt to rations. I should add that bacon and ham were rationed separately, with the total amount ranging from eight ounces (225 g) to four ounces per week. Poultry, fish and rabbit weren’t rationed, but were difficult to obtain, unless you were lucky enough to live on a farm in the country.
Given these restrictions, it’s no wonder the British welcomed the first shipments of SPAM® after the signing of the Lend Lease agreement with the United States in 1941. I thought I’d try it out myself, and purchased a tin from my local supermarket. I’d read that it could be used straight from the tin to make tasty sandwiches, so I put a few slices of it on wholemeal bread with margarine, mustard and lettuce. Readers – do not try this at home. It was like eating a very salty piece of pink sponge – and I’d bought the salt-reduced version. But perhaps I’d put too much SPAM® on my sandwich. My next experiment involved dicing it and adding it to a hash of potato, cauliflower, spinach and whatever other vegetables I could find in my fridge. This was better, although I don’t think the SPAM® contributed much to the dish. I still had a third of a tin of SPAM® left, so in desperation, I added small cubes of it to a stir-fry of bok choy and rice noodles. This was quite nice, the little pieces of SPAM® providing some salty, fatty goodness to an otherwise healthy meal. However, it wasn’t exactly an authentic 1940s British dinner. Bok choy would have been unknown to most British diners, and rice was in extremely short supply, due to the British not being able to import it from Asia, especially after the Japanese entered the war. In fact, I read about one Chinese restaurant in London that chopped up spaghetti to make ‘rice’.
Still, if I’d been living in England during the war, I probably would have eaten SPAM® and liked it – although I think I might have been tempted to become a vegetarian and exchange my meat ration for cheese.
And speaking of spam, why does my blog attract such weird examples of it? I don’t mean the usual offers to increase the size of my (nonexistent) penis or make me a millionaire in thirty days. I’m talking about the spam comments that seem to have been translated through several languages by someone with very little understanding of any language, let alone English. For example:
“Out! Gone. And I maid the, misconstrue the bus, the close halfwit!
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“All the in in the terra won’t mutate the at one’s fingertips’s awareness of him as a scant Napoleon with a eminent mouth.”
I know it’s usually generated by a computer, but it’s hilarious how even the relatively coherent ones manage to be completely unrelated to the blog post on which they are ‘commenting’. For example, this appeared on my blog post about fan mail:
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(And it wasn’t even advertising ‘home elevators’ – the link in the address looked like a site that sold Windows-related software.)
And this was a response to my post about my favourite fictional girls:
“I have to say that I thought this piece was very profound . . . It has shown me a new insight in to my research about current government policy.”
Of course, most spam is far more creative when it comes to English grammar:
“I firm next to way of this blog ask for up and it is really incredible.I patently genuinely enjoy your website.Perfectly, the chunk of posting is in pledge the very finest on this genuinely worth even though subject.”
However, my award for Spam of the Month has to go to this spammer (advertising a real estate agent), who posted the following comment to my blog:
“Im completely fed up with this, in the event you spam my internet site or even blog site 1 more point in time I am going to expose you!”