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15 October 2014
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Wartime recollections of a Nottingham School Girl - Food Rationing

by Peoples War Team in the East Midlands

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Peoples War Team in the East Midlands
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Beryl Bickerstaffe
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Contributed on: 
05 July 2005

"This story was submitted to the site by the BBC's Peoples War Team in the East Midlands with Beryl Bickerstaffes permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions"

Everyone had to register with a particular grocer and butcher. My mother registered with Marsdens on Hockely except for the one book that she registered as vegetarian at the Savoy vegetarian shop on exchange walk, probably her book, certainly not mine as I, being a child, sometimes got extra this or that. She registered with a butcher on Colwick Road. This shop is still open and has been in the same family for many years. At present it is owned and run by one of the wartime owners grandsons. Nowadays people travel quite long distances to visit this butcher — our lifelong friends, the Gibbys, drive there from Nuthall to buy their essential sausages and other produce. They also have a game licence.

The shops people registered with only received enough rationed goods for their registered customers and even when they had no rationed rarities for sale, they were labelled “for registered customers only” and often only one item per ration book was allowed.

There was a monthly points system in operation, each person receiving 16 points. One could buy whatever one wanted (provided it was available) with these points. Tinned foods were on points as were dried fruits and pulses. The 16 points allowed one to buy a 16 oz tin of meat or fish, 2lb of dried fruit or 8lbs of pulses. Mother used to buy pearl barley and lentils with the vegetarian points to add to stews.

My cousin May’s husband, Walter, who was a railwayman occasionally brought us a rabbit which had been caught by the side of the railway track. They lived at Radcliffe on Trent so also had access to locally grown vegetables and fruit which they could bring for us.

Dried egg also became available and each ration book could have a certain amount (I forget how much) but the vegetarian ration book had twice as much. In place of meat the vegetarian ration had extra cheese and eggs and milk and very occasionally, dried bananas, figs and apricots.

There was also a ration of dried milk, called household milk, which could be blended with water to give an equivalent to fresh milk. One had to sprinkle a little at a time, four level teaspoons of this powder whilst beating briskly with and egg whisk for a fork. I used to do a lot of this whisking.

There was absolutely no waste of food and everyone bottled and/or dried fruits, salted kidney beans and made economical chutneys and pickles. The best used was made of every available ingredient. There were some excellent recipes given out on a radio programme called ‘the kitchen front’ which also gave helpful hints on preserving foods without the use of sugar. Towards the end of the war or just after there was a ration of jam and sugar, during the war it had been difficult to make jam as there was insufficient sugar on ration to do this. Instead people had to dry fruit which wasn’t ideal but it did make pies etc in the winter. Eggs were preserved in large, ceramic pots as they lay in this fluid the eggs became coated, up to a half or three quarters of an inch, with a soft but slightly crunchy substance which felt rather horrible when one had to put ones hands in to remove eggs.

I remember my mother once bought a cake which looked alright and cut alright but when one bit into it produced a fine stringy substance from the bitten piece into the slice. It looked horrible but tasted ok. If one is hungry enough one will try anything. We were told that it was the sweetening agent that produced this effect.

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