Discussion in 'WWII Activities and Hobbies' started by Jack B, Jan 29, 2020.
"I've seen some shit today, I have."
In 1941 Britain, rationing is in full swing, as Admiral Dönitz tries to put the squeeze on the food supply. The Ministry of Food is trying to balance supply and demand with price controls and rationing. Shipping remains a concern.
"In mid-February , for example, 'shortages and increased prices continue to form the main complaints. Queues are reported from many districts and are causing much inconvenience and hardship.'"
-- Britain's War: Into Battle, 1937-1941
“Potato Pete” became a nationally recognized figure as he promoted tatties as being healthful, nutritious, and ‘energy-giving’. Usually widely available, a hard winter led to a smaller supply and some shortages in the Spring. Nothing the Victory Gardens won't be able to compensate for.
(In War Cabinet minutes, the potato is classified with other ‘Energy Foods’ like rice, oats, sugar, and margarine, not 'Protective foods', so this promotion seems a little inconsistent.)
Helpful recipes were offered up by the Ministry of Food, published in the paper.
London Daily Observer, February 1941
For lunch today, I decided to test out the “Wartime Champ” recipe. Seems similar to Irish ‘Colcannon’. I scaled back the amounts, but tried to keep the ratios the same.
Mrs Jack declared, “this is great”, and cheerfully cleaned her plate. I thought it was nicer and more flavorful than I had expected--a fancy mashed potatoes with a touch of sweetness.
However, the addition of some chopped green onion, a little cheddar cheese, and dash of Worcestershire sauce would definitely move this up a few rungs on the taste and satisfaction scale.
A chopped parsley garnish might have increased the eye-appeal.
Still, I’ve had worse.
So, yesterday’s “Wartime Champ” became today’s “Bubble and Squeak”.
Bubble and Squeak is an old dish, maybe older than Champ, but it has evolved over time. Apparently Scotland has it’s own version of Bubble and Squeak known as Rumbledethumps. There are probably other versions out there. To me, Bubble and Squeak is an obvious use of leftovers and no recipe is needed.
From the 1940’s experiment, it is recipe No. 78.
My one difficulty with this website and it’s recipes is that the site doesn’t provide any specific references. When was Bubble and Squeak actually developed? How do we know this above recipe is accurate for the 1940’s?
Wiki lists a cookbook from 1806 as having the first recipe for Bubble and Squeak, but does not provide the recipe. However, it is clear the dish is much older:
Beeton’s Everyday Cookery and Housekeeping Book from 1888 gives directions for making the dish from leftover beef, cabbage, and onions. No potatoes.
A reference to an 1877 cookbook suggests that the potato had started to appear in Bubble and Squeak by that time and gives a rhyming hint at the origins of the name:
Yet, I also found recipes from 1915 and 1924 cookbooks that just consisted of just beef and cabbage—no potato. When the potato was regularly included in the recipe is a mystery to me. However, it seems safe to say the potato featured in wartime Bubble and Squeak.
One person who lived through WW II recalled:
The Daily Dispatch, 15 May 1991
And by 1944 it appears to be standard dish on the front lines:
Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, 30 Aug 1944
I was amused to find a reference to two field guns nicknamed ‘Bubble and Squeak’ in a military memoir from 1906. Clearly a well established and beloved dish by the turn of the century:
— Brevet-Major W.J. Ottley, With Mounted Infantry in Tibet
For my version, I chopped up some leftover bacon and stirred that into my leftover Champ with a bit of extra milk.
I put big spoonfuls of this mix onto a hot griddle and flipped the resulting ‘patties’ after a few minutes. Sure enough, the mix started to bubble…..and sizzle, if it didn’t actually ‘squeak’.
Once browned up and crusty on both sides, I served it hot (very hot!) off the grill. While waiting for her portion to cool off, Mrs Jack added touch of Maple Syrup to hers (blasphemy?). “Mmmmmmmm…..”
I found the Bubble and Squeak to be perfect as is, but that Maple syrup didn’t hurt it one bit.
I wonder if Monty ever tried a little Maple syrup on his?
So I followed my first White Bread recipe and good old Apple Pie. Now I did sub out my own sourdough starter for the yeast, cut back on flour and no sugar since the starter actually makes its own form of raw sugar. Water was also not used and besides that shapes were made different and higher temp. I asked my mother and the one thing she said they always had was some form of heavy bread with every meal. I guess a filler so they would not be hungry later.
Now for the Apple Pie I also used the sourdough starter for the shortening in the crust and actually used apples that were from the summer that a friend had grown and given to me. They have been cleaned in the fall, tightly wrapped and frozen. I guess that was from my victory garden. Just as a reference the sourdough starter takes sometimes 3x longer to rise but there have been studies done that foods are easier to break down. Therefore blood/sugar does not get affected as negatively with baked yeast/sugar products.
That bread looks fantastic, jba!
Obviously no going hungry in your house. I was thinking that I might try to give the "National Loaf" a try at some point.
(I'm trying to not look at that apple pie picture. I don't want to get drool on my keyboard......)
Thanks Jack. Bread is the easiest thing to make. The other story my mother said was that my grandmother was always running out of coffee and sugar. Unfortunately there was some trading going on which I guess happened everywhere.
Fish wasn't rationed, but Many fishing boats were taken into naval use as patrol boats. Wartime made fishing hazardous and disrupted the transport of fresh fish.
A “Bully Beef” trial.
As far as I know, the British military has been using tinned corned beef, or “Bully Beef” since the 1900’s. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Noah had a few ‘Iron Rations’ that included Bully beef on the ark. Some cans certainly look old enough.
Bully beef--minced beef that it preserved with salt, sugar, and gelatin--was used during the Second World War by Brits, Kiwis, Aussies, and Yanks—always more often than desired. Spam—I’m not making this up—was preferred by many.
“Hormel President Jay Hormel … was quoted as saying “If they think Spam is terrible they ought to have eaten the bully beef we had in the last war”” — War on the Rocks
When speaking of captured rations: “The Japanese soldiers found canned corned beef so disgusting that they threw away the rations after tasting them.”
—The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
The Australians used it as a staple and it became caricatured.
The planes that made air drops to troops on New Guinea were named “Bully Beef Bombers”. Unfortunately some cans of bully beef were often damaged during these drops, leading to spoilage.
"Bully Beef Bomber" attacking Aussie positions with ration drops. Photo from Khaki and Green by AWM
Early in New Guinea, food resources were scare, especially in combat positions. Men were going for extended periods with little other than bully beef and ‘biscuit’ (hardtack) or rice.
''Before [the O2 ration pack] there were times troops were fighting in remote parts of New Guinea for up to two months on only bully beef and biscuits,’' — Chris Forbes-Ewan, Defence Science and Technology Organisation, as quoted in Food on the frontline, Matthew Raggatt
Papua, New Guinea. 10/1942. “Soldiers of the 2/31st Australian Infantry Battalion heat up their frugal mean of Bully Beef and Biscuits along the track over the Owen Stanley ranges near Menari.” AWM
Cooking in the jungle was a real challenge. Small fires were used when possible. Some improved stoves were made from cans of sand and gasoline. Often bully beef was eaten right from the tin.
Pvt P. SHIMMIN, 2/33rd Australia, Papua 1942 AWM
The steady diet of tinned beef and biscuit took a toll and men developed signs of scurvy and other nutritional diseases. When cans of spoiled bully beef were eaten (might be hard to tell), troops often suffered from diarrhea and cramps.
Paul Lutjens, 1st Sgt , Co E, 2nd Bn, 126th Infantry, Michigan National Guard, per Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua
OK, now with recommendations like that, how could I not give it a try?
After reading a few accounts, it seems the basic field recipe for cooked bully beef was to mix the beef with crushed biscuit or rice and cook them together with some water, preferably from a clean shell hole.
I noted that some accounts mentioned dehydrated vegetables. Both the American and Australian armies were aware of the need for a more varied diet, but supplying troops wasn’t easy.
The Quartermaster Corps : Operations in the war against Japan, Alvin Stauffer
Because there were few mentions of using dehydrated veggies, I decided against using them, even though I do have some on hand. Given multiple mentions of "bully beef and rice", I overcame temptation and ruefully opted against the addition.
My recipe for “New Guinea Risotto”:
1/2 tin of bully beef
1/2 cup rice
1/2 canteen cup water (clean if possible)
Procedure: combine ingredients and heat over smokey fire until rice has absorbed all the water. Mix the grease that has floated to the top into the ‘risotto’.
The beauty of this recipe is that it is easy to remember. And that’s where the beauty ends.
It was not dreadful. I can say that. I ate a few spoonfuls before adding some Tabasco. The Tabasco really helped. Really helped.
Opening the tin of beef I caught the aroma of cat food. This gave me the idea to test it out on my dog. I gave him a small piece and waited. After 15 minutes he seemed normal (for him), so I went ahead and made the dish as described (it’s been cold here so all the shell holes are frozen up. I used tap water.).
I thought it would be a bit saltier, but I guess the rice balanced out the saltiness of the beef. While I would call this ‘not good’, after eating it for a bit, and with some Tabasco, I started to find that I didn’t mind it too terribly. I can think of a dozen ways to improve that, but the Diggers and Yanks in the Jungle didn’t have those options. Even my Tabasco is a big stretch. Hats off to the men who had to actually eat this to survive and fight.
After eating enough to feel satisfied—and that didn’t take long—I fed the rest to my dog. He and I are both alive and well as of this posting.
Green and Kakhi
Mom used to fry slices of bread in bacon fat and dole out scrambled eggs on top. On good days we got two sices. And potatoes, of course, never a meal without potatoes.
My Grandmother had a huge jar of bacon fat that just sat on the window sill. All year long. Never was drained or cleaned and I swear she would put some in every thing she made. Man that lady could cook!
Imagine now if your recipe called for a glob of old bacon fat to be added to your ………..
Lets pay homage to the best animal...
Physiologically very close to humans...The tribesmen in the mountains of New Guinea have been known to eat their enemies...interestingly they call human "Long Pig"...
Probably more true for some of us than others..........
We have a couple jars of bacon fat in the fridge. We use it for making meatballs, cooking sausage and peppers (great served on a roll), etc. I know these are WW2 recipes, but saving bacon fat is something we still do
Mom used bacon fat for salad dressing. All the veggies straight from the garden, still warm from the Sun.
Damn that sounds good.
Hillbilly food, but that ain't automatically bad. Big mess of beans and cornbread fed a family of five just fine.