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Wartime advice that’s still good today

A housewife in 1941 faced limited choices and the need to be thrifty.

A housewife in 1941 faced limited choices and the need to be thrifty.

Seven decades ago, the world was at war and Canadian and American households were feeling the effects thousands of miles away from the battlefields.

Thanks to rationing and limited supplies, life at home was often challenging. Things like sugar, butter and eggs were hard to come by, along with other scarce food items needed to feed the troops overseas. Families were encouraged to: “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Although we don’t have to live on war rations these days, this is still good advice. In fact, many of the tips and recommendations in books like the Wartime Economy Book of Recipes for 1945, circulated by the Halifax Herald and the Halifax Mail, are just as sound today as they were then.

Untitled-1The newspaper solicited recipes and suggestions from readers across Nova Scotia and the Maritimes and more than 8,000 were received. The 32-page supplement was presented on April 10, 1945 “as a helpful wartime service, to promote economy, nutrition and efficiency.”

Mrs. Lloyd Neely of Wilmot, Nova Scotia wrote in with an idea for maximizing the butter ration: “A good way to economize on butter is to make full use of drippings from roasts and other meats. These fats not only add grand flavor to sauces for scalloped dishes and vegetables, stuffings for meats and so on, but their use noticeably stretches the weekly allowance of butter.”

This advice stands the test of time, with butter costing about $4.50 a pound ($9 a kilo) in most parts of Nova Scotia. Many readers, including Mrs. Neely and others, also substituted drippings and chicken fat for butter in baked goods, cookies and cakes.

Mrs. S. T. Larsen of New Glasgow, NS had a suggestion for how not to waste eggs. “If the whites of some eggs are needed for cooking, but the yolks may not be required for several days, they may be preserved in the following manner: Make a hole in each end of the egg; holding it upright, give it a shake so the white will run out. Then paste two pieces of white paper over the hole (with the egg white) and the yolks will keep fresh for several days.”

Another idea from Mrs. Larsen is to boil and eat the leaves of the cauliflower, which she says “have a taste half way between Brussels sprouts and young cabbage, and are altogether a pleasant surprise.”

Untitled-2Instead of frying cheap cuts of meat, which will make them very tough, Mrs. Florence Blades of Upper Lakeville, NS suggests this: “Cut meat into nice pieces. Roll in flour and sear in hot, greased pan. Then arrange vegetables cut into small squares around meat. Add a touch of onion, keep barely covered with water and bake until tender. Very tasty.”

Here’s an offbeat suggestion from Mrs. Alex Hudson of Country Harbour, NS. “Any batter cake requiring one egg can be successfully made without it by substituting for the egg one level cupful of snow, folded in just before putting the cake in the oven. Good idea for winter baking when eggs are scarce and high.”

Miss Margaret Kennedy of Truro, offered a host of nutrition tips, including:

  • cooking vegetables quickly in as little water as possible to retain their healthful qualities
  • reusing the oily liquids from salmon, tuna and sardines – high in Vitamins A and D – in place of olive or vegetable oil when making sauces and salad dressings
  • shredding the outer leaves of cabbage, lettuce and endives for use in salads, as they are richer in calcium, iron and Vitamin A than the inner leaves
  • cooking foods high in proteins, such as meats, fish and eggs, at moderate temperature. “‘Haste makes waste’ is a good motto to remember in protein cooking,” says Miss Kennedy.

A full two pages at the end of the supplement were devoted to cooking and preserving Nova Scotia apples. Miss D. Lynch from Halifax suggested stewing apples in a syrup of sugar, water, lemon and ginger to create a ‘mock pear’. Mrs. Edward Warskett, also of Halifax, proposes a substitute for whipped cream made from 1 grated apple, 2 tablespoons of sugar and one egg white, beaten together until light.

These lessons from the wartime kitchen can all be easily adapted to suit the modern, healthy food movements. Growing your own ‘victory garden’ is another way to pay homage to our thrifty and resourceful forebears. Did you know that in 1944, it was estimated that more than of 209,200 victory gardens were in operation across Canada, producing about 57,000 tons of vegetables?

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