Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Nella's Sadness.

More on this week’s theme of WW II food.

Today, Wednesday 22nd March …

Nella Last was an ordinary British housewife – a bored, slightly neurotic one, prone to headaches and nervous turns – when she responded to the call for volunteers for the Mass Observation campaign of WW II.

The simple act of keeping a diary of the day to day events of the war provided her with a creative outlet that she had not known she needed, and her lowly ‘knack’ of making something out of nothing suddenly made her a local expert in wartime domestic management. She lost her headaches and thrived.

Ironically, she never knew that she had become a writer (an impossible fantasy in her pre-war life) – and a very good one - as her diary was not published until after her death. ‘Nella Last’s War’ is not only a marvellous record of everyday life on the home front, it is a wonderful story of one woman finding fulfillment through day-to-day activities in the most awful circumstances.

On this day in 1941, Nella wrote her diary after returning from the market.

“There were closed stalls everywhere in the market today … no eggs, fowls or golden butter … golden honey or glowing home-made orange marmalade. …Only muddy-looking – and far too small – cockles and pieces of most unpleasant beetroot … I wandered about with sadness in my heart …”.

Nella was far more resilient than she knew, and I have no doubt that once she got home she would have just gotten on with making something pleasant from the unpleasant beetroot, or whatever it was that she finally purchased that day.

The Ministry of Food’s ‘Food Facts’ leaflet No. 40 had a recipe for “using the sweetness of beetroot to make a nice sweet pudding with very little sugar”, which would have been perfect.

Beetroot Pudding.
First mix 6 oz. wheatmeal flour with ½ teaspoonful baking powder, Rub in 1 ½ oz. fat and add 1 oz. sugar and 4 oz. cooked or raw beetroot very finely grated.
Now mix all the ingredients to a soft cake consistency with 3 or 4 tablespoonfuls of milk. Add a few drops of flavouring essence if you have it. Turn the mixture into a greased pie dish or square tin and bake immediately in a moderate oven for 35-40 minutes. This pudding tastes equally good hot or cold.

More Stories about Nella Last appear in 'Nella's Orange Jelly' and 'An indifferent Rabbit'.

Tomorrow: A scarcity of fat.

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