Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Scarcity of Fat.

Today, Thursday March 23rd …

During World War II, every Allied household was encouraged to save every scrap of fat so that it could be re-directed to the making of glycerine, which was a key ingredient in the manufacture of explosives. Fat in all forms was rationed for much of the war in both Britain and America, and the housewife was vigorously encouraged to salvage whatever she could from whatever did make it into the kitchen. Meat was trimmed, roasting dishes scraped, stews skimmed, and the grease strained into an empty can which was then collected by the butcher.

The regular wartime column ‘News of Food’, in the New York Times on this day in 1943 carried an article on how to cope with the ‘fat scarcity’. Readers were advised that butter could be substituted with meat drippings in many dishes, or could be ‘stretched’ by various methods, such as this:

Spread D
(Makes half a pound)
¾ teaspoon gelatine
1 tablespoon cold water
¼ pound softened butter
½ cup evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon salt.
Put the gelatin in a bowl, add the cold water and place bottom of bowl in hot water until gelatin melts and dissolves.Gradually add the softened butter, the evaporated milk and salt, beating continuously with a fork or electric mixer. When well blended, pack in a mold or in waxed paper and chill until firm in the ice box.

In the event of no fat being available, and therefore a deficiency of Vitamin A looming, it was suggested that this could be obtained from dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, milk and liver.

Spinach as a substitute for bacon grease, now there’s an interesting concept!

The newspaper had been publishing ideas for daily menus. In the light of the scarcity, these had been adapted to be lower in fat. The suggested menu for the following day (24th) was:

Stewed prunes* **
Bran flakes with milk
Toasted muffins* Jelly
Coffee Milk

Toasted cheese sandwiches
Carrot strips
Fresh apples Milk

Broiled porgies
Stewed celery and tomatoes**
Boiled potatoes with parsley
Fruit salad with mayonnaise
Reheated cup cakes* with lemon sauce if desiered
* indicates use of a leftover
** indicates use of a rationed food.

There must have been side-benefits to health from all this fat re-cycling. Can we not find some other vital thing to manufacture from it? Lard-powered computers? Bacon-fat-driven mobile phones?

Tomorrow: All the wheat that’s easy to eat.

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