Thursday, June 05, 2008

Not enough butter.

June 5 ...

Saving every scrap and drip of fat rendered in the kitchen was a patriotic act for housewives in the Allied countries during both World Wars. Every scrap and drip was almost as good as a bomb on the enemy, because even the blackest grungiest smelliest grease contains a very desirable 10% of glycerine – desirable because it is an essential ingredient in explosives. The fat was collected in empty cans kept beside the stove, and these were collected, usually by the local butcher, and sent to the munitions factory. The authorities were very serious about the saving of fat - a good housewife could earn two extra meat ration points for every pound of fat collected.

The other half of the patriotic culinary effort was reducing the use of fat in the first place, and this was enforced via rationing. In Australia on this day in 1944, the butter ration was reduced to 6 ounces, which was still very luxurious compared with the miserable 2 ounces allowed in Britain. There were all sorts of strategies promoted to offset the inconvenience of not enough fat for cooking. The whole idea seems bizarre today when we are told constantly that fat is poison. At the time however, fat was very desirable: it was necessary to feed you, fill you up, make you grow, and give you strength. There were no gyms, no brand-name gym shoes, and if one was seen running around the neighbourhood barely dressed, one’s neighbours would have called the police on one. Everyone simply moved about more, that’s the difference.

With such a dearth of fat the home baker had to be very creative. Both sides of the problem – finding enough fat and not wasting any fat – were got around partially by making cakes with fats that would not previously have been considered. In a previous story we found out about ‘codfat’ – which is not what it seems - and according to an Australian cookbook of the time made a great Pineapple Cake. Here is another recipe from the same book – some delicious cookies that use the dripping carefully saved from your Sunday roast – if you can stop the family spreading it on their bread, crunchy bits and all, that is.

Glamorous Cookies.
If you want a lovely rich tasting dark brown cookie try this: Melt together one generous tablespoon of clarified beef dripping, one big tablespoon of honey (just as you lift the spoon from the jar) and quarter teacup of brown sugar – the darkest you can buy. When boiling stir in one teaspoon baking soda dissolved in one tablespoon hot water. Cool a little while it bubbles. Then add a lightly whisked egg. Stir well. Flavour with vanilla or orange essence. Pour into it the following mixture.
Two cups sifted flour, one cup rolled oats, a saltspoon of salt and a big cup of raisins or sultanas (or mixed fruits.) Blend to a stiff consistency with the hot honey liquid. Allow to stand for ten minutes. Then put by small teaspoonful on a greased oven slide. Bake in a moderate heat until deep golden brown (approx. 36) Because you have mixed these cookies hot, there is no risk of them spreading flat in the oven.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Afternoon tea with Jane.

Quotation for the Day …

Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale. Elsa Schiaparelli.

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