Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Plea for Cheese.

Meat rationing in World War II was a trial and a chore for most Britons, and it might be assumed, it not being an issue for them, that vegetarians had it easy in that regard. When a cheese ration was proposed in early 1940 however, vegetarians became vocal. The President of the Vegetarian Society, Mr.W.A. Silby, was moved to write to The Times newspaper on the issue, with a convincing argument that the general public had reason on a number of counts to be grateful to the vegetarians in their midst. His letter was published on February 6th.


“ … Rather do we feel that we have some claim to the gratitude of the Ministry of Food and of the meat eating-majority, for not a single meat, bacon, or ham coupon have we used since the war began, nor do we take fish, lard, and dripping, and thus either there is more of these commodities for others, or shipping space is saved. … we now learn … that no more shipping space will be found for nuts. Surely, Sir, this is a mistake, from the national standpoint no less than our own. Concentration of nourishment and so also keeping qualities, give the advantage to cheese and nuts all along the line, for a very large part of the space and weight (estimated by some at as high a figure as 70 per cent) concerned in meat and its carriage is sheer waste. On the other hand a single cargo of cheese or nuts has enormous potentialities. … The vegetarians have yet another claim to the nation’s gratitude, for we are living examples of the good advice given in the broadcasts from “The Kitchen Front”, and in the appeals of Lord Woolton. The use of wholemeal bread, the daily consumption of salads, raw carrots, and green vegetables (cooked conservatively), potatoes eaten in their jackets, and all the rest of it have been preached and practiced by many of us from our youth up. …Sir, I beg of you to use your influence to persuade the powers that be to give us fair play and sufficient protein, in the shape of cheese and nuts. To many of us these last are not merely an occasionally after-dinner luxury, but a regular and substantial part of our daily diet."

The following day the newspaper reported that Mr. Silby’s letter had elicited a sympathetic response from the Ministry. “We admit,” stated an official, “that at the moment the vegetarian is pretty badly off [compared to earlier in the war]… I think the position of vegetarians will have to be considered again by this committee.”

Cheese rationing was set to begin on May 5. On April 2, the Ministry confirmed that vegetarians were to be allowed a significant amount of extra cheese – 8oz per person per week instead of 1 oz. There were of course, certificates and application forms to be signed and promises to be made (not to eat meat at a restaurant or other eating place, for example) by those wishing to claim this concession, but nevertheless, Mr. Silby had had a victory. Who said Letters to the Editors are a waste of time?

In mid-1945 the cheese ration stood at 4 oz. per person per week, and the Ministry’s “Recipe of the Week” was clearly designed to make little of it go a lot further.

Cheese Spread.
This filling between two good slices of bread makes an appetizing and nourishing meal especially good for heavy workers.
Ingredients: Left-over cold potato or cooked haricot beans. Grated cheese. Pinch of dry mustard.
Method: Mash the beans or potato and mix well with grated cheese and dry mustard. This can be spread directly on the bread, butter or margarine being unnecessary. To make the sandwiches a perfect meal, raw shredded cabbage, spinach, or sliced tomato, or well-chopped parsley should be added.

Quotation for the Day.

Swiss Cheese is a rip-off! It's the only cheese I can bite into and miss!
Mitch Hederberg.


Ken Albala said...

This is grand. You've gone cheese crazy lately! I guess I have too. Made some goat cheese the other day which is rich and creamy, rather than flaky and sour. I have no idea why.

The Old Foodie said...

I'm always a bit mad for cheese, Ken. I used to make my own cow milk cheese regularly many years (several decades, to be honest) ago when we did a self-sufficiency thing - which was hilarious as we were thoroughly citified until that point. I never could work out why the cheese was so different no matter how hard I tried to keep the conditions constant. I've had a huge respect for cheese-makers ever since.