Friday, June 18, 2010

Bacon Week: Part the Fifth.

World War II finally ended with the Armistice of 14 August 1945 (or with the formal surrender of Japan on 2nd September 1945), but rationing in Britain did not finally end until midnight on Saturday 26th September 1953. The total period of rationing in Britain was 13 years, 8 months, 2 weeks and 6 days - only slightly less than the 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours, 32½ minutes of the “noble experiment” of Prohibition in the USA.

In many ways the post-war period was more dismal, food-wise, than it had been during the conflict, and it was indeed a lamentable situation when the ‘already meagre’ bacon ration was halved in mid-October 1947 – two years after the war’s end. The lament was sung poignantly in an article in The Times of that week that is also a hymn to the English bacon-based breakfast.

Lament for Bacon.
In a sombre world we miss more acutely those little flashes of happiness which can lighten the gloom, and so the halving from next Sunday of the already meagre bacon ration is a hard blow. Bacon is sweet at all times, but even as fruit is said to be golden in the morning, so is bacon for breakfast. It is then that it announces its coming by a subtle and pervasive odour. Then the householder stepping grumpily from the bathroom, with no enthusiasm at all for the day’s task, suddenly detects that fragrant herald and makes a scramble of his dressing. “Here’s to thee, bacon, “ he exclaims, dropping the capital letter and adapting his Calverley to his own ends, and rushes down to find it still hissing and sizzling on his plate. He may like it frizzled almost to dryness, so that it can be eaten not indelicately with the fingers, or he may prefer a more unctuous treatment, with rich juice that must be mopped up with bread lest a drop of the precious liquid be wasted. This is a matter of taste, but in either instance it makes the most heartening of starts to a new day. In the most famous of its alliances it is usually named second, but it is a mere accident of everyday talk, as in the case of Oxford and Cambridge. It implies no inferiority, and it is noteworthy that Mr. Wooster, no mean breakfaster, referred indifferently in his elliptical speech to the “e and bacon” and “the eggs and b.”
But indeed this comradeship with the egg is but one aspect of bacon’s character. It is the best mixer in the world and may be said, in a too well-worn phrase, to have a genius for friendship. The roast chicken looks lonely and miserable without those entrancing little rolls, of which the carver is tempted to appropriate an additional one to himself, as a reward for his labours. It is surely the bacon which gives to angels on horseback their celestial title. There is a certain greyness about liver or even kidneys when they lack their rosy companion. And then there is

Leicester beans and bacon, food of Kings!

Why the seventeenth century poet, Mr. William King attributed this divine dish to Leicester we do not know, but if that city originated a blessing which has since spread over the civilized world it would be ungrateful to grudge it the honour. With all its seductive charms bacon is so essentially innocent and virtuous that there is not sense of greed in loving it. Vegetarians have been known to make a tacit exception in its favour even as teetotallers do sometimes, by a curious process of mental gymnastics, in favour of port wine. Our allowance was paltry before and now it will be almost wholly illusory. It will be futile to try to spin it out. Far better to save our bacon for one breakfast of frenzied happiness in the fortnight, then smart in the fires of abstinence til the brief moment of repletion comes “slow, how slowly” round again.

For those unwilling to eat the whole, entire, complete bacon ration in one meal of ‘frenzied happiness”, the Ministry of Food gave some suggestions for eking it out in one of their post-war Food Facts leaflets.

Pan Hash.
- economical on your bacon ration, and a tasty way to use up cooked vegetables. Try the alternative flavourings too.
Ingredients (enough for 4): ½ lb cooked mashed potatoes, ½ lb, mixed cooked vegetables, chopped, 2 oz. chopped bacon, fried, salt and pepper.
Method: Mix all ingredients together, and fry the mixture in the fat from the cooked bacon on both sides till well-browned – about 15 minutes.
Note: if not cooked vegetables are available, 1 lb. mashed potatoes can be used.
Alternative flavourings to use instead of the bacon” (1) 2 oz. grated cheese (2) 2 oz. chopped cooked meat (3) 2 oz. flaked cooked fish.

Variety Fritters.
Try these on Monday, when you may have a little fat to spare from the Sunday’s meat.
Ingredients (enough for 4)
4 oz. self-raising flour or 4 oz. plain flour and 2 level teaspoons baking powder, 1 level teaspoon salt, ¼ level teaspoon pepper, ¼ pint milk (approx.), 2 oz. chopped bacon, fat for frying.
Method: Mix flour, baking powder if used, salt and pepper, well together. Mix to a stiff batter with the milk. Beat well. Add the chopped bacon. Fry tablespoons of the mixture in hot fat until golden brown on both sides. Serve at once. This quantity makes about 8 fritters.

Quotation for the Day

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.
Doug Larson

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