I have for you today a lovely story about World War I rationing, enthusiastic volunteer teachers, keen military students, ways to save Government money, and menu planning – all in one article!
From The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Nov 24, 1915…..
BETTER AND CHEAPER RATIONS
A FORTNIGHT’S MENUS
A large contingent of soldiers recently came up to London to be taught cooking by certificated teachers, who gave up half of their holiday to undertake this useful work. The men were enthusiastic about the quality and quantity of the food, which they declared was “much better than anything they had since they joined.”
It may be useful to give the exact menus from one lady whom I know gave her services for a fortnight. Everything was of the best and the cost 1s. 1d. per head, a saving of 8d. on the Government allowance per day, and where a division is billeted in one camp ₤4,676 would be the balance left over at the end of the week. But we should want 40 cooks, (with soldiers under them) at ₤2 per week (the high salary would attract first-rate cooks and organizers) and 10s. for food, reducing the balance to ₤4, 596 per week, or ₤2,379,522 per annum. Nor is this all. The men were more than satisfied. Because details are more convincing, I give the exact diet table:-
Breakfast:- Porridge, tea, and bread and butter every morning, with the addition of fried bacon or fish or sausages – liver and bacon or kippers – often a choice of two dishes.
Monday.- Irish stew, jam roll.
Tuesday.- Boiled beef, baked, one boiled dumpling.
Wednesday.- Curried mutton, beef steak pie, jam roll.
Thursday.- Roast beef, fruit tart.
Friday.- Cottage pie, meat pudding, bread and butter pudding.
Saturday.- Mutton, sea pie, cherries in batter.
Monday.- Stuffed mutton, beef steak pie, jam roll.
Tuesday.- Soup, steamed fish, fruit pudding.
Wednesday.- Irish stew, dumplings, stewed cherries, rice.
Thursday.- Roast or boiled mutton, meat pie, fruit tart.
Friday.- Shoulder of mutton, onion sauce, plum pudding.
Saturday.- Meat pie or pudding, cheese sandwiches, plums, cake.
Every day during the fortnight potatoes cooked in different ways were provided for dinner and one or two other vegetables, including peas, beans, onions, tomatoes, vegetable marrow, cabbage, and cucumber.
Supper every night. Lentil soup or macaroni cheese or apple dumplings or Cornish pasties with mince meat. Occasionally cocoa was added.
Tea.- Tea and coffee, home-made bread and butter, cake, jam, lettuces, cucumber, cold bacon, occasionally milk and sugar served separate, and not mixed in an urn. This last was very much appreciated.
If the head of the Commissariat Department at the War Office thought it unwise to employ trained cooks, and a certified teacher, fully trained – to pay surprise visits – many trained ladies would be proud to give their services. I know personally three who are doing the cooking in hospitals, and although they have no technical training and very little experience at home, by the aid of cookery books and brains, educated girls have been immensely appreciated by our heroic defenders whom they felt honoured to serve. I have tried to show that much more appetizing meals with no reduction in quantity and much improvement in quality can be provided for very much less money.
It is an interesting idea, is it not? – using volunteer ladies to teach soldiers how to cook, and at the same time show the military how to reduce costs. Somehow I cannot see the same system being tried in these modern times, can you?
From the good, plain dishes on this menu, I have chosen one I think most likely to be acceptable to today’s tastes.
Butter a mold and fill two-thirds full ripe cherries. Make a batter of one-quarter cupful butter, one-half cupful sugar, one well beaten egg, one-half cupful milk, one and one-half cupfuls sifted flour, three teaspoonfuls baking powder and a little salt. Beat until light, pour over cherries in mold, put on tight fitted cover and steam one and one-half hours. Serve with sauce made as follows:
Cream one-third cupful of butter, one cupful powdered sugar, add beaten white of an egg and one-quarter cupful of strained cherry juice.
Fruits and Their Cookery (New York, 1921)