After writing yesterday’s post I was drawn to the idea of wartime onions. Were they ever in short supply? And if so, how on earth did the British manage without this ubiquitous staple vegetable?
The supply must have been reasonable at the beginning of October, 1940, if we are to judge from that week’s Ministry of Food’s Food Facts leaflet which did not compromise on the amount of onion suggested in the following recipe:
Potatoes are very warming and invigorating. Serve them often, and for a change, try using them this way. Scrub 2 lbs. potatoes and cut them into thin slices. Peel and slice ½ lb. onions. Mix together 1 heaped tablespoonful flour, 1 teaspoonful salt and pepper to taste. Grease a pie dish. Put in alternate layers of potatoes and onions, sprinkling each layer with the seasoned flour. The top layer should be of potatoes. Pour in 3 teacupfuls hot milk and bake for about 1 hour in a moderate oven. This makes enough for 4 or 5 people.
By the end of the month of October however, the public were being advised in the current Food Facts leaflet that onions were in short supply.
Onions are short – no, not in size, in quantity. Meanwhile remember the leek. The leek has the same kind of flavor, but more delicate. Chop the green part finely and you’ll find it gives a good taste to your dishes. (Leeks and potatoes together make a dish for which a whole province of France is famous.) Much more use, too, should be made of dried English herbs, thyme, mint, sage, marjoram and chervil.
The following week (November 4) the Food Facts leaflet gave an even more interesting suggestion for making the most of the onion:
Make your own Flavourings.
No wasting of celery and spring onion tops this year, please. Shred the tops finely and either sprinkle them into salads, or dry them and store them in jars for flavouring soups and stews in the winter. The outside golden skins of onions can be dried, powdered, and used for flavouring.
Now, that is an idea I have never come across before – using powdered onion skin to add flavour!
Onions were in very short supply. I remember reading someplace about a wealthy couple having been sent an onion and rather than cooking it, used it as a display at their table. Also, I recall reading about auctioning onions. I couldn't find a link to the article I read, but I found these for you, if you're interested
And there is a mention of an onion being auctioning in this article,
"Some “exotic” fruits like bananas disappeared almost totally from wartime Britain: in July 1943, actor Derrick de Marney auctioned off a single banana which fetched £5, while a single onion was raffled round the office of “The Times” and reached over £4."
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