All the recipes from the Ministry of Food War Cookery Leaflet Number 11 are now available. Click here to view them.
Produced by the Ministry of Information and then Ministry of Agriculture – an appeal to the public to grow vegetables.
During World War II when everything was scarce, food rationing was rife and cheap sources of protein were few and far between, somebody had the bright idea to catch cheap fish in South Africa, can it and ship it to England. Suffice to say it did not go down too well over here. The Web is full of war years recollections penned by people who remember this weird fish with the hugely amusing name arriving and being inedible. A large proportion of the tins that were imported remained firmly on shop shelves (despite optimistic suggestions from the Ministry of Food – like Snoek Piquante which seems to have become a kind of shorthand for everything unpalatable about food rationing!).
A tin of Snoek cost 1s 4d and towards the end of the war the unsold tins were relabelled as “Selected cuts of fish for cats and kittens” and sold for 10p!
Edited May 2015
The benefits of eating fish were widely proclaimed, but again it was very scarce. Fishing was a dangerous occupation in mine-laden waters and the pier was a prohibited area, so fresh fish was a novelty and a luxury.
The ultimate came, however, when the government hit on the bright idea of combining fish and meat and urged us to eat whale meat. Where, or how, the whales were caught and brought to England I do not know. There must be a limit to how much whale one ship can carry, and one whale alone would provide a lot of whale steaks, but newspapers and the wireless told us how to prepare and cook the stuff, and sure enough, in due course, it appeared in the shops. From there, inevitably, it found its way onto our table.
It had been soaked overnight, steam-cooked, and soaked again, then blanketed with a sauce, but still it tasted exactly what it sounds like – tough meat with a distinctly fishy flavour, ugh. Just this once the next-door’s cat ate it!
Yes, we laugh about it all now, yet after all these years I still cannot bear to see good food wasted or thrown away – but I think I could make an exception with whale meat.
Copyright © Anne Butcher 2003
Food Minister Talks on Rationing 1939.
An American commentator looks at the effects of rationing on the people of England in 1944.