Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Terms of reference

Having established why we're doing this, we need to work out how this will work.

Obviously, some parts of the World War 2 "experience" are not going to be easy (or desirable) to repeat. Working out the dividing line without bankrupting the experiment is difficult.

First things first, however.


Wikipedia provides a useful ready-reckoner of rations at their highest and their lowest. Since we're starting in January, we might as well start with the January 1940 rations - tight, but positively generous by later standards.

That gives us bacon and ham at 8oz/230g a week. Sugar is 16oz/455g. Tea is 4oz/115g. Cheese is 8oz/230g a week. Jam is 1lb/450g a month, with marmalade at 2lb/900g a month. Butter is 8oz/230g a week and margarine 12oz/340g. Lard - ugh - is 3oz/85g a week. Sweets are 16oz/455g a month. Meat other than pig meat is slightly more left to the market economy to regulate, at a shilling and tuppence a week.

That meat ration provides the first hurdle: 1/2d is slightly over 5p now. The meat that buys in 2010 can barely be measured. So we need to allow for inflation. Here an invention not thought of in 1940 (except perhaps by Alan Turing) comes in handy. The internet says that, allowing for inflation, 1/2d is just £1.68. That's £6.72 a month, or enough, from our excellent but premium local butcher for about half a pound of lamb or a pound of some appalling cut of beef. And that's in a month. Hmmm.

As a vegetarian, which I am but CJBS is not, all I can find online is that I get "more" cheese to make up for the reduction in pig, "meat" and lard. This is unhelpfully vague (I'd be grateful to anyone with actual figures who got in contact) and, of course, doesn't take into account the modern ways of using Quorn and the even better Redwood vegan meat replacements.

Still, those figures are a good way of proceeding.

Off the ration

Now, how to deal with things that weren't rationed but were still difficult to get? For instance, fish was never rationed but it was very difficult to get hold of. My solution is to allow CJBS as much fish as he would want... but not from the supermarket. If he wants fish, he must go to the fishmongers, where their half-days and strange closing times make getting it difficult. Similarly with vegetables: you can have as much as you like, provide they're British. If they're Commonwealth... well, it's not a drain on Sterling but it does endanger our sailors. Vegetables from Europe are out, even thought the Nazis haven't yet (if 2010=1940) broken out into the west. Our local greengrocer has lots of local veg, amongst the non-local stuff and the air-freight stuff that makes me wince in 2010, let alone in 1940. Anything British from there is therefore fine.


With a faintly green side to this plan, what can we do about the other stuff that we now call "recycling" and "carbon footprint" but in 1940 called "waste not want not"? The 1890s house we live in has had all the fireplaces bricked up, mostly in a refurbishment in 1937 (the one that survived I had bricked up in a refurbishment in 2007). We have central heating - North Sea gas - rather than coal: something on both levels never thought of in 1940. The best I can offer is to be "careful" with it in 2010. We will turn off radiators we're not using and turn down the radiators we are. We'll also wrap up warmer. To a degree we already do this, of course, and fuel and power rationing didn't really kick in until much later in the war... but that's all really excuses.

I have a deep freeze and a fridge - something my Dad's mother never had, even into the 1990s. Both fridge and freezer were effectively unknown in the UK in 1940. I also have clingfilm - a development from the post-war oil boom. To do this properly, I'd need to give both up and live with food that goes off much more quickly. This is an anathema to me - wasting food just bothers me terribly - so I'll continue to treat the fridge like my grandma's pantry. But ideally I'll avoid the deep freeze for voracity.


CJBS points out that exceptions will need to be made three times in January. At the beginning, our best friends Jon and Kate will be visiting for Sunday lunch. Even if I take their rations into account, the roast lamb I promised a few months ago will be the entire meat ration for the month immediately. And Jon doesn't even eat meat! Shortly after, we're promised our friend Tony almost exactly the same meal - but long enough after that he'd notice that the meat had been reheated. Finally, right at the end of January, CJBS and me are in London for a play. This involves a restaurant meal; whilst these were not initially rationed, when it did happen they were limited to 5s (25p) a sitting. That's £7.18 allowing for inflation. £14.36 between the two of us? Well, not including wine and coffee (both were excluded and charged at a premium by restaurants to subsidise the main meal) that's something we could just about do. But the two guest meals will need thinking on about.

No comments: