Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Maths lesson (probably wrong)

Tonight's a leftovers night: the very nice roast tomato soup and the indifferent Woolton pie (to which I will add gravy this time, my comments yesterday notwithstanding).

But for tomorrow, I'm experimenting. I've got some sausagemeat (not rationed) and some oatmeal (on points). I've also got some of those vegan hotdogs, so the following works both ways.

Sausagemeat, like sausages, was unrationed in the war but very hard to come by. When you did get it, it was bulked out with rusk and breadcrumbs. It was also fatty. Interestingly, this didn't change much after the war, with sausages over 50% bulk still selling well into the 1980s, when Brits finally started to become foodies.

This sausagemeat is much more meaty, as fits modern standards, but I'll soon see to that, because I'm going to make oatmeal sausages. Oh yes. These Ministry of Food inventions are both clever and disgusting-sounding. You fry off an onion in a knob of dripping, then stir in 4oz of oatmeal. Make up a porridge with water and cook for 15 minutes. Then add 2oz of sausagemeat (this also works for mince or chopped bacon) and allow to cool. Make the resulting gloop into sausage shapes, roll in breadcrumbs and fry if you've the fat or grill. Two ounces of sausagemeat becomes 7oz of sausages. I suspect the trick will be in the seasoning.

To serve with this, I'm going to make what Marguerite Patten calls "pigs in clover". Basically, you hollow out the centre of a potato, fill the space with sausagemeat and bake as you would with ordinary baked potatoes. No fat is used and, theoretically, no butter or cheese is required to lubricate the potatoes. This is then served on a bed of steamed cabbage - presumably the "clover". I like cabbage, but British cooking has long had a love affair with serving pork in, on or with cabbage for reasons I can't fathom. I dare say it'll be lovely; I can't see why the two don't mix. But why always together?

By the way, I can make a rare direct comparison in price for the oatmeal. In the 1940s, oatmeal was subject to a ceiling price set by the Ministry of Food and also a subsidy to keep it below that price courtesy of the Board of Trade (despite its name, a government department, now Lord Voldemort's Mandelson's Orwellian Department for Business, Innovation and Skills). The ceiling price was 3.5d a pound. That's about 1.5p a pound in the post-1971 decimalised money (12d [pennies] to the shilling, 20s [shillings] to the £, therefore 240d to the £), or 2.5 US cents.

I got a pound (well, 500g) for 53p (86c). That's 10 shillings and sixpence ha'p'n'y (10s 6.5d; I miss the pleasure that pre-decimal people had of reducing "half a penny's worth" to "hay-puff" - and that people younger than me don't understand the true insult in "you daft ha'porth!"). Parliament helpfully publishes the snappily named "Inflation: the value of the pound (research paper)" fairly irregularly. Here comes the science bit, and on that basis, prepare for it to be wrong.

We start with a "price index", which takes a pound in 1974 as being "100". The price index for 1940 was 20.2; the index for 2002 (the latest available) was 695.1

So, inflation 1940 to 2002 is 695.1 divided by 20.2; prices have risen by 34.5 times. Between 1940 and 2002, oatmeal went from £0.015 to £0.53; thats  35.3 times. Okay, if you're still with me, inflation since 1940 is 34.4; oatmeal in that time is up 35.3; so the price has risen in real terms by just 2.6% (that's 35.3 divided by 34.4, then minus 1, then times by 100). So despite the ceiling price and subsidy of 1940, oatmeal is barely more expensive now than then.

After doing that, I've sprained my brain. I'll have to have gin to cure it. I hope you're all happy now.


Merseytart said...

Is gin rationed? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oweee, my brain.. Where's the gin?! Kate x