the ‘Ministry of Food’ exhibition part 3: thrifty wartime ways to feed your family

March 19, 2010 at 9:51 am 20 comments

My previous posts about my visit to the Ministry of Food exhibition at the Imperial War Museum have focused on the ‘Dig for Victory‘ during the war years.  Today the spotlight shines on the ‘Kitchen Front‘ and the advice given to families to ensure they grew ‘fit not fat‘ on their war time diet.  Help was certainly needed to inspire the home front cook faced with shortages of today’s store cupboard essentials and recipe enhancers.

”We all think about food eternally, not because we are hungry, but because our meals are boring and expensive and difficult to come by.  How browned off I am by vegetable pie and savoury butter and inferior sausage and boiled potatoes.  What wouldn’t I give for orange juice or steak and onions or chocolate or apples or cream!’ (Phyllis Warner, diary entry 1941)

Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall has written a book to accompany the Ministry of Food Exhibition and recalls When I was asked to write a book for the Imperial War Museum about food during the Second World War I was assailed by memories from my childhood.  As I was born in 1939, I cannot clearly recollect the early war years, but I remember eating my greens and drinking my milk for the sake of starving children in Russia. I also recall brains appearing on my plate, mince cooked in a variety of ways and, for pudding, many variations on a fruit theme: pies, tarts, crumbles, fools and mousses.  The Ministry of Food exhibition and book focus on how wartime restrictions affected the lives of ordinary people: how they tended their vegetable gardens and allotments, how they shopped (and queued) for food, how they cooked and how they ate’‘.

Flicking through my copy of ‘thrifty wartime ways’ last week coincided with baking jacket potatoes and a perfect opportunity to pop a little something else into the oven.  I  opted for Flapjack for its many virtues:  prepared in minutes to produce a tasty nibbly treat and using this recipe, I reasoned, a healthier option due to the rationed sugar portion.  I couldn’t resist adding a little extra crunch from my 21st century store cupboard to pack a more nutritional punch (sprinklings of linseeds, sunflower seeds and flaked almonds).

making wartime Flapjacks

225g (8oz) oats
55g (2oz) butter or margarine (plus extra for greasing)
115g (4oz) golden syrup
55g (2oz) demerara sugar
(optional extras:  linseed, sunflower seeds, almond flakes, dried fruit)

  • Preheat the oven to 180°c (350°f or gas mark 4).  Grease a 20cm (8in) square, shallow cake tin.
  • In a saucepan melt the butter, syrup and sugar.  Stir in the oats (and optional ingredients if using them) and turn the mixture into the cake tin, spreading evenly.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.
  • Take out of the oven and cut into square or rectangular pieces immediately, leaving it in the tin until completely cold before removing.
    We’ve now also made a second recipe from the wartime cookbook – Pineapple upside down cake.  And part 4 of my Ministry of Food exhibition posts explains how to make mock goose for Christmas when rationing was in place   © Imperial War Museum images

Entry filed under: away from the plot, in the kitchen.

making raspberry pavlova 10 seed potatoes you’ll want to grow (Andy McQueen’s top picks)

20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bilbo  |  March 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Looking at the obesity problem in the UK and USA these days, I often think we could do a lot worse than go back to this type of diet.

  • 2. miss m  |  March 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Not sure about the golden syrup. Is that like corn syrup or is it your fancy way of saying honey ? 🙂

    (Still quite a bit of sugar in there for my taste, but) These look delish, especially since you added plenty of nutritional goodness.

  • 3. Kirsten  |  March 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Lovely post! I just might have to pay the extra postage to have this sent across the pond!

  • 4. Nip it in the bud  |  March 19, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Bilbo – absolutely and people don’t realise how much money they’d save too

    Miss M – golden syrup is the chewy secret in all the best flapjacks over here (and the sugariest of course and most recipes have lots more than this in). There’s only one brand, Lyles Golden Syrup and it was already vintage back in the 1940s

    Kirsten – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed and the book includes gardening tips as well as recipes

  • 5. Ann  |  March 19, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Very interesting post again Nic. Your flapjacks sound a bit luxurious! I remember going to a church fair where the mothers union were doing the tea and cakes, the flapjacks were so hard it was impossible to bite them, I took mine back :>)

  • 6. Gillie  |  March 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I am enjoying your posts so much! Please have a look at my blog,…...

  • 7. BitterSweet  |  March 20, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Those vintage food guides are so fascinating! Really interesting to see how so many things have changed, and yet stayed the same…

  • 8. maria  |  March 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    just came back home after seeing the exhibition last week
    people really need to discover the value of such a diet, both for themselves and for the environment

  • 9. Sophie  |  March 22, 2010 at 9:07 am

    What a lovely post this is!!!

    Those wartime flapjacks look so tasty!

  • 10. Nip it in the bud  |  March 22, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Ann – jaw breaking flapjack has been my experience when you attempt to make a ‘healthy’ version. Golden syrup creates protective chewiness on the one hand and total tooth rot on the other!

    Gillie – thanks for popping over. I still have one or two other Ministry of Food posts to come. And thanks for the award, very kind of you

    Hannah – absolutely, contrary to what the ad men would have us believe ‘grow your own’ is 70 years old!

    Maria – how fab that you made it while visiting the UK. Hope you didn’t find it too cold. I’m sure the Cretian sunshine is helping to thaw you out!

    Sophie – thanks, very tasty :o)

  • 11. Margaret  |  March 23, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Interesting post – those flapjacks look wonderful and full of goodness too.

  • 12. Choclette  |  March 25, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    This is so interesting Nic, I really should make the effort to go up to London to see this. Not sure about the reduced sugar with all that golden syrup, but I do love flapjacks, they are so easy and tasty and as you say a good vehicle for nutritious nuts and seeds.

  • 13. Steve Thomas  |  March 28, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Hello again Nic, I enjoyed your further post on the exhibition, your enthusiasm is infectious!

    All best wishes


  • 14. Sophie  |  April 27, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Your flap jacks look so tasty,…They scream: EAT ME!!!


  • 15. Aanne @ Flower Delivery  |  July 26, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I love that old Food Chart Poster,
    its great – actually it would want one for the kitchen wall.
    In reference to your post – it just show us all what our fore fathers had to go through

    Aanee xxx
    Flower Shop

  • […] Bake it in the oven for an hour so the sauce goes all thick and sticky and the potatoes are softened.  The apple and cheese are such a fine combination and you’d never know they were there but for a lovely sweet richness to the gravy. Other posts in the Ministry of Food series you might be interested in part 2: digging for Victory part 3: thrifty war time ways to feed your family […]

  • […] wanted to make Ginger Beer since visiting the Dig for Victory exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.  I liked the idea that even during Wartime Britain when families were managing on rations they […]

  • 18. making pineapple upside down cake | Nip it in the bud  |  August 20, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    […] decades and never made it myself so when I decided to take a trip down memory lane I turned to my Ministry of Food: thrifty wartime ways to feed your family cookbook for an authentic recipe. I used tinned pineapple as that’s what my Mum always used and I […]

  • 19. making gluten-free lemon drizzle cake | Nip it in the bud  |  March 20, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    […] I’m willing to find out though and feel re-inspired to have another thumb through my ‘Thrifty wartime ways to feed your family‘ cook […]

  • […] have two other posts about my visit to the Ministry of Food exhibition – Part 3: thrifty wartime ways to feed your family and Part 4:  making mock goose for […]


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