Saturday, June 25, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Lessons Learned from the WWII Shortages

When I began writing for an Emergency Preparedness website in the 1990s, there wasn't a lot of information about "stocking up" as there is today.  It consisted mostly of Mormon and Survivalist websites, neither had great information in that decade.

So that is when I learned that the best pantry information could be best found in articles about homesteading, gardening, and even the history books.  I especially liked the articles about what European housewives learned during WWII.  I tried to locate my notes but like most of them from that decade, they were tossed when downsizing to a smaller file cabinet.

However, I do remember the most important information about those items which became impossible to obtain and the affect they had on people... for these items became a priority for my small pantry!

The food item that surprised me as having the most detrimental affect on their health when they could not get it was... fat!  Yes, that is hard for us to believe in a society that has low fat cooking books galore.  It turns out without fat in your diet, you can become very ill and even die... and people did.

There were many reasons fat was no longer available and when it was available it was rationed.  First, the lard many people had been using was now being shipped to the military to be used as grease for guns and machines.  Butter was almost impossible to get and when you could it was rationed. Many of the oils used were no longer available either because they could not be transported or the country of origin was occupied by the Germans.

People who went through the Depression and WWII learned how to do without and tweak recipes whenever it was possible.  I make crazy cake today because my family likes it, not because I have a shortage of ingredients.  But that recipe came out of the Greatest Generation.

You may remember your mother or grandmother having a tin on the stove which held their bacon drippings?  I can't recall my mother ever not having such tin on the stove.  I still save bacon drippings today but I don't cook bacon often so I have a small container in the refrigerator.

I use it especially for cooking foods that benefit from bacon flavor like potatoes, eggs, sauteed greens, etc.  No one would ever have thought of throwing out bacon fat who lived through the Depression or  WWII.

I do remember my mother also skimming off chicken fat when it was chilled and using it to fry with.  There is a name for it... schmaltz.  There are old fashioned and homestead recipes that call for it as an ingredient.  I would prefer using a grass fed organic chicken, which I can't possibly afford.  For their fat is more like what our mothers and grandmother skimmed off to use later.

However,  at both the grocery stores I shop the most, I can get the "second best" option which are chickens labeled to not have a lot of the stuff other chicken farms use to raise poultry. Their brands of whole chickens are just slightly more expensive and are what I most often use for soup.  I can get soup and a couple other meals from the chicken.

Speaking of old fashioned fats, remember when we were told never ever to use lard?  Well, now research is showing that the purest lard of old could be easily assimilated by the body.  I have read that the lard sold in most grocery stores is not pure like lard of the past.  However, the pure form is available.  I'd ask the local health food store or the organic farmer at the Farmer's Market if they know where to find a source.  (Remember when coconut oil was considered a dreadful oil for our health and now it is a health food?)

Other food items difficult to purchase in parts of Europe during WWII were items that had to be brought in from other countries like coffee, tea, sugar, rice, cocoa, citrus fruits, etc.

So why must I even think of these shortages.  There are no war drums beating inside my country.  Well, I don't know if it is still true but at one time I read the average food item in our kitchen has traveled 1,500 miles.  Yikes.  It wouldn't require war to break out these days, anything affecting transportation could cause at least temporary shortages... weather, terrorism, a zombie Apocalypse. 

Anything we can do... just a little extra here and there to set aside for the "what if" scenarios of life... they are like giving our future self and our future families (even if the future is next month with a job loss) a gift.  When we went through both of our long term unemployment years, there was no warning at all that a major layoff was coming. 

As Kristi said a couple weeks ago in Comments, people often survived in a real war situation by coming together and helping each other. It doesn't take money to build community.  Build your own community if family doesn't live nearby even if it is only a couple of good friends.  

I couldn't find my WWII notes but I did find this article that I had read before about the siege of Sarajevo.  I know nothing about this website but the list is the same I have read elsewhere... here.


terricheney said...

People were encouraged in the US to save their USED fats and turn them in to collection centers. There were numerous magazine articles on saving fats and how to strain and clean them. Fats were used to make plastics and explosives during WWII and were very necessary war time commodities, not just for the pantry but for the war effort. This is a great article and a good reminder to better use the oils we can stock or 'save' to stretch our fat rations.

I do find it ironic that we are so often urged to decrease fats in our diets and sugar, too. More and more often, as I study nutrition guidelines for normal and diabetic diets, I find that my Granny was quite right: "a little fat, a little sugar, a little salt, every day will keep you healthy." Ahead of her time that grandmother of mine!!

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

These are all good ideas and reasons to stock up as you're able!

Anonymous said...

I remember saving bacon fat in a jar when we were first married because my mother-in-law did it, but then I never used it! Ha! The list from the link was a good one to save. All good info! Thanks!
Laura C. (WA)

Anonymous said...

Yes I used to have a metal tub marked grease on my stove top. It had a lift out strainer inside. It was given to me as a wedding present. Now we only have some bacon fat in a very small tub in the refrigerator. Bacon is a treat now. We do cook with it though.
I keep wondering what today they say is bad for us will be over turned at any moment! :) I think moderation is the key word to eating. Not overdoing but enjoying it. When our family got together we all discovered we had all come to the same conclusion to eat real butter only. Each thought the other still thought using butter was "bad".
How you come up with new ideas for your pantry posts is amazing to me. But you find another side of it to write about and we always learn more. Thank you again forgetting god guide you in all your writing. Sarah