Friday, 29 August 2014

Food and logistics of feeding an army in WW1 ...


How did they, what with, and when … feed the British Army of World War One – ever considered it?  This post refers to the Army and its entourages only … and not the Royal Navy, nor Royal Air Force, nor other necessary personnel at home … I can’t really conjecture about those.


John Nash: Over the Top

 I had thought about the food pre war – which would have been basic for most people, but gourmand still for many … as large parties continued to be held at the wealthy and nobles’ estates … as Escoffier’s La Ligue des Gourmands shows us:


The Savoy - Escoffier's
first London hotel -
later he managed the
Carlton and the Ritz

Escoffier (1846 – 1935) was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer … and still is a legendary figure among chefs and gourmets.  He founded La Ligue des Gourmands – a dining club for his friends in 1912.




This club spread throughout Europe and attracted thousands of members – it is notable for the Diners d’Epicure – menus that were served simultaneously in many restaurants.  The first was served to 4,000 members in 37 European cities – the last held in July 1914 in 137 cities and to 10,000 diners …

German Submarine zone 1915


… and as you will know: the ‘Great War’ began on 28 July 1914 with Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war with Serbia … Britain entered the war (together with the Commonwealth countries ‘by default’) on 4 August 1914 – after Germany had invaded Belgium on 3rd August 1914.



Dodine
That first menu included Dodine de Canard au Chambertin, a duck casserole cooked in a dodine – looking that up it appears more to be a method (galantine) – a recipe and some infocan be found here.



A BBC tv programme on Mrs Beeton 2006
I got side-tracked as is my wont …


Really up until the First World War a cook’s life in the UK had been ruled by Mrs Beeton (if you could access some of her work), local seasonal food, and lack of refrigeration …




Women weren’t working but were doing the home chores … most did not have a cook, or scullery maid (or servants galore) … national newspapers had a women’s page with bossy exhortations on what to do and how to cope in those early years of the 20th century.


Fray Bentos label from a tin
The early 1900s saw tinned food, including Heinz baked beans, Bisto gravy and Bird’s custard, introduced as new commodities, while ice closets were being added to the kitchen … also food was being shipped in from distant corners of the world … particularly corned beef from Argentina.


Electricity was not up and running – so much was still done by candlelight and cooking on coal/coke stoves, or braziers etc … electricity really only spread into homes during the 1930s …




Back to WW1 and the logistics of feeding the Army … most of this information comes from Jasper Copping’s article in the Daily Telegraph of 19 May 2013 which references the Guide by Andrew Robertshaw, curator at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, to the food eaten by British Soldiers of the First World War with recipes for some of the meals.  Check out Amazon for a book – while the article will give you a fuller overview.


Apparently the ration strength of the British Army was 5, 363, 352 people worldwide, including over two million on the western front.  To feed these men the Army Service Corps had allocated 12,000 officers and 320,000 men …. as a side note: this was the size of the entire British Army sent to the continent at the outbreak of war.


The food was pretty good considering all things and very likely better than they had at home … but … the diet was high in protein, leading to ‘erh’ problems – with men suffering from boils and becoming, in the army euphemism “bunged up” – the amount of meat was reduced!




The men were paid in local currency and were able to buy additional food when not at home … an option not available to many back in Blighty – they simply went hungry.  Food parcels were sent from home – via a very efficient postal system.


Eric Henry Kennington: Signaller off duty (1916)
 Everyone had the same rations … the horses were fed first (I guess not the same food!), then the ranks, and then the officers – even though only a fraction of the men were ever in the trenches at any one time … there were also the administrative camps logistically keeping the wheels turning …


… the logistics would have included: field hospitals, staff quarters, railways, roads, communications systems, the postal system home, stores – food, clothing, spares and munitions … etc etc



Foods on offer included – bully beef, with another tinned staple from Scotland “Maconochie”: a pork and beans meal … curry was standard fare or used to spice up the stews … cooks were encouraged to forage for nettles, sweet docks, wild mushrooms and marigold flowers with which to season dishes.


There was no official vegetarian option, although provision was made for Indian personnel, which included mixed spices, Dhal and Attar … vegetarians received additional sugar or milk, instead of milk; while other variations were produced for the Chinese, Egyptian and Fijian ‘volunteers’.



Toast and Dripping
Cooks were careful to avoid all waste … leftovers were sold as swill to local farmers, while dripping was saved for use in the manufacture of explosives.


As the front lines extended and grew, food was prepared nearer and nearer to trenches with many cooks being killed …


Some of the dishes in the article:  Brown Stew; Potato Pie; Sea Pie (a suet crusted meat pie – why called sea pie: I’ve no idea!); Curried Cod; Milk Biscuit Pudding – feeds 100 men.


Egg and chips would have been available from the French countryside - provisions for those off duty (as such) …



Trench Cake – came from Elizabeth Craig’s Economical Cookery book (not our Elizabeth!) … flour, marge, vinegar, milk, brown sugar, currants, cocoa, baking soda, nutmeg, ginger, grated lemon rind … make up and post across …


Other staples at home:  Butter Beans; Braised Lettuce; Potted Shrimp Curry; Gooseberry Fool, garden or foraged fruits and vegetables … fish sausages made from leftover fish and rice


Bee on blackberry flowers
Cakes were made without eggs and were very dry – to eat dripping would have been smeared on, dunked in a cup of tea – often their only evening meal.  Blackberry leaf tea was popular …



Swede
Basic foodstuffs, such as butter, milk, sugar, meat were in short supply, while wheat flour was so hard to get hold of, that people resorted to making bread with ground-up turnips (swedes).


Rations weren’t introduced in World War One til late in the War (1918) … there was a huge black market, so if you had money you could eat – if you were poor, you didn’t.


Otto Dix: The Ravens (Dawn)

It’s incredible how little people survived on – and they wouldn’t have understood nutrition (vitamins were just beginning to be found) … so we weren’t too healthy …


Robert Graves recalled that his wedding cake was covered with what looked like icing but, due to sugar shortages, was actually a plaster cast!! Ingenious cooks were creative for the effect … apparently when it was lifted off the cake, “a sigh of disappointment arose from the guests”!


An early Ice Closet
So much changed during the 19th century and thrust forward when the War came along … the population had more than doubled since 1851 … which was difficult enough, but many weren’t healthy anyway … and then by 1916 imports of food had virtually ceased, because of the German blockades, so the nation was thrown back on its own devices.



We have come a long way … and I’ve seen huge changes in the last half century after the 2nd world war … mostly I enjoyed school food so I can’t relate to the being bored and my mother was an exceptional cook, as to what was on offer in the trenches it must have been tricky at times .. but the range and nutritional value of what the troops ate was remarkably good.


I’m just glad I live in today’s age … and can enjoy my range of food choices … and eat fresh foods  … now what shall I have for dinner?  … that thought seems almost sacrilegious ….

Note:  I will be writing about WW1 from various angles and will spread the posts … there won’t be a series as such.


The Daily Telegraph article referred to above ... is here, with recipes and all ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

81 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Drippings were used to make explosives? Those drippings must've had one heck of a bang to them.
Feed your horse first because if he failed you, you might be screwed.

Jo said...

What a waste of dripping. I thought they always spread it on toast. We used to love that as kids after the Sunday roast was cooked.

I too am glad I live in this age with the availability of fresh foods and our knowledge of nutrition. My mother was also a brilliant cook although I can remember, as a little kid, sitting with a mouthful of stew which I would NOT swallow. I have never been that fond of stews. Despite the war (second in this case) she managed to make wonderful birthday teas for me and my friends.

Jo said...

Should have mentioned I also have a very old copy - 1935 - of Mrs. Beeton's cookery book.

Suzanne Furness said...

Wow, there was a lot here I didn't know. How they survived on such things is amazing. Makes you think about how much choice we have now.

Janie Junebug said...

I have heard of Mrs. Beeton and am very much aware, through literature, of the continuing desire that woman remain the angel in the house. On Downton Abbey, I recall Thomas tried to get into the black market goods business at the end of the war. He was quite unhappy when he learned that the items he'd purchased were not real food. It's karma, Thomas.

Love,
Janie

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

The logistics of feeding that many soldiers, especially during WWI, is almost unimaginable. (The closest I ever came to preparing that much food was when our sons and their buddies were teenagers and went through food like a swarm of locusts in a wheat field.)

Interesting post, Hilary! Thanks.

Happy weekend!

bazza said...

Fascinating and hugely enjoyable reading, as always Hilary. The biggest surprise to me was to learn that dripping can be used in the manufacture of explosives; I would have thought baked beans were more likely.
Listening to: Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Munir said...

Yes, British have come a long way in general. My grandma used to give examples of British tenacity.

mail4rosey said...

It is interesting to think about such things and then do the research to come up with the answers. And you mentioned butter beans, yum! I'm the only one in the family who likes them so I don't usually buy them, but I sure like 'em.

And I'm with you, hurrah for modern day food choices, and refrigeration too. :)

Sue McPeak said...

What a lot of interesting information, Hilary. You do such a good job of research and notations of them. I agree with your other commenters on the 'glad to live in this day and time with so many choices for good food and healthy living.

Thanks for your visits. They always make my day.
Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

Christine Rains said...

Fascinating stuff! I couldn't imagine living back then. I dislike cooking and most of the stuff I make comes from a box. Well, I guess I could barbecue a lot! Have a lovely long weekend. :)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

This is all news to me, Hilary. I had no idea. You are a vessel of fascinating information. Thanks!

Botanist said...

It sounds like many of the soldiers at the front did eat better than they were likely to at home.

Fascinating to see some of those new introductions (baked beans, Bisto, and Bird's custard) are still popular today.

And I used to enjoy beef dripping on bread. Never knew it could explode though :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Alex - I guess dripping (fat) was used as a binder ... not sure - but interesting to know what they did with the waste.

The horses were probably mainly used for hauling (guns etc) and communication … between the administrative districts …

@ Jo - yes - but ... remember this was WW1. My D post in the A-Z on cooking was for dripping and that's what we did with our delicious dripping residue ... but that was WW2 or after ..

Thank goodness for home grown foods and good mothering cooks ... we were lucky - albeit I was a post war baby. Yes you've mentioned before you've got a copy of Mrs Beeton ... they are wonderful reference books ..

@ Suzanne - I found out a lot and still am doing so .. fighting for King and country was not easy, but they did at least get fed ... and now - thank goodness for living in this age ..

@ Janie - life was changing, as too society; many new inventions were coming on the market, and new modes of transport, communication, new overseas markets were opening up with new foods ..

I never watched Downton ...! But interesting the programme showed Thomas buying some ersatz stuff ..

@ Susan – the logistics all sort in WW1 become really challenging to think about – and as you mention unimaginable. Feeding the family and one of boys with their many buddies – yes bulk up as much as possible … but it’s gone in seconds … a swarm of locusts through the house …

@ Bazza – I like your comment about baked beans rather than dripping … not sure of the ‘why’ they used it for manufacturing explosives – but thought it an interesting snippet …

Love Leonard Cohen and his music .. “Suzanne” is always a good one ..

@ Munir – much has changed in the last 150 years or so … and the Brits seemed to persuade others to change too .. I’m sure your grandmother saw plenty of our tenacity in India …

@ Rosey – it’s good to be able to draft a post to highlight various aspects of WW1 … butter beans – oddly enough I had some last night with a pork casserole .. I love them too.

Yes – thank goodness for living today and having a ‘fridge …

@ Sue – many thanks .. I pull and extract various bits and bobs and as you mention add my own notes. Aren’t we lucky to live today and have those choices especially with all the fresh foods around …

I enjoy visiting Collecting Girl in Texas!

@ Christine – it’s worth thinking about isn’t it .. and even if you can’t do it now .. you’d have made a plan back then … I hardly use any packaged goods … but that’s the way we were brought up …

@ Joylene – I hadn’t thought about feeding the army in WW1 – so this certainly taught me to think about those times a bit …

@ Ian – it appears they ate better, if they lived, on the battlefields than perhaps they did at home … but it’s interesting how some products have lasted the test of time …

Dripping on toast is what we used to have … but I’m sure bread and dripping was just as good – what and how they used dripping in the manufacture of explosives … I’ve no idea, but it was obviously an essential (otherwise I wouldn’t have read about it!) …

Thanks everyone – enjoy your Labor Day weekend … Hilary

helen tilston said...

Hello Hilary
I found this fascinating and one forgets how easy we have it today with modern kitchens. The creativity of cooks them is admirable.
My late father in law Col. Fred Tilston VC relayed many stores of his service during WW2 and the food. Based in England when they had leave he would come to Dublin where there were a plentyful supply of eggs.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, you really brought those hardships to life. I feel soft!

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Hilary, what an interesting post. It could be the start of a very entertaining book!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Mary Montague Sikes

Brian Miller said...

bet that wedding cake was hard to eat...plaster...yikes...makes my teeth hurt...hard to think about all the logistics of battle lines scattered...especially pre-rations...and then that some went hungry if they had no money..ugh...

Eva Prokop said...

Very interesting post! I'm so glad to be living now. We have access to fresh food year round, and everything else in our lives is improved as well.

Sharon Bradshaw said...

A fascinating post, Hilary! Thank you so much. I really enjoyed reading it. I didn't realise that Bisto and baked beans had been around for so long. It came as quite a surprise too that the troops were so well fed.

Manzanita said...

Whenever I hear of large gatherings of people I think of 2 necessities.... feeding them and having well-placed loos. Scratch the loos for this post as you are talking about the food. Fighting men need fighting food...... loud and clear. Educational post, Hilary

Annalisa Crawford said...

The logistics of feeding an army in this day and age seem complicated, let alone a hundred years ago. It doesn't surprise me that cooks were killed.

Lisa Moles said...

I am also glad to be living in today's age. I can't imagine the hardships of war in any age - and hope I never have to. This is going to be a great series (even though it's technically not a series!)

Cecilia said...

We certainly do have so many choices these days. When I explained to my children what dripping was they were horrified until I then explained how margarine is made and they decided maybe dripping was not so bad after all. We had a margarine making adventure and now we only eat butter. You have some excellent links Hilary thank you. As always your posts are interesting and thought provoking.

Marja said...

Lots of food for thought. Amazing how things have changed in a relative short period of time. Except for the baked beans and corned beef. My mum told me that the soldiers were always sharing dark chocolate.
They ate well as they lived in the rural area and they secretly got food from the farmers. Great post

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Helen - glad you found the information informative - and we do forget it was only 100 years ago .. I imagine your FIL told you many interesting stories of his time in WW2 - and how lucky he was to be able to get to Dublin for those eggs ...

@ Theresa - good comment .. I feel soft too ... we just don't realise and so easily forget what our forebears struggled through.

@ Mary - thank you for the book thought .. I've used others' words and ideas too much .. but I think it's worth writing about for a post.

@ Brian - that plaster cast must have been a shock .. and my mouth feels full of 'sand' now ...

It is difficult to think about the logistics of battle - especially then ...

Being in England wasn't much better ... no rations, and if you had no money then life was very tough ...

@ Eva - glad you found the post interesting .. and like you I'm glad I live now and our lives are generally improved aren't they ...

@ Sharon - glad I'm enlightening a few people ... it does seem strange that favourite foods as we know them have been around that long ... and I found the bit about the troops being so well fed interesting ...

@ Manzanita - I've no idea re the loos ... but I'm sure that was a salient point in setting the camps up ... and generally a place would be allocated - "latrines here".

Good summary - fighting men need food ...

@ Annalisa - yes one wonders how the logistics cope today, let alone then .. especially as they were building roads, and laying railway lines. I suppose the smoke from the fires gave away the cooks' positions ... hence they could be aimed at more easily ...

@ Lisa - like you the hardships of those times were unimaginable and so difficult for us to relate to ...

Glad you'll enjoy the various posts I'll be putting up ... I hope some will remind us of those times 100 years ago ...

@ Cecilia - we are so lucky to be living today. Well done on your explanation re dripping and margarine .. I've always disliked that stuff and never fell into the margarine eating phase - thankfully!

Glad you'll enjoy looking through the links .. and I appreciate your comments ...

Cheers everyone and thanks for your thoughts - it's good to think back 100 years .. not so long ago. Hilary

Patsy said...

We take it for granted now that, as long as we have the money, we can buy anything at anytime from anywhere. There are always choices too - we never have just the choice of bread or no bread, milk or no milk.

I wouldn't want to only eat what could be grown or produced locally and was in season, but it might be good if we did that a bit more often.

MorningAJ said...

This is all fascinating stuff. I love the idea of Escoffier's dinning clubs where everyone sat down to the same meal at the same time. I'd love to know more about at Maconochie. I'd never heard of it before.

Susanne Drazic said...

What an interesting post, Hilary. I recognize some of the foods you mentioned, but many I don't. I'm sure that anyone doing the cooking had to get very creative with the ingredients they had available to them.

Ann Best said...

Plaster cast for the wedding cake! Wow. I feel so blessed after reading this. As you say, you feel almost "sacrilegious" in view of the choices we have, especially the fresh vegetables.

What a wonderful historical tour. Look forward to more....

((( ))) from me and Jen from across the pond. Hope you're having a great weekend.

Julia Hones said...

So what will you have for dinner? Now I'm intrigued.
I've just attended an exhibition of Kandinsky's art and life. Some of his artworks anticipate the effects of First World War...
I will be writing about Kandinsky in the near future...

Margie said...

Truly interesting post, Hilary .
Bread was made with ground-up turnips ... well, I do like turnips so I might have liked the bread ...my husband will not touch turnips .. LOL
I always so enjoy your posts ...thank you ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patsy - we do have things so easy don't we, and grump over the most ridiculous state of affairs .. if we sat and thought things through, and what others are suffering, or have suffered ... we might be more grateful and more understanding ...

Now I've tasted other things ... but I do so enjoy seasonal foods - fresh from the ground, or farm shop ...

@ Anne - glad you picked up about Escoffier and his dining clubs ..

Maconochie - there was quite a lot when I quickly googled .. interesting information too in a similar vein though ..

@ Susanne - we have such different foods now-a-days and the 'norm' in each country seems to vary so much .. I think the cooks on the front line must have had a very unfortunate job in many ways ...

@ Ann - good to see you .. I know: poor Robert Graves and wedding guests! We are so lucky with the fresh vegetables and fruits we are able to grow or access locally ..

Glad you enjoy the 'tour' .. and thanks for your wishes ..

@ Julia - probably a stew of some sort - to which I add different vegetables, so I don't need to think too much at supper time! Fish I eat a lot of too, and pasta ... depends ...

I'm looking forward to your Kandinsky's art and life post .. and to see those early years of the War and his interpretation ..

@ Margie - many thanks .. they used what they could to give themselves enough food to eat - bet your hubby would have eaten the turnip bread if that's all there was .. ?!

Thanks to you all .. taking us back 100 years to think about life back then is a reminder of how lucky we are today .. cheers Hilary

Juliet Batten said...

Not exactly appetising, but what a logistical task it must have been to feed the army. As usual you manage to get behind the scenes Hilary, and tell us things we never knew. I'm catching up after a busy time.

Out on the prairie said...

What a change with the food. We had C Rations when I served. I had relatives on both sides of WWI.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I love the story about the wedding cake in the plaster cast!

To think, all this was done without computers. Times have changed.

Inger said...

While I let my puppy blog, you do all this research and give us this marvelous story from the WW1 food front. No, I have never wondered about what they ate, how it got to them, who cooked it and so on. Now that I know more, I am fascinated. I will recommend your blog to a few of my friends, I know they will enjoy it.

I am so sad to hear about the passing of Tina. That is so sad, she was far too young.

cleemckenzie said...

I love the "idea" of the good old days, but when it comes to food, I think I'm very much a 21st century devotee.

And those poor soldiers with their tins of Bully Beef. We're an amazing species to be able to eat that and, not only fight a war, but win the darned thing!

Gattina said...

Interesting post ! I am just thinking if a French or Belgian soldier would ever have eaten Brown Stew, Potato Pie, or any other pie,maybe Curried Cod, but certainly not milk biscuit pudding ! Food is like a religion here and they would probably rather starve then eat these things :) Unfortunately I don't know what they ate during WW I !

Kelly Steel said...

Yeah, I read somewhere drippings were also used for bullet coverings. Great informative post. Thanks Hilary.

Robyn Campbell said...

What a post, Hil! What a story about the drippings. You teach every time you blog. I cannot believe there was a black market for rations. I had NO idea! And that poor Robert Graves. BLEH! Nice cake, huh? :-)

I missed you. Sent you an email explaining. xoxo

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Juliet - not thrilling, but most food wouldn't have been back then ... the modern developments in food have been quite extraordinary .. and we can get food from all around the world.

Glad you were able to read things that you didn't know - or hadn't thought of ..

@ OOP - yes what a change in food. I looked up C rations and they're one of the American versions in the 2nd World War.

It's interesting that families would end up on different sides in the War.

@ Susan - the wedding cake amused to say the least ... and exactly all done with pen and paper and runners no doubt ..

@ Inger - well you were doing a few other things - having a visitor ... but glad puppy dog is getting up to speed! Thanks for introducing the blog to a few friends ... I look forward to meeting them here.

The loss of Tina is very sad ...

@ Lee - a hundred years ago would be tough, my childhood of the fifties and sixties not so bad ... lots of freedom ... but the 21st century for some things hits the high notes ... knowledge mainly, and foods, and ease of things ...

Yes - to survive on that fodder and manage to hold on and win the war is such good news for us.

@ Gattina - thank you .. I expect the French and Belgians were really foraging/scavenging and being resourceful - their war was much worse than the Brits at home .. or on the front by the sound of it ..

@ Kelly - well thank you for letting us know about dripping being used for bullet coverings - I hadn't really known how .. and glad you enjoyed the post ..

@ Robyn - good to see you .. and I'll catch you via the email. The black market was only in England (I think!) .. I don't think the soldiers would have lost out on their rations ...

Robert Graves' wedding cake - I expect there were other funnies like that ..

Thanks so much - I hope you all had peaceful Labor Days .. and now the Autumn run in to Christmas - and Thanksgiving ... cheers Hilary

rosieamber said...

Really fascinating piece makes you appreciate what you have now. Thanks Hilary.

Susan Scott said...

Interesting post thanks Hilary - gives me more appreciation for what we have. And also how in times past people had to be really inventive .. blackberry tea .. now there's a thing.

Morgan said...

Oh how times have changed!!!!

And those poor military men… they needed greens in their diet to keep their systems working! I enjoyed this very much! So fascinating!!!

Lynn said...

That is fascinating! I loved hearing the stories from my father, who was a cook on Naval ship during WWII. He would have been interested in this.

Julie Flanders said...

I never would have imagined they used drippings for explosives! What a fascinating little tidbit.
It's impossible to comprehend the logistics of all of this for me, I would panic at the thought of trying to feed 10 people. Let's just say I'm not a cook LOL.

Recently I've become more interested in WWI and learning more, perhaps because of the 100th Anniversary events. My grandfather fought in the war for the Americans and I've always wished I could have heard about his experiences first-hand. Sadly he died decades before I was born. So interesting as always, Hilary. Thanks for sharing with us.

Silvia Villalobos said...

A lot to learn from this post, Hilary. In hard times, people become very inventive, take for example the plaster cast replacing icing. And as you say, it's incredible how little people survived on, which could also mean that we consume way more than we should today.
Thank you for this very interesting post.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Rosie - it's a good way of looking at things isn't it - I certainly appreciate our life today ..

@ Susan - glad you enjoyed the post - and back then they knew what they could eat and couldn't - so could be inventive .. herb teas haven't changed have they ..

@ Morgan - times have certainly changed .. and with the thought of tins of bully beef to march on .. I think I'll leave it there .. being blown along too ..

@ Lynn - I expect you learnt a thing or two about life in the ship's galley from your father - I'd have loved to have heard his stories too ...

@ Julie - I know the dripping for explosives was a fun find .. as you say 'fascinating tidbit' ...

I've certainly paid a bit more attention to the first World War - and been to a few lectures and exhibitions.

It's funny how retrospectively we wished we'd learnt more or listened more ... my grandfather died just after the War finished in an accident ...

@ Silvia - yes there is a lot to be reminded of .. and how we can be inventive and don't need all the mod cons ...

We buy way more than we need and throw out too much ... we as a family were frugal after the 2nd World War ... and never threw anything away - things would always come in handy and could be used in some way ..

Thanks everyone - lovely to see you here .. Hilary

Nilanjana Bose said...

Running a household must have been a huge amount of work back then, not to mention war kitchens, yikes. Such a lot of interesting info in this post. Glad I live in the age of kitchen appliances.

Crystal Collier said...

Super fascinating. I read a great deal of Dickens, and I love the attention he gives to food. What a different world. Granted that's nearly 100 years before what you're talking about here, but it's so eye opening to research the difference in diet and food preservation that only a couple decades can make, eh?

M Pax said...

I can't imagine trying to cook with fire. That would be daunting. Sometimes the microwave can be too much.

My husband was in the army and a friend of his send some MRE's awhile back. Wow, they were bad.

Michelle Wallace said...

We have been spoiled by our kitchen appliances!
... and we still get Bisto gravy this end of the globe... and some Heinz canned foods...

Sara said...

Wow, this was very interesting. I never really have studied WWI and the food aspect of it. It must have been very challenging.

I loved the term "bunged up." And when you mentioned the horses and what they ate, my first thought was "good thing they didn't eat what the soldiers ate or they would have definitely been 'bunged up'."

I'm looking forward to these posts about WWI. Like I said, I don't know very much about this war. Your posts always stir up my appetite to learn more about the subjects you post about:~)

Chatty Crone said...

As I was reading - guess what caught my attention - and I am bad - the cakes weren't covered in icing - but plaster cast and then removed - how sad is that.

As usual i learned a lot - thanks for the history lesson - this was a good one.

I enjoy learning about food.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nila - I remember the cooking got easier and more interesting! as appliances etc came in .. but catering for war time, and cooking in the field cannot have been easy. Thank goodness for our era ... quite agree

@ Crystal - I really should explore more about food through the era .. and things definitely moved on apace didn't they - the industrial revolution and engineers really improved our lives ..

@ Mary - yes Army Ready to Eat Meals I'd have thought would have been pretty nasty - but at least nutritious ...

I love cooking .. but using a microwave is almost beyond me and now I don't have one .. I also don't have an open fire!

@ Michelle - we have been spoiled with the new developments .. but the old favourites stand the test of time ..

@ Sara - nor have I looked at the WW1 personnel and the way they lived ... but 'bunged up' was a serious infliction when it happened! Poor things ... and if they horses had been feeling the same way ... how very unfortunate all round!

Thanks for looking forward to these posts - something to keep me occupied in the next few years ... interspersing them with normal posts!

@ Sandie - thanks - so sad about the wedding cake wasn't it .. and how quickly lack of food had kicked in for everyone because of the War ..

Thanks so much - it's great having your interactions .. cheers Hilary



N. R. Williams said...

Hi Hilary
I was surprised to learn that there were vegetarians back in WWI. My grandfather on my dad's side fought and died just before I was born from exposure to mustard gas. My grandfather on my mother's side was born with a heart murmur and wasn't allowed to serve. I'm really glad to be living in this time as well with refrigeration and many fresh and healthy food choices.
Nancy

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

Yup, pretty happy to be living now as opposed to then. I can't get past that drippings were used to make explosives. How'd they do that!?

Lisa said...

I wonder if anyone has estimates of how many died in Britain from hunger during WWI? It was good the military folks were fed, but it does make you wonder about those at home who were too poor to buy extras. My father-in-law always talks about his life "during the war," and yes he means WWII, but this post reminds me a lot of what he talks about. He was an adolescent living in London at that time...

Nick Wilford said...

We shouldn't take for granted what we have now - that goes for a lot of things!

Stephen Tremp said...

I do love European War history. Thank you Hilary for yet another most interesting post!

Trying to feed so many people every day for years while not being killed yourself is an honorable service. Here's to the cooks of past wars!

As you stated, vitamins were just becoming understood, so this would have played a role in the soldier's health. Today MREs are far more nutritionally balanced but not very tasty. I guess meals for soldiers will always be lacking while they are on the front.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nancy - a lot of changes were going on and people were thinking a lot more - and that included meat etc .. we were learning about others' way of life - in Asia etc ..

Mustard Gas was particularly nasty and often kept on showing effects on the body - I gather it affected the eyes a great deal as people aged.

So much has changed .. while your mother's father probably did not have an easy life not serving ..

@ Holly - I'll have to check up on why dripping exactly was used and how ..

@ Lisa - I expect there are records .. but I haven't come across anything as such. The poor really struggled during WW1 and there was so much to do ..most by manual labour ..

It's good to think about - but for your FIL must have been quite difficult .. was he evacuated? Perhaps he was too old for that ..

@ Nick - no we shouldn't take anything for granted should we ..

@ Stephen - I'm certainly learning a lot about life in the Wars - having known very little. Yes the cooks did sterling work for their comrades ensuring they had meals ..

Living was very hard back then, let alone worrying about nutrition .. soldiers meals today would be nutritional, but I'm sure boredom set in too ..

Thanks - your comments are making me think of other aspects of War .. have good weekends - Hilary

Denise Covey said...

Your posts just get better and better Hilary. I read a book on Escoffier's life and cooking. It was a fascinating peek into another era and different attitudes.
War brings out innovation in more ways than one!

Empty Nest Insider said...

It is amazing that drippings were used in explosives! I never realized that cooks were right in the trenches. How sad that many of them were also killed during the war.

Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Denise - I've more to write on the hotels pre ww1 ... which make fascinating reading ..

War does bring incredible change and innovation ... It's good,but at what cost ...

@ Julie - I'll have to find out more about the dripping story - I now know where to ask .. I had thought the kitchens would be in the camps ... So that snippet interested me ...

Thanks to you both - cheers Hilary

Sherry Ellis said...

I had no idea drippings were used to make explosives!

Friko said...

As always, a very interesting and well-researched article.
Somehow, the thought of food in relation to wars has never entered my head. How very remiss of me.

You have opened another door for me.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sherry - I'll have to find out the why and how about dripping being used for explosives ... and report back!

@ Friko - I hadn't realised either .. re the feeding of the 5+ million - the thought is somewhat overwhelming ..

But aspects of the War I certainly haven't thought about .. I'll be adding a few posts in the coming months on different subjects ..

Cheers to you both - have good weekends - Hilary

Liza said...

This is fascinating. Imagine what it was like before refrigeration. I think I remember a Downton Abbey episode when they got their first ice box and the help considered it too newfangled. Nice to meet you, Hilary!

Daisy said...

Very interesting post! Sounds like it was quite an ordeal. I'm glad what little cooking I do is done and has been done in modern-day times. Thank you for the visit to my blog! :)

Catherine A. Winn said...

This was so interesting and it made me think about today. I wonder if people today could survive on what they did. Have we become too soft and too techie? Have so enjoyed reading through your blog.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lisa - I admit I haven't watched Downton Abbey .. but your comment is interesting isn't it .. about the ice-box being too newfangled ... how often do we say that still ... don't want - yet in a few months/years we've got something new and can't live without it ..

@ Daisy - glad you enjoyed the post .. and I'm sure anyone living through the First World War cannot have had an easy time .. thank goodness for being able to cook with all the mod cons today - couldn't agree more.

@ Catherine - yes reminders from the past let us think anew about today ..

So many people can't do things I used to do in the 50s and 60s .. so I guess many would really struggle should the unthinkable occur and we had to go back to living as we did 70 years ago, let alone 100 years ago ..

Thanks to the three of you - so good to see you here .. and lovely to have met you - cheers Hilary

Coral Wild said...

Another really interesting post Hilary.

Of course what seems hardship to us now was "normal" for those that lived early in the century.....

And of course we still have millions on this planet that exist without sufficient food.....

The total number of servicemen in the British Army at the outbreak of WW1 is just staggering! War in those days was really a matter of human cannon fodder wasn't it?

Eddie Bluelights said...

Wow, Hilary:
I often wondered about this - it must have been a huge logistics problem.
Thanks for the information - poor cooks being killed - never thought of that.
Cheers ~ Eddie

Milo James Fowler said...

I'll take an order of eggs & chips with some trench cake on the side. Now my stomach is growling...

loverofwords said...

The logistics are amazing, hard to imagine how it was done. Also, individuals are very inventive and can create something from very little. I still remember as a little girl, shopping for sugar for my mother with a sugar coupon. (WW II of course) Robert Graves' story is the best.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Hi, Hillary.
Thank you for dropping by.

It's interesting that horses were fed first. I suppose that makes sense. Wow, I never thought about the enormous effort of feeding an army. I agree, all things considered, the food appears pretty good.

Be well.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Coral - I know the differences as to what we consider hardship is a little difficult to comprehend .. but I do get irritated with people, when they can't see how lucky they are.

Also as you say there are plenty of our world population that scrape by with pitiful scraps ...

Sadly I think you're right about cannon fodder - and that is not easy to think about ...

@ Eddie - I'm just glad I bring things to light, even if my posts are relatively superficial, they get us to think ... and I'd never thought of the cooks being killed either, because they had to be nearer the front line.

@ Milo - yes the soldiers were happy to be offered eggs and chips by the French locals .. my stomach will not be hungry yet - it shouldn't be!! But I'll be glad to get lunch ..

@ Nat - it is hard to imagine all this being pulled together ... some of our leaders were quite extraordinary and adept at looking at the whole picture.

I don't really remember being deprived as such .. but rationing was really over by the time I took an interest in food etc .. and can't remember using ration books ... isn't the Robert Graves' cake story fun - sad, but true ...

@ Robyn - glad to see you .. and yes I was interested to see that horses were fed first ...

However food for so many .. I can do 200 - well I did ... but over a million would be a bit much! But they were nutritious meals - they needed that apple a day I think!

Cheers to you all .. Hilary

rosaria williams said...

What a fantastic article, about food, about war, about our progress in the kitchen. As usual, you're a font of information.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Rosaria - glad you enjoyed reading the post and that I was able to add to your knowledge - cheers Hilary

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Boschendal Vin D’Or sounds divine!