I recently had the pleasure of going through a pile of old photos with my father who was born in Marmora, Ontario in the 1930’s. We came across a photo of a Gas Ration Book which sparked memories from his childhood of his mother using her Ration Books to purchase food.
Rationing started during the first year of the Second World War and ended in 1954, nine years after the war had ended. Clothing, food, paper and petroleum products were rationed as a supportive yet cautionary measure to support the war effort. Behaviors associated with this era were learned through those who experienced the Great Depression and World War I for which the National Service Board of Canada produced a book called “How to Live in War Time” which was loaded with contemporary nutritional data, how to make sacrifices on the home-front to support those making sacrifices on the warfront, and cautionary advice on “The Crime of Wastefulness” for which Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden is quoted as saying “Waste in time of peace is a sin; in this time of national stress it is a crime.”.
By 1941 eggs were rationed off to one a week, and with many homes without refrigeration or freezers t household wartime kitchens grew out of necessity and often saw neighbors coming together to pool their resources.
“Your Good Neighbor” was a CBC Radio show hosted by Kate Aitken who hit the airwaves in 1934 and became affectionately known as Mrs. A. Mrs. A became the voice of home cooking in Canada. Her radio show was like having a good friend drop by the house to share news, neighborly gossip and gave advice on household management. During World War II Mrs. A shared recipes and ideas to assist women in creating a week’s menu based on the considerations of rationing and the seasonal produce one could harvest from the Victory Gardens that could be planted in your own yard. As the Conservation Director for the Federal Wartime Prices and Trade Board, her coined slogan “Use it up, wear it out, make over, make do” became a marketing tool that saw her travel to the United Kingdom in 1945 at the invitation of the British Ministry of Food to show how Canadian women could help alleviate food shortages in Allied Countries.
Mr’s A was born in Ontario and passed away in 1971. She is without a doubt the one person who single has handedly shaped our home-style Canadian cuisine more than any other modern day foodie or celebrity chef.
Remembrance Day is a time for solemn contemplation and to remember the many people, ways and time that we as a nation have lost while looking to the future for what we have gained.
Kate Aitken is one such Canadian who deserves to be remembered for her influence on the home-front and guiding families through leaner times. Mrs. A’s legacy will live on for generations to come with her recipes and anecdotes for living the Canadian way in a different time, forever celebrated in her six published cookbooks.
The following simple recipe is for an eggless bread based pudding. Times may have been lean but it was a time when Canadians ate the healthiest and cleanest diets.
Spiced Fruit Pudding in a Can
Serves 4 to 6
½ pound flour
¼ pound chopped suet
½ tsp. baking powder
4 tbsp. dried mixed fruit and peel
1 tsp. Ground mixed spice (cinnamon, mace, cloves)
2 tbsp. golden syrup
Pinch of salt
2-3 clean tin cans, greased
In a mixing bowl sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the suet, dried fruit and mixed spice. Add the golden syrup and the enough water to make a batter of soft cake consistency.
Spoon the mixture into the well-greased tins, they with a circle of parchment paper at the bottom for easy removal. Fill cans to three-quarters full as the pudding expands during the cooking process. Place greased paper on top of the tin and then cover with tinfoil and tie to secure the covers in place. Place the tins into the top of a steamer, and steam for 2 1/2 hours. Keeping the water topped up so as not to boil dry.
Step 5 Remove the covers carefully, and with heat resistant oven gloves invert the tin/s on to a plate, the puddings should slide out with ease. Slice the pudding and serve with custard.
As well as the terrible situation out in the trenches, women and children faced many sacrifices at home, with food being a major factor. During the Second World War predominately, rationing was a country wide initiative to end starvation as imports into the country came to a standstill.