When I was a small child …
(“Oh, no!”… I hear you cry … “Not another one of his bloody war stories”. …
Well, no actually, for this is about another of my favourite subjects … Food ! … and, well, just a hint of the war).
… my mother would drag me along to the local shops when she went to do the daily shopping. Note the word “daily”, for there was no such thing as the weekly, or even monthly, shop back in the 1940’s. Most foodstuffs were bought and probably consumed on the same day, as fridges in the home were almost unheard of in those days. Blimey ! .. Many homes didn’t even have electricity.
Mum would take her big whicker basket and a large canvas bag and start at the butcher’s shop where I would kick the sawdust around on the floor while she stood in the queue to see what our ration coupons would allow us to have for dinner that day.
Next came the grocer where I always enjoyed watching the cheese being sliced with a long wire which had a wooden handle at the end, and the butter (or more likely margarine) being patted into small cubes before being wrapped in greaseproof paper.
After buying a fresh loaf at the baker’s, our last visit would be to the greengrocer, where the canvas bag would be filled with vegetables covered in soil, and, as my mum was friends with the owner’s daughter, perhaps some “under the counter” fruit.
Milk was delivered every day by the milkman, and his horse sometimes delivered manure for my dad’s small vegetable patch at the same time.
Butter, cheese, milk etc. were kept in a ‘larder’ on a marble shelf, and bread was stored in the ‘bread bin’. Meat, if it was to last for more than one day, was stored in a ‘meat safe’, a small cupboard covered in a mesh to keep out the flies . This was kept in the coal cellar, the coolest if not the cleanest place in the house.
So why am I telling you all this ? … Well I’ve just been reading that the average household in this country throws away around £680 ($1,000 +) of perfectly good food each year due to the “best before” labels on supermarket packaging.
My mum never needed a label to tell her if our food was “off”. A sniff, a pinch and a prod was enough: and I suspect that a kitchen knife came into play if something looked a bit green around the edges ….
…. How did we survive ?