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“Eat it up … It won’t kill yer”.

Posted by Big John on April 24, 2011

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 ?


5 Responses to ““Eat it up … It won’t kill yer”.”

  1. Ginnie said

    Just another example of how the big business guys rule our lives. A doctor friend of mine says that the “do not use after XX date” on pill bottles is the way the drug companies keep the profits rolling in. Where I volunteer at the Free Care Clinic they MUST (by law) throw out all the bottles of pills if they’ve gone beyond the expiration date … and yet we have hundreds of people who can’t afford their meds. It’s criminal.

  2. Rummuser said

    I can identify with that story one hundred percent Big John. We survived because we had no choice. Today, the problem is too many choices. We also had much healthier stuff to eat.

  3. Grannymar said

    Rationing in the Republic of Ireland was less severe and ended before rationing in the North of Ireland. My paternal Grandmother lived in West Clare and kept geese and hens, so a regular supply of chickens, geese and eggs came out way.

    Granny also made butter and that was also used on our family table. Daddy also had contacts with a bog owner and I think he (daddy)dug peat in the summertime to dry out for our winter fires. I did not arrive on the scene until ’47, so am going with the stories that I was told over the years.

  4. vijay said

    This is from India. with similar experiences. In 1940s we survived picking up our own local vegetables from around. No one had any money to shop even…
    Still we depend upon ration Cards.
    We don’t have electricity here,in many villages. Even now.
    Survival in simplicity. But it is hard, at times.
    Enjoyed the post.Thank you.

  5. Big John said

    Nice to hear from you Vijay… “But it is hard, at times” … I bet it is mate. People think life is “hard” here in the UK when they don’t have a 42″ plasma TV and the latest Xbox. Few, if any, will know what it is like to be hungry.

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