Sadly I will not manage the full 40 days of Lent on second world war rations. I have to be away from home for the last six days, of which more when I return after Easter.
But I have successfully completed 33 days so far with little hardship, and have learned a few things en route. I have eaten some meals that I have not had since a child, for example “Oxo broth” made with stale bread and a stock cube.
I have learned not to discard dripping or cooking fat, but to save it for future use. Meat dripping is delicious on toast. Last Wednesday I had a jacket potato with le last fo Sunday’s cheap pork joint. Instead of smothering the potato with butter as did the Memsahib I used a mixture of pork and bacon fat to soak into mine.
I have not found meat to be an issue, apart from the limitations on ham and bacon. Cheap cuts of meat, supplemented with squirrel and pigeon, have kept me going. vegetable stews with a little meat are very filling, and yesterday I made a very nice squirrel casserole, but what I am really looking forward to next weekend is cheese. Two ounces per week does not go far.
I have been very British and have drunk only tea rather than coffee.
Although I had two recipe books and bought a third from the Imperial War Museum I have not used them. I have been inventive with what is to hand and needs to be eaten.
I feel that I have been eating in a healthier way, but I won’t be averse to the occasional pizza or burger in the next few weeks.
Yesterday I mentioned that I found some cheap veg. at the Co-op and was ready to give squirrel a try. So last night Sammy the squirrel was released from the freezer to defrost in time for his final ordeal.
I started by slicing a leek, sparing as little as possible for the compost bin, then the smallest of the bag of carrots. The rest of the carrots will go to the stable as horse treats. I added about a quarter of a white cabbage from the larder, diced.
Then I cheated. Completely out of mushrooms (unusual for me) I added a packet of dried mushroom soup and a chicken stock cube. Sufficient hot water was added to dissolve those ingredients.
Now to the flavourings. A little sage, mint and parsley and a few shakes of “Szczypta Smaku”, a Polish product with a “best before” date of September 2019. One day we will finish the 1Kg bottle we bought all those years ago. Only about 20% left now.
Finally I jointed Sammy (not an easy task – where are a dead squirrel’s joints?), seared him in a mix of leftover lard and pork fat and laid him to rest on the bed of vegetables in the slow cooker.
I started by opening the pack of dried egg to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. The pack below is sufficient for 21 eggs, or 7 weeks’ ration. With fresh eggs I would only be allowed 1 per week.
The instructions with the pack suggest a ratio of 1 egg powder to 3 of water. This may be OK for cooking, but I find that generally 1:2 is a better ratio. A good scrambled egg can be made with 1 scoop of egg powder, 1 of water and 1 of milk.
Beware! Scrambled egg made with powder tends to stick to the pan more than fresh eggs do. It’s taken a day of alternate soaking and scrubbing to clean the saucepan.
For lunch I pan-fried the “off-ration” mallard breast (complete with shot!) and some “bubble and squeak” (leftover cabbage, onion and potato, mashed and fried).
As a total surprise this evening the Memsahib brought home a large piece of cooked salmon, left over from a business meeting at her workplace. I was unsure what to do about this, but it was a “freebie” and needed to be eaten.
Two choices. Do I consider this as “bought on points”, using 1/3 of my monthly ration or, since it was “buckshee”, claim that I got it from Private Walker in the alleyway beside the Rose & Crown and not declare it? I have 17 points of my 24 left for March. If I bought the salmon legally I have 9 points left, if black market I still have 17.
The jury is out. I will make a moral decision on this if I am running short of points at the end of the month.
I won’t bore you with a list of my dietary intake last week. I will only say that I only exceeded my rations in the use of bacon, simply because that was the weight of the pack I defrosted and had to use. I can rectify that by eating no bacon this week.
I had a couple of unusual meals that I have not eaten since childhood, like leftover gravy warmed up with chunks of bread. A hearty breakfast. My mother often used to give us “Oxo broth” for breakfast in the winter, made from an Oxo stock cube and, what I now assume to have been, stale bread.
On other fronts, I have had to temporarily suspend my two painting projects because of two problems: my left eyeball is swollen again after last year’s retinal repair surgery and I have trouble focussing close-up, and I have developed what the doctor calls “Benign Essential Tremor” in my right hand – the one I paint with.
I am due a further eye injection on 24th March (behind the eyeball and without anaesthesia and I should soon be getting some pills for the shaking hand. Until then all miniature painting is suspended. If it turns out that the issues continue I shall have to seriously look at my unpainted and part-painted stock and make some hard decisions.
This morning I had a hearty breakfast of cooking bacon, my weekly egg (fried), toast and mushrooms.
The bacon, at 5.7 oz. was more than my weekly ration of 4 oz. bacon and ham combined, but I had a little to carry over from last week and I now have a deficit to carry over to next week. It happened to be the size of the pack that I put in the freezer last month in preparation.
This meal was a treat, as was yesterdays wood pigeon dinner. I must stop treating myself or I will end up putting on weight during Lent, rather than losing it which was part of the original intention.
Starting the day with cubes of stale bread and warm milk, a breakfast I remember from the 1950s but did not then realise as a toddler why it was necessary, I decided that this evening’s dinner would be some “off ration” (possibly black market) pigeon breast with boiled potatoes, steamed brocolli and fried mushrooms and onion.
This turned out to be a delicious meal, even if slightly overdone while waiting for the Memsahib to come home from the stables.