Rationing in the First World War

Rationing in the First World War

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Soon after the outbreak of the First World War the the German Navy attempted to halt the flow of imports to Britain by introducing unrestricted submarine warfare. By the end of 1916, U-German boats were on average destroying about 300,000 tons of shipping a month. In February 1917, the German Navy sank 230 ships bringing food and other supplies to Britain. The following month a record 507,001 tons of shipping was lost as a result of the U-boat campaign. However, Britain was successful at increasing food production and the wheat harvest of 1917 was the best in our history.

Potatoes were often in short-supply and sugar was often difficult to get. Whereas the weekly consumption of sugar was 1.49 lb in 1914, it fell to 0.93 lb in 1918. The consumption of butchers' meat also dropped from an average of 2.36 to 1.53 lb a week during this period. At the end of 1917 people began to fear that the country was running out of food. Panic buying led to shortages and so in January 1918, the Ministry of Food decided to introduce rationing. Sugar was the first to be rationed and this was later followed by butchers' meat. The idea of rationing food was to guarantee supplies, not to reduce consumption. This was successful and official figures show that the intake of calories almost kept up to the pre-war level.

When I returned after the war relatives told me how bad it had been. You see, us being an island hardly any food could get through, because German U-boats were sinking our food convoys. My family lived on bones from the butcher made into soups. And black bread. And when some food did get delivered to the shops everyone for miles around besieged the place. The queues stretched for miles, and if you were old or infirm you stood no chance. Many, especially children, died of starvation. Food riots were very common. But news like this was kept from us, over in France. we only got to hear about it from men who came back after being on leave. I think that is why leave to England was very rare, and severely restricted.

One day I was in the trench and we'd been under-non stop attack for days. Well, two of the blokes with me shot themselves on purpose to try and get sent home and out of the war. One said to me "Chas, I am going home to my wife and kids. I'll be some use to them as a cripple, but none at all dead! I am starving here, and so are they at home, we may as well starve together." With that he fired a shot through his boot. When the medics got his boot off, two of his toes and a lot of his foot had gone. But the injuring oneself to get out of it was quite common.

So far as the vast bulk of the population was concerned, this rationing system, troublesome though in some respects it was to them, ensured a regular and sufficient food supply; and it made it possible for those in charge to calculate with some precision how best they could make the stocks of available food-stuffs go round equitably. When meat was slightly more plentiful, the ration could be raised. When it grew scarcer, the amount purchasable with each meat coupon was cut down. The steady improvement in our national health figures during and after the War, as compared with pre-War returns, shows that compulsory temperance in eating was in general more beneficial than harmful in its effects. Although there was a degree of scarcity, we were never faced with famine or actual privation. Credit is due to our people for the loyal manner in which they submitted themselves to these strange and unwelcome restrictions. Without general goodwill it would have been impossible to make the regulations effective.


Rationing is the controlled distribution of scarce resources, goods, services, [1] or an artificial restriction of demand. Rationing controls the size of the ration, which is one's allowed portion of the resources being distributed on a particular day or at a particular time. There are many forms of rationing, and in Western civilization people experience some of them in daily life without realizing it. [2]

Rationing is often done to keep price below the market-clearing price determined by the process of supply and demand in an unfettered market. Thus, rationing can be complementary to price controls. An example of rationing in the face of rising prices took place in the various countries where there was rationing of gasoline during the 1973 energy crisis.

A reason for setting the price lower than would clear the market may be that there is a shortage, which would drive the market price very high. High prices, especially in the case of necessities, are undesirable with regard to those who cannot afford them. Traditionalist economists argue, however, that high prices act to reduce waste of the scarce resource while also providing incentive to produce more.

Rationing using ration stamps is only one kind of non-price rationing. For example, scarce products can be rationed using queues. This is seen, for example, at amusement parks, where one pays a price to get in and then need not pay any price to go on the rides. Similarly, in the absence of road pricing, access to roads is rationed in a first come, first served queueing process, leading to congestion.

Authorities which introduce rationing often have to deal with the rationed goods being sold illegally on the black market. Despite the fact that rationing systems are sometimes necessary as the only viable option for societies facing severe consumer goods shortages, they are usually extremely unpopular with the general public, as they enforce limits on individual consumption. [3] [4] [5]

The History of Rationing in the US

Editors Note: A guest entry from Z to The Prepper Journal. A lesson learned should NOT be an oxymoron. As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award like Z. And, as always Z will be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest AND have a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.

What is the history of government-mandated rationing within the U.S.?

Since WWI, here is how things have played out:

World War 1

Though rationing was not mandated by the government in this war, the government did strongly encourage American citizens to self-regulate their consumption of certain goods. Slogans such as “Food Will Win the War” dominated war posters which were plastered in highly traveled areas.

Meatless Tuesdays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” and similar ration-themed days were advocated nationally, with an end result that food consumption within the US was decreased 15% from 1918-1919. ( Ref: 1 )

World War 2

It wasn’t until after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor that the U.S. truly instituted severe rationing. The reasoning for this was that American soil had been attacked, we faced war on two fronts, and the threat of further attacks on American soil was highly likely.

Rationing had to be instituted in order to insure that American troops had the supplies that they needed. Though an annoyance, people generally didn’t have a problem with rationing during this war as they understood the importance of what rationing was accomplishing. There were no moral qualms among the nation in regards to WW2, and many had family overseas who were fighting for our freedom. As a result, rationing was a much more bearable burden.

Here is what was rationed in WW2:

There was a shortage of rubber due to the Japanese invading the parts of Southeast Asia where rubber was produced.

2) Metal goods

These included cars, metal office furniture, radios, phonographs, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, dog food in tin cans, washing machines, sewing machines, toothpaste in metal tubes, typewriters, and bicycles

The metal and other raw materials which would normally be used to produce such goods instead were needed for the production of tanks, aircraft, and other weapons.

For obvious reasons, gasoline was rationed in the form of gasoline cards. Government perceived need determined how much one would get per month. In addition to gasoline rationing, a national speed limit of 35mph was enacted (in order to save gas and rubber), and all sightseeing driving was banned.

Firewood and coal were rationed as well, making heating a home during the winter a much more difficult proposition.

4) Foodstuffs

Sugar, shortening, butter, margarine, meat, lard, cheese, processed foods, dried fruit, canned milk, jams/jellies, and fruit butter were all rationed during the course of the war.

Coffee was rationed as well due to German U-boats sinking Brazilian shipping vessels.

5) Medicines

Scarce medicines, most notably penicillin, were also rationed. Though this resulted in troops getting the medical supplies that they needed, it also resulted in civilian doctors being forced to choose between which patient would receive the life-saving medication that they needed and which one would die.

6) Clothing

Shoes, silk, and nylon were also rationed during the war. ( Ref: 2, 3 )

Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, War on Terror

No government-mandated rationing has occurred within the United States since World War 2.

What Lessons Can We Learn From This?

1) Rationing Doesn’t Happen Often

The first thing I believe that we can learn from the history of rationing within the United States is that it’s not something that happens often. It’s happened once.

The only likely way that government-induced rationing could occur would be if the US faced an attack on its soil that would require the majority of its resources to fight off a potential invasion. The last time that happened was World War 2. That leads me to my second point:

2) Rationing Depends on the Scope of Current Destruction

Obviously an event that wipes out the entire West Coast infrastructure is going to require some rationing on the Eastern Seaboard. Why? Because everything that previously was able to be produced and transported from the West would then be destroyed or radioactive.

Though the threat from Russia and China during the Korean and Vietnam War were both very real, the threats were more or less contained to a different side of the world than ours. Yes, there were instances such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, but as a whole the threat remained a threat. It didn’t finalize.

Had those missiles or bombers hit the States, then I do think that rationing would have happened again as the entire country would have been mobilized.

3) What is Rationed Often Depends on What is Destroyed

During WW2, it was the destruction of merchant vessels from other lands, and capture of strategic factories/material producing regions by the enemy which resulted in certain goods being rationed. The Japanese didn’t bomb our dairy farms though, so why on earth would butter be rationed?

For food items in particular, the main reason that they were rationed was because soldiers needed all the food they could get. If you give somebody 60+ lbs of gear to haul 20 miles a day through extremely difficult terrain in terrible weather all the while having their stress levels constantly elevated due to having to fight for their lives, they are going to need all of the calories that they can get.

As a result, foodstuffs would be rationed too. (It kind of makes producing your own food and homesteading sound good, huh?)

4) Rationing Being Unlikely Doesn’t Make Being Prepared Stupid

It would be foolish to assume that the ability to waltz on down to the supermarket any day of the week to purchase whatever you need/desire with a little square of plastic is something that will always be available. You would think power outages alone would be enough to convince people of this, but alas, that’s not always the case.

Anyone who has some cash, food, water, and other goods laid up already understands that.

The defining moment for me was when my wife and I were on vacation and the kettle corn vendor had a broken credit card reader. I had no cash, and as a result my wife had no ketlle corn. I learned my lesson real fast. Carry cash.

That same preparedness mindset has helped me to avoid other miseries at other times. After all, if just a single credit card reader malfunction could deny you access, couldn’t the power going out for any length of time cause even greater problems? What about the loss of a job?

In Conclusion

Though government induced rationing may not happen in the future, I would argue that the weapons which are available to the world today are much more devastating than anything that has been available throughout history.

Nukes, EMPs, and bioweapons can completely change the economics of a country within a matter of minutes. Yes, an EMP was technically available by the end of the second World War, but we (the good guys) were the only ones who had that technology at the time. That’s not the case anymore.

Now we have rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran (who have vowed to destroy us) possessing EMP, nuke, and bioweapon technology. In a matter of minutes, either of those weapons could make a portion of, or all of a country’s ability to mass produce, transport, and sell necessary goods on a national scale virtually impossible.

Anything can happen, but in all probability I don’t think government-mandated rationing will happen anytime soon. However, if you are already prepared for a disaster of any appreciable length (and you have kept your preparations secret) you will be much better able to ride anything out provided that I am wrong.

Rationing during World War One

Discover what rationing is, why it happened, and why you might have eaten chocolate potato pudding if you had been alive 100 years ago. Lots of food was sent away to feed the soldiers fighting in the war. There was also less food arriving from other countries because ships bringing supplies were often attacked by German submarines called U-boats. Food became very expensive. People panicked and soon there were very long queues outside shops. Government posters encouraged families to save food so there would be more to feed the soldiers fighting. In 1918, new laws set by the government introduced rationing, a way of sharing food fairly. Sugar, meat, flour, butter, margarine and milk were all rationed so that everyone got what they needed. Each person had special ration cards, even King George and Queen Mary. The cards could only be used at certain shops. Families had to say which butcher, baker and grocer they would buy food from. The rules were very strict. Anyone found cheating could be fined or even sent to prison. Nobody starved but people were often hungry. To help, they grew fruit and vegetables in their own gardens. Surplus produce was preserved as jam, pickles or chutney so there would be more to eat in the winter.

Jack Monroe and Rationing in the First World War

Helen Castor is joined by TV historian Dr Sam Willis to discuss food shortages in 1917, the history of the duffle coat, Franklin's last voyage and Silk Roads.

Helen Castor is joined by Dr Sam Willis to discuss food shortages in the First World War, Silk Roads, the history of the duffle coat and Franklin's infamous last voyage.

Food blogger Jack Monroe heads for the National Archives to learn how the submarine war in 1917 presented a serious threat to food supplies. She discovers that the rationing put in place then was successfully used again in World War Two.

Tom Holland meets the author of the best-seller Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan, to ask whether China is trying to emulate a centuries old history of trade and influence through its Belt and Road policy.

Fashion historian Amber Butchart marks the passing of author Michael Bond to explain the history of Paddington Bear's iconic duffle coat.

And Sam Willis previews Death in the Ice, a new exhibition on Franklin's ill-fated journey to find the North West passage.

Facts about Rationing in WW1 3: Siege of Lucknow

Have you ever heard about the Siege of Lucknow? It took place as a part of 1857 Indian Rebellion. At that time, the children and men only got half of food ration. On the other hand, the three quarters of food ration is given to women.

a first world war rationing

Facts about Rationing in WW1 4: the modern system of rationing

The First World War marked the introduction of the modern system of rationing.

Military rations

Napoleon is renowned for having said that “An army marches on its stomach”. Throughout the course of history, food supplies for the troops often determined the outcome of battles. Before the invention of appertisation and then the tin can in the 19 th century, bread and dried, salted meat formed the basis of military rations.

The first professional army in the West belonged to Ancient Rome. Each of its soldiers received a ration of two pounds of bread a day, meat, olive oil and wine. Under the Byzantine Empire, infantrymen were trained to each carry rations which could keep up to twenty days. Furthermore, a small hand mill was part of their basic equipment and was used to grind grain to make paximadion, a hard, dry bread which kept for a long time. The army often requisitioned raw materials from local populations during military campaigns. Sometimes soldiers even used their own pay to buy food to supplement or vary their diet.

Conditions were even more difficult for the Navy. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British Navy, for example, used the ‘four for six’ rationing system, meaning there were four servings for every six men. The staple food was also bread, in the form of a hard, dry biscuit made with pea flour and crushed bone. The salted meat was so hard that the sailors preferred to sculpt it to help pass the time. Water, a rare and perishable commodity, was replaced by alcoholic drinks, which were safer and easy to store: firstly by beer, then wine when this ran out and finally rum.

The invention of the tin can by Peter Durand in 1810 revolutionised military rations. During the First World War, iron rations were used on a large scale. For the first time, soldiers were guaranteed a few vegetables in their mess tins. British battalions, for example, had two industrial-sized containers for cooking, but the meals hardly ever reached the soldiers serving on the front line. They had to make do with maconochie, a stew made from turnips and carrots, which they would heat up in the can.

Between the two wars, the American army developed three types of nutritious rations that were light to carry. The C-ration was used from the Second World War up to the Vietnam War. It consisted of three types of tinned meals - beef with potatoes, rice or pasta, accompanied by three biscuits, toffee, a few sugar cubes, a packet of instant coffee and a tin opener. The D-ration was an emergency ration in the form of a chocolate bar. It was developed to be light and nutritious, but not too appetising so that soldiers only ate it when they really needed to. The K-ration was a smaller and lighter version of the C-ration, for troops on the front line of battle, at the Normandy Landings for example.

In the 1980s, the American army did away with tinned food and replaced it with hermetically sealed bags containing MRE (Meals, Ready to Eat). The ‘menus’ were now quite varied with almost 24 different dishes, including vegetarian, kosher and halal versions.

War, food rationing, and socioeconomic inequality in Germany during the First World War †

Germany experienced a devastating period during the First World War due to severely restricted import possibilities and a general shortage of foodstuffs. This study uses the heights of some 4,000 individuals who served during the Second World War to quantify biological living standards from the 1900s to the 1920s, and focuses primarily on socioeconomic inequality during this period. The results suggest that generally the upper social strata, measured by fathers' occupation, exhibited the tallest average height, followed by the middle and lower classes. These socioeconomic differences became more pronounced during the First World War when the rationing system provided a limited food supply. Wealthier individuals were able to purchase additional foodstuffs on black markets. Therefore, children from upper-class families experienced only a small decline in average height compared to their counterparts from the middle and lower social strata.

Saving food, saving lives: rationing in the Second World War

This week marks the anniversary of food rationing being introduced in Britain, beginning with bacon, butter and sugar, during the Second World War. Feeding the nation during wartime was a serious business. Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska describes the women's war on the kitchen front

This competition is now closed

Published: January 7, 2021 at 9:00 am

A report by the social research organisation Mass Observation on the food situation in 1941 noted the “difficulty of eking out rations with unrationed foodstuff, the high prices, particularly of perishable foods, shortages and the consequent queues, occupy the first place in the average working woman’s present-day life”. The point was made succinctly by a Mass Observation diarist who “invariably” asked his wife what her friends said about the war before writing his entry. She “always” replied, “‘Nothing, they don’t discuss it. They are more concerned about what to get for tea’ – which is, I suppose, after all a war topic”.

In the Second World War the civilian population had to cope with extensive rationing of food and clothing as well as severe shortages of other consumer goods as economic resources were diverted towards the war effort. During this period of austerity, housewives acquired an increased status because the successful implementation of rationing and other domestic economy measures was vital in maintaining civilian health and morale.

This pivotal female contribution was recognised by the government. For example a Ministry of Food leaflet declared: “The line of Food Defence runs through all our homes … The woman with the basket has a vital part to play in home defence. By saving food you may be saving lives”. The housewife’s daily battle on the kitchen front was as critical to victory as that of the soldier or the worker in essential industries.

Food was undoubtedly a major concern for women in wartime, but this did not mean that they were uninterested in the wider war effort. Clara Milburn, a middle-aged, middle-class housewife who lived in a village a few miles from Coventry, commented on the progress of the war in considerable detail in her diary.

Anxious about her son who was a German prisoner of war, Milburn accepted wartime sacrifice. She considered the extension of food rationing in the summer of 1940 as “all to the good”. Nevertheless, Milburn lamented rising prices and growing shortages of unrationed foods and other goods.

Following the introduction of clothes rationing in 1941, she commented that, “Life is certainly queer now, with coupons for clothes (margarine coupons at that) and very ordinary commodities like potatoes kept in the shops for regular customers only!”

Timeline: when did food rationing begin and end?

January 1940 | Food rationing begins: butter, bacon, ham and sugar rationed

March 1940 |Meat rationed

July 1940 |Tea and margarine rationed

May 1941 |Cheese rationed

June 1941 |Clothes rationed

December 1941 |Points rationing introduced for canned and processed foods

February 1942 |Soap rationed

July 1942 |Chocolate and sweets rationed

May 1949 |Clothes rationing abolished

May 1950 |Points rationing abolished

September 1950 |Soap derationed

October 1952 |Tea derationed

February 1953 |Sweets rationing abolished

May 1954 |Cheese and fats derationed

July 1954 |Meat, bacon and ham derationed, marking the end of food rationing

How to stop the grabbing

Nella Last, a middle-aged, working-class housewife, started writing her diary as a Mass Observation volunteer. She lived in Barrow-in-Furness, which like Coventry suffered severely from bombing raids. Last, who remembered the look of “beyond” in the faces of young men volunteering in 1914, responded to Chamberlain’s declaration of war with resignation and she worried about her two adult sons.

Last was rather more critical than Milburn and in 1942 she wrote that the “present rationing system has been a farce”. Last deplored the fact that there were many who “got more than their share”. She grudgingly endorsed strict rationing. “Much as I dislike coupons and chits, I think it’s the only fair way to stop overlapping and grabbing”. Wartime surveys show that housewives generally welcomed the introduction of a comprehensive food policy and nine out of ten supported rationing.

Food rationing and shortages made the housewife’s task more arduous and women’s time became an important national resource in the exceptional circumstances of war. Women’s tendency to spend their time caring for their families rather than indulging in personal leisure pursuits was utilised by the state as an indispensable aspect of the austerity policy.

An avalanche of propaganda informed housewives on the details of food policy, advised them on how to make the most of scarce resources and suggested new recipes such as ‘mock’ dishes. With the introduction of clothes rationing, soap rationing and shortages of virtually all household goods, housewives learned how to “make do and mend” to maintain at least a semblance of customary standards and domestic rituals.

The introduction of clothes rationing affected women to a greater extent than men. The policy was not just a concern of the young and fashionable. Mothers worried about clothing children under rationing and surrendering coupons for household linen – part of the ration since 1942 – became a continuous source of grievance. Satisfaction with food increased as ration levels stabilised from 1942 onwards, but there was no shift towards contentment with regard to the clothing situation in Home Intelligence morale reports. Another problem was the shortage of soap and in 1943 Milburn wrote in her diary: “never in all my life have I been so short of soap – a nasty feeling”.

Shopping became increasingly difficult in the course of the war. Milburn lamented the “miserable” look of shops in 1942 as shelves were “getting emptier and emptier”. “Many things were not obtainable” any more “so one just had the weekly ration”. Likewise, Last wandered around a market with many stalls closed and few goods available with “sadness” in her heart. In contrast with the “joyous” prewar atmosphere of “meet-a-friend-and-have-a-chat” nowadays “grim-faced women queue and push – and hurry off to another queue when served”.

To purchase unrationed foods and other scarce items required queuing, and food queues were an unremitting problem. Home Intelligence morale reports described food queues as a “bigger menace to public morale than several serious German air raids” in February 1941. Housewives did most of the queuing, yet this was a task that working women and mothers of young children had real difficulty finding time to do. According to a Mass Observation report, to a “great extent queues have been the trial of the women rather than the men. Men have felt the lack of variety of food at the dinner table, but they have not gone through the tiring ordeal of queuing, for what there is in front of them”.

Used to economising, Last prided herself on being a “good cook and manager”. She did all her own baking and cooked stews stretching cheap cuts of meat into a filling meal. Her husband appreciated her abilities: “By Jove, when I hear some men talking about what they get to eat, I realise how lucky I am”.

Making sacrifices in war

The Milburns had a large garden and homegrown vegetables augmented the family’s rations considerably. However, digging for victory required not only access to a suitable plot of land, but also time and Clara Milburn’s diary reveals the effort and frustrations involved. By contrast, relatively little came of Nella Last’s plan to grow vegetables in her back garden. However, she kept hens and the family had plenty of eggs.

Housewives frequently shielded men and children from the full impact of the reduction in consumption that accompanied rationing, a sacrifice that extended across the social spectrum. Nevertheless, female morale was generally high during the war, the overwhelming majority of housewives considered themselves to be well fed and they accepted the necessity of sacrifice for the duration.

How wartime affected cosmetics and fashion

Stimulated by women’s magazines and the cinema, demand for fashionable clothes and beauty products was high on the eve of war. With unprecedented levels of female employment, demand for cosmetics increased further during hostilities. In the wake of clothes rationing, women focused on elaborate makeup, inventive hairstyles and coupon-free accessories to counterbalance the limitations of their wardrobe. As Doris White, a young engineering worker, put it: “Our aim in life seemed to concern our faces and hair”. A wartime survey shows that the overwhelming majority of working women and 90 per cent of the under-30s used cosmetics regularly.

Women’s right and duty to maintain a fashionable appearance was portrayed as critical to female morale. The magazine Woman proclaimed in December 1939: “Nowadays beauty is a duty, since it cheers and inspires both yourself and others”. The firm Yardley coined the slogan “Put your best face forward” and one advert declared, “Never should we forget that good looks and good morale go hand in hand”.

Cosmetics or toilet preparations were never rationed, but official production was cut by 75 per cent of prewar output to economise on labour and raw materials. According to the Board of Trade, which was in charge of controlling domestic consumer goods, the industry actually produced over half of prewar output in 1941. At the same time, the only cosmetics “normally” seen in shops were of “very obscure and, in most case, illegal origins”. The report concluded that new legislation would “deal with the most important abuses, but there is little doubt that the black market will merely move on to some other forms of evasion”.

The possibility of prohibiting the industry entirely was discussed in 1942. This proposal was rejected in view of the “uproar which prohibition would evoke” because in order to sustain morale “women must have lipstick and powder”. Instead, the Board introduced increasingly tight regulation, and legislation governing the control of cosmetics was changed eight times in six years. This policy dealt a “blow at the Black Market”, but new loopholes continued to be exploited.

One example was the appearance of a product called Laddastop following the prohibition of nail varnish, which required scarce solvent-based substances, in 1943. Marketed to stop ladders in silk stockings, Laddastop was pink and sold in small bottles with a brush for application. A Board of Trade official lamented that the “Black Market has defeated us”, because manufacturers claimed that they were not producing a toilet preparation at all. The predicament was resolved by a Ministry of Supply order which prohibited preparations containing the banned solvents in bottles less than half a pint in size.

Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska is an associate professor of modern British history at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is author of Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, and Consumption (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Eating History: Making "War Cake," a Remnant of WWII Rationing

Welcome to “Eating History,” a series in which Jaya Saxena of the New-York Historical Society mines the vast archives of the museum and library in search of vintage images and ephemera that offer a look into how New Yorkers used to dine. Follow the museum @NYHistory for more.

During WWII, America resorted to rationing certain goods. Everything from tires to shoes to nylons were rationed, along with many edibles such as sugar, coffee, and cheese. Fuel shortages made it tough to send fresh food across the country, and many processed foods had to be shipped to our soldiers and allies. And yes, we’re all enlightened with our CSA memberships, our adherence to seasonal diets, and our shunning of anything processed, but you try telling your kid that you can’t make their favorite birthday cake because you already used up that month’s ration of butter!

Fortunately, America’s home cooks got crafty and created a bunch of makeshift recipes for popular dishes, using ingredients like applesauce, molasses, or lard to stand in for usual fats and sweeteners, and deploying lots of common spices to mask the taste. So, how do these recipes hold up?

Below is a recipe for “War Cake” found in an anonymous cookbook from the 1940s in the New-York Historical Society Library’s Manuscript collection. It boasts: “no butter, no eggs, no milk, delicious.” We’ll see about that!

Recipe for “War Cake”

  • 2 cups castor sugar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 Tbsp lard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 package seedless raisins.

Boil all together. After cold, add 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water. Bake about one hour in a slow oven (300-325°F).

The verdict: This cake, while delicious, definitely doesn’t mask the substitution entirely. It’s sticky and thick, with a chewy crust instead of that melt-in-your-mouth airiness you get from a Funfetti cake. But it flat-out tastes good. A spicy, fruity cake like this could be an excellent addition to any baking repertoire. Though maybe you can figure out a way to add an egg.

Watch the video: 1899-1902 British Emergency Ration Field Service Oldest MRE Beef Eaten Survival Food Review Test