Rationing for our times

Rationing for our times

Governor of the Reserve Bank Philip Lowe, desperately fighting a war against inflation, has suggested that financially stressed Australians could try to cut back spending. 

Once essential items such as rent are removed from the weekly budget, transport (use your feet), food, heating and clothing remain. 

Eighty years ago, the whole of Australia was forced to adopt austerity measures to support another war effort with the introduction of rationing of essential items such as fuel (for heating and transport), food and clothing.

Heating is a problem today. Then, firewood could be scavenged for an open fire, but this is no longer allowed. One suggestion; this newspaper is free, so stuff it inside your coat or socks to keep out the cold.

Newspapers ran competitions or published recipes with novel ideas for stretching out a limited supply of ingredients. Fruit and vegetables weren’t ever rationed so the rationale for this prizewinning recipe for a substitute for potatoes, published in The Telegraph (Brisbane) in October 1943, is unclear. Maybe, as in recent times, the price of potatoes skyrocketed beyond the reach of some families …

“Into a cup of self-raising flour rub half a dessertspoon of nice clear fat and a pinch of salt, Mix into a paste with a little water. Make paste of scone consistency, cut into pieces, roll out like dumplings, and shape in the form of potatoes. Bake in meat tin after roast meat, fat and gravy have been taken out, leaving only a little gravy and fat in meat tin in which to bake until golden (about 15 minutes). They will be light, absorb gravy and will only leave a little fat. This quantity makes about 12 potatoes.”

The Newcastle Sun published this recipe for a “very simple and nourishing steam pudding” in October 1944 …

“Mix together with cold water the following ingredients: A cup of finely shredded suet, (the raw, hard fat found around the loins and kidneys of cows and sheep), two cups of flour and two-level teaspoonful of baking powder and a little salt. When well mixed roll out thin, line a basin with this pastry, and put in the middle a large cup bf brown sugar. Cover with pastry, fold in well at sides and steam for two hours.”

My family was lucky enough to have a fridge with a small freezing compartment and ice cream was made from whipped and frozen condensed milk – a great treat in my family.

A friend, now in her 90s, remembers that clothes were difficult to buy on a limited number of coupons, but, as blankets were available, one was adapted to make a heavy dressing gown that she wore for a number of years. Her mother had a coat that went through three reincarnations. Her family were lucky to have relatives living in the country so there were regular trips to the railway station to collect boxes of fruit and vegetables. These were bottled using Fowlers preserving jars. She particularly remembers that her parents used boiled lollies to sweeten their tea.

Government advertisements were aimed at women who bore the brunt of these restrictions. The graphics may have changed, but, despite some progress, it is questionable how far the role of women has altered. •

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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