Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Make It Do, Wear It Out, Use It Up, Do Without

    Wartime Ration Books came with warnings and instructions. Punishments of up to ten years' imprisonment or $10,000 fines could be imposed for violations of rationing regulations. If a person left the country or died, his ration book must be surrendered to the Ration Board; no giving it to family or friends. If you faced a hospital stay of more than ten days, you had to turn your book over to the person in charge.
    To avoid fraud, ration stamps had to be detached in the presence of the shopkeeper. Loose stamps were void. If you lost your book, woe is you.
    Shortage of food affected everyone on a daily basis, but many other things were scarce, too. Major purchases like cars, bicycles, and kitchen appliances required proof of need and special certificates. Even typewriters were rationed because the military needed so many.

    In the kitchen, women reused fat and grease for frying as often as possible before turning them in to the grocer. These waste fats were processed into explosives and used as lubricants.
    Leather shoes were rationed in favor of combat boots. Keeping growing children shod was a challenge. Fashion faced many changes. In an effort to save fifteen percent of yardage used in wearing apparel, skirt lengths and the width of slacks were restricted; hems and fabric belts could be no more than two inches. Cuffs, patch pockets, ruffles, and attached hoods were prohibited. Women turned in their nylon stockings to make powder bags for naval guns. Sewing became more popular, but even the production of sewing machines was limited.

    Most rubber came from rubber tree plantations in southeast Asia, occupied by Japan. War production factories needed every bit of rubber they could find. Civilians were urged to turn in old tires, garden hoses, rubber boots. Tires were rationed early, from January 1942 through December 1945.
    Even if you had good tires, your driving was limited. Gasoline was rationed to conserve tires. Almost everyone had an "A" classification, which entitled the holder to four gallons per week. Their cars were non-essential to the war effort. A "B" classification for those with essential jobs, like industrial works, qualified for eight gallons per week. Important people like doctors, ministers, mail carriers, and railroad workers had a "C" classification. Members of Congress had the unlimited "X" classification. A windshield sticker proclaimed your status.
"Some people have all the luck. All I've been gettin' is fish."

    Scrap and salvage drives were the order of the day. Paper was needed for packing weapons and equipment for shipment overseas. Scrap iron was found by digging up trolley rails buried beneath streets. Tires were fished from ponds. Children brought scrap metal to school collection bins and scoured their neighborhoods with their wagons.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Adventures in Eating by Terri Wangard

    America's entry into World War II led to the necessity of feeding a huge military force overseas. The draft caused an agricultural labor shortage, and import reductions limited the supply of such things as coffee and sugar. Gasoline and tire rationing further limited transport of fresh foods.
    In May of 1942, the Office of Price Administration froze prices to avoid the inflation experienced during World War I. To fairly distribute foods in short supply, rationing was begun. Sugar rationing started in May of 1943. Later food stuffs included coffee, processed foods, red meats, dairy products, and fats.
This cartoon showed that rationing was necessary so each family got its fair share of products in short supply due to military needs or import reductions.
    Rationed items received a point value which changed with the ebb and flow of supply and demand.
Businesses published monthly ration calendars showing the status of categories of items. To prevent hoarding, each ration stamp was good for a designated time and authorized a designated quantity.

Stamps had expiration dates and their worth often changed on a daily basis. Rationed items displayed points and price. Shoppers paid the grocer in stamps as well as cash.
    Foods not rationed included fresh produce, eggs, poultry, fish, and fresh milk. Canned foods were rationed because Japan controlled most of the world's tin, and what the US had was needed by the military. Americans were strongly urged to plant Victory Gardens and can their harvest for the winter months.

If you bought three cans of peas, your allotment of 48 points worth
of canned, dried, and frozen foods was used up for the month.
    Reading wartime letters reveal life with rationing. One wife wrote to her air corps husband, "We've been canning tomatoes almost all day and it's a long job. All I did was skin tomatoes--and more tomatoes! It's a good thing to can though, for if you get them in the stores by the can, you have to use so many ration points."
    Having ration stamps didn't guarantee finding a product. Another wife wrote, "I could not get fresh meat of any kind, but found that Spam fried in butter made a very tasty Easter dinner," and "Meat seems almost non-existent although last Friday, Mrs. Smith and I happened to be in the Piggly Wiggly just as five hams arrived, so we pooled our ration points and bought one together, having it split down length-wise so as to have it evenly divided. Potatoes have entirely disappeared and we are substituting macaroni and rice."
    Newspapers and magazines offered meatless recipes. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner in its familiar blue box soared in popularity as a substitute for meat. Cottage cheese also saw a significant sales increase. Soft cheeses were easier to find than hard cheeses, which shipped well to the troops.
    A wartime cookbook extolled the eagerness of the modern woman to pit her intelligence against the knotty problem of rationing. "She will need to learn not only to prepare all the foods needed in her household, but to raise her own garden and poultry and save every last bit, as has not been done in several generations." All this, while at the same time, she was encouraged to take on a war job.
Even chocolate was scarce,
being an import.
    Give up chocolate? Considering what the troops were sacrificing, including their lives, it was a small concession. What would you have missed?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Twinkie, Twinkie Little Cake

Our trip down memory lane this week takes us to another food that our grandparents might have tasted and can still be found on the grocery shelves today. Hostess Twinkies have been around for eighty-four years, invented on April 6, 1930 in River Forest, Illinois.

Hostess brand named snacks were sold originally in the 1920s by the Continental Bakeries Company. At that time, they sold a product called Hostess Little Shortbread Fingers, which included a strawberry filing in the little cakes. They sound yummy! This product sold well, but was only produced during a couple weeks in June when strawberries were ripe in Illinois.

James Dewar, the vice president of the Chicago plant, wanted to find a use for the Shortbread Fingers baking pans during the rest of the year. He baked some of the shortbread cakes and injected them with banana cream filling and named them Twinkies, a name he came up with when he saw a billboard advertising Twinkle-Toe Shoes. Seems like an odd thing to name something after, but it stuck!

The newly invented snack was an instant hit when it arrived on the shelves. Two Twinkies were sold for a nickel back then, a price even a mother could love. The one big problem they had was that Twinkies had a two day shelf life, so a Hostess truck had to replace the supply every two days. I imagine that they must have been only sold to local stores at that time.

The recipe was later changed to replace the milk, eggs, and butter to have a longer shelf life. This also improved when the snack was sealed in cellophane wrappers. Today Twinkies have a shelf life of twenty-five days.

The banana cream filling was changed to the well-known vanilla crème filling during World War II. The banana shortage caused by the war precipitated this change, but the vanilla filling was well-received by all. Wish I could have tasted the banana flavored Twinkies. They've been vanilla filled most of the time since then.

Twinkies has been a snack in lunch boxes or after school for generations. The only time they haven't been in production was during the last part of 2012 and first half of 2013 when Hostess Company filed for bankruptcy. Apollo Global Management bought up the company in early 2013 allowing Twinkies to return to production by July of that year. Thank goodness for that!

What is your first memory of eating this delicious snack?

Information taken from Delish - History of Snack Foods