In the novel I'll Be Seeing You, Glory and Rita bond over their daily experiences trying to live a fulfilling life in the midst of wartime worry and hardship. The two women live far apart - one in Iowa, and the other in New England. In their letters to each other, they share tips for growing a decent Victory Garden as well as recipes that work with rationed supplies.
In 1942, the United States began nationwide rationing of items such as sugar, coffee, meat, cheese, tires, gasoline and even farm equipment. Some of these items were scarce because they'd previously been imported from countries now at war with the United States. Other items were needed to keep the soldiers and sailors well-equipped for their battles.
Ration books distributed to individuals and families dictated the quantities one could buy. The various items still needed to be paid for, but could not be purchased without the proper stamps. The goal was equity; in hopes that every family would be able to obtain their fair share of the coveted goods while being able to properly provide for the military members fighting overseas. Across the country, 8000 boards were created to implement and monitor these rations. Recycling of materials such as aluminum, iron, steel, tin, and paper encouraged everyone to contribute to the war effort in some way. The discomforts created served as a daily reminder that the country was at war. It created a strong sense of patriotism and unity between neighbors.
The government encouraged citizens to plant personal "Victory Gardens" on their own land or in planter boxes in order to support the war effort. These gardens supplemented ration allowances with homegrown produce, and because of transportation shortages, people ate locally grown vegetables. Swiss chard and kohlrabi were brought to the American dinner table since they were easy to grow. The program was a great success. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted during the war. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons - equal to the amount of commercial production at the time. This also meant more canned foods could be sent to feed the military.
I was quite tempted to try some of the recipes designed to work around limited amounts of sugar and butter and other ingredients. Here are some recipes included in the General Foods Corporation Cookbook created in 1943.
The video on this PBS website describes the rationing and recycling detail really well. The National World War II museum website has some great related pictures that are worth checking out.
Picture from Livinghistoryfarm.com
This article is from the July 24, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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