Food will win the war and write the peace

Wartime Food

November 11, 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I (more properly known as the Great War until it was superseded by WW II).

Over the past two years the BC Food History Network has featured several articles concerned with wartime food. There were two broad categories of food conservation; saving protein-and-calorie rich foods such as butter, cheese, milk and eggs for the soldiers, and reducing costly imports such as sugar, tea and coffee. The use of local produce was also emphasized.

Canadian war cake[i] provided several recipes for cakes without butter, milk or eggs. The cakes could be sent to troops in the trenches, or eaten as a treat at home. Raisins substituted for some of the sugar.  The recipe featured in this blog could date as far back as the Boer War (1899-1902).

Canadian War Cake

Apples and patriotism[ii] linked eating local fruits with winning the war – and was likely a bonus to Okanagan apple-growers as well.

Apples and patriotism

Meat-rationing[iii] was important in World War II (rationing did not exist in the First World War). The discovery of a WW II meat ration token in a button box led to this exploration of the topic.

WW II meat token

Food dehydration[iv] was an excellent way to use up excess produce and ensure that the forces were well-nourished. Bulmans Cannery in Vernon, BC became one of Canada’s leading producers of dehydrated food in WW II.  A bumper crop of summer cabbages in 1944 resulted in the biggest dehydration project that Bulmans had undertaken. The plant employed 215 people to handle 100 tons of cabbage daily. The local newspaper reported a “double-barreled compliment” received from the husband of one of their employees deployed in Italy: “Bulmans cabbage is sure swell; but we wouldn’t mind if the machinery broke down for we see nothing else”.[v]

The Wartime Canada website has archived several recipe books with authentic recipe books aimed at the home front. Some recipe suggestions include:  ANZAC biscuits; Canadian War Cake;  Tipperary Scones; and Hard Tack.

As Alice Stevens[vi], a Vernon, BC home economist told the Vernon Rotary Club, “Food will win the war and write the peace”.[vii]

To honour past hard times, and future peace, why not try a war-time recipe?

[i]  Peterat, L. (2016, Nov. 16). Canadian war cake.

[ii] Peterat, L. (2018, Oct. 13). Apples and patriotism.

[iii] Smith, M.G.  (2017, Oct. 27).  Meat rationing in World War II.

[iv]  de Zwart, M.L. (2017, May 16).

[vi] de Zwart, M.L. & Peterat, L. (2016). Alice Stevens: Innovations in women’s work. British Columbia History Magazine, 49 (2), 33-37

[vii] See Vernon News, December 3, 1942, and also A. Bentley, Eating for victory: Food rationing and the politics of domesticity (University of Illinois Press, 1998), p. 142.

4 Responses to Food will win the war and write the peace

  1. Diane O'Shea November 4, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    Fascinated about the dehydrated cabbage. Wondering what it would be like?? Would you just put it in boiling water for abit??

    I wonder if this idea about patriotism and apples still exists since the apple is often used as a symbol of goodness??

    Did make war cake with my students as we explored and recognized rationing, etc on Remembrance Day.

    • Mary Leah de Zwart November 4, 2018 at 7:33 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Diane. I think dehydrated cabbage would be like any dried food – not much if any cooking required (e.g. like a dried vegetable soup).

  2. John and Jackie Milligan November 4, 2018 at 10:18 am #

    Here is a Boiled Raisin cake that looks like a direct descendant from The War Cake which is what our mother used to make.
    For some reason, that i forget we called it BRAT cake.

    Boiled Raisin Cake
    From a web search 2008.
    One of our oldest recipes… And one of our best…

    2 cups raisins
    pinch of salt

    1/2 cup butter
    1 cup brown sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp. soda

    2 cups sifted flour (cake flour)
    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    1/2 tsp. cloves
    1/2 cup ground walnuts (optional)

    Cover raisins with boiling water and salt and simmer 30 minutes. Cool. Drain. Reserve liquid.
    Add [cream] shortening, sugar, eggs, raisin water (about cup), soda,
    Then stir in flour, spices, walnuts and raisins using a spoon.
    Bake at 350F for 23 min in the convection oven. Test for doneness.

    Icing: (optional)
    Heat one cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup cream to boiling.
    Add 1 tsp. vanilla and pour onto warm cake.

    VERY good cake !
    Made half recipe and baked in a small Pyrex pan
    Mixed ingredients together in the raisin pot in the order given
    Bake at 375 F for 25 to 35 minutes in ordinary oven
    Might try adding 1/2 tsp of baking powder if a lighter cake is desired.

    (Revised march 2012)

    • Mary Leah de Zwart November 4, 2018 at 10:27 am #

      Sounds good! When I made Linda’s war cake, it took longer to cook in a regular oven.

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