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I don't remember ever having fresh fish while I was growing up during World War Two. I understand, though, that it was seldom available but not rationed. This is hardly surprising because catching fish at sea would have been a dangerous business with German bombers overhead and their submarines underwater.
When my mother had visitors, the meal always seemed to be sardine salad. I suppose that the sardine tins were brought in by the merchant navy.
Fresh fish was not rationed from the fish and chips shops. It was cheap and plentiful. There was always a long line of people waiting for the fish and chip shop to open. The fish and chips were served in newspaper. So we could either eat them out of doors if the weather was fine or take them home to eat.
Herrings with mash and onion gravy may sound odd but it was lovely, as was kippers with really new bread, which was our Saturday tea.
We seemed to have preserved fish quite often, particularly soused herring and soused mackerel.
Fish cakes of sorts were made by mashing some potatoes, mixing in some boiled fish then forming into scone-size shapes. They were then grilled on both sides.
On Sundays in the few years of austerity after the war, a vendor used to come round the streets with a horse and cart, selling shrimps, winkles and cockles. These were often our treat for the week.
The man who sold cockles, mussels, prawns and winkles always came on a Sunday. Presumably he had a shop during the week. He came round the streets ringing a bell and pushing a hand cart. We had his wares for Sunday tea.
born Vera Eaton
Our occasional haddock was cooked in milk and water and we children used to dip our bread in the juice while father had the fish. (For medical reasons he was not away in the armed forces.)
Tinned pilchards were all too common in school dinners in the late 1950s.