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World War Two: Meals at home

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Bread as a staple food in 1940s wartime Britain

Meals based on bread

Bread was not rationed during the Second World War although it was afterwards between 1946 and 1948 when shortages were even more severe.

The use of bread for any meal was only limited by what to put on it or how to cook it. The same is true today. However, in The Second World War and the years of austerity afterwards butter was a rare treat, even margarine had to be spread very thinly and both were rationed. Often the moistness was provided by vegetables.

The 'National Loaf'

Guest contribution

During the war there was no white bread. The only bread available was called 'The National Loaf' and was grey in colour and had more of the grain in than refined white bread. Consequently, it was more healthy, although I'm not sure that we realised it at the time.

Bakers were required by law only to sell their 'national loaves' a day old because stale bread did not cut to waste like fresh bread.

Peter Johnson

Till my mother's dying day, decades after the end of the war, she still insisted on keeping her bread for a day before using it. Habits die hard.

A breakfast of fried bread for children

My mother made me a complete slice of crisply fried bread for breakfast every morning, fried in dripping. That couldn't have been healthy, but she thought it was because when she took me to the clinic as a baby, the nurse had said, "Give her something to cut her teeth on, mother" - and my mother carried on the practice, as probably did countless other mothers throughout the country.

I didn't complain because I really liked the fried bread. It was served by itself and followed by an apple while they were in season.

A Christmas treat based on fried bread

At Christmas and Easter, my family had bacon and fried mushrooms with the fried bread. I assume that the mushrooms were picked from the wild, even though my mother would have bought them. Certainly no mushrooms today ever seem to have the same flavour. The bacon addition must have been just after the war in the late 1940s when my father was back home, as I can't remember any meat in our family during the war.

The return of white bread

Guest contribution

White bread back on sale!

It was not until about 1949 that white bread was permitted to be sold to the public. My mother joined the queue at the local bakery at six o'clock in the morning to see the first WHITE loaves come out of the oven!

Jan Clifford

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.


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