The tiny meat ration in WW2 UK and creative alternatives
Meat rationing lasted years after the end of WW2. Hence my aversion to the awful gristle that passed for mince in my school dinners in the 1950s.
All the following meats and meat recipes show ways of padding out what little meat there was in wartime and the post-war austerity. Keeping chickens and rabbits in back gardens is described on another page.
Meals including meat
Spam and how to eat it
Spam was a precooked meat product which came from America in tins which were opened with a metal turn key. Spam could be eaten straight from the tin, sliced with chips or a salad. The best way to eat it, in my view, was cut into slices, dipped in flour and water and deep fried. (Incidentally English girls who went with American soldiers were also known as Spam.)
The occasional rabbit was a treat, if you were lucky enough to get one. If you 'heard of one going', you immediately set off to get one, perhaps walking miles. My mother used to go on her bike with my sister strapped into a seat on the back. Nothing was thrown away. After the occasional chicken, there was chicken soup for several days afterwards. I still can't bear chicken soup!
A type of shepherds pie could be made with mashed potato and scraps of meat, like the odd rabbit and pigeon that we caught. Meat from this source was not easy to prepare but we were used to it.
My mother would get some fresh lard from the butchers and mix it with flour and water, mould into a round tennis ball shapes and drop them into the stew to make it go further. The results were known as dumplings.
Pearl barley was used a lot to pad out stews.
Meat you have probably never eaten and would not consider eating
Any form of meat was welcome in the rationing and shortages of WW2. Horse meat and whale meat were available from time to time. I have eaten both.
My gran would use bits from cow heel and pigs' feet, to make brawn. The bits were stewed then mixed with jelly and put into a mould to set. It was served in slices. I can see her now sucking off the jelly!
My mum would eat tripe - the stomach lining of animals like cows, pigs, sheep, and goats -with lots of vinegar and pepper - eurghh.
Meals 'pretending' to be meat
Today, stock cubes come in a variety of flavours, but as far as I remember, the only stock cubes available in WW2 were the beef ones. They were simply known as just Oxo and were widely used without meal to give the taste of meat.
No-meat shepherds pie 1
My mother created shepherds pie without having to use any of the strictly rationed meat. The potato topping was not a problem as potatoes were not too difficult to obtain. The 'meat', however, was composed of stale bread (nothing was ever wasted) to which was added dripping along with 'Oxo' (beef extract cubes) and anything else that was available.
No-meat shepherds pie 2
Our no-meat shepherds pie was mashed potato on a base of either Bisto or Oxo gravy made very thick with water on the bottom of a baking tray. This was baked in the oven until the gravy was judged to have gone solid.
Bread and dripping
My mother would scrape the dripping that was left in the bottom of the tray that the Sunday roast had been in. We had it spread it on toast with loads of salt.
Meals without meat
Housewives' creativity meant that there were many different ways that full meals could be made without meat for protein.
Cheese and eggs supplied protein but they were rationed. However, they could be bulked out with vegetables. From today's point of view, you might think that there are numerous snacks that don't contain meat, but there were no snacks in WW2, only women's creativity with meals from next-to-nothing apart from vegetables.
The vegetarian option
Mashed potato with grated on-ration cheese mixed in was a standard meal.