Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Ministry of Food

Just over a week after returning from Malawi and the atmosphere of the country and the memory of the people I met are still very much with me; perhaps they will never disappear.

The daily struggle of many in that country to provide food for themselves and their families was also with me early last week when I found myself at the Imperial War Museum for the opening of its latest exhibition "The Ministry of Food".

How did our grandparents' and some parents' generations find enough food to eat in a beleaguered country and yet remain healthy enough to withstand the deprivations? Well, it's all there - this delightfully direct and nostalgic exhibition tells us what to do; there are many lessons in domestic science and gardening that we can learn today which would help us all to fulfill the criteria of home grown, locally produced, sustainable and healthy food. And it could mean no bananas.

No war time history of food would be complete without the WI, of course, which provided the willing and able workforce to produce tons and tons of jam from the fruit grown in this country. Canning machines from the USA were provided by government to 500 WIs so that jam could be canned and stored for distribution around the country. The sugar was also provided. I wouldn't be surprised if there is still a canning machine hidden somewhere in several federations still. The one on show is loaned by Buckinghamshire Federation.

Guests at the exhibition opening sampled mock goose and mock cream as well as uniform sized potatoes stuffed with stilton as well as potatoe biscusits. Being a child of the 50s I was brought up with mock goose and mock cream both being familiars in my mother's repetoire menues.

In 1939-45 the people were told to keep calm and carry on. A maxim to be followed still I think.