Throwback Thursday – As Good As It Gets

My maternal grandfather, who died when my Mom was ten years old, relied on rations during the Second World War. We recently found a ration coupon booklet with many of the little tickets still intact. 

I'm holding open a ration coupon book. On the left are the rules for submitting coupons. On the right, coupons to trade in for meat.

How can this possibly be good? Stay with me.

Grandpa was a farmer and although I don’t believe my mother and her siblings ever went hungry, they certainly didn’t have any frills. They ate what they grew and my Grandmother spent a lot of time canning food from their gardens.

But the war happened long before my Mom was born and, I think, before my grandparents married. Canada told its people they needed to conserve certain foods to send with “the boys” overseas. Canadians were also encouraged to eat certain other foods that were in surplus, such as lobster and apples – both were labelled patriotic.

Rationing started with sugar in 1941 and by the following year expanded to include tea, coffee, butter and meat. Restaurants introduced Meatless Tuesdays. People planted victory gardens, no matter how small their patch of land. Cookbooks were issued featuring methods for making butter alternatives and other dishes with non-rationed ingredients. The federal government’s brand new national nutrition program arrived with the slogan: “Eat right, feel right – Canada needs you strong!” Creativity was needed to keep Canadian palates entertained. Soybeans entered the food chain and found their way as peanut substitutes and folded into the mixtures for chocolate bars. When the war ended, Canadians were eating more vegetables than they used to thanks to those victory gardens.

We don’t know why this book still had so many coupons in it, mostly for meat. Maybe it was left over after rationing ended. Maybe he just didn’t feel like turning it in for meat. Maybe a lot of things but we really don’t know. History books claim people accepted rationing as a necessary part of wartime life and felt good about contributing to the war effort. Something like 96% of the population felt positive about rationing once it was over. Helping others always makes you feel good. It’s one of the best things about being human. Good or bad, I hope we never know what it’s like, not so much because of the rations, but because of the war.

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