Another of my wartime specials, this is a collection of Marguerite Patten’s recipes from 1940-1954, helping people to make the most out of the wartime and post-war rations. It ‘s full of fascinating insights as well as frugal recipes and is great at demonstrating alternatives to rationed foods. There are a lot of meat-substituting tricks, as well as recipes where the meat is padded out with cheap, easily available, extras. These are joined with a variety of amusing “mock” dishes: Mock Apricot Flan for example, where the apricots are replaced with carrots; or Mock Crab, Mock Duck,  and Mock Oyster Pie; as well as any number of eggless alternatives to traditional cookery.

It contains a good section on preserving, although I suspect it is well behind current thinking on food safety, so I’m not sure I’d use the recipes given for canning. I hope I never need the advice on stewing and frying Whale meat, but I’d be happy to try the Honeycomb toffee.

Overall it is a fascinating read for the frugal, alternative approach to living that we may be returning to. I think it’s a book to try out from a library first, and then buy if you’re enticed. I got our copy from the National Trust bookshop at Dunham Massey for less than a fiver, but if you can’t find it locally, here is the link to get it from Amazon –Victory Cookbook: Nostalgic Food and Facts from 1940-1954, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

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Now this is a bit of a quirky inclusion to our library – it’s directly reprinted from the 1940’s edition, and so is not the most up to date, but I do have a bit of a thing for wartime cooking and gardening books.

When originally published, this was the Government-supported manual designed to turn us into a nation of growers. As a result it is a surprisingly good, down-to-earth guide to becoming a productive gardener. It covers everything you’d expect: Planning crops, tools, all the different vegetables, fruit and flowers, pests, poultry, bees, and how can you resist a book with a chapter entitled “Rabbits for Flesh & Fur”.

As well as being a good basic intro to traditional gardening techniques, its extra dimension is that of thrift. In these austere times, learning how to garden frugally is a great skill, and so this book is elevated beyond novelty purchase and into a (mostly) serious part of our library. In fact I’m just off to re-read the sections on Bees & Chickens now!

I got our copy for £1 from a discount bookshop, but you should be able to get them from your local bookshop or it’s only £2.80 from Amazon – follow this link –Make Your Garden Feed You, and the Trafford Eco House will get some money from your purchase (it won’t cost you any more).

OK, I’ll be up front, this is a little bit of a joke post, but I just bought the Victory Cookbook and there are lots of interesting food snippets in it to share. It’s a compilation of three of Marguerite Patten’s during and post-war cookbooks, and so is great for frugal, ration-based cooking. One of the items that caught my eye was called “Save that Fat”:

Collect all the oddments of fat that you can from frying pans, baking tins and stews. Melt and strain them all into a big bowl and wash them by pouring on some boiling water (you will need about a pint of water for 2 oz of fat). When the liquid solidifies, lift off the solid fat and scrape the sediment off the bottom; it is now quite suitable for frying or roasting. Wise housewives will take this a step further. They will heat the at up again until it stops bubbling. This means that it is quite free from moisture and will keep literally indefinitely. It can be saved for anything, even cake making.

Not sure about you, but that was new to me! Now I can’t cook a pan of sausages without feeling I shouldn’t be throwing the fat away – surely this is some of the ultimate recycling.  Maybe one of these days I’ll become a “Wise Eco-Housewife” and try it. I might leave a note explaining to the Paramedics what I’ve done though.