New recipes

World Records For Food and Drink

World Records For Food and Drink


Some of these are cool and others are downright wacky

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The average person goes about their day eating sandwiches, salads, tacos and more. Across the country and the globe, many others have gone to great lengths to set the wildest food and drink records in history.

Methodology

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The following feats are verified by Guinness World Records.

Largest collection of hamburger-related items

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Harry Sperl loves a good burger. In fact, he has the largest collection of hamburger-related collectibles ever. “Hamburger Harry” has 3,724 items in total ranging from a cheeseburger waterbed to a fully functioning cheeseburger Harley trike in his Daytona Beach, Florida, home.

Heaviest carrot

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Christopher Qualley of Otsego, Minnesota, grew the heaviest carrot weighing 22.44 pounds. Was it dipped in hummus? Thrown in stew? Used to make a batch of creative cookies? The world may never know.

Most expensive fungus

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The world’s most expensive fungus is the white truffle, tuber magnatum pico. It grows a foot underground in the Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Marches regions of Italy as well as the Istrian peninsula of Croatia — and it can only be found with the help of trained dogs. The price tag? Up to $3,000 per kilo (2.2 pounds). There’s no doubt this truffle would go great with mac and cheese.

Most hamburgers eaten in 3 minutes

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In Milan, Italy, on July 11, 2014, competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi ate 12 4-ounce burgers with mayo in three minutes. If you plan to eat slow enough to taste your burger, why not have the best burger in your state?

Most pubs visited

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As of January 2014 when he set the record, Bruce Masters of Flitwick in Bedfordshire, England, has visited 46,495 drinking establishments since 1960. We wonder if he’s been to any of the best Irish pubs in America.

Most juice extracted from grapes by treading in 3 minutes

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Martina Servaty extracted 4.47 gallons of grape juice in three minutes in Cologne, Germany, in 2008. Stomping grapes might sound unsanitary, but it’s just as safe as eating these moldy foods.

Longest noodle

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The longest noodle measured 10,119 feet and 1.92 inches long and was made by Xiangnian Food Co., Ltd. in Nanyang, Henan, China, in October 2017. Sounds like the secret ingredient to the best bowl of pasta ever.

Largest cake sculpture

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The largest cake sculpture was 54 feet by 45 feet, 7 inches by 1 foot, 9.25 inches. It was made by 250 individuals from the National Association Cake Designers Italy in Milan in October 2015.

Largest pizza

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The largest pizza ever made had a surface area of 13,580.28 square feet — and it was completely gluten free. It was made by Dovilio Nardi, Andrea Mannocchi, Marco Nardi, Matteo Nardi and Matteo Giannotte of NIPfood at Fiera Roma in Rome, Italy, in December 2012.

Largest M&M’s mosaic

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A fun food fact is that the record for largest M&M’s mosaic goes to the candy’s own maker, Mars Incorporated. Approximately 291,490 chocolate pieces were used to make a logo measuring about 534 square feet. It was made by 27 people and took more than 17 hours to complete.

Fastest time to peel and eat an orange blindfolded

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Manish Upadhyay and Dinesh Upadhyaya are the fastest team of two to peel and eat an orange blindfolded. Manish peeled and Dinesh did the eating in 17.15 seconds. The record was verified in Goregaon, Mumbai, India, in March 2014. Dinesh also holds the record for most oranges peeled and eaten in three minutes. He ate seven. That’s one way to get your vitamin C.

Most expensive hot dog

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The most expensive hot dog that is commercially available costs $169 and was sold by Tokyo Dog in February 2014. The Seattle food truck dubbed it “Juuni Ban,” featuring smoked cheese bratwurst, butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, shaved black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo on a brioche bun.

Longest tiramisu

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You won’t find this at your local dessert shop. The longest tiramisu was completed in March 2019 and was 897 feet and 3 inches long. It was made in Milan, Italy, by dairy company Galbani Santa Lucia with the help of students from the Milan Cooking School directed by chef Stefano Callegaro, who won the fourth season of “Masterchef Italia.”

Largest serving of pancakes

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On Feb. 25, 2017, the largest serving of pancakes — 12,716 in total — was served by food brand Mafka in Muzeon Park, Moscow, Russia. All it needed was hash browns, potato chips or any of these other unexpected ingredients that make pancakes shine.

Largest bubblegum bubble blown

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Chad Fell blew the largest bubblegum bubble in Winston County, Alabama, on April 24, 2004, using three pieces of Dubble Bubble. It had a diameter of 20 inches. Dubble Bubble is still one of the most popular Halloween candies in America.

Longest line of hot dogs

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The longest line of hot dogs was created in August 2018. It measured 4,803 feet and 2.97 inches. It was made by four brands — Embasa, Grupo Bumbo, McCormick and Fud — in Jalisco, Mexico, the home of tequila. Here’s the kicker: The line spelled out the words “hot dog.”

Largest vegan cake

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The largest vegan cake was 1,019 pounds and 6 ounces, featuring sugar, flour, semolina and soy yogurt in the base and whipped soy cream and strawberries on top. The record-holder is Therese Lindgren, who created the dessert in Stockholm, Sweden, in November 2017. You can have your vegan cake and eat it too, but if you want something else, the most vegan-friendly restaurant in your state has you covered.

Heaviest avocado

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The heaviest avocado was grown in Kahului, Hawaii, by Mark, Juliane and Loihi Pokini in December 2018. It weighed in at 5.6 pounds. Pair that with a lot of toast and you’ve got yourself one of the biggest and best brunch recipes of all time.

Fastest time to drink 1 liter of lemon juice through a straw

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When life gives you lemons, drink 1 liter of its juice through a straw as fast as you can. Andre Ortolf did this in Augsburg, Germany, on March 22, 2018. It took him 17.12 seconds.

Most Bhut Jolokia chili peppers eaten in 1 minute

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Mike Jack holds the record for eating the most Bhut Jolokia chili peppers in one minute. He took down 3.42 ounces (approximately 10 peppers) in London, Ontario, Canada, on March 2, 2019. The Bhut Jolokia is also known as the ghost pepper — the hottest pepper in the world.

Most mustard drank through a tube in 30 seconds

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Why use mustard on a perfectly good hot dog when you could just shoot it straight? Andre Ortolf sucked down 14.7 ounces of Delikatess Senf Mittelscharf mustard in 30 seconds in Schwarzach, Germany, on Jan. 5, 2015.

Fastest time to drink a bottle of ketchup

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Andre Ortolf also holds the record for fastest time to drink a bottle of ketchup. He downed the condiment in 17.53 seconds in Augsburg, Germany, on Nov. 30, 2017. We prefer to save it for fries. The average American eats nearly 30 pounds of the lovable spud every year, after all.

Most udon eaten in 3 minutes

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Jeremy Lanig ate 39 ounces of udon in just three minutes in Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, on July 28, 2019. If you struggle to cook your own noodle dishes, here’s how to make them perfectly every time.

Most bananas snapped in 1 minute

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The most bananas snapped in one minute goes to Ashrita Furman, who snapped 114 bananas in half in 60 seconds on Dec. 5, 2018, in Jamaica, New York. After, the yellow fruit was turned into banana bread, an all-time favorite childhood dessert.

Largest scoop of ice cream

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You won’t find this at the best ice cream stand in your state. The world’s largest ice cream scoop was strawberry-flavored and weighed 3,010 pounds. It was 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 6 feet, 2 inches wide, featuring 733 containers of ice cream. It was created by Kemps LLC in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, on June 28, 2014.

Most expensive cheesecake

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Cheesecake is one of those difficult but impressive desserts to make, and this one sold for $4,592.42 on Oct. The world’s most expensive cheesecake was made with buffalo ricotta, white truffle and gold leaves by chef Raffaele Ronca at Ristorante Rafele in New York City.

Most expensive hamburger

The most expensive hamburger cost $5,000. It weighed 777 pounds and was made by Juicy’s Foods in Corvallis, Oregon, on July 2, 2011. With 48 hours notice, you can even order the same one for yourself. Looking for something smaller? It’s not verified by Guinness, but the Fleurburger at Fleur in Las Vegas is a tie for the most expensive burger in America — and it comes with a bottle of wine.

Most expensive milkshake

The most expensive milkshake was made at Serendipity 3 in New York City on June 1, 2018. The $100 sweet treat was made with Jersey milk, Tahitian vanilla ice cream, Devonshire luxury clotted cream, Madagascar vanilla beans, 23-karat edible gold, whipped cream, donkey caramel sauce and Luxardo gourmet maraschino cherries served in a glass coated with 3,000 Swarovski crystals.

Most expensive cocktail

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The most expensive cocktail was the “Winston” featuring 60 milliliters (2 ounces) of Croizet’s 1858 Cuvee Leonie cognac, which also happens to be the most expensive cognac sold at auction. It was made by Joel Heffernan at Club 23 in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 7, 2013. It sold for $8,583. We don’t know how this drink got its name, but we tracked down the fascinating origin stories for these classic cocktails.

Most Big Mac burgers eaten in a lifetime

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We’ve got a true burger king here, and we’re not talking about one of the most iconic food mascots of all time. The record for most Big Macs eaten is held by Donald Gorske, who typically eats 14 Big Macs a week by purchasing them in bulk and reheating them at home. When he broke the record, he had eaten his 28,788th Big Mac in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, on Aug. 24, 2016. In the 44 years prior, there had only been eight days in which he did not eat one.

Most grapes eaten using feet in 3 minutes

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Kaif Ali Khan ate 65 grapes using only his feet in three minutes on Dec. 9, 2018, in Kotdwara, India. Hopefully he washed his tootsies first.

Most layers in a sandwich

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The record for most layers in a sandwich is 60. On Oct. 22, 2016, food scientist Irwin Adam Eydelnant of Future Food Studio completed the attempt at Madison Square Park in New York City, where he stacked bread, meat and mustard sky-high. It might be easier to fit one of America’s best chicken sandwiches in your mouth.

Largest collection of spoons

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In 1990, Des Warren of Mayfield, Australia, was recognized for owning more than 30,000 teaspoons. What does one do with that many spoons? We can only imagine he spared a few for cereal in the morning.

Largest collection of bottle caps

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In 1999, Poul Høegh Poulsen of Rodovre, Denmark, had acquired 101,733 bottle caps from 183 countries since he first started collecting them in 1956. Sounds like someone drank a lot of pop.

Fastest marathon while flipping a pancake

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On Oct. 24, 1999, Mike Cuzzacrea ran the Casino Niagara International Marathon in Buffalo, New York, in 3 hours and 27 seconds. He was flipping a pancake in a frying pan the whole time.

Most varieties of cheese on a pizza

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On Sept. 5, 2018, Johnny di Francesco made a pizza with 154 different types of cheese at 400 Gradi in Melbourne, Australia. That’s one way to eat more cheese.

Largest chocolate sculpture

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On April 1, 2018, the largest chocolate sculpture weighed in at 23,122.08 pounds. It was a wattle and daub-style home complete with a wood stove, pans, a spoon, jars, cups, a chair, a desk, a typewriter, a pen and more — all made out of chocolate. It took 13 days for Brazil’s Equipe da Casa do Chocolate to make.

Fastest time to drink 1 liter of gravy

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Steven Ruppel drank 1 liter (33.8 ounces) of Campbell’s canned chicken gravy in 1 minute and 12.5 seconds in Wausau, Wisconsin, on April 25, 2018. Somebody better keep an eye on this guy at Thanksgiving.

Largest picnic blanket

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Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.


Food for thought? Rationing and the Second World War

What did you eat for lunch today? Cheese sandwiches? Sushi, salad, chips? Have you ever given any thought as to what your food reveals about society in 2016?

Perhaps that wilted spinach you put in the bin earlier reveals more than just your absent-mindedness instead it might represent our fast-paced, throw-away culture. Maybe your mid-morning kale smoothie is not only a tasty beverage but also in fact evidence of a modern fascination with #cleaneating and the market power of Instagrammable foodstuffs.

Food reveals much about the society in which it is consumed, so for an historian, bringing food into focus is a useful way of exploring social change. No time is this more evident than in the Second World War and its aftermath. What, then, does an examination of food during this period reveal about society? As an example, let’s look at what it tells us about women and class in 1940s Britain.

While women arguably experienced a ‘social revolution’ during the Second World War with more opportunities in work and leisure, women – as expected, particularly given the absence of many men – remained the heads of the ‘Kitchen Front’. In fact rationing, beginning in January 1940 with bacon, butter and sugar, made the lives of women even more difficult, largely as they had queue longer and feed the family on less food. This often meant, in reality, a more creative approach in what they served to avoid too much monotony.

Kitchen Front broadcast, 30 December 1943 (catalogue reference: MAF 102/5)

The government, recognising this added burden, aided women by producing a Kitchen Front broadcast that aired on the radio every morning, which divulged new, experimental recipes and provided updates on food news for the day (catalogue reference: MAF 102). Recipe booklets were also produced and included all sorts of weird and wonderful ‘gourmet’ menus! Our war cookery calendars show the range of recipes from giblet patties, mock goose, ‘Emergency Bread’ for ‘unexpected visitors’ and even stewed brain. For more on wartime recipes, see our next blog when we are even going to have a go at cooking (and eating!) some of these creations…

‘Rationing in the Second World War’ tends to evoke images of long-suffering deprivation and deficiency of well-scraped soup bowls, skinny sandwiches and scrawny carrots – the recipe for stewed brain perhaps testifying to such images! But was rationing all bad?

For some families, the Second World War brought positive changes to their nutritional intake. Before 1939, working-class families consumed just half the calcium of better-off families, and much less than was required for good health. 1 During the war, however, the wide availability of milk and the fortification of flour with calcium meant that the diets of almost all civilians, regardless of class, contained at least the recommended daily allowance of 1000 milligrams of calcium. 2 A similar positive effect was found in the Government’s Vitamin Welfare Scheme for children, which supplied under-fives with a portion of orange juice every day (catalogue reference: INF 13/194).

Welfare Foods Centre, free orange juice poster, 1939-1945 (catalogue reference: INF 13/194)

So, is there a case to argue that an examination of food in the Second World War reveals a breaking down of social division, a levelling out of privilege?

Adult’s food ration book (catalogue reference: BT 131/40)

Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that rationing was widely accepted by the public, as it was viewed as a way of sharing the burden fairly amongst all citizens (catalogue reference: RG 23/9A). ‘Fair shares’ was a key preoccupation of the government, with records here showing that the Cabinet – learning from the First World War – was keen to avoid ‘inequality of distribution and high food prices’ as two ‘potent factors of trouble’ (catalogue reference: CAB 75/27).

However, challenges in achieving fair food distribution are evident throughout the reports of the Ministry of Food, which compiled summaries of media coverage on the topic of rationing. Here, the north/south divide is evident in The Yorkshire Posts report on the rumoured existence of much sought-after bananas in shops in the south of England, in contrast with their equivalents in Bradford and the surrounding area (catalogue reference: MAF 102/146). Another issue was that of the struggle of wives and mothers who worked in factories. Their busy working schedules prevented them from reaching the shops before stay-at-home wives, whose flexibility allowed them to visit the grocer, butcher and baker to purchase the choicest vegetables and cuts of meat before their working counterparts (catalogue reference: INF 1/293). Thus, while many hoped that rationing would be a burden shared fairly, it’s clear from our records that, for some, divisions still ran deep.

By looking at food during the Second World War, a lot can be learned about wartime society – the good and the bad! This blog has touched upon the ‘double burden’ of working and feeding the family that more women than ever before faced, and how rationing was perhaps beneficial to the lower classes. So, the next time you pick up a snack from the supermarket, head to a farmer’s market or upload a photograph of your dinner to social media, think about what this tells you about life in 2016.

We hope that this blog has convinced you that food in the past is a topic worthy of the attention of archivists, researchers and historians – and you! Not only that, but we think it is crucial that all children and young people have the opportunity to learn about food in the past. Why? Well, food and drink is something that we all have in common. Everyone, from medieval queens to soldiers in the civil war to Victorian school children felt hungry, and everyone has sought nourishment in one form or another. At the same time, food and drink is profoundly historical, linked inextricably with the period in which it was consumed.