Controls, restrictions, rations now revise and rule our menus—but we are still one of the world’s best fed nations
HELEN G. CAMPBELL
WAY BACK in 1939 A.D. the Canadian dinner table was among the most pampered in the world. Of all the varieties of foods produced on this good earth, seventy per cent found their way to our grocers’ shelves and ultimately to our kitchen doors.
We could buy without let or hindrance practically anything which offered nourishment for our bodies or pleasure for our palates. For, due to the industry and ingenuity of man, time, distance, climate and season had been overcome and our source of supply was limited only by the four corners of the globe.
Well, much water has flowed under bridges since those dear remembered ante-bellum days. Times have changed and things that we thought couldn’t happen here have happened; controls, restrictions, shortages, rations have reared their ugly heads to revise and rule our menus. But even under this new order of meals and meal-planning we can still eat well.
Nutritionally we may even fare better. Economically, too, today’s and tomorrow’s housekeepers may find the simplification of our diet not such a bad thing after all. Certainly, if experience is half as good a teacher as it’s supposed to be, we will become better managers of our budgets, more reliant on home-grown foods and more appreciative of them.
Unlike many less fortunate peoples we have had some time to adapt ourselves and to cut our menus to the pattern which wartime conditions have made necessary. We didn’t have to take the long jump all
at once, but came by comparatively easy stages to the present state of our larder.
We began the war pretty well fixed and fairly well organized on the food front—warehouses full, grain elevators bulging at the seams and production of basic commodities up to normal requirements In fact the first effect noticeable to consumers was not a scarcity but a surplus of certain products. Apples for instance. Bang off, the battle of the Atlantic upset the applecart, leaving us with that large portion of our annual crop ordinarily exported to Great Britain. So there was no tightening of our belts in the early war days; we had either to let them out a notch or two or make a partial switch from imported fruit to this Canadian-grown variety. Unaccustomed surpluses in other lines called for similar voluntary adaptations of the menu and gave those who cater to the nation a chance to serve effectively on the economic front—by supporting our own producers and keeping more of our money at home.
In 1940 the War Exchange Conservation Act gave some indication of the shape of things to come. It prohibited the importation from nonsterling
countries of certain nonessential foods. Ripe olives and walnuts which came from California, almonds from Spain, cocoa and carraway from Holland, canned pineapple from Hawaii, figs from Turkey, sardines from Norway, pecans from Texas, and brazils from Brazil, and other items from other lands were on the stop list. But as there were still other sources of supply for many of them and as some were in the nature of accessory foods, the effect of this order was practically painless.
Gradually, however, as the war goes on, we have seen more products disappearing from our grocers’ shelves as restrictions and shortages creep up on us. These are due to several reasons:
Increased export to Britain.
The necessity to conserve Foreign Exchange.
Government regulations and control in the manufacture, packaging and sale of certain grocery lines and importation of others.
Scarcity or diversion of metals and other critical materials needed in war industries.
Enemy action which made it difficult to transport supplies by sea or cut off their source altogether.
Whatever the cause, the effect of shortages is a revamping of our menus. When most of the hams and sides of bacon are earmarked for overseas it follows that the Canadian housekeeper must make a shift from these to other cuts and varieties for her breakfast and dinner tables. When shipments of cheese abroad in 1941 reached astronomical figures
we had to curtail our consumption until Britain’s quota was safe and sure.
When evaporated milk, strawberry pulp, onions, eggs are on our commitment list, we must content ourselves with what’s left over unless production has been upped to take care of both export needs and the domestic appetite. Or when, as is the case this year, the entire salmon and herring pack is diverted to British tables, we must replace them with other fish on our own. The food we send to Britain is fighting food which contributes as surely as guns, planes, tanks, and other weapons to winning the war.
Government controls and regulations have in other ways pared down the diversity of our daily menus. Looking at the food picture as a whole, the Wartime Prices and Trade Board has taken the necessary steps to simplify the diet, standardize the quality of foods, the type and size of containers and to regulate cost, while at the same time assuring Canadians adequate supplies of real necessities at prices within the reach of the average pocketboek.
Under a price ceiling now in effect most food prices to the consumer are frozen at the level prevailing in the base period of a year ago. This is intended to prevent inflation and keep the cost of living from going higher. The ruling, however, has made it unprofitable for dealers to carry certain imported foods, the cost of which Canada cannot control when the price has been increased in the country of origin. As the cost of these items advances, it becomes impossible for grocers to sell them under the price ceiling unless a subsidy is paid by the Government
For that reason, there’ll be no canned pineapple juice, no imported canned fruit, no lima beans when present stocks are used up. But there is still tomato
juice, apples, fresh-frozen and canned fruits to serve as an early morning pickup, and a variety of staple Canadian foods to take the place of disappearing specialties.
A SUCCESSION of other “orders” has come into effect the past few months, gradually eliminating frills and extras, shearing off nonessential lines, changing the aspect of certain staples, rationing others and stabilizing costs to the Canadian housekeeper.
The staff of life, for instance, has undergone a simplification process. Bakers are limited in the variety of loaves they can produce in any one day, thus saving time, materials and labor. For other reasons— sugar rationing for one—many lines of fancy biscuits have been cut out but sodas and other plainer types are still produced in quantity. This year canners are not allowed to pack beets in tins and as glass containers are too expensive for this line, and as raw beets can lie satisfactorily stored to last well into the winter, housekeepers will have to cook their own. The same applies to carrots. And apples and applesauce, apple juice, and other items.
In fact, there are only five canned vegetables— corn, peas, tomatoes, green or wax beans, and tomato juice—on which subsidies will be paid to Canadian packers—to keep the volume up and the price down. Canned fruits on the subsidy list are pears, plums, peaches and apricots which are our four big lines Other fruits and vegetables can be packed, however as a special arrangement has been reached in regard to price. So we won’t fare too badly. Ready-to-serve soups have vanished for the duration, but condensed varieties (to which
you add milk or water) have been given the green light on the score of concentrated food value and convenience to busy housekeepers.
Canned spaghetti is “out” at present, or as soon as stocks are used up because of the necessity to conserve tin. So is pork and beans, a “poor man’s meat” that will be missed by many housekeepers. The implication of the order is of course that we can buy a bean pot and make our own as our grandmothers used to do. But will we, or rather can we, without using up a lot of gas or electric power which is scarce enough as it is and which we’re asked to conserve?
Dents in the supplies of sugar, tea and coffee have for the first time brought Canadian menus under the rule of the ration card. When the war situation in the East began to call for a halt, patriotic housekeepers — all honor to them — voluntarily and effectively disciplined their own and their families’ sweet tooth, or used other means of catering to it. Later, however, the coupon system under which we are now rationed was put into effect in line with the United States upon whom we depend for our supply.
Honor rationing of tea and coffee didn’t work quite so well, perhaps because the regulation was a bit vague. Shipping space is the bugaboo here, for though fresh “makings” of a cheering cup may be bought where they’re grown, the transportation of them is both difficult and hazardous. So the goeasy sign is up for these popular beverages and our sipping will have to be adjusted accordingly.
Enemy action on the high seas and in the overrunning of countries of supply will affect our wartime cuisine in other and varied ways. No more tapioca or sago will come in until Java is recaptured from the Japs, no Singapore canned pineapple will appear on our tables, no spices from Burma or Zanzibar will give their savor to our foods.
Cocoa and chocolate may be on the scarce side by the end of this year. So will coconut and bananas unless transportation facilities improve. And gelatine and jelly powders. Most of the gelatine has been coming from Australia and the necessary shipping space is now at a premium.
Fats and oils are already short, due chiefly to enemy conquest of territories, scarcity of tankers to bring in supplies and the quantities required in war industries. So we must not only keep this in mind when planning meals but save every scrap and turn it in for salvage.
Scarcities and priorities on certain metals and materials affect the menus of the nation and the management of our households. There are fewer refrigerators, ranges, toasters and other electric appliances to replace worn equipment or furnish our kitchens with the means of storing and preparing food most efficiently and effortlessly. There is less gasoline and rubber for the delivery of supplies, less foil for wrapping them, less tin for containers, which has made it necessary to reduce both the variety of products, and the number of can sizes available. Scarcity of labor is also a factor in creating shortages here and there; hence the importance of conserving—without hoarding— every bit of food.
But in spite of everything—shortages, rations, limitations of different sorts—we can still eat both well and wisely from the products of our own good earth and several others. None of the daily essentials of an adequate, well-balanced diet have been rationed or to any extent restricted.
Here are the rock bottom daily requirements for good nutrition and physical fitness:
Three glasses of milk, which may be pasteurized whole milk, skimmed milk, or the canned evaporated (unsweetened) product used as a drink or in cooking. Six slices of whole wheat or Canada Approved oread (white or brown) with butter. One serving of meat or fish, an egg at least three or four times a week, a serving of potatoes and another of green leaf or yellow vegetables. A six-ounce glass of tomato juice and a bowl of vitamin-rich breakfast cereal to start off the day.
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If we make these foods the basis of our wartime diet we will be a wellfed, healthy people—fighting fit. Furthermore, we women will be getting good value for our housekeeping dollar and using our shopping power to help Canada, economically.
While all the elements of good nutrition, protein, minerals, vitamins and all the rest of them, are supplied by home-grown products, this list is the starting point and not necessarily the be-all and the end-all of the diet. Variety is the spice of the menu as it is of life, and provided the essentials are included in each day’s meals, we can consult our appetites regarding additions to them—within the limits of our national larder.
The thing is to know what state it’s in and plan accordingly — adding more of the plentiful supplies such as wheat and wheat products, subtracting others that are scarce or dwindling and substituting something else for those not available for the time being. All of which requires the art of good management and the qualities itcalls for—discrimination, ingenuity, resourcefulness, adaptability, careful planning, wise shopping and good cooking. Who can say that wartime conditions, reaching down into every kitchen, will not supply the training to make us more thrifty, more efficient and more knowledgeable housekeepers and home managers?
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