The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, July 18, 2013

_Wartime Farm_, the book!

_Wartime Farm_ by Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman,
and Alex Langlands.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
I may have mentioned my interest in the "Farm" history documentary series on the BBC, including "Tales from the Green Valley", "Victorian Farm," "Edwardian Farm" and "Wartime Farm" on this blog before ... my admiration of the featured historians and presenters knows no bounds!  I wish they would do a documentary here in the U.S. so I could work with them ... Anyway, there are companion books to each "Farm" series, and I recently won an autographed copy of the "Wartime Farm" book!

It's full, not only of an historical overview of what was going on in Britain between 1939 and 1950, but there are short chapters on many aspects of Home Front life in the country, with instructions for making and doing many of the things featured in the text and on camera in the documentary itself.

It is fascinating to me to see, not only history being brought to life, but the similarities and differences between Britain and the U.S. during the same period, as illustrated by the books I inherited from my grandparents and the stories I remember them telling.  Home front life in the U.S. was very difficult during the war years, but it's apparent that things were more desperate in the U.K., not only due to the enemy being just offshore (which we experienced, to an extent, along our coastlines, with the Nazis in the Atlantic and the Japanese in the Pacific), but the sheer difference in landmass between the U.K. and the U.S. made a huge difference in each nation's ability to feed its people and its armed forces.  The U.S. had so much more land at its disposal for growing food -- and much of the country was still agricultural at the end of WW2 -- so the increase in the amount of farmland and food crops didn't have the desperate nature in the U.S. that it did in the U.K.
Ruth, Alex and Peter's autographs inside the book!
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

In California, for example, while we dealt with the constant threat of Japanese attack and the fear of espionage from within our communities, the food rationing situation was not as severe as it was in Britain, where people would have faced the real threat of starvation without food rationing.  My grandmother's "Victory Edition" cookbook from 1941 contains recipes and menu suggestions for "Meatless Days" and "Sugarless Days", but most of the recipes call for items that were heavily rationed or just plain unavailable in the U.K., like citrus.  Of course, California's acres of citrus groves, plus the regional custom of landscaping (in the country and suburbs, anyway) with fruit-bearing trees as well as regular ornamentals, meant that most California housewives wouldn't have had trouble getting their hands on an orange or lemon once in a while, making recipes like "Mock Marmalade" (on page 134 of _Wartime Farm_) pretty much unnecessary.  Other parts of the nation would have had a much harder time of it, of course!  It is just so interesting to see the same kinds of "make and mend" tips in my grandma's books as well as in _Wartime Farm_!  I especially love the chapter where Ruth Goodman uses some flour sacks to make herself a dress.  My grandma used to tell how her whole family did that: all their household textiles (towels, tablecloths, curtains, etc.), nightgowns/nightshirts and undergarments were made from flour and sugar sacks.  Of course, their families were fairly poor so they were doing that sort of thing from the time they immigrated to the U.S.

So the upshot is, if you like history and re-enacting, you'll probably like this book (and the series -- it's on YouTube)!  I highly recommend it, and I can't wait to try out some of the recipes and projects.


Steph said...

I was unaware of these - congrats!

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Definitely look them up, Steph!

Tea Time said...

I must look them up, I think it should be great.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)