Keep the Home Fires Burning

imageThe word “Nostalgia” in the title is a good hook for a cookbook collector who concentrates mostly on vintage.  When I first picked up The Nostalgic Cook Book by Bill Habets, I had hoped for a good bibliography.  Sadly, there isn’t one.  Still, the book is a treasure-trove of interesting information and recipes.

It concentrates primarily on the war and post-war years in Great Britain.  Rationing had a huge effect on the nation and continued long after the war was over — like nine years after the war was over.  I had no idea.  This little book tries to bring back a little of the creativity required to endure food scarcity.  According to the book, a  typical weekly ration for one person during most of this time included the following deprivations:  6 ounces of meat, 1 egg, 4 ounces of Fat (butter margarine, lard), 4 ounces of cheese, 4 ounces of Bacon, 12 ounces sugar (later 8 ounces), 2 ounces of tea, and 2 ounces of sweets.  Again, that’s a weekly allowance.

As I said in the last post, I am interested in history, so I found myself, the big vintage cookbook collector once again relaxing my dating standards and picking up a 2009 publication.  Of course, foreign publications have a lot of interest for me too, so the historical angle and the fact that it was a British publication were major considerations for me so the book found its way into my cart.

There is a lot of information about wartime diets and nutrition and the tradeoffs people were forced to make.  There is mention of “national bread” or “national flour” — which they say is equivalent to whole wheat, but their inference is that it is not 100% equivalent, just close. Who knows what they were stretching it with, sawdust?

The book has a lot of really cool recipes and here is a small sampling.  In most cases, I’ve chosen recipes that show the character of the wartime recipes, or are typically British, or both.


I thought bacon turnovers was a nice twist.  Made me hungry just thinking of it because it has that one magic word:  BACON!!!!  In the southern US, we’d just call this a bacon biscuit but we usually just slice it and stick the bacon in.  I like the idea of baking it in.


And here we have Potato Jane?  Who the heck is Potato Jane?  I don’t know, but I have a feeling I’ll be meeting her very soon.   Seriously, this just looks like a take on scalloped potatoes.  I like it.


Mince in the Hole sounds so typically British I am amazed I’ve never heard of it.  It looks very unusual, meatballs cooked into a bread binding.  Sort of a meatball and dumplings concoction without the liquid.  This is another one I am likely going to try.

imageWe can’t consider a culinary trip to the British Isles as complete without having some Queen Cakes, can we?  I’m not sure what sort of royal connection the name implies, but these look delicious.

I think this is a handy cookbook to keep around in case you find a need to  ration yourself.  I’m talking about you survivalists out there.  If at some point you have to make the most of what you have, you might just need a little book like this.  It shows the ingenuity people employed during the war when many foodstuffs were in short supply.   I can see where the nostalgia comes in … nothing I have seen in this book speaks to deprivation, it speaks to survival and making do.  That’s a good thing.  I’m keeping this one handy.


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