Rations and cookbooks

Late May brought sun and warmth to the bordertown of Beaver Creek, Yukon. Sid was already back working hard at the Visitor Information Centre. He could feel the season was going to be a good one. Sid had come a long way from his childhood in northern Netherlands during the end of the Second World War.

Searching through his many cabinets of papers, we found war ration booklets and wartime cookbooks from Canada. “Food was in short supply; nothing went to waste. People needed the cookbooks to use what they had,” Sid said. It’s hard to imagine nothing, especially for someone like myself, who has been privileged to never having experienced starvation. That being said, there are many people amongst us who have and still do. Famine hit the Netherlands during 1944 and 1945 during the German occupation that killed thousands.

“My mom and grandma always reused the bacon grease. They had a can of it on the stove and they never needed to use new stuff. Everybody had a pot of grease to cook with. They cooked with the same stuff, but it still tasted good. You used what you had because if you went to the store, the shelves would already be empty.”

After looking through the cookbooks, it became apparent that a major theme in cooking at the time was to use anything and everything available. It was no surprise to see dishes of tongue or kidney pie included amongst the recipes. We also found war ration booklets that were owned by a family friend who lived in Canada during the war.

“Rations were used to limit what people could get, especially things like gas. Gas was a luxury and wasn’t meant for your personal use,” Sid said. Rations acted like coupons, each individual or family would receive a booklet of coupons that they could use when purchasing a product, such as gasoline.

“Farms were able to get more gas rations because they needed it to fuel their vehicles. No one was going to say no to a farmer because they were still able to provide people with food,” said Sid. “Farmers were able to use the rations for work vehicles, like pick-up trucks. They were able to get tires too. That’s why you see all these old Model As chopped with a box added and people called them ‘farm trucks’ so they could get the gas and tires.”

Whether it’s food on a plate in front of you, or the convenience of driving a few blocks to pump gas, we have to remember that this is a luxury. And although Europe and North America have not experienced such trying times since the wars, there remains many places across the world that are currently struggling and facing wartime famine and rationing.

“It was when the poor and rich were the same. Even if you had money, it didn’t matter because there was nothing you could buy with it anyway,” Sid added.

Sid’s collection of war ration booklets and wartime cookbooks is available to view at the Bordertown Garage and Museum. Come and visit us this summer!

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