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The Rations Challenge

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Member Reviews

Claud Fullwood's book The Rations Challenge is a diary-style description of the author's attempt to survive solely on WWII rationed items for the entire Lenten season.

I was expecting a little different book than the one offered by the author. It was, however, an intriguing look at how rationing worked during the war and for the author today. The book seemed to me to be more of a treatise on how we can change in the face of present concerns, such as climate change. I was hoping for more information on the history of rationing, as well as its economic consequences. 

The book was interesting. It just wasn’t what I had expected or anticipated.

I received this book from NetGalley. However, my review is voluntary, and all opinions are my own.
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This thoughtful, handsomely illustrated book, arriving as it has during the pandemic crisis, could not have been better timed: What might have seemed like a pleasant, informative experiment- living on Britain’s wartime rations for 40 days- became instructive for those of us suddenly reconsidering our relationship to food. With abrupt shortages, disrupted supply chains, restaurants closing or just hanging on by going to take out, and shopping restricted to necessary trips only, the example set by the plucky and resourceful Brits in the Second World War is one worth learning from. 

The diary format works really well to give a personal sense to this slender, cheerful guide to a better approach to community-based living.  By eating seasonally and locally, and above all, avoiding waste, we can live better. It was essential in wartime Britain, but it is ethically sound and vitally important in a time of climate crisis.  Europe is well ahead of America in this respect, in both awareness and in frugal habits. The new lockdown enthusiasm for bread baking and canning would have been routine in wartime, and there are plenty of anecdotes and household tips, especially about the ubiquitous potato, the wartime starch that replaced wheat and was prepared in as many ways as cooks could dream up, using what they had and stretching it as far as possible.  Cooking is, of course, important to this experiment, and there is a section devoted to wartime recipes, including the despised dried eggs. Gardening is explored as well: the pleasure of really fresh food and the satisfaction of growing your own even in a time of plenty This might serve as the foundation for a culinary history class, or as a Lenten practice, as the author chose as a means of how to “explore abstinence as a form of solidarity.” (7) Her warm and positive commentary knits the whole story together and is gracefully expressed throughout. The author good-naturedly details the challenges of the rations challenge while reflecting on family history and includes several oral histories of both pensioners who recall their childhoods in wartime, and others who have chosen lifestyles off the grid. These narratives are a highlight of the book and add much to its impact. 

“But the benefit of the ration regime is that it really lets you get to grips with what’s essential and what’s a luxury.” (62)  The spiritual dimension of the challenge is the main theme, mining a rich vein that considers the importance of fair trade, eliminating food deserts, and establishing relationships that foster community, looking out for those whose hunger might not be obvious. Sharing of resources is key, just as it was during wartime deprivation. The author notes that  money saved encourages a sound relationship with our possessions: Enough is indeed good enough.  Those hoping for a jolly little retro cookbook will probably be disappointed, but her earnest, sensible and practical attitude to life really does affirm “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Highly recommended.
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The theory of this book is excellent and I was really looking forward to reading it. Sadly it didn't live up to expectations, it's a mixed bag.

 Is this a book (as I had anticipated) about Wartime Rations, one about how we import food, about the huge variety now available, about waste and landfill, or about how the skill of being able to conjure up a meal from leftovers is something that has been lost? It is about all of these things, but a Wartime Rations Challenge is perhaps a misleading title. 
It's a confusing mix. 

The author appears to have just used a few pamphlets and one book, which does a huge disservice to the housekeepers, housewives, cooks and men and women responsible for the feeding of each other, their families and the nation.

As a collector of vintage cookery books, there is far more information out there about how people ate, and the variety of recipes available. Ambrose Heath - the most prominent food writer of this time was a prolific author and wrote many books on the subject, from the feeding of children to those who were 'invalids'. His recipes were published in national newspapers, and he sold many books, so were readily available. 

The pre-war recipe books of the 1920s and 1930s were also aimed at those with limited access to variety and fuel - The Magic Ring by Moira Meighn is a classic example, written in 1936, its strapline being 'for the needy and greedy'. These books didn't just disappear, they were in use, and the skill and recipes in use. Transferring our modern lack of skill and knowledge, and believing in the myths that previous generations couldn't cook is unfair, and shows poor research. 
The Rations Challenge has huge potential, but needs a different title, as it's really not reflective of the time, and is effectively stereotyping a myth that people had little access or knowledge of how to cook well, with very little. 
I was amazed at the revelation that you could use the carcass from a roast as stock, who would have known...

I was expecting the weekly diary to show what was purchased and recipes for that week, how was the food chosen? How were the ingredients extended? (For example, was the water from the boiled potatoes used to make the soda bread?). How were leftovers used? How could you make one egg feed a whole family? (Oat and cheese pancakes, one egg, flour, milk or milk and water, oats - and half of one persons cheese ration. Make a batter and fry in leftover bacon fat, can be extended with extra flour and oats. Serve with homegrown tomatoes and salad leaves, or beets and kale.).

Rename the book, and this would be an interesting read for those interested in sustainability and how it's reflected in wartime lifestyles. It isn't, however about how people ate during the second or first world war.
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I chose this because I hate wastage - we rarely throw any food away in our household - and I wanted to see how how well the author managed on the fairly basic rations that were available during World War II.

It's a very interesting read, and includes some recipes, as well as reflections from the author.  

As a child of the 60s, I grew up seeing my Grandma storing packets of tea and sugar (vital supplies both!) and listening to tales of how my parents had never even seen a banana until after the end of the war. 

As a slight digression - I read this during the early weeks of lockdown and was struck by the difference in attitudes of people during World War II and now.  Then, rationing was introduced to make sure everyone got at least a basic diet, and people seemed to work together. Contrast that with the behaviour of some people during the weeks leading up to lockdown - stockpiling just for their own benefit, and causing shortages for all.

We take so much for granted now and this book gave me pause to reflect on that fact, and how we live - expecting to be able to access pretty much any foodstuff all year round, whatever the cost of actually getting that food to us.

This book is definitely food for thought...

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC.  All opinions my own.
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This is an interesting idea for a book and will interest those who are keen to make their usual weekly shop stretch a little further and reduce their food waste. The book is written like a diary with some recipes so if you are looking for something with detail about rationing then this isn't the book for you. None the less it is an interesting take on budget shopping and food waste reduction.
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I enjoyed this look at rationing and during this pandemic it's something my family has been doing a little more of.
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I have to admit this didn’t quite turn out to be the book I was anticipating, but It was an interesting, timely and certainly thought provoking read all the same. I am tempted by the challenge and will certainly try out a few of the recipes (I was hoping for more). I enjoyed reading the first hand accounts of those who had experienced rationing. and I agree with the overall message that there are huge benefits to using seasonal, locally produced food stuffs. I suspect this is a book I will refer back to over time.
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I enjoy books around set around the war- especially the home based books. This was a book about challenging yourself to use war times rations for 40 days. You realise how hard this is when told how many points you need for certain foods. Found this an interesting read.
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A fun look at cooking during WWII in the UK, and what it would be like to follow the same rationing today. 
I had hoped for more actual historical information, and while The Rations Challenge did give a brief introduction, it was really more about the author's modern day life and experience following the same rationing rules today. Many of the recipes used and given were modernized - unfortunately that did not include the canning recipe, which is actually unsafe to use unless you plan on storing in the fridge and eating within a month.
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An interesting insight into the challenges of feeding yourself during rationing. Perhaps not exactly what I had expected from the title. Was expecting some recipes that I could try.
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I was exciting to receive a copy of this book to review but felt disappointed whilst reading it, I felt it didn't grab my attention like I had hoped. I expected more recipes and meal ideas yet came away thinking something was missing.
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Many thanks to NetGalley for an early review copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I was intrigued by the premise of this book, especially at the current moment in time when we have seen food shortages and supply delays because of Covid-19. In a slightly eerie parallel, the book showed how much the UK depended upon foreign imports during the late 1930s and the impact this had on the country; we've seen, almost from the start of lockdown, that people were hoarding food and starting small vegetable gardens, suggesting a kind of shared memory of that time. 

'The Rations Challenge' is a general introduction to the concept of rationing and offers a nice handful of recipes for those interested in attempting the challenge that the author set herself. The author draws very clear comparisons between the current state of human health and environmental health, promoting an understanding of food science and the need for fair trade. 

My favourite parts were the anecdotes offered by those who had lived through WW2 who ruminated on the role that rationing played in their lives, both during the war and later. I think this book would make a good choice for someone who knows very little about rationing during WW2.
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This made me think, which is what the author wanted. We are in the middle of a pandemic. So I was eager to investigate living on rations, because we are doing it now, to a lesser extent than was the case in wartime, but still doing it, with unexpected items, such as the famous toilet roll shortage. Hopefully that has been averted now? The author made the point that we are still well off, compared to other countries, and indeed have much more choice compared to the war years. Waste is something to be avoided, in these days of food banks, when many people do not have enough to live on.
I agree that we should avoid waste. I like the recipes, particularly the vegetarian ones.I have not got around to being self sufficient enough to grow my own veg, but who knows? I might get to that stage eventually.
All him all, a very enjoyable book, that made me want to go outside and reconnect with the Earth. I would recommend the book to anyone, who like me, has an interest in current affairs, as well as recipes. The philosophy is great too, in fact the whole book is wonderful.
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Received copy for an honest review by NetGalley.

The Rations Challenge was very informational, though the format was very wordy to me. Although, I think there was a lot of good information, the way it was presented just seemed a little daunting. The way it was set up with the few recipes a little disappointing. I was hoping that there would be more helpful recipes ideas. Or more sample week meal plans to show from picking up the rationed items from the start of rationing throughout the time rationing had to happen with certain items becoming unavailable and how the wartime housewife would have made do with what was there.

For purposes I was intending to use this title  I will not be able to use it as I was intending. Good information though.
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This British book shares the author's story of eating on WWII-era rations during Lent one year. She designs this as a guide for other people who would like to try the same experiment, and shares daily reflections, historical and current analyses about food waste, and various thought experiments. Later in the book, she shares some reminisces from people who were children or young adults during the war, and she concludes the book with a series of detailed recipes.

I thought this premise sounded interesting, and hoped that it would help me with my ongoing historical fiction project. My novel is set in the US, so some of the British-focused details and soundbites about current issues weren't helpful to me, but I am thankful for the help that I got from the recipe section and the guide about when certain foods are in season.

Overall, however, this book is a mixed bag. It's not historically detailed enough to fully satisfy someone like me, but the focus on contemporary issues is also surface-level. Although this book could be a good introduction for someone who has never thought about food waste, fair trade issues, or how to support healthy local and global food markets, it is very basic overall.

Also, regarding the forty day challenge, I wish that the author had shared in far more detail about her own cooking and eating practices during this time, instead of just making general suggestions for a reader. She shares fairly repetitive reflections about what she was thinking, and about what foods she missed, but I wish she had gone into far more specific detail about what eating WWII-era rations tangibly look liked.

This book is a decent introduction to healthy eating, to food waste consciousness, and to WWII rations history, but even though I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in those topics and just beginning to learn about them, it is somewhat unfocused and surface-level from the perspective of a reader who is already well-informed about these things.
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The Rations Challenge book asks you to live on 1940's rations for 40 days, challenging you to buy no imported food, restricted meat, dairy and other food items.  The author provides a list from 1943 of the fresh rations an adult could have in a week and a points based system for other tinned and dried foods; with the abundance of food now that's a very limiting list!

The book is a diary, with Monday as the diary entry for the week, Tuesday compares then and now, Wednesday provides a time to reflect, Thursday where do I stand, Friday think global, Saturday act local and Sunday feast.  This goes on for the entire six weeks.  Then there are other people accounts from the 1940's of what it was like to live on rations.

It's not until page 105 do we see any recipes and then they are quite sparse.  There are a few recipes for breakfast, soups, puddings, mains and four menu's with recipes to accompany them.  There is also a list by season of the fruit and veg that would be available.

It's an curious book and I felt quite disappointed by the time I finished it. I would have preferred to have less diary entry and more recipes, especially to see how she managed each day and week with her rations and what she made each day.  None of that is there at all. I got no sense of what she purchased each week, how she used up leftovers, or made it go further.  The whole premise of the book was uninspiring.  With her mention of the current use of food banks, it may have been useful to provide much more detail on how to feed yourself on not much.  Whilst I understand this was written before the COVID19 struck us, this would have been a great book for families had it provided more details on how to manage with less food.

I received this book from Netgalley in return for a honest review.
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I am always up for a challenge in the kitchen and this book provides a fascinating look at the historical challenges people faced in kitchens on the home front of WWII. Coming out of a time of limitations during this COVID-19 quarantine this challenge is perfect! It also brings forth the very real environmental problem of food waste. This is definitely a book worth checking out.
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Really interesting and well thought out book but I would have liked more recipes and meal ideas.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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My grandmother, Nana Iris, lived through World War Two, in Newport, Wales. At 13, she left school to kept house for her father who, as a train driver, was frequently away and to care for her younger brother. I often tried to get her to speak of her time growing up, the food stamps and rationing but, unsurprisingly, wartime was not a favourite topic for her. As such, I have enjoyed finding out about life during that time at every opportunity. “The Rations Challenge” by Claud Fullwood would have appealed to me on these grounds alone but my desire to read it increased as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the world’s food supply.

In South Africa, our current food shortages are less a production or sourcing problem and more of a logistical problem, much of our food is produced on shore. This is in sharp contrast to the situation Britain found itself in during the war. The book is full of interesting facts about food production in the 1940s such as 70% of food being sourced offshore. The impact of the attacks from enemy on the supply chain was huge! The rationing system was essential to keep the country fed. In my review of the rations, my downfall would have come in the lack of eggs, a laying chicken would have been essential to complement the rationed amount but the rest is reasonable and proved to be healthy and filling. It certainly takes planning, measuring and restraint to live off, there is no extravagance allowed. However, there is a great sense of achievement when one reaches the end of the week without exceeding the cheese ration, I can attest to that!

During our lockdown period, nine weeks so far, I have learnt to make four varieties of bread and they taste better than bought! I have learnt to appreciate a menu plan and working with what’s in the cupboard! And I have come to understand why Nana enjoyed butter AND jam on a scone – true luxury when butter is in short supply! The book shares numerous recipes, modernized for easy use, which were made with the ingredients available at the time. I look forward to making my own preserves in the next fruit season.

In addition to the fascinating historical perspective, Claud includes today’s biggest challenge, global warming. She unpacks the impact our food supply has on the environment and how to think globally to preserve nature and protect it’s people. I have looked at my labels afresh to check our sourcing and we are blessed to find the vast majority comes from our local farmers but it is worth being reminded to remain attentive to our impact on the world and cut back where we can.

Designed as a 40 day lent challenge, the book is in a diary format broken into days but I found it too interesting to put down so read it straight through. I will not be sustaining myself on potatoes (the English way through war) but will definitely be applying the principles of consideration, moderation and reduction of waste. There is much to be gained from reflecting on the past and it is particularly apt to be doing that at a time like this! I highly recommend it, it’s a five out of five on the enJOYment scale.
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I have realised since finishing the book that it has already been published.  I feel a little disappointed and hope that the comments I am going to make were rectified in the hard copy.  My kindle edition did not render correctly on the page and so some of the comments might be related to my machine. 

I like the idea of living on war time rations for a period, but I probably would not stick to the regime for six weeks as the author did.  I feel doing so would be easier in a family of four rather than one person by themselves.  I also like the idea of treading on the earth gently and reading this as I have during lockdown this really does bring home the message.  Before lockdown the item I thought I would miss most was probably tinned tomatioes if they were rationed.  I still think this is the case and so I would find it hard to stick to the rations outlined in the book.  The book did not address the difference in input to output with regard to meat versus vegetables and perhaps  this is a gap.  My parents grew up in the war and to this day they will always have some tinned food available, including spam which I must admit I have never enjoyed.  The use of tinned food was not discussed much.

I enjoyed the stop and think passages.  Much of what was suggested I do follow and to the best of my ability have passed on to my son.  There is hope in the younger generation regarding healthy living and sustainability.  I am not sure this book will speak to many that are not converted to the waste little, eat seasonal foods and care about food miles.  It is more likely to appeal to those who already think about these issues and want a nudge to take further steps.

I did expect the sections on food during the war to be longer.  I think there were regional differences between the food that was available.  Fish is an important point.  The author alleges that there was not much fish available but my family from the north west ate fish regularly.  I could believe it would be rarer to find fish in the Midlands.  Pork was not mentioned, ham and bacon were but to my knowledge pigs were often reared in town gardens.  What we would call small holdings were not really discussed except in passing comments.  This leads me to my largest criticism.  Food like peppers, cranberries, squashes and pumpkins are discussed but these feel like modern local items to supplement a diet on rations with.  Were they grown during the war in a family vegetable patch?  The lists of seasonal food towards the end of the book were split into categories for some seasons and not others.  (This might be a rendering on the page issue).  It is an inconsistency.  A further inconsistency occurred around the conversion of ounces into grammes.  This was not consistent between recipes and was not consistent with what is the norm.  

I also expected the book to have more social history about it.  For instance, how many families grew their own food. a list of the food they grew, how many hours a week they spent producing the food for the table and some comment on how this differed across the country.

I was really keen to read this but somehow I did not find it was what I expected.
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