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The Rations Challenge

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Member Reviews

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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Claud Fullwood did a 40-day Lent challenge to only eat what would have been available in the UK during WWII.  I was expecting this to contain more history and recipes, but actually the emphasis is more on the way we eat now compared to then, and the ways in which it is less sustainable and less ethical.  

During wartime, people ate much less meat and dairy, and instead ate a mainly plant-based diet focused on seasonal produce, as well as making sure every last bit of food was used up.  Fullwood points to how we now ship food all across the globe with a huge carbon footprint, often without considering whether the farmers and workers are being paid fairly or going hungry themselves.  In addition, we have huge problems with food surplus and food wastage, whilst others go hungry and are reliant on food banks.  

This definitely gave me a lot to think about and going forward I will definitely buy more local, in-season produce and create recipes with what I've found, rather than starting with a recipe and looking out the ingredients.
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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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I was looking for tips on how to adapt and find new things to make with what's currently available. Instead, much of the book is focused on fair trade and the goals of the United Nations. Instead of being inspired, I felt lectured -- and since I don't live in the UK, how much of their food supply is imported from overseas really doesn't apply to my household.  The practical tips are as basic and obvious as "don't throw away leftovers" or "use the chicken carcass to make stock."
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My Thoughts
I loved this book. I picked it up because it seemed so apt for the times we are in, and found myself getting more out of the book than I expected. This book is a history lesson, a lesson in rationing (of course), a recipe collection, a memoir of sorts, a notebook to and a reflection of ourselves in today’s global situation.

The author decided to challenge herself to live on wartime rations for six weeks (for Lent). As I read the suggestions, I realized that we already follow many of those in our home. While I am unlikely to do the challenge itself, the book turned out to be a fount of inspiration and information for me.
The first few chapters take us through the author’s personal experience as she took on this challenge. Each of these chapters has one section for each day: diary entry for the week, a then and now section to put today in context with wartime, suggestions for self reflection, and further suggestions and tips for what we can do to as we buy, prepare and enjoy our food.

Another chapter includes personal accounts of people who lived through rationing during various times of their life, specifically WWs, and provides an insight into a life that is still true for so many around the world today. The reasons might be different, but the reality is the same. And help us react accordingly, and with reason.

The next two chapters include wartime recipes and useful tips, and a seasonal calendar. Note that this calendar applies to the UK, but we can always look for what is seasonal and local in our area.

The author’s personal insights are thoughtful, heart-warming, humorous and delightful. I also loved the inclusion of quotes and snippets of information, as well as tips that are sprinkled like mini-appetizers or those tiny desserts that will fill you up as you read them. References and further reading resources are also included, which are sure to be useful for the inspired and curious reader.

Last but not the least, the drawings and photographs (all in black and white) add to the charm of this book.

In Summary
From its introduction to the conclusion, The Rations Challenge is a very timely, beautifully inspirational and truly informative book. A must-read!

“… we are all in this together, and that we can help each other through. That is a beautiful thing.”
Check my blog - LadyInReadWrites - for more reviews

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the digital ARC of the book; these are my honest opinions after reading the book.
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I happily received an advanced copy of this book. It didn't have as much information on cooking cheaper meals and saving money as I had hoped. Her interviews with people who lived through the war was interesting and a nice addition to the book.
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Unfortunately although this book had a wonderful premise and I was very much looking forward to reading it, I ended up DNF'ing it at 25%. I wanted to love this so much but the style it followed meant that I was bored.

It's a blog style book that follows what happened when Claud Fullwood decided to eat a ration diet for Lent, eating only food that was within the rations of the Second World War. Interesting premise but I just found it a bit dull and difficult to get enthused about. A real shame.
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As a lover of social history and collector of vintage cookbooks, I would have wanted to read this book in any circumstances.  However, writing this review under "coronavirus lockdown", having witnessed panic buying and finding my own store cupboard lacking things I normally take for granted such as eggs, dried pasta, flour and beans, made this an even more fascinating - and useful - reading experience.

So what exactly is The Ration Challenge?  

"Your challenge is simply to live on 1940s’ rations for forty days. That means no imported food, and very restricted meat, dairy, and other food items. Hopefully, this book will provide you with the tools and inspiration to eat like a wartime Brit and, in actually changing your day-to-day habits, will give you an insight into some of the issues that still beset our food system and our world."

When you see the list of rations allowed per person, you wonder how on earth they managed, and quite how much we take for granted - or did until the current pandemic.  I remember my mum telling me about the one egg a month, and the disgusting dried eggs, potato bread, and various other concoctions that were created to eke out what was available.

This book drives home how choice was very limited, and creativity was a skill you had to develop in order to survive.  However, it isn't all about trying to live on wartime rations but also developing an awareness of what goes into the food in our kitchen cupboards, and the cost both in human and environmental terms. 

A lesson that really stood out to me from this book is how we live in a society where we eat what we like - not what we need.  Also, how wasteful we are, and how selfish and unthinking!

This is a fascinating challenge at any time but is undoubtedly all the more interesting - and thought provoking - because of the strange times in which we are currently living.  There are so many lessons within these pages, about cutting waste, being creative, thinking globally, growing your own, gratitude, using leftovers, making do, planning ahead and so much more.  Lessons that we should all take on board at any time, but which right now are even more important.

Recipes and menu suggestions are scattered throughout the pages, some sample recipes include:

Fadge (Irish Potato Pancakes)
Minty Leek and Potato Soup
Basic Beef Casserole
Bubble and Squeak
Soda bread
Jams and preserves
Veggie Christmas Pie

An absolutely fascinating book, but also an incredibly useful and important one, and one I recommend wholeheartedly.
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A really creative approach to Lent! Claud Fullwood's writing style is absolutely lovely, really fitting the beautiful cover for this book. I never knew potatoes were such a staple of a wartime diet - or that one could get sick of them, but I suppose after too many portions of 'fadge' (look it up) for breakfast, that might happen! I'd love to see more writing from Claud Fullwood, and she is also really good on her social commentary and reasons behind the challenge. This book deserves to do really well.
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