Spuds, Spam, and Eating for Victory
The full title of this book is RATIONING IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR: SPUDS, SPAM, AND EATING FOR VICTORY. I met the author, Katherine Knight, at a Society of Authors event last year and liked the sound of her book. It is just as interesting as I thought it would be, both in itself and on a personal level. My parents lived through the war and my mother in particular is much on my mind at the moment. She would have been eight-five on the 31st January. It’s almost three years since she died.
She was thirteen when the war started. She was living in Chesterfield, where she must have been in some danger, living close to Sheffield, a centre for steel-making and the target of enemy bombers. She didn’t talk about that and now I can’t ask her. But reading about the privations of war-time – there was rationing of clothes as well as food – I see that the war was a formative influence. Her family weren’t badly off – skilled working class – and she was a cherished only child. She used to say that her mother liked to keep a good table. I don’t think she went short, but the prevailing drabness has its effect. I understand why later in life she loved to shop. When she lived in Birmingham she could spend a whole day window-shopping, not buying anything. She loved little treats, meals out, and the food department in Marks and Spencer. But she wasn’t extravagant: she loved a bargain, and lots of her clothes were bought in the sales or spotted in charity shops.
One of her favourite activities was shopping for clothes for me and my daughter. She liked to see me well dressed (not that common an occurence, sadly!). She liked bright colours and luxurious fabrics. She especially admired a shocking pink calf-length wool coat that I bought in a Jaeger sale years ago. I wish I’d hung to that coat. Together we chose my wedding dress from the original Droopy and Brown shop in York: sea-green, full-length with a full skirt (complete with net petticoat) and a bolero jacket. Just earlier this week I finally took to a charity shop in Bakewell a lovely coat that she bought for my daughter. I felt a pang at parting with it. How I miss her.