JANUARY 29, 1946
LONDON—In a recent column, I compared various conditions in England today with those of 1942. Now I want to compare the situation as to food rationing.
When I was here in 1942, the housewife was allowed weekly 4 ounces of bacon, 8 ounces of cheese, 2 ounces of butter, 2 ounces of lard or cooking fat, 4 ounces of margarine, and 2 ounces of tea. An adult got 2½ pints of milk a week in summer, and 2 pints in winter. All other things which could be bought at all had to come out of a pool of 24 ration points for a four-week period.
Today, the housewife gets weekly only 3 ounces of bacon and 3 ounces of cheese. The allowance of fats is the same as in 1942, though she may take a larger portion of butter, and shredded suet is now on the ration. There is no change in the milk ration. The tea allowance has been raised to 2½ ounces.
But the housewife now has only 20 points as against 24 in 1942. And out of those points must come any canned goods, preserves, raisins or prunes, and golden syrup, which is equivalent to our corn syrup.
The average person gets about 30 shell eggs a year. Powdered eggs are used for omelettes and scrambling.
Meat is governed largely by price. You are allowed to spend one shilling and tuppence per week. So, of course, if you buy stewing beef, you get a little more than if you try for steak. A part of your meat allowance now has to be in the form of a small cube of corned beef.
The price of meat is controlled, but the allotment is barely enough for two good meals, with perhaps corned beef hash making up another. Three small lamb chops would be one person's meat allowance for a week. The rest of the time, one would have fish, macaroni with a little cheese, or vegetables.
Potatoes are plentiful. But a can of baked beans, for instance, takes 4 of your points. Carrots, cabbage and brussels sprouts are your main vegetables. Each person is allowed ½ pound of sugar per week and 1 pound of jam or marmalade every four weeks. One can of grade-1 salmon costs the whole of your 20 points. Sardines are a help at 2 points. Your candy or sweets ration is ¾ pound every four weeks.
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Of course, you don't have to deal with any of these hardships if you live at a big hotel like Claridges. The actual price of meals is carefully controlled and you are not allowed more than three courses, but you may pay high prices for things that are not rationed, such as lobster and game, for many of the hotels are allowed what we would call a cover charge.
In the ordinary restaurant, you will find yourself eating Vienna steak, which is 50 percent soybeans or other non-meat foods. Sausage is made up in the same way. And the British have become quite clever in cooking potatoes in a variety of ways!
Fruit has always been a luxury in this country compared with what it is in the United States. In the summer now, you might get a peach, but it would cost you two dollars! A friend of mine told me that she offered an orange, which she had brought from the United States, to a child on the street the other day. The child thanked her for the "pretty ball!"
In spite of the decrease in some things, the British people are sufficiently fed even now and the distribution is completely fair—everyone gets the same. But the drabness and dullness of it, I think, is getting harder and harder to bear.