FEBRUARY 9, 1946
LONDON—The newspapers here have been ringing with protests because of the announcement that there would be a reduction in the butter and fats ration, and a return to the darker bread that was used during the war.
I am glad that the United States is going to help Europe by reducing its own food supply, and that conservation measures are being planned to increase the surplus wheat we can ship abroad. My mind reverts to the last war, when every housewife was asked to use cornmeal instead of flour for at least one meal every day. Herbert Hoover, as Food Administrator, obtained a remarkable amount of voluntary cooperation. I still have many recipes for different kinds of cornbread which we used not only once a day, but often twice.
The suggestion has been made to me that, if we had smaller loaves of bread, we might waste less, for a large loaf often becomes stale before we have used all of it. Because it is no longer good for table use and because the sugar shortage now makes it difficult to use stale bread for puddings or desserts, we throw it away. I'm sure that, if we were given a really true picture of the situation in many nations—such as Italy, which has been clamoring for a higher bread ration for a long time—we would gladly cooperate by using smaller loaves.
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The other evening, I went to a very pleasant dinner party, but I think Americans should realize how much normal life in Britain has changed and what it means when an English family today gives a guest from overseas a dinner. Food being so strictly rationed, there cannot be any great extravagance but, frequently, this one meal takes a whole week's ration of every member of the family, particularly where meat or fats of any kind are concerned.
Another difference in Britain's life was pointed up when my host said, "You know, Mrs. Roosevelt, when we knew you were coming, we had to get out our dinner coats. Most of us hadn't worn them since the beginning of the war, but now that the break has been made, it won't seem too difficult to dress for dinner again."
However, I doubt whether our English friends will go back to their old habit of dressing for dinner for some time to come. For one thing, it requires more laundry work to do men's evening shirts. With soap scarce and labor scarcer, anything which adds to the amount of the laundry is not popular these days.
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I had an interesting meeting with the London staff of UNRRA the other day. Most of the staff are British, but there is a sprinkling of other nationalities. I talked for a little while and then they asked me questions, largely about the work of the UNO.
UNRRA, of course, has had very wide experience in working with various nationalities, and I was interested to find that they had many of the same difficulties that we Assembly delegates have because of different languages and the different points of view that result from varying backgrounds. At the end of our meeting, one of the Russian members told me that he was impressed by my remark that working together was the very best medium for gaining mutual understanding.
The language barrier was emphasized in one of our committee meetings this week, because the Secretariat was unable to furnish us with an interpreter. Quite a number of the delegates can understand a certain amount of English but, when they want the fine shades of meaning, it has to be translated. I find this rather a good thing, because you can't really become excited when you have to say something first in English and then in French. You have plenty of time to think about your meaning, and even to make sure whether you believe strongly enough in the things you are talking about to bother to say them at all.
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I have been sent the most wonderful spring flowers. Red tulips, which I'm sure come straight from Holland, mixed with yellow daffodils give me a most cheerful feeling as I come in from the grey outside world. They make my sitting room full of the promise of ever-continuing growth which comes back to the world in the spring, and which is a symbol of our own human possibilities of growth in spiritual and mental life.