I’m a bit of an early bird by all accounts but springing out of bed at 4am is not an every day occurrence. Neither was the invitation that prompted it: the chance to attend the press event for the new ‘Ministry of Food’ exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. The exhibition opens to the public today to mark the 70th anniversary of the introduction of food rationing in wartime Britain and explores the stories of ordinary men, women and children who supported the war effort by growing their own vegetables, reducing waste and being resourceful in the kitchen.
‘This is a food war. Every extra row of vegetables in allotments saves shipping… the battle on the kitchen front cannot be won without help from the kitchen garden. (Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, 1941)
If you enjoy reading about my gardening exploits, culinary experiments and the people on my plot I’ve no doubt you’ll be inspired by a visit to the exhibition. My camera is full of photos, my notepad full of scribbles but I don’t know where to start with picking out highlights to share from the exhibition. So I’m going to leave the telling of the story of the exhibition to the experts for now (anyway, I wouldn’t be posting at all if I didn’t think it was brilliant). The Museum’s Ministry of Food blog is a treasure trove of gardening and cooking tips from the 1940’s, archive film clips and posters from the original ‘Dig for Victory’ and ‘Kitchen Front’ campaigns. And here’s Richard Moss’s press review of our morning at the museum!
Housewives queued daily at Greengrocers shops like this to get their food rations . ‘‘It is hysteria for some people – whenever they see a long queue they just join on the end” (Mass Observation Report, Hull 1941)
If you’d like to visit The Ministry of Food exhibition you have plenty of time. It’s open until 3 January 2011 and it’s well worth making a day of it to look round the rest of the museum (who’s been wondering what to do with the kids in half-term next week?). I didn’t get to see everything but I particularly enjoyed nosing around the reconstruction of an entire 1940’s house, was surprised by how small the air raid shelters were and crept my way through the dark and terrible trenches!
ps. more to follow about war time stories gathered from some lovely people I met at the museum and thrifty ways to feed your family. We were also treated to some nibbly recreations of war time recipes using the beloved potato to replace rationed ingredients. Daniel, the Chef from Company of Cooks who are running the museum’s Kitchen Front Cafe for the duration of the exhibition, kindly talked me through the making of mock goose so have a read for the recreation of a wartime cook up in our house.
© images used with permission from the Imperial War Museum