Thursday, February 6, 2014


Last week, Diana Cranstoun ( invited me to participate in her War Rations experiment. I was born in 1949 and many of the meals my mother served in my early years originated during the war rationing era.

My mother, Mary Grace Ross, was born 101 years ago on Jan 26, 2013. The changes she saw in the world were astronomical. She lived 90 years and 10 months and had her life changed dramatically by two world wars. During WWll her five brothers served overseas and Mom, who lived on the east coast, was a plane spotter, trained to identify every plane flying during that time and in particular enemy planes.

Although sugar, tea, butter and meat were rationed, Canadians ate more and better than during the depression and the healthy eating guidelines used during the war are the foundation for the current Canada’s Food Guidelines.

Canadians were encouraged to eat “patriotic” food, and apples and lobster were the first foods labelled as patriotic. Home canning was also encouraged and the process reached an all time high during the war years.

“Magazines such as Canadian Home Journal repeated such messages by publishing articles with titles like “It’s Patriotic and Pleasant to Eat Canadian Lobster” and which included recipes for patriotic dishes like Lobster Cocktail, Lobster à la King, and Lobster Sandwiches.” (Catherine Caldwell Bayley, “It’s Patriotic and Pleasant to Eat Canadian Lobster,” Canadian Home Journal 37/3 (July 1940), 28-29 and Canadian Home Journal 36/8 (December 1939), 1.) 

   The cheaper ground meat came into its own during the late forties. An episode of the Canadian TV show, Bomb Girls, realistically featured instructions on turning ground meat into a meal as tasty as steak. In Nova Scotia, fish was also a staple. Even after the war, these two items remained on the menu in our household.

The meals I chose for my War Ration Day were Fish Soup (no milk so not chowder) and a no-crust version of meat pie topped with “icing” made of mashed potatoes. Both include potatoes, carrots and onions as well as a small amount of butter, salt and pepper. I added dried dill from a home garden to the cod-fish soup and served the meat pie with previously home-pickled beets.

An Apple Betty for dessert rounded out both meals. Made with apples and cinnamon topped with oatmeal mixed with one tablespoon of brown sugar and some water, this tasty dish met the December 1939, Department of Agriculture instructions to: “Serve apples daily and you serve your country too.”



  1. Great to see you posting again Mahrie. It's interesting that you ate lobster. It's so expensive. I know that on the east coast it wouldn't have been as costly but still....
    I'm surprised that they didn't recommend fish such as cod. Is there a reason for this? Maybe it was easier to preserve and transport fish than lobster?

    1. Maggie - lobster was considered bottom feeding throw away product until well after the war. It was cheap at that time - they could hardly give it away. My sister who was @ 14 at the end of the war, said the fisherman's kids always had lobster sandwiches and wanted to trade for her baloney! The huge marketing gambit after the war took lobster to a whole other level! Marketing truly is everything.

  2. Oh for the good ol' days when lobster was a poor man's food. It is certainly a good example of great marketing. I heard 'bacon and eggs' breakfasts had a similar start. It wasn't a breakfast meal until someone started 'marketing' it as such. Great article Mahrie. It's always good to hear of our heritage.