Using ration’s rationale after rare find

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Gelorup's Margaret Smith recently found a World War II rations book, which she said was an “interesting read”.
Camera IconGelorup's Margaret Smith recently found a World War II rations book, which she said was an “interesting read”. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/Shannon Verhagen

A couple of years ago, Gelorup’s Margaret Smith came into possession of a piece of Australian history — a rations book showing how Australian producers not only fed Aussies, but troops and allied forces in World War II.

After putting it in a “safe place” at her home, she recently went looking for the palm-sized Commonwealth Rationing Commission and Commonwealth Department of Health publication and on finding it, marvelled at what was inside.

The book — which is not dated but features a message from the late prime minister John Curtin on the inside cover — includes information about Australia’s meat production and how to feed a family on the rations.

“It’s got so many interesting things in it,” Mrs Smith said.

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“You’ve got the advice on how to make your first week’s rations meet — how to cook, how to share it out on the first week, the second.”

It also includes a map of where the country’s meat was being sent — which included Britain — to feed people as well as Australian and allied troops in the war.

At the time, Australia’s meat production was 125 million sheep, 14 million cattle and 1.6 million pigs.

“What I liked about it as soon as I read it, it’s what Australia’s all about — sharing, caring,” Mrs Smith said.

Now in her 80s, Mrs Smith recalls life in the 1940s, with many of the recipes detailed inside bringing back childhood memories.

“I was a ‘little tacker,’ as my father called me. I remember the ration books and I remember going to the butcher’s with mum to pick the tripe up once a week ... I would’ve been about six.”

While she admitted she was not a fan of tripe and to this day still would not eat it, she said there were other recipes which brought fonder memories.

“If you were good, you’d get bread and dripping as a treat after school and if you were real good, you got Vegemite on it which was a rare commodity.

“Bread and milk was another recipe — the old bread, you put hot milk on it and raw sugar and you ate that, that was the same as porridge but you couldn’t afford porridge.”

Other helpful hints include how to “be adventurous with cheaper cuts” of meat and making “meals in a jiffy”.

Finding it again during a global crisis which sparked panic buying of staples across the country, she said showed just how far food could go.

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