The title page to the book.
About Hard-Time Cookery
Hard Time Cookery was published in 1940 by the Association of Teachers of Domestic Subjects (now the National Association of Teachers of Home Economics).
Although there is very little background information available for this text, it is clear that teachers felt they could provide a valuable service to the public during war time by offering advice on diet. In fact, during WWII nutritionists were instrumental in advising the government on how to design a healthy rationing system. As a result, the British population was given unlimited access to potatoes and bread, and could choose between other rationed items, although in practice these were limited. The discovery of vitamins was relatively new (vitamins A and B were identified just before the outbreak of WWI), and so the notion of maintaining one's health with a balanced diet was unfamiliar to many. In 1917, when 2,500,000 men, from across the social spectrum, were given medical examinations, over forty percent of them were found to be unfit for military service - mainly due to malnourishment. Consequently, the government was compelled to invest time and money into dietary research.
However, supplies during WWII were meagre - it is hard to be adventurous with a tin of corned beef and a loaf of bread. Nevertheless, Hard-Time Cookery does its best to outline systematically subjects such as 'the principles of diet,' 'the planning of meals,' budgeting, food constituents, the balancing of meals, and the effect of different vitamins and minerals on the body. Care is taken to describe in detail how different food constituents affect the body. For example information is given on foods that help repair the body, maintain health or provide energy. The authors also provide numerous tips on how to cope with food shortages, suggesting for instance, that chopped dates might replace sugar in puddings and cakes, or that butter and fat wrappers should be saved to grease basins and tins. Recipes include ingredients that would normally be discarded, such as stale bread or sour milk.