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Wartime Meals

What are meals like in times of war?

On the homefront during the First and Second World Wars, Canadians were asked to make do with less, to allow more resources to be sent to troops overseas. Food was one of the things that people were asked to conserve. One of the ways this was done was through "rationing" (limiting the amount of certain products people were allowed to consume). Goods like sugar, eggs, meat, coffee and chocolate were in limited supplies and homemakers created innovative ways to make new dishes that did not use as much of these ingredients but still tasted good. Ration books were distributed to keep track of what people were allowed to have. Most dishes had to be made with readily available ingredients, so many recipes were simplified. Victory gardens were encouraged. Broadcasts on the radio such as Mrs. A's "Your Good Neighbour" became very popular, providing women on the homefront with a week's menu based on the considerations of rationing and the produce in season from Victory Gardens.

On the frontlines, in the First and Second World Wars and Korean War, troops ate meals that were as well prepared with few ingredients. Sometimes however, they indulged in treats that were found in parcels sent from home. One such treat was Coke Bottle Bread! On the homefront, wives and mothers would bake a big loaf of bread, make a hole in it, then stick a bottle of coke inside for the soldier to find as a treat! The bread made a great cushioning shipping container...and was good to eat too!

In conflicts such as Afghanistan, when they are away from their base, soldiers ate field rations. They are called MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). The meal choices sound tasty too. Chicken Mediterranean. Cheese tortellini. Vegetarian meals, and Kosher and Halal choices, too. The MREs are sealed in plastic pouches to keep them fresh and they come with their own chemical heater, so the food can be eaten hot.

Organize a School Wartime Meal

You could organize a 'wartime meal' at your school and eat food commonly eaten by Canadians on the home front and on the front lines during times of war.

Students could plan the meal by conducting research about rationing, and reviewing recipes. School cafeteria staff could be asked to help.

Menu Ideas

To help in the planning of this meal, download and print the 'War Time Meal' placemat which can also be placed on the table.

War Time Cake

During wartime, the people back home didn't always have the cooking supplies they would have liked. A family might have shared its sugar ration to make this No-Milk-No-Egg chocolate cake—mixed and baked in the same pan. Visit our wartime recipe corner for a war time cake recipe.

The 'Missing Man' Place Setting (Set the Table with Symbols of Remembrance)

  • a round table could symbolize your everlasting thanks to Veterans and those who died for our country.
  • a white tablecloth may symbolize peace, or the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.
  • a single red flower on each table may remind you of the lives lost in times of war or conflict.
  • a slice of lemon on the bread plate may remind you of the bitter fate of those who will never return.
  • a pinch of salt on the table can symbolize the tears endured by the families of those who have sacrificed all.
  • One empty chair at each table with the glass at that seat inverted, will remind you of those no longer with us, and the fact that they cannot make a toast.
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