Q: What do you do if sweets and candies are rationed and you haven’t seen an ice cream in years?
A: Find an enormous carrot, peel it, push in onto a stick, and hand it your kids for a special treat.
Sugar was one of the first things rationed in WW2 Britain, closely followed by butter, jam, cakes, cookies, and all things sweet, leaving it difficult to celebrate special dates. Millions of children grew up never having even tasted chocolate; an aunt who was only eight at the end of the war told me that the first time she had ice cream was on a trip to Ireland in 1948. “I couldn’t believe it just melted in my mouth!” she exclaimed.
Ingenuity became tantamount: how could the population keep spirits up? There was a fear if people felt that they were doing without, this loss of appetite for war would lead directly to Britain’s surrender. And so everyone put their collective thinking hats on and came up with some delicious ways to uphold food traditions during the worst of the shortages.
Carrot Lollies were just the start. Carrot Fudge was very popular, using the sweetness of carrots to make up for the lack of sugar, and a recipe for Mock Marzipan used just a small amount of sugar mixed into flour with almond essence. These were cut into cubes and placed in chocolate boxes to be offered around during celebrations, such as Easter.
Many people even felt that rationing brought them closer together. “We all had to do whatever we could,” my aunt told me. “We all helped with the growing of vegetables, and we all had to cook as imaginatively as we dared. My extended family–aunties and uncles–would save their sweet rations for me and my little sister. It gave them a sense of pride and purpose.” Then she grinned, “And of course it made us all appreciate everything a lot more.”