Breakfast and evening meals were always sit-to-table affairs. A family board meeting -- the origin of 'bed and board'. As Chairperson, Mum lead discussion on daily points of interest and ensured the attention of everyone present. (“Elbows off the table, and no mardy moods, thank you.”)
We quickly learned the unspoken dialogue between adults; the raised eyebrow, the unexpected emphasis, the sidelong glance at our impassive faces. My contribution was explanation and excuses for recent events. These were not easily overlooked, as Ringlets could provide a steady stream of reminders. Bless.
Table rules were unspoken and understood by everyone. Slices of bread with curved crusts -- reserved for Himself; slices with squared ends -- ours; and Mum didn't feel like any bread today. In the centre of the table under a knitted beehive cover sat a large (very large) brown teapot; and a jar of Granny's jam. I was responsible for cutting the bread, so the plate of slices held an interesting and imaginative construction. When in season, Mum always added a glass of wild flowers on the table, “a little bit of colour dears”.
Himself was always served first. Our interest in his meal was cursory, as continued rationing meant that contents of his plate gave little clue to our subsequent menu. As Mum sat down it would be obvious that yet again she had 'not much of an appetite'.
In the background, Dick Barton, Jock and Snowy on the Light Programme. Around our feet, Mr Smith the black tomcat. Another family pet, Henrietta (“don't mention Christmas”), provided occasional eggs. We chaps favoured the Antoinette School of approach -- one decisive and merciful slice, but the more gentle family members followed the tap 'n' pick method of opening the egg.
The meal was a leisurely affair, since it would be followed by clearing the table; washing up (“its my turn to dry”); and homework. Homework was subject to parental inspected on completion, to ensure a satisfactory standard was taken to school.
Thank you again, Joe
So like the situation in our household. Butter for Dad (who wouldn't eat that other muck) and Les to whom margarine was apparently an emetic, margarine for the rest of us except Mum who often preferred just a scrape of jam. Ron was happy as he genuinely did not like butter.
Of course Ron was always a beanpole despite consuming equally as much as the rest of us. The nurse from the clinic, a forerunner of today's do-gooders, accused mum of neglecting "baby dear" and when years later he came to do his National Service he was sent back to the UK from Germany to be fattened up at a fitness camp. It made no difference so they sent him to Korea!
I wonder how many of the mothers of our generation suffered from this convenient loss of appetite during wartime rationing?
Len and Joe have very clearly illustrated the attitudes within the families of the 1940s and we can compare it with ours of today.
I don't think think that feeding the family showed such clear lines of demarcation in my home as in the two households mentioned. But within our area and class I know that it was common practice. In a working class family father traditionally got the best --- and the lion's share of whatever food there was. After all he provided the wherewithall didn't he? Well that was the current climate of the time! So, yes, I can appreciate that in so many wartime homes father had a very different diet to the rest of the family --- as old habits die hard.
In our house the difference was less noticeable, as Dad would have been uncomfortable "hogging" our rations. But Mum, nevertheless, tended to get the things that he liked and of course our doled out portions were so very much smaller than his. Yes, Len, strangely our mothers did tend to have no appetite.
I wonder why?!!!!
And "FHB" was still in vogue until well after the war years. Actually I don't know when it died out as it just drifted quietly away. For the unenlightened it was a code, (Family Hold Back!), for the family to restrain themselves, and their appetites, until their guests were served --- especially when there wasn't much to go around.
I am still influenced by the latter, although my family no longer are. I suppose it is a hangover, with me, just as it is to automatically apologise when someone bumps into me or treads on my toes!!!
Seemingly my brainwashing was thorough --- and I am well programmed!
I suppose being the only one for 8 years and Dad growing most of our veg we did all right for food. However I remember in my prewar school days hearing about one house wife that made large roly poly suet puddings with meat one end for the man of the house and the rest for the kids served with jam.
I also remember hearing about another large family that the Mother boiled up the peelings passed on to her by a neighbour for the chickens, who used to peel her potatoes rather thickly, and gave them to the children. I believe you can buy skins now. What has changed.