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Category Archives: Book Review

Food Facts for the Kitchen Front

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I got Food Facts for the Kitchen Front for myself as an early Christmas present, and I just wanted to review it briefly here.  This book is part of a series of three re-issued books: Food Facts for the Kitchen Front, Sew & Save, and Make Your Garden Feed You.  I’ve already briefly reviewed Sew & Save here, and Food Facts is very much along these lines.  These guides were meant to address the two main areas of rationing – food and clothing – and help ease the burden for the average reader.  The Food Facts guide actually lists most recipes by ingredient, which is nice if you have to use something up or want more ideas for, say, beans.  There are also quite a few recipes in Food Facts that I haven’t seen other places, especially creative ideas for oatmeal and vegetables.

I haven’t had a chance to try any of the recipes yet with the holidays just being over, but the recipes in this guide are very much along the lines of the MoF guidelines, so I expect that they’ll be pretty much the same, reliable recipes.  There are also quite a few recipes for meat, particularly cheaper cuts, which I may try out the next time I purchase meat.  We really don’t eat much meat at all, which is why I hesitate to commit myself to trying out a meat recipe, but I’ll post the GF version if I do.

There are no dessert recipes, unless you count summer pudding under the children’s section, and limited fruit recipes, for obvious reasons.  Still, the nostalgia factor is big with this book, because it comes more or less in the same format it appeared in originally in 1941.  If you collect Home Front or Kitchen Front books, you are probably going to want this one.

“Sew and Save”

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Today is just a quick review of a little book that would make a great present for a Home Front fan.  The book is called “Sew and Save” and is a reprint of a Home Front book from 1941.  What I like about this book, aside from it being charmingly vintage, is that it covers a number of aspects of sewing, from the basics of handstitching hems to creating your own patterns.  It is quite detailed, so it is good for both beginners and experts, and it includes long lost concepts such as proper care of shoes and gloves.

I especially like the beginning, which offers a detailed discussion of how to plan your wardrobe purchases over four years, so as to maximize both coupons and money.  Though some of the wardrobe recommendations might be dated (for women, there is no mention of slacks), the idea is still useful.  The book also offers several good ideas for stretching a child’s wardrobe, so I think I will be at least get the purchase price back in savings on clothing for Daughter.

I thought I might mention it, because the book is cute, and I think any seamstress would appreciate having it in her collection…

Review of the Jamela series

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I wanted to do a quick review of the Jamela series by Niki Daly.  Jamela is a little girl growing up in South Africa, and the stories revolve around her misadventures as a typical child.  Not only are the illustrations outstanding, but the stories are endearing as well accessible for children.  Daughter has no problem relating to Jamela as a character, and is able to reflect back on the stories from her point of view as well as Jamela’s.  We don’t own this series, but we get it out of the library fairly often.

I wanted to mention this series because these books are some of the few that address frugality as a fact of life.  In Happy Birthday Jamela for instance, Jamela’s grandmother says “wasting money is no laughing matter” as part of the discussion on Jamela’s transgression (gluing beads to her school shoes to make them sparkly).  In the Jamela books overall, frugality is framed as normal, not a punishment or an indication of poverty, as in other children’s books I’ve come across.  I think it  is important to see our financial mentality reflected positively in books that Daughter reads.

That isn’t the only reason I read this books with Daughter; in fact, it’s probably fourth or fifth after storyline, illustrations, and general entertainment.  It is hard to find quality children’s books, so it is even more exciting to find something that is easy to read, beautiful, and supportive of frugality

Patricia Nicol’s Sucking Eggs

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This book was actually the impetus for me to sit down and start blogging. Nicol’s book is both a historical overview of the day-to-day challenges of the Home Front and a call to action for us modern folk to return to some of the Home Front ways. The book details various things that the war generation either did willingly or had to put up with, and what we can learn and use from that. For instance, Nicols talks about fuel rationing during the war and suggests that “is your trip really necessary?” be asked more and more frequently nowadays, especially when someone is travelling by car.

Nicols also outlines how she changed her life to more reflect the Home Front, and one of the areas that was most interesting was that she put herself on clothes rationing. I do this out of necessity, but I have been considering using clothing coupons as a way of budgeting for clothes. Unfortunately, that would mean also rationing my wool purchases, especially since I would want to be very true to form, and I like knitting as a hobby too much now to figure out if rationing would cut into to my knitting. (that is really self-serving, isn’t it?)

I really liked this book up until the very, very end, when Nicol mentioned how she had adapted her eating habits to reflect what would have been eaten during WWII and Austerity. In particular, she advocates ordering produce and perishables from an organic delivery company instead of buying at the store, which would be ideal (and expensive), but we don’t live in that world right now, or at least I don’t. I did sit down once to figure out how much it would actually cost to have fresh, organic milk delivered, and I cried. I order from organic delivery companies from time to time when good deals come up, but I have to find a balance between my budget and what’s best. I think there are other, less expensive ways to find locally produced, high quality food, which she unfortunately doesn’t touch on much.

Still, this book is full of great ideas on being thrifty and going green relatively painlessly, and most of them are very doable. For those Home Front buffs, there is lots of historical info, some of which is new, with the added bonus of being able to waive the book in your significant other’s face and say “see, my eccentric interest actually has a modern application”.

It goes without saying that it is better to pay the slightly higher price tag and buy it through the Imperial War Museum so that the profits go to good use.

How to feed your whole family…

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Gill Holcombe’s cookbook, How to feed your whole family a healthy, balanced diet with very little money and hardly any time, eve if you have a tiny kitchen, only three saucepans (one with an ill-fitting lid) and no fancy gadgets, unless you count the garlic crusher…, was published last year and was widely well received. I had heard many good things about it from the mothers at preschool and through the news, so I finally got around to getting it out of the library last week.

Let me say first that this is an excellent cookbook for a family that is hooked on prepared meals and take-out. It details basic recipes for many common meals here in Britain, such as scotch broth, shepherd’s pie, and Lancashire hotpot. However, I did not find the recipes very useful for me. Many of them would have been hard to convert to GF, and most of them had much more meat than I would serve.

It did prove a useful resource for me in identifying a variety of British foods that had previously baffled me, such as slug and celery soup (slug, as in a slug of wine). I also appreciate that Holcombe writes recipes in the same imprecise way that I cook. I did try out the veggie burger recipes, but didn’t find it flavorful enough for my family. I like the idea though, and will definitely be adapting it. Holcombe also clarified why I was having problems getting a nice texture in my Toad in the Hole, so I don’t regret spending the time reading it.

Basically, if you are new to cooking and need a place to start, then this is a very good cookbook to have. It also covers basic meal planning, along with offering a variety of sample menus. On the other hand, if you are already one of those cooks who plans meals and knows basic recipes off the top of your head, then this cookbook probably won’t warrant much more than a passing glance.