Chris Cleave recently released his new novel Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, set in Second World War London and North Africa. Chris describe how he researched his novel, and one of the things that I noted is that he ate the rations diet of that time period to help get into the mindset of his characters. This is something I follow quite well.
Writing a novel requires you to wear many hats. You’re part character, part director, part audience. The best writing evokes all five senses. As a historical fiction author, I like to recreate dishes from period to truly give a sense of what characters are tasting, feeling, thinking. You can discover many things about a place from its food. Every facet of its history and culture are represented through food. Indeed, food has played such a pivotal role in history as items such as salt and chocolate have been used as currency.
Food is sustenance. It is fuel. It is comfort. It’s medicinal. Holistic . Spiritual. It is the thing that unites us, binds us. Our races, creeds, and politics may disagree, but our love of food unites us. It is a reason why we break bread with each other. Certain foods transcend cultures: pizza, dumplings, pasta, barbeque, sandwiches, and bacon. If the latest social media trends are correct, we all love tacos.
Our memories often tie back to three senses: taste, smell, and sound. You may not be able to remember what you saw yesterday, but you can remember what scent your mother wore. A waft of something reminds you grandmother’s kitchen. A bowl of chicken soup in various forms (matzo ball soup, chicken noodle, ramen noodle, etc) all provide us comfort. The tastes of childhood can calm you or make you smile on your roughest of days. We’re all still trying to figure out this thing called Adulthood.
I will be releasing my foray into recreating the dishes from the second world war and beyond for my series The Laurelhurst Chronicles. From the rustic dishes such as the Lancashire Hot Pot and various dishes popular in wartime Britain to the foods of the Automats and Luncheonettes and beyond of New York City, each recipe will be tested and noted here on this blog.
The food of that younger time was local and fresh. It is the kind of food that comprises the current farm to table movement. People ate what they grew. They ate what they could afford with their ration books. Fast food did not exist, and neither did large grocery stores. Wasting food was a possible criminal offense in wartime Britain. People got creative, but they still enjoyed food. Food united them.
If you have a dish that you would like to resurrect from the second world war through the mid 60’s, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would really love to hear from you.