Petals Amidst the Thorns Part 8 Churchill Talks Chicken
December 31, 1941
Well, it looks like we will have a cook around the house after all, me! Don’t get me wrong – I did enjoy making that one meal but that was the limit of my expertise and it took me half a day to accomplish! Mamma says it’s a good skill to have even though she’s assuming I’ll marry well enough to have a cook of my own.
“But it still doesn’t do for you to act spoiled and assume you’ll have servants. It’s best to know all the necessary functions of each of your servants, Josephina.” Here mamma glared in father’s direction. “After all, who knows when a war will break out and your husband will suddenly turn you into a peasant.”
Father just ignored her, a skill he has down perfectly. When he tunes you out, you won’t ever find a chink in his armor. That goes even for mamma. She huffed mightily trying, unsuccessfully, to get his attention, then complained of a headache and turned to leave the room. Just as she arrived at her bedroom door she threw back over her shoulder, “That means you’ll be cooking some of the meals, What with this migraine, you’ll can start tonight. Make sure there’s a vegetable. We’ll talk about a schedule later.”
Make sure there’s a vegetable? I didn’t know anything about cooking vegetables! Plus, other than some dried out carrots, two mushy tomatoes, a head of cabbage, one onion, one potato and possibly a winter squash (does that even count as a vegetable, Dear Diary?), we didn’t have any decent vegetables. I looked around for William’s cookbook, hoping there would be one but as I feared he cooked without looking at anything.
Luckily, Mr. Churchill, who has just left the United States was making a speech to the Canadian government last night, and a memo had gone home from school asking parents of students in the 11th and 12th grades to let their children listen to it. We were also supposed to take notes and try to find something that Mr. Churchill said that really hit home for us. Since he was coming on early we had to eat early which meant there was no real time for me to cook. I remembered what our home ec teacher said: “When all else fails, make an Everything In Stew.”
At first I was trying to actually create a recipe with measurements and adding things to the pot in the order I thought they needed to be cooked. But then mamma came out of her room stretching, she’d obviously just taken a nap, and made a snide comment, something like, “I don’t smell anything cooking, Josephine. I trust there will be a complete meal on the table within the hour? You did want to complete that assignment of yours didn’t you? Though it’s not mandatory so if you’d like to participate I’d hurry.”
I don’t think it was as devious as it sounds, Dear Diary. She and father still think I’m too young of a girl to listen to war talk. Though evidently not too young to plan menus and cook for the family with no notice!
I let my anger get the better of me and hastily chopped the carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, onion, potato and yes, even the winter squash all of which I dumped into a large skillet with the browned meat. I found a can of peas and one of Lima beans in the pantry and dumped them both in without even draining them first. I added a splash of oil, one of vinegar; a little water, some chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and at the last minute a squeeze of ketchup and a squeeze of mustard. I brought the whole thing to a boil, covered it and let it simmer.
I grabbed another pan rubbed some pears with grown sugar, and put them in a pan with hot butter, flipped them and put a few raisins and honey in the center turned the heat down and covered them. Dinner finished! It may have taken me closer to 75 minutes but everything considered not bad. Nor was the meal. I thought (okay, I kind of hoped) that the stew would be awful and mamma would realize what a bad idea making me the family cook was. But it came out really good! Father and Jeremy made a fuss and had seconds. I think mamma didn’t take a second helping just out of principle.
Truthfully, dear diary, I think she was jealous that I managed to make a meal just throwing a few things together but her holiday party was canceled because she lost it over a few hor d’oeuvres. Mamma can’t stand anyone doing what she calls upstaging. No one can upstage her, even her own daughter. Of course, no one thinks in those terms. Where all just doing what we need to do. I’ll write the recipes below. Maybe by the time this war is over I’ll have enough recipes to publish my own cookbook!
So dinner was a success, and even the washing up was done by the time the Prime Minister was scheduled to talk. I’m not sure I caught all of it, but he is such a passionate speaker that by the time he was finished I felt much better about this war. Unfortunately, Jeremy didn’t seem to feel the same way and excused himself as soon as it was over closing himself back in his room. Whatever levity had occurred over dinner evaporated and I couldn’t help wonder what I was missing or if I was just someone who couldn’t face reality.
Anyway, here are the quotes I copied down for my project:
We did not make this war, we did not seek it. We did all we could to avoid it. We did too much to avoid it. We went so far at times in trying to avoid it as to be almost destroyed by it when it broke upon us. But that dangerous corner has been turned, and with every month and every year that passes we shall confront the evil-doers with weapons as plentiful, as sharp, and as destructive as those with which they have sought to establish their hateful domination. [Churchill, Unrelenting Struggle]
This is why Great Britain is our ally. Instead of being like Germany, Japan and Italy and attacking countries with no real provocation just to get the things they want, Great Britain doesn’t want war any more than we do. Though I wonder if this means that they never saw it coming either. It seems like they did but tried to avoid it at all costs. I looked at a map of Europe after the speech and realized just how close all those countries are to each other. Germany is right across the English Channel from Great Britain. It’s not like us, where we have a huge ocean around us and a friendly countries north and south [at least I think Mexico is friendly – I’ve never heard of them trying to attack any other countries and I don’t think there’s any talk about them entering the war]. I guess it’s just a little confusing how Great Britain thought they could avoid or ignore Germany with it being so close to them. I would think as a major world power, Germany would either want Great Britain to fight on their side or to make sure they didn’t fight at all.
There is no room now for the dilettante, the weakling, for the shirker, or the sluggard. The mine, the factory, the dockyard, the salt sea waves, the fields to till, the home, the hospital, the chair of the scientist, the pulpit of the preacher – from the highest to the humblest tasks, all are of equal honour; all have their part to play. [Churchill, Unrelenting Struggle]
This makes me feel like maybe even I have something to contribute. I don’t know what it is yet, hopefully more than an Everything In Stew! I feel like things are starting to happen but I’m just not a part of them. I’m not sure what I mean exactly but there is always so much excitement and emotion and romance and fear and relief and a whole host of other emotions but I’m not feeling them the same way.
Though when I knocked on Jeremy’s door after the address was over and he just yelled at me to go away, I felt something that caused me to sink down against his door and sob. He finally opened it when I couldn’t stop for a long time and gathered me into his arms and shushed me. I hadn’t felt this close to him since this whole stupid war began. I told him I missed him and he kissed me on the top of my head and said he’d always be here with me, even when he was overseas. This just made me cry harder and I fell asleep right there in his room like I used to do when I was a little girl.
I know I can’t do anything to change this whole thing but the fear that is coming off Jeremy along with my own and that of my parents should be enough trauma to get him out of the fighting. Though I know you don’t get credits for trauma. I also know that every other family who has a boy registered for the draft is going through the same thing and we can’t ask for special consideration. But how is a young man supposed to cope with one day being clearly taught that killing is wrong and the next being given a gun and told to kill as many of the enemy as possible?
The last quote I wrote down is one I think everyone in my class picked.
When I warned them [France] that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, “In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” Some chicken; some neck. [Churchill, Unrelenting Struggle]
I just love this one, Dear Diary. Even when others are threatening Great Britain, Mr. Churchill is so confident and even a bit sarcastic, making fun of the person who uttered such a silly statement. Mr. Churchill is so amazing. Too bad he can’t get together with President Roosevelt and figure out a way to avoid sending any more boys to the war and many to their deaths. Oh, I shouldn’t have written that, Dear Diary. Now I’m starting to cry again. No more for tonight. I’ll try to write again New Year’s Eve or soon after. Goodnight, Dear Diary. I pray there won’t be many more such entries of pain and fear and grieving.
Everything In Stew
The idea behind this stew is to just throw whatever you have into a pot. The only thing to think about is whether different ingredients required different cooking time.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6
- 1 lb ground meat (can be anything or your choosing but make sure you know how to tell if it is cooked thoroughly)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or shortening)
- 2 Tablespoons Vinegar
- 1 head of cabbage, shredded
- 6 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 large potato, peeled and cut into one inch pieces
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 winter squash cut into inch size pieces
- 1 can of peas
- 1 can of lima beans
- 3-4 cloves of diced garlic
- A squeeze of ketchup
- A squeeze of mustard
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Brown meat in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onion and garlic and stir until just soft about a minute. Add the rest of the vegetables and stir well until they begin to cook down. Add the vinegar, ketchup, mustard salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer half an hour or until everything is tender. If the sauce is too watery sprinkle a teaspoon of flower into the pot and mix until thickened.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
- 4 tablespoons of margarine
- 4 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons of honey or Maple syrup
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- A handful of raisins
- Four pears
- Two tablespoons water
Cut pears in half and core. Melt two tablespoons of margarine in a large skillet. Rub pear halves with brown sugar and place cut side down in skill
Once they are brown and caramelized (about five minutes), flip them over and put half a tablespoon of butter in the middle of each, add some of the raisins, and cover with the honey or maple syrup and cinnamon. Add the water to the bottom of the pan to keep the syrup from getting too thick or burnt, cover and let simmer on low medium heat for 15 minutes or until tender. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream for a real treat.
Book Review: Grandma's Wartime Kitchen
Book Review: Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen by Joanne Lamb Hayes
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (November 8, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312253230
- ISBN-13: 978-0312253233
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
When deciding to include recipes every so often as part of the story, I wasn’t sure where to start. I of course hit the internet and found some recipes but they all seemed mixed up. Recipes that were supposed to be from the height of rationing filled with butter, flour, and sugar while others used meats such as antelope or buffalo. A friend’s mom loaned me a copy of “Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen,” and I ended up buying it for myself. The book was great for giving me suggestions for types of recipes I could create that would be true to the era (and none included either buffalo or antelope).
But the book was filled with other information that helped tell the story of women, cooking and World War II. In addition to the recipes, the book includes anecdotes, advertisements, and advice which helps me get the tone and content correct and true to the era. Also included are information on wartime entertaining, how to stretch a meal, substitutes and the U.S. government’s food rules and ration books. This book has been invaluable to me not only for creating the recipes but for giving me ideas for the text.