1940s Onion Soup – just onions and water

As part of living a wilder life I’m enjoying getting some different perspectives. That includes listening to people who have completely different political views to me, no matter how intolerable they may seem. I’m enjoying seeing our country from the perspective of other people, both young and old and thinking about our history and our future. It’s more interesting to do that than consume television in the evening.

An important feature of our culture is our food and when I found a copy of Patsy’s Reflections, a 1940s cook book, I had the perfect vehicle for some pondering. In the ‘learn-to-cook in pictures’ book, post-War poverty, rationing, shortages and rigid sexual stereotypes loom large. The premise of the book is the character of Patsy being a new and dutiful wife being tutored by her mother-in-law in how to cook for her new husband. It sounds like hell. In fact, it sounds just like a foreign, alien culture, and it’s not that long ago.

In its pages are recipes for savoury turnips and swede en casserole. They sounds like perfect post-Brexit dishes. When I spotted they had eggs a la tripe I began to wonder whether the attempted French names were to make it all sound more palatable (hint: they don’t). They even have recipes for whale meat and beer:

I fancy making a bowl of home-made soup. It’s cold and dark outside and I really fancy some proper comfort food at this time of year. I go to my shelves, which are clearly more full of cookery books than my cupboards are of food, and look up a recipe for onion soup. I know I’ve got onions in, gently degrading in the salad drawer of my fridge. What could be simpler than a nice onion soup, I think. But what’s this? I can’t make it because I don’t have at least ten other ingredients which modern cookbooks say are essential. I don’t have balsamic vinegar in at the moment. Or a French stick. Or Swiss cheese. Or beef stock. Or butter. It’s hopeless. But what’s this? A 1940s recipe for onion soup which needs onions, a teaspoon of fat and some salt and pepper. I particularly like the wartime rationing feature of a teaspoon of fat. Imagine fat being rationed so you can only spare a teaspoon of it. We’d all be a healthy weight if that was the case. It can’t be any good, can it?

It’s time to travel in the food time-machine as a culinary Dr Who. 1940s onion soup, here I come.

1940s Onion Soup - THe Hall of Einar

This looks more like it.

I’ve got four onions which cost me 83p from Asda, a crust of stale bread, a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Can I make something appetising to feed two people? I only used three of the onions. Here’s what I did:

1940s Onion Soup - THe Hall of Einar

I fed it to my son. I thought he’d run like the wind he’d have if he ate it when I offered it to him, but he dutifully sat through a bowlfull.

“I don’t like the bread on the bottom. It would be better on the side. I just don’t like the texture.”

He’s eating it though.

“The first onion I had was really bitter which put me off but after that they were really nice.”

Well I’ll take that as a qualified success :)

Now all I have to do to extend my wilder life is grow the onions in my back garden. I think the brambles might have something to say about that.

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