In Britain’s darkest hour one boy came up with a weapon of mass nutrition that overcame the Nazis–and delivers a lesson for today in the global war against obesity.”>
The fall of 1941 was the darkest occasion for Britain. The island nation stood alone. Hitler had defeated Europe and the United States had yet to join the campaign. The Nazi strategy to deliver the Brits to their knees was simple-minded: Starve them.
Winston Churchill, the prime minister, faced a brutal actuality: The battleground that would determine whether or not Britain could subsist was not on country nor, any longer, in the air, but on the Atlantic Ocean.
The nations food supplies had dropped by half. Each month half a million tons of shipping went to the bottom of the Atlantic, blasted there by torpedoes from the battalions of German U-Boats hunting convoys from North America, much of the cargo essential furnishes like wheat and meat.
This mortal threats to our life-lines gnawed at my bowels, Churchill wrote.
Like most of the country at that time, 75 years ago, I was unaware how great the peril was; Churchill was well known that divulging that would have been bad for morale.
I did, however, realize that something was amiss in the kitchen. My mother had broad repertoire of hearty British bowls that culminated in a glorious steak and kidney pudding. When the dome of suet pastry was punctured by a forking a spurting vapor of kidney-flavored juices exploded like Vesuvius. Now she presented us with a new dish.
On the appearance of it there was nothing suspicious. It was a broad round pie in a bowl with a browned layer of potato. On superficial inspection it maintained the promise of a shepherds pie with a generous base of soil mutton mixed with diced carrots, herbs, and spices.
Not so lucky.
I was taking part in the audition of a new emergency food regiman and its first incarnation was called the Woolton Pie, called for the minister of food, Lord Woolton, and the war-winning weapon youve never heard of. Everything beneath the layer was a tan mushin fact, a combination of turnips, carrots, cauliflower, and oatmeal.
It looked like a meat pie but there was no meat; it was an impostor. Woolton( he had been the director-general of the a successful retail chain before Churchill appointed him prime ministers) had asked the chef at one of Londons swankiest hotels, the Savoy, to come up with a recipe that they are able to substitute home-grown root vegetables for meat.
My mother did what she could to enhance the experience. She managed to concoct an ersatz gravy: Instead of meat juices it was laced with a dark obtain of brewers yeast, the evenly adoration and vilified flavoring called Marmite, that taunted with suggestions of beef.
The reality was that there would be no more steak and kidney pudding( or pie) or anything that called for the carefree uptake of meat and offal. Meat was part of a food rationing system based on levels. The employ of the points was weighted so that buying meat signified going without other basics. The weekly allowance of those was tiny enough: one egg, two ounces of butter, four rashers of bacon, and that paucity ensured that meat became a rare indulgence.
Woolton announced this was a food campaign. Allowing a brushing of exaggeration it could be argued that Woolton created a pie that won that war. The pie was an avatarthe model on which a whole new diet would be based and, as it turned out, a diet that was a campaign win to its implementation of both survival and public health. Nobody went hungry. Not only that, but it proved to be a suit of better nutritional education by implementation. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, at the conclusion of its campaign the population was healthier than it had been before the campaign. The infant mortality rate plunged and life expectancy rose.
Historians have rated Woolton as Churchills most successful pastor on the residence front, as important to win as his best generals on the battleground. But the science of the new austere diet was genuinely the work of a nutritionist, Sir Jack Drummond. Drummond and his wife had written a critical study of “the member states national” diet, The Englishmans Food, and abruptly found themselves in a position to transform what went to the Englishmans table.
Just what this mean is captured in a contemporary journal in an account of a wartime canteen: Thousands of human beings were eating a tremendous all-beige meal, starting with beige soup thickened to the consistency of paste, must be accompanied by tan mince full of lumps and garnished with beige beans and a few tan potatoes, thin tan apple stew