“And I remember – which of my generation can’t? – the particular culinary horrors of war: Woolton pie, composed of vegetables and sausage meat more crumb than sausage, and brown Windsor soup which tasted of gravy browning. (pg 42)
This seems to have been the general consensus of opinion of people who lived through the war and remember eating this gastronomic nightmare.
Woolton Pie was the creation of the maître-chef at the famous Savoy Hotel, François Latry, in accordance to Britain’s austerity measures. It was named for Frederick Marquis, First Earl of Woolton, or more commonly, Lord Woolton, who served as Churchill’s Minister of Food during the war. The pie was a 100% vegetable pie, and must have been quite hard for many of the meat-pie loving Britons to swallow (and what could be better than a nice steak and Stilton Cornish pasty?)
But Woolton Pie served a good purpose during the war. It was healthy, easy to make and, it and its namesake, provided plenty of fodder for jokes and cartoons:
Here, then, is a copy of the original recipe as it appeared in the London Times on April 26, 1941 (also available at the World Carrot Museum):
Besides being the force behind the creation of Woolton Pie, Lord Woolton did much to encourage people to grow their own vegetables to help ease the dire food situation. He also began a morning radio program called Kitchen Front, which provided people with ration-approved recipes and, thanks to him, we the cartoon characters Potato Pete and Dr. Carrot became quite popular:
Luckily, Britons are very good at gardening as a rule and enjoyed to it, so promoting the virtues of a victory garden as a vital part of the war effort wasn’t a hard job. Even young children could get in on the action:
In 1941, Lord Woolton told the British people that:
‘This is a food war. Every extra row of vegetables in allotments saves shipping… the battle on the kitchen front cannot be won without help from the kitchen garden.”
Some people really took Lord Woolton’s words to heart and created kitchen gardens in bomb craters, like this one in London:
(Photo Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)
I made Woolton Pie once and with lots of spices; it was kind of like a vegetable Shepherd’s pie, because I used mash instead of potato crust. It looked something like this from The Big World:
Lord Woolton had a dreadful job to do, but he met the challenge with stoicism and humor. I think he probably made all his listeners feel like wartime heroes with his final words on every radio broadcast:
"Carry on, Fighters on the Kitchen Front, you are doing a great job"
Beth Fish Reads