May 082015


On this date in 1945 the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day). On 30 April, Adolf Hitler, committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin. Germany’s surrender, therefore, was authorized by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government. The act of military surrender was signed on 7 May in Reims in France and on 8 May in Berlin in Germany.

I thought it might be fitting to simply show a gallery of images of the celebrations in the U.K. rather than blather on about how joyous the news was. It’s palpable in these photos. I can only begin to imagine what it must have been like to know the troops were coming home. There were hard times ahead still, but for one glorious day ecstasy reigned.

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One of the harsh realities of the war years was food rationing which continued for almost 5 years after V-E Day, although it eased considerably as time passed. Here’s what one adult was allowed per week.

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Although such items as fish, fruit, and vegetables were not rationed they were in limited supply, so most shops had their own methods of doling them out.  For example, some grocers allowed only children and pregnant women to have oranges.  Fish was expensive because the fishermen had to risk sinking by German U-boats and so had government permission to inflate prices.  Many cookbooks were printed in these years, giving ideas for using rations creatively. I love this gravy stained one:


It was these lean years that produced the dull food that came to epitomize British cooking, so rightly reviled by the rest of the world. But, as you know from my posts, those days are long past. Great British cooking rivals any in Europe.  What surprised me was that quite a few of the recipes in wartime cookbooks are not as dull as I thought.  Here’s summer pudding, an old English standby.  I love it.  It’s made with summer berries, but my mum made it with apples — which is called apple Charlotte.

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Here’s a transcription:

Summer Pudding

8 oz fresh fruit (red or black if possible)
¼ pint water
1-2 oz sugar
5 oz stale bread cut into slices ¼-⅜ in. thick

Stew the fruit with the sugar and water until tender. Cut a round of fruit to fit the bottom of the basin (1 pint size) and line the side with fingers of bread cut slightly wider at one end than the other. Fit the fingers together so that no basin shows through. Half fill the basin with stewed fruit. Cover with a layer of scraps of bread left from cutting the round etc. Add the remaining fruit and cover with a layer of bread. Pour the rest of the juice over all and cover the pudding with a weighted plate or saucer. Leave for at least 2 hours to cool and set. Turn out carefully and serve with custard.

N.B. – Very juicy fruit does not require any water for stewing. Bottled fruit may be used if fresh fruit is not available.

I would increase the sugar a little if you want, and I always serve this with whipped cream. In the days of refrigeration you can cool it in the refrigerator.

Worth noting that the recipe is very efficient: little cooking time to save fuel, and all the bread is used up. If you lived in the country you could even pick your own berries.

People in Oxford told me that it was common at one time to bring their tables into the streets on special occasions and eat together.  Here’s images from V-E Day, so that even with rationing everyone could share and have a good time.

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