I love visiting my Gran. And as she lived through the war and rationing, she’s been a goldmine of information.
Gran has always been hardworking and resourceful. Like her own mum, she was great at making supplies stretch.
“There wasn’t much bread,” she says, ‘but we made soda bread. And for stew you could sometimes get a bone from the butcher. It was a good idea to make friends with the butcher, and then he’d put aside an extra bone for you to boil.”
One of her favourite stories is how Arthur the butcher taught her to skin a rabbit. The skin could be cured and the fur used to line a little person’s coat, and there’d be rabbit pie for dinner. Nothing was wasted.
“We looked after each other,” she says. “Neighbours looked out for each other and we shared what we had. That’s how it worked.”
This marvel of scrimping and soda bread is my legacy. I grew up in a home where ‘waste not want not’ hung in the air alongside aromas of bubble and squeak. Like Gran, my mum learned to feed her big family on the proverbial loaf and fishes. We’d tease her for saving a few peas in a Tupperware, or turning Sunday’s veg into Monday’s risotto. But we never went hungry.
Before the rations challenge, I hadn’t thought much about what I needed, only what I’d like to eat. So I’ve often ended up throwing food out (guiltily, expecting Mum and Gran to burst in yelling ‘no-o-o-o-o!’ in a slow-motion fashion) because I bought too much.
Now, I’m working out how to make food stretch, and appreciating how Mum and Gran had to balance everything to feed all those hungry mouths.
And the food waste is disappearing! The most I throw away is carrot tops and leek bottoms. I’ve stopped peeling carrots and spuds (a good scrub does as well and wastes less). With the meat, cheese and milk I work out what I need each day and how to make it last. It’s a revelation.
Mums are brilliant. They never stop teaching us. My Mum and Gran are strong, practical women whose ability to make do and mend kept us all in shoes and coats (albeit usually hand-me-downs).
For Gran, the occasional spare rabbit must have been a fantastic gift. As a mum with scant resources, it represented a family feast. And she watched her children grow up strong and healthy, their futures before them.
So many mums don’t get to see that, because the unfair food system stops them. They can make a little go a long way, but if there’s not even a bare minimum, no amount of mum magic can make it stretch.
Sabita is a mum from Bangladesh. She struggles to grow enough to eat and sell when crops are washed away by heavy rains and sea water flooding. But our Caritas partner has helped her with simple solutions like raised vegetable beds and using home-made compost to improve the soil.
“This plot has made a big difference to my family. It’s improved our diet and given us extra income,” she says.
It takes such a small amount to get a family up and running.
We honour mums on Mother’s day. We celebrate and give thanks for them. We can also honour mums around the world, by taking action today, and making the first step to ending world hunger.
If we can make the system fair, I’ve no doubt mums can do the rest. That would be a real gift to mums everywhere.
You hold all mothers in your heart; you know their joys and sorrows. Pray that we may be inspired to create a world where every mother can watch her children grow, happy and healthy, and rejoice as their futures unfold.
About the Author: Claud Mba has worked in CAFOD’s digital communications team for three years. She lives with her husband in Kent and is a lifelong supporter of CAFOD’s work. This Lent she’s putting her love of 1940s style and culture to the test: getting sponsored to live on 1943 UK rations, in solidarity with people who don’t have enough to eat around the world.
You can read more about Claud’s challenge and sponsor her here: http://www.justgiving.com/claudonrations