Review: Bread and Bullets; The Story of Sacrifice in American Homes to Feed the Troops in World War II ~ Kent Whitaker

Bread and BulletsThe U.S. a collection of cities serviced by outlying farms and producers is amazingly transformed into a nation serviced, by a national food production industry to meet the needs of fighting a world war. The armed services, 350,000 strong at the war’s start, quickly grew to 11,000,000 men and women who had to be fed along with the millions more on the home front. This is the story of the transformation to meet those needs and the interesting stories about the people, prominent and not-so prominent, of the era and the food they liked to eat and more frequently, what they had to eat. Many stories from the troops on the front are included and so too, many recipes suitable for today’s dining.

3 Thumbs-UpThis book is a great piece of writing and research, and hit 3 areas that I particularly enjoy reading and learning about.  As I read this book it brought to mind another covering WWII recipes published by the Imperial War Museum in England, but ‘Bread and Bullets’ has a wider scope than the IWM book.

The book itself is divided into 3 sections; history, memoirs and recipes that I tried, some of which with excellent results.  The first section of the book covers all things related to the history of war-time food including famous people and food companies of that era.  The reader is educated in the ways of the military cooks and bakers that fed the armed forces in a time of combat.  Despite their often being ridiculed by those that had to eat their offerings, we learn that they did the best they could with the ingredients on hand and, often under some very stressful situations; trying to make sure that the fighting forces never went without a meal was no mean task, and the work that went into this adds new meaning to the phrase ‘an Army fights on its stomach’.  The numbers that had to be catered for were absolutely mind-boggling and, until reading this I did not realise how much of defining factor food actually played in the war effort.  Especially interesting from a historical point of view is the comparison between Allied and Axis food.

Memoirs from both military personnel and their families back home, add a human aspect to this book some of which make the reader chuckle and others which are quite poignant.  Through their words, and the skill of the Author, the reader learns about victory gardening and the impact of rationing on the daily lives of real people.  Reading these experiences makes one wonder why, in our times of plentiful food are we not more conscious of what we use, and aim to cut down our food wastage and even grow more of our own vegetables. The recipes, and yes the Author admits some of the ingredients are spelled wrong, are included for historical purposes only, but using modern hygiene standards and ingredients they are easily adaptable for any reader, like myself, who wants to try them out.  After all how many readers of this book would have access to a WWII helmet to cook in?  Also, as the reader who tries them out is not likely to be cooking for 100+ people, any scaling down of ingredients needs to be double checked before trying out to avoid disastrous results.

As much as I enjoyed reading this book, and putting my cooking skills and recipe adaptations to the test, there were a lot of proofreading errors that should have been picked by the Editor before this book went to print.  The result of this was it really pulled from my overall enjoyment of the book, and I felt that the Author had maybe used a generic spell-check program when going through their work as some words just did not make any sense in context.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoy WWII history, be it from a military or home front perspective; also readers who enjoy books that include recipes that they would like to challenge themselves with would be well advised to give this book a look.

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