The approach of spring brings thoughts of warmer weather, summer plans, and vows to get in shape when the weather breaks. With this on my mind, I thought it a swell time to introduce my blog readers to one of my favorite bloggers, Carolyn Ekins. When researching WWII rations for my vintage fiction The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress series, I stumbled upon Carolyn’s 1940s Experiment: Cooking Up Wartime Recipes to Save Money and Lose 100 Pounds, blog. I was instantly smitten. Carolyn is a vintage girl after my own heart. She’d embarked on a weight loss journey based on U.K. WWII rations.
On her blog, she posts wonderful original recipes from WWII rations recipe pamphlets she’s collected, as well as pictures and reviews of her finished food creations.
But Carolyn is more than her weight loss journey. She often posts wonderful scrumptious photos of her tea party outings, vintage fashion ensembles, sewing projects, and other vintage related goodies including recommended vintage themed television shows and movies. I’m honored that Carolyn has shared her time, passion, and knowledge with us.
WWII Rations for Weight Loss
Tam: I had vaguely heard of rationing in WWII, but when doing research for the 40’s part of my story, I wanted to work it in and be part of my character Violet’s struggle. When did you discover the ration recipes and what made you decide it would be a good choice for weight loss? Why is the WWII era so special to you?
Carolyn: I’ve always been interested in rationing for as long as I can remember. Initially, it was the frugality of it all, saving money but eating well that kind of interested me. How could people survive on such meagre allowances? The first time I decided to try living on wartime rationing to lose weight started on my 40th birthday. At the time, it was just a theory I wanted to test.
I was unhealthy and very overweight, and I had read that when people ate according to WWII rations recipes during the war, heavier people lost weight and became healthier, and underweight people put on a little weight, too. How could this be? I wanted to find out. I managed about 6 months eating food as people would have done during the war and lost about 50 lbs. It seemed to be true…
Tam: Your results have been staggering. It seems to really work! Have any of your readers tried the rations diet and posted results? Have you worked out how many calories a day the diet approximates?
Carolyn: I do hear from people time to time who have maybe tried this for a week or a month. The heavier people like myself do seem to lose weight. I’ve never really stuck rigidly to calories. I found that when I eat in this way 100% of the time, after a couple of weeks, my eating patterns settle down (because of little or no processed foods I’m thinking), and I find that on a daily basis my calorie consumption varies between about 1500- 2000 calories.
Fave WWII Rations Recipes
Carolyn: I LOVE my veggies and comfort food. So for main courses, I have to say Colcannon is also one of my favourites, any potato topped pies too. My favourite desserts are probably the bread type puddings served with hot custard.
Tam: Mmmmm, yum! Besides your repro rations kits (currently only available in the UK–please make them available in the states soon), what must-buy recipe books would you recommend for the vintage gal who wants to try your diet?
Carolyn: The ration kits I’ll post (mail) anywhere in the world but it does end up being quite expensive to send to the USA or Australia, but am happy to do it. In fact, most I have sold to people in the USA and Australia! Probably the two recipe books I use the most are:
- Feeding the Nation by Marguerite Patten (who taught the nation how to cook and make delicious ration book recipes during the war).
- Eating for Victory–which is a book made from reproduction war leaflets produced during WW2 in Great Britain by the Ministry of Food.
Tea Time Too
Tam: Woo Hoo. I’m going to order mine today! I see from your recent blog posts that you are always trying new tea shops. How does this fit into a rations diet, or not? I’ve been toying with the idea of hosting a WWII rations tea party as I love to host themed teas. Do you think it could work? I usually give my tea guests a parting gift, any thoughts on what would fit the theme?
Carolyn: I love visiting vintage style tea shops. Now that I allow myself the occasional day off, I’ve come to realise that I have to be able to eat mostly 1940s to be successful but also incorporate some modern eating sometimes, too. I don’t beat myself up about these things anymore.
I think a WWII rations tea party would be wonderful. If that was me, I think a fabulous gift would be for your guests to take home their vintage tea cup. I buy mine from charity stores for just a few dollars. Alternatively, why not give them a replica ration book or print off some wartime recipes and make them into a mini pamphlet. Might be fun!
Tam: I love that idea. I try to find vintage tea cups in our charity (called thrift shops here), but I don’t think they’re quite as easy to find as there. I have found a few, though.
Have you experimented much with a victory garden. I had a nice one going in California, but when we moved to Texas I was overwhelmed with the clay soil and the giant bugs–seriously big bugs eating my squash and tomatoes. How would a traditional victory garden fit into your rations diet? Any personal experience and or advice?
Carolyn: I have no garden, now. I once used to have a small farm and loved growing a lot of our own food. I wish for those days again. My advice would be to grow heirloom type veggies that are used to your local climate and are known for cropping well.
Music, Movies, and Vintage Fashion
Tam: Ah, great advice. In my newish town (I moved to a small Texas town six years ago), I’ve struggled with some of the veggies because of the hot summers and the crazy bugs!
Switching gears, what are some of your favorite songs from the vintage era and why? Most of mine are ones I can jitterbug to and I’m nutty for swinging a wing. I love most of Anita O’Day’s songs especially with Gene Krupa and Roy Eldridge. Of course I can’t forget Cab Calloway’s, Everybody Eats When They Come to My House.
Tam: Thank you. I’m not familiar with Vera Lynn and Run Rabbit Run, sounds fun, too, but I love Artie Shaw’s version of Long Way to Tippeary! And who doesn’t love Billie Holiday. One of my faves is, What a Little Moonlight Can Do.
Any fave movies or go-to movies for fashion inspiration? As a young girl I was in love with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and in high school, I really started to thrift shop and pick out what I called Doris Day dresses. It became a life-long passion for me. At what age did you develop your interest in vintage fashion?
Carolyn: I’ve always felt too fat to wear vintage clothes, being over 280 lbs, but I’ve REALLY wanted to wear vintage dresses and clothing for about 15 years now. Last year I set myself a goal of slimming into the biggest vintage dress I could get my hands on and proudly wore it to a wonderful homefront re-enactment weekend at Rufford Abbey here in the UK. It was too tight, BUT it felt absolutely wonderful to get dressed up.
Tam: Congratulations. After having kids, I seem to go up and down the scale, which limits my vintage choices. I read you are a mother of three? I’m a mother of two. When my kids were little, I would sew matching outfits for my daughter, son, and myself (my hubby was in the Navy and was often away at sea). Did you dress your kids in vintage, too? What do they think about it now?
Carolyn: My children are all very much grown up, two are in their 20’s. I never dressed them specifically vintage when they were younger, but I think if I had young children now I definitely would! Too many adorable outfits! I have my eye on several 1940s style dresses I’d love to wear, but I have set my goal to buy them when I get below 200 lbs. I do love the colour and style of the 1940s vintage style dress I wore to Rufford Abbey… I think the colour went well with my grey hair!
Tam: You looked smashing! I love the color and style, too. I find 40s fashions fit and flatter women’s bodies more than modern clothing. Of course, I love you sharing your sewing journey with us, too! The apron pattern you’re working of is adorable!
Carolyn: I have to be honest here and say I don’t read much fiction as most of my time is taken reading cook books!!! But I did particularly enjoy a book I read not long ago called Nella Last’s War, The Second World War Diaries of Housewife 49. It’s a brilliant glimpse into the real life experiences on the home-front during WW2 here in Britain. I would really like to expand into trying some WW2 themed fiction books though.
Tam: I’ll put Nella on my list! I’ll read just about anything, but too, have an affinity for cookbooks. In some way, for me, they’re like reading bedtime stories. There’s something comforting and cozy about them, and I often find myself reading them in bed or in the bath.
Carolyn, thanks for spending so much time with us today and sharing your knowledge and passion. WWII rations, here I come!
Did you know about WWII rations during the war? Have you ever tried any WWII rations recipes? What’s your favorite dish to make? Does diet fit into your vintage lifestyle? Do you have any tips for losing weight, cooking healthy, or being thrifty? Do you have any WWII historical fiction books you could recommend to me and Carolyn?
Tam Francis is a writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page