For many of us in Australia, the day to day lives of those who lived in London during the Second World War are rather hazy. Caroline has shed light on how it was to be living with the ever present threat of running to a bomb shelter and the difficulty in finding enough food to eat. In this Historical Fiction, she explores what it is like to be Maggie, a young woman who has lost her love, and who has a passion to cook for others.
Maggie works in the kitchen of a large factory providing food for the workers. When the call comes out from the Ministry of Food for people to open their own kitchens, Maggie applies for the position, having found a site and some co- workers to help. The red tape she has to go through slows things down, but she is eventually accepted, and food deliveries are arranged. After the enormous task of cleaning up the site and adding her own personal touches, Maggie is finally ready to serve up the menu that the Ministry has suggested. Although rather boring, the provisions she is given restrict her ability to be creative with her cooking.
As the Kitchen begins to develop, and the workers learn to cope with new demands, Robbie, a twelve year old boy, becomes close to Maggie, and she supports him. He is waiting for his father to come home from the Navy, and doesn’t want to leave the dock area in case he misses his Dad. Janek is a Polish man who has fled Europe, and still keeps in touch with the Polish Resistance. He begins a garden for Maggie, growing some herbs and vegetables, adding to her staple menus. Many factory workers and busy people come to the kitchen to get a little taste of well cooked food, and some rare vegetables. However this causes friction with the Ministry representative who insists that Maggie sticks to the menus issued.
There are many problems to overcome and developing relationships to nurture. This is indeed a snapshot of life in London in 1941 during World War 2. The wonderful Chapter Markers are excerpts from the Ministry of Food war cookery leaflets. They give a great sense of the time and help to understand the food shortages. “Chapter Eighteen begins … Dishes using cooked vegetables should , as far as possible, be served with a fresh salad or a serving of freshly cooked greens to make up for the Vitamin C lost in cooking or reheating.” Another authentic touch is the recipes included at the end of the story. There is “Mutton Stew, Offal Pie, Liver and Sausage Hotpot, and Turnip Top Salad”, to name a few.
Woven into this story is a mystery of Maggie’s missing mother. There are many threads to the story to keep our interest, but none of them are fully developed. However this is an interesting angle from which to view London, with food always revealing much about the times and society who consume it.
|Publisher||Allen & Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen & Unwin|