Wartime salmon souf­flé

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, food was ra­tioned and home cooks had to make the most of what they had

Times Colonist - - Life - ERIC AKIS In Our Back­yard Eric Akis is the author of eight cook­books, in­clud­ing seven in his Ev­ery­one Can Cook se­ries. His columns ap­pear in the Life sec­tion Wed­nes­day and Sun­day.

For Re­mem­brance Day, I thought it would be in­ter­est­ing to wind back the clock and look at how food ra­tioning af­fected what Cana­di­ans cooked and ate dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

One great place to find in­for­ma­tion on that topic is the Wartime Canada web­site, wartime­canada.ca. Its cre­ators say Wartime Canada was en­vi­sioned as a way to make the vis­ual her­itage of the na­tion at war avail­able in dig­i­tal form.

In a part of that web­site called Eat­ing, you’ll find dig­i­tally archived, food-re­lated pub­li­ca­tions and doc­u­ments from and about the war years, such as books, ar­ti­cles, pam­phlets and menus, which you can open and read.

In an es­say ti­tled Food on the Home Front dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, author and his­to­rian Ian Mosby notes that dur­ing the war, many of our gov­ern­ment’s food poli­cies re­volved around the need to feed Canada’s over­seas al­lies and sol­diers. That par­tic­u­larly came into fo­cus af­ter the fall of France in June 1940, when Cana­dian food ex­ports pro­vided an es­sen­tial life­line to Bri­tain.

Nu­tri­tious, sus­tain­ing food for the mil­i­tary and those sup­port­ing them was deemed an es­sen­tial “weapon of war.” In Canada, to en­sure enough was avail­able, folks at home were asked to do more with less.

Among a range of ini­tia­tives, food ra­tioning was in­tro­duced and adults were given coupon books that al­lowed them to ob­tain lim­ited amounts of cer­tain foods that were scarce, such as sugar and meat. Those coupons were a way to en­sure ev­ery­one got a fair share of what was avail­able.

Al­though some women, of course, were di­rectly en­gaged in the war, it was the ones back in Canada tak­ing care of their fam­i­lies that were the fo­cus of the let’s-do-more-with-less ini­tia­tives.

You get a sense of how se­ri­ously they took up that chal­lenge in a book called How to Eat Well Though Ra­tioned: Wartime Can­ning and Cook­ing Book, pub­lished in 1943 and edited by Josephine Gib­son.

In its in­tro­duc­tion, it points out that while Cana­dian men were on the march, so were Cana­dian women, as home­mak­ers adapted to changes in the kitchen.

While gov­ern­ments worked to en­sure sol­diers had nu­tri­tious food, home­mak­ers were also strongly en­cour­aged to pre­pare nu­tri­tious foods for their fam­i­lies. That’s re­flected in a sec­tion of the book called Keep­ing Your Fam­ily Fit in Wartime.

Ar­gu­ing that a true pa­triot is a healthy one, the book calls on Cana­di­ans to keep them­selves and their fam­i­lies fit and well in wartime as a civic duty. It says only healthy peo­ple can work hard, do their jobs bet­ter and help win the war sooner.

That book and a wide range of oth­ers sources, such as gov­ern­ment hand­outs, pro­vided use­ful in­for­ma­tion on what foods avail­able were nu­tri­tious and why.

A book pub­lished by the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion in 1940 called Food for Health in Peace and War calls on Cana­di­ans to eat cer­tain amounts of “pro­tec­tive” foods ev­ery day, in­clud­ing milk and milk prod­ucts, po­ta­toes and other veg­eta­bles, whole-grain breads and ce­re­als, raw fruits and canned toma­toes, and pro­tein sources such as eggs, meat and fish.

The book ad­vised that it was pos­si­ble pro­tect your health at low cost by eat­ing the less ex­pen­sive foods in those groups. Cook­books pub­lished dur­ing the war of­fered recipes us­ing bud­get-friendly foods such as or­gan meats and ground beef, al­though in lim­ited amounts.

For ex­am­ple, I found a wartime recipe for beef up­side down pie that served four. To make it, 1/2 pound of ground beef, a two-ounce serv­ing per per­son, is cooked with onion and canned tomato soup, topped with a sim­ple pas­try and baked. To serve, por­tions of the pie are in­verted on a plate, hence the name “up­side down” pie.

As noted, sugar was also ra­tioned dur­ing the war and cook­books at that time of­fered ways to re­duce its use.

One pub­li­ca­tion called Wartime Sugar Savers, is­sued by the Cana­dian Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, of­fered nu­mer­ous ways to do that. Those in­cluded serv­ing fresh and canned fruits for dessert, sweet­en­ing pud­dings with leftover canned fruit syrup, mak­ing cakes with­out frost­ings and re­duc­ing sugar by two ta­ble­spoons when mak­ing baked desserts.

Dur­ing the war, Cana­dian food com­pa­nies of­fered recipes for eco­nom­i­cal meals. An ex­am­ple is this ver­sion of a salmon souf­flé recipe that ap­peared in the Hal­i­fax Her­ald in 1944.

I found that recipe reprinted in a book pub­lished in 2005 by Rose­mary Neer­ing, called The Cana­dian Housewife: An Af­fec­tion­ate His­tory. That book has an in­ter­est­ing chap­ter on how women coped dur­ing the war years.

Above the recipe it says that dur­ing the war, canned salmon was in short sup­ply and this dish pro­vided a way to stretch one’s ra­tion. It cer­tainly did that, as it yielded five serv­ings and only used one can of salmon.

I up­dated the recipe to in­clude such things as the cur­rent size of canned salmon avail­able, and what size of pan to use. If you try it, re­mem­ber this is a very hum­ble wartime recipe. It’s def­i­nitely not a fancy souf­flé made with rich béchamel and tons of eggs that soars ma­jes­ti­cally above the pan when baked.

But when times are lean, I could see that it would taste pretty darn good, per­haps served with some gar­den-grown veg­eta­bles or a sim­ple salad. Salmon Souf­flé

This recipe is an up­dated ver­sion of one pub­lished in the Hal­i­fax Her­ald in 1944. It was de­signed to help stretch one’s ra­tion of canned salmon dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

Prepa­ra­tion time: 20 min­utes Cook­ing time: 40 to 50 min­utes Makes: five serv­ings

1 (213 gram) can salmon (see Note 1) 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 Tbsp chopped pars­ley 1/4 tsp ground black pep­per 2 stalks cel­ery, finely chopped (see Note 2) 2 large eggs, sep­a­rated 1/2 cup milk

Pre­heat oven to 325 F. Thor­oughly grease a 10-by-8-inch or sim­i­lar-sized pan (or casse­role) and set aside (see Note 3).

Place salmon in a bowl and flake into small pieces. Mix in salt, pars­ley, pep­per and cel­ery.

Place the eggs yolks in a sec­ond bowl and beat un­til as light and thick as you can get them. Whisk in the milk.

In a third bowl, beat the egg whites un­til stiff peaks form. Very gen­tly fold the egg whites into the yolk mix­ture un­til just com­bined. Care­fully fold in the salmon mix­ture un­til just com­bined, do­ing so gen­tly so you don’t de­flate the egg whites.

Turn the mix­ture into the pan (or casse­role), then cover with foil. Set the pan in a 13-by-9-inch bak­ing dish that has an inch or so of hot wa­ter in it. (This wa­ter bath will help the souf­flé cook evenly.) Bake souf­flé in the mid­dle of the oven for 40 to 50 min­utes, or un­til eggs are set.

Note 1: I used pink salmon. To en­sure the souf­flé was as light as pos­si­ble, I drained the salmon well and squeezed the ex­cess mois­ture out of it be­fore flak­ing it.

Note 2: Be sure you finely chop the cel­ery or it will sink in the souf­fle. To finely chop each stalk, cut them length­wise into sev­eral thin strips. Thinly cut those strips, three or four at a time, width­wise, into small pieces.

Note 3: The orig­i­nal recipe did not say what to grease the pan with. I used a bit of soft but­ter. eakis@times­colonist.com

The recipe for this salmon souf­flé was de­vel­oped dur­ing the Sec­ond World War and de­signed to stretch one’s ra­tion of canned B.C. salmon.

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