myFM: Remembrance Day

by Lianne Phillipson November 10, 2021

myFM: Remembrance Day

Wartime foods needed to pack a nutrient punch, but really, any food was good food back then. With rationing in full swing from 1918 when the British government tried to stave off food shortages. Food was prioritized to the troops, and farmers and manufacturers were obligated to supply military needs that created food shortages for consumers.Posters proclaimed: “Do with less, so they’ll have enough”.

The bulk of their diet in the trenches wascanned corned beef, bread and biscuits. By the winter of 1916 flour was in such short supply that bread was being made with dried ground turnips. The main food became pea-soup with a few lumps of horsemeat. Soldiers' meat rations were reduced, and later on in the war they only atemeat once every nine days.


Spam is probably the most famous wartime food. Invented in Minnesota in 1937 by Jay Hormel, who wanted a convenient canned meat, Spam spread across the globe in the rations of soldiers during World War II. The military purchased more than 150 million pounds of Spam, although Hormelreceived hate mailfrom soldiers who couldn’t stand the stuff.

Instant coffee

Although the first version of instant coffee was invented around 1771 in Britain, by World War II instant coffee was incredibly popular with the soldiers. In 1938, Nescafe improved the flavor by co-drying coffee extract along with an equal amount of soluble carbohydrate. Where Nescafe instant coffee took off was not through the ordinary consumer, but through the military. Caffeine consumption on the battlefield provided a much-needed boost, and now this was made much easier with instant coffee.  One year, the entire production from the U.S. Nescafe plant; in excess of one million cases, went solely to the military.  

A couple of foods that came out of this era included: 

After the war, in the 1940s foods born of war shortage, like Twinkies,Hostess made a yellow sponge cake stuffed with bananas, but when wartime bananas were scarce, the cakes were filled with a cheap cream filling. Nutella came from Italian confectioner Pietro Ferrero when he started experimenting with hazelnuts as a way to stretch the cocoa in a delicacy he was already producing, and thus Nutella was born.

Listen to the segment

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

sprout right newsletter