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Molly at the Kitchen Front

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For a week in 1942, a Swansea housewife became the centre of media attraction in wartime Britain. Morfydd (Molly) Jeffreys from Dunvant was one of 24 women selected from all over the country to share her knowledge and experience of cooking with the rest of the nation. At the age of 33 Molly was taken to London, her first visit to the city, to advise the experts at the Ministry of Food in how to get the best from the stringent food rationing that was in place at the time.

This was no mere publicity stunt. The Ministry was acutely aware that it was experiencing problems in getting across the message of how to cope with food rationing. Throughout the War considerable effort was made to educate people in sensible cooking and careful use of their food rations. Such education was an essential cornerstone of the food rationing system. If it was to work correctly, people had to have confidence in rationing. Officials in the Ministry were clever enough to realise that women like Molly held the key to getting the message across because of the way in which they coped with restrictions and rationing on a daily basis whilst still feeding their families.

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British wartime food rationing started on 8 January 1940 although preparations had been made before the War had begun. Both British and German governments quickly realised that the quickest way to defeat Britain was to attack British food imports as they came across the Atlantic. 1940 saw the start of a bitter trade war in the North Atlantic as German U-boats attacked merchant convoys bringing food and vital supplies from America.

Although not all foods were rationed there was sufficient restriction to make food preparation difficult without careful thought and planning. The practical skills of women such as Molly had been developed over many years of coping with lean times in the depression (particularly in South Wales) so they were particularly well placed to cope with rationing when it was imposed. The Ministry of Food realised that such skill and knowledge was a vital asset in what would be called the ‘Kitchen Front’.

Central to the drive and energy of the Ministry of Food was its chief, Lord Woolton. Frederick Marquis had become Lord Woolton in 1939, in April 1940 he became head of the Ministry of Food and responsible for the feeding of over 40m British citizens. Woolton was a powerful administrator and he quickly surrounded himself with an able and effective team. The country was divided into nineteen areas of control with further layers of administration which mirrored the existing local government areas. However Woolton was a sufficient visionary to realise that his administrative machine would be worthless without the active support and goodwill of housewives such as Molly. (Continued)

Below: Lord Woolton with Molly at a British Restaurant (specialised canteen) in October 1942.

Molly talking to lord Woolton at a British Restaurant in October 1942.

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Molly's story continued


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