11 Nov 2010

Things To Remember

Yesterday, I shared with you my most ridiculous and self-indulgent blog post ever (although I'm sure I'll best it before you know it - I have a knack for acting like a twit). Now, I'm awkwardly switching gears to touch on something completely different and not nearly as idea inspiring absurd as Patrick's Man Cage.

Today in Commonwealth countries and the Netherlands, we recognize Remembrance Day. In the U.S., it's Veteran's Day and in France, it's Armistice Day. In Germany, it's We Really Can't Be Trusted With Right-Wing Leadership Day. Aw, I kid, Germany. I like you .... now.**

**(Edited to say: Ack - I just don't have the heart / balls / other anatomical feature to leave that joke hanging there like that today. In all seriousness, the average German person was just as much a victim of expansionism and fascism and runaway government power as the rest of the world. I genuinely don't want to belittle that fact or appear like an ignorant dick. "Too late, Jen," said the masses.)

[Back to serious ...]

It was 92 years ago today that World War I - "the war to end war"- was officially over. As a society, we seem to be very good at coming up with catchy slogans and unfortunately very bad at living up to them. The estimated 55 Million people who died in World War II alone (which started just 21 years after World War I ended) is sad proof of this.

Today we think about and honour our fallen, those who served and those who still serve. They deserve our respect and reflection not just today, but every day.

This is not a pro-war sentiment. If anything, facing the grim reality of war should act as a deterrent for violent aggression of any kind. War should not be romanticized. It is not Andrews Sisters songs or handsome uniforms or brightly coloured flags. While we often see true examples of courage, determination and loyalty in the midst of it, war is a story of death and despair. It is brutally efficient in its ability to rip apart families, maim the body and spirit, and destroy human potential in ways we can never measure. We'll never know what marvelous possible inventions, cures, ideas, inspiring words, works of art and moments of happiness were stamped out with all those precious lives - military and civilian.

I'm reminded of this fact by some of my books (and no, I'm not thinking of all those cookbooks I have that could all basically share the title of Good Housekeeping's Book of Why We Now Have Food Stylists). Second in size to my shelf of 1950s housewife-focused material, is my collection of books and publications produced for the British and North American war wives of the 1940s.

Every one of these is amazing and interesting and worth sharing, but one especially stands out for me today.

They Can't Ration These
was written by Vicomte De Mauduit, a food enthusiast who considered himself a "wandering nobleman" and enjoyed life in France, England and America. Originally printed in 1940 (mine's a reprint), the book details all the ways a person can find unexpected food and fuel sources available in the wilds and country-side. With food and fuel scarcities being real problems for the people of wartime Britian (an issue that often fell on the shoulders of wives and mothers to resolve), Vicomte De Mauduit's tips on identifying and cooking things like wild grasses, roots and birds and information regarding which types of bark, plants and forest material could keep a fire going best may have saved, or at least, bettered countless lives when in the hands of industrious women. He even showed people how to have a little cheer, with tips on making homemade wines, beer and the odd beauty product.

Vicomte De Mauduit was a person of greater stature than the average war wife and likely didn't always have the same concerns and needs that she did. And yet, he used his resources during this difficult time to get such a book out to her. Along with attempting to show others how they could fulfill their basic needs, Vicomte De Mauduit was also inspired to promote a sense of optimism of the future and better days, a time in which he hoped this information could continue to help people. In the book's preface, he says:

During the war [this book] will serve to relieve some of the strain on the nations' food supply and will teach those of us who will turn to the country-side for immunity from direct war destruction how to maintain life in the case of difficulties with regard to the carriage and distribution of food.

And when Peace will again come on Earth, the people of Britain, already made conscious through food rationing that meals no longer consist of a hot and then cold "joint with two veg", will find this book a practical and valuable guide to better things.
The little boost of cheer given by Vicomte De Mauduit is sharply flattened by news on the book's inside flap:

Vicomte De Mauduit wrote four cookery books, THEY CAN'T RATION THESE (1940) being the last. He is believed to have been captured by the Nazis after the Fall of France and to have died in Germany.
It makes your stomach flop to read that. He became another brilliant soul snuffed out (we presume, it's horrible that we don't even know for sure what happened to him) just like millions of other brilliant souls the world never had a chance to know to begin with.

And so, today, as we honour our soldiers present and past, consider taking a moment to also think about the other victims of war and the larger impact it has on our collective being. We owe it to our troops, the memories of those before us and the future of those ahead to think about this every time someone in a position of power attempts to rally a battle cry. Thinking about whether it is worth the cost - the real cost - is the very least we can do.

[I promise, my next post will be more cheery than this ... unless it's about a JELL-O salad, in which case, I apologize in advance for the depressing turn this blog has made.]

Image Sources: They Can't Ration These by Vicomte De Mauduit; Veterans Affairs Canada; Persephone Books

2 comments:

Anonymous,  3:00 pm, November 11, 2010  

Well said.(and no, you're not an ignorant dick - far from it.).

Crystal,  10:01 pm, November 11, 2010  

Thank your for writing this. I am an army wife who is proud of her husband's service. I am, however, also very wary of those who would throw him in harm's way without just cause. He doesn't get a choice in what wars he fights in. I don't get a choice. The decision to go to war should never be about money or vengeance, but what is right and necessary.

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