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Family and friends congratulating the Ackles on the birth of their twins, Arrow Rhodes & Zeppelin Bram Ackles | 02.12.2016 |

The Turnip Winter 

Pictured - Food for pigs.

In Britain and France in 1917, government was beginning to prepare citizens for a day when they needed less food. Most production went to the front or had been re-tooled for the war effort, leaving homeowners with less to eat. Propaganda posters told citizens to eat slower and less. “Complete Victory - If You Eat Less Bread” promised one. British bakers received permission to add potato flour to bread in late 1917, and French bread had long since become grey, soggy stuff. Britain also feared submarine warfare that would cut off its huge food imports from the colonies and South America. But the western Allies’ food troubles paled in comparison to what Germans and Austrians suffered.

The Royal Navy’s blockade had cut Germany off from almost all imports since the beginning of the war. By 1917 Germans were literally starving. In September 1915 a German Zeppelin crew dropped a hambone on a parachute into London, with a note saying “A gift from starved-out Germany”. By 1917, even Berliners were done joking about it.

A rainy autumn in 1916 rotted European potato crops. Many other staples had been imported before the war rather than produced in Germany, up to 20% of its foodstuffs, now all blocked up. And many of the rationed foods that remained had become so prohibitively expensive that only the rich could afford them on the black market. That winter of 1917, turnips were the only food available in large supply. Germans would forever remember that season as “the Turnip Winter” of 1917.

On a good day, a German might have only a few pieces of bread (butter was long gone), a thin soup of mostly turnips, with about 50g of cheese and meat each. The meat was likely to be horse or dog. Cream was only obtainable on a doctor’s prescription. Even some of the things that remained, like coffee, were ersatz food items, made of other things. Bread had flour made from peas, beans, usually with sawdust added in. Rice lamb chops and vegetable steaks might fill in for meat, while coffee was made from roast nuts flavored with coal tar (and later, from acorns or beech nuts, and finally from the ubiquitous turnip). Pepper might be “stretched “with ashes, eggs with maize and potatoes. In late 1918, even this ersatz food would be gone, and even soldiers on the battlefield reduced to actual starvation.