Wartime Baked Rarebit

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The 1918 edition of American Medicine features a special article on wartime field rations. The author compares the rations of various nationalities — the British, the Japanese, and the French, among others — and provides explanation for why certain countries fed their troops well, others poorly.

British Army rations featured 1 1/4 pounds of fresh meat, 1 1/4 pounds of bread, bacon, cheese, vegetables, jam, sugar, butter tea and seasonings.

The Japanese were as well though not as heartily fed as the British. Their rations included such far as pickles, vegetables, smoked meat and sake beer.

The French enjoyed the most lavish rations, receiving almost two pounds of meat, soft bread, field bread, rice, vegetables and coffee. “The French have fully realized that troops in the field require more food than those in the garrison, owing to the fact that in the field they undergo more physical exertion and mental strain,” the author of American Medicine informs us.

The 1918 textbook Food and the War offers a dish for civilians: Baked Rarebit. Though not as toothsome as French field rations, perhaps, it is nonetheless a savory — and economical — dish.

Wartime Baked Rarebit

2 tablespoons small tapioca
1 pint milk
1 egg well beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard
1 cup grated cheese
Pepper or paprika to taste

Put all the ingredients into a baking dish and cook in the oven until quite thick, stirring occasionally.

Serve the rarebit over toast.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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