An Excellent Question: Why?

A reader left an excellent question in the comments, and I decided to cross-post my answer here.

deborah harvey said...
hi, kaintuck!
just found you on 'gorges grouse'. what inspired this experiment in ww II rationing?
is it saving you money?
will look in your past log to see if you already answered my questions.

Hi, Deborah! I'm glad you asked!

My initial interest in the WW2 era was sparked while rehabbing our 1940's house. When we were replacing the windows, my neighbor (who was born in this house) mentioned that his dad had told stories about how he had salvaged the windows from a house being torn down in a nearby town. He couldn't get new building materials because of the lingering effects of the depression and the looming war. But his dad needed a house for his growing family (11 children!) and managed to build one, mostly using the trees and rock on the property...and a handful of prized mis-matched windows.

Then I watched the wonderful BBC show "Wartime Farm". They mentioned that the British were, paradoxically, healthier during rationing than any time before or since. Their historians showed how they coped with shortages, worked together to support the war effort, and yet enjoyed dances and get-togethers. That got me wondering; they had so little (food, resources), were coping with the constant threat of violence, yet they were healthier and seemed to be fairly cheerful during the war? Why?

I look around America today, and we have so much. There is an absolute glut of stuff--food, clothes, huge houses, multiple cars, myriad ways to entertain or distract ourselves--yet we don't seem to be happier or healthier for all the excess. If anything, we seem more miserable as a country. Why?

So I decided to see if,
One: Is it possible to live on wartime rations and not starve to death? Will we be healthier without an unlimited assortment of food?
Two: If entertainments have to be carefully chosen because of rationing, will they mean more or be more satisfying?
Three: Can we live with fewer things--a wartime wardrobe, wartime constrains on buying stuff, wartime curtailment on travel--and still function?
Four: What changes will it make in us? What can we learn from recreating a forcibly pared down lifestyle? Will we be happier? Will we be healthier? Can we survive?

That's what this experiment is all about.

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