The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Available February 23, 2021

Jennifer grew up in the British countryside with a penchant for climbing trees and a wonderful grandmother who told her hilarious stories about the Second World War.

As an adult, she became a nonfiction book editor, first editing politics and economics at The Economist Books, and then moving on to the BBC, DK, and other publishers, editing books on health, cooking, wine, and history.

All this time, though, she harbored a longing to share her grandmother’s stories about the war, and so she embarked on an MA in fiction at Johns Hopkins University. The novel that she wrote while there–The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir–became a National Bestseller.

Jennifer’s second novel, The Spies of Shilling Lane, is based on the story of a twinkly-eyed old lady she interviewed about the war. The lady had worked for the British spy agency, MI5, defying her mother who instructed her to find a wealthy husband.

Please visit Jennifer’s website for more information and free giveaways.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“The BBC radio program The Kitchen Front was a daily show established in 1940 to share wartime recipes and cooking tips with housewives and cooks.” Jennifer Ryan’s The Kitchen Front serves up a delicious helping of comfort food between the covers of her latest novel. A peek into the kitchens of villagers in Fenley Village, England, as the cooks and housewives manage to feed their families on weekly rations is a welcome relief from the “battle front”.  

When the “chaps in charge” at the BBC decide The Kitchen Front radio show needs a woman’s voice or a co-presenter, a local contest is devised to find a voice to connect with the listeners and raise ratings. Jennifer Ryan lovingly brings readers into the lives of the four unlikely contestants: #1-Mrs. Audrey Landon-recent widower, mother to her three sons, and fabulous cook according to her late artist husband; #2 Lady Gwendoline Strickland-married to a “pompous toad,” lives at Fenley Village Hall with her own kitchen staff; deals with her husband and childhood baggage. #3-Mrs. Quince, aging famous cook & baker throughout the county and her shy, stuttering assistant Miss Nell Brown-staff in Fenley Hall kitchen! #4-Zelda Dupont- trained at the Cordon-Bleu, recently relocated to Fenley Village after a stint at London’s prestigious Dartington Hotel, now involuntarily, the head chef at the Fenley Pie Factory canteen. An impressive line-up.

Between the “bully beef,” Spam, and hints on sugar replacements readers become sous chefs in each contestant’s kitchen as the monthly contest rounds begin. Ryan’s division of the novel into Starters, Main Course, & Desserts keeps the “contest audience” apprised of exciting or bewildering behind the scenes events as life in Fenley Village unfolds. The contestants’ presentations with Ambrose Hart’s tasting comments, judging and scoring adds a delectable spice to the novel. Taking advantage of opportunities and making the best of the pitfalls in everyday life with rationing in 1942 are crucial ingredients in “today’s special” wartime treat. Cooking Tip:  a “dash” of sibling rivalry, abuse & childhood neglect is laced into The Kitchen Front.  

Chef’s Note: From an extensive “reading menu”: This order comes with sides of vegetable gardening, bee keeping & berry picking; topped off with an after-dinner guide to grieving, forgiving and new beginnings!

 The Kitchen Front scores a 10/10 in the “Must Read” Category.

WWII Food Rationing Begins

After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States instituted rationing. Sugar was the first food item to be rationed (starting in May 1942), but coffee, processed and canned foods, meat, cheese, and butter, oils, and fats were also rationed at various times between 1942 and 1945.

To buy rationed food items, families needed to present their grocer with the correct stamps from their government-issued rationing books—in addition to paying the cost of the product. But having enough rationing stamps didn’t guarantee they would be able to purchase an item, since local and national shortages limited availability of certain foods. More information here:

Food rationing was such a part of American life during World War II that it’s easy to find wartime recipes and tips in newspapers from that period.

This roll recipe from 1942, for example, calls attention to their reduced amount of sugar.

Sun, May 31, 1942 – Page 14 · The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) ·

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