Monday, 5 October 2009

Summer/Autumn 1945 How not to keep rabbits

In the summer of 1945 a completely new system of food rationing and allocation of all available foodstuffs was introduced by the American authorities in the Lower Rhine area. The word calories soon became a term everyone was familiar with.

The average inhabitant of the region was entitled to the following quantities - always provided the food was actually available for distribution - per week:

Bread 1 500 grams, Meat 175 grams, Butter 90 grams, Sugar 100 grams, Jam 150 grams,

Various dry foods, such as noodles or rice 250 grams, soft cheese 50 grams

Making a total of about 5 547 calories per week, i.e. 792 calories per day.

Fresh fruit or vegetables were not included; in earlier reminiscences I explained hat these were collected by gleaning, foraging and sometimes stealing.

Meat and fish were hardly ever available, they may have been on the list of allocated foods but in reality they very much remained pie-in-the-sky.

Father had an idea. Father had always liked meat, he missed it badly. Mother and I had not had any for a long time, our health may have been suffering but that was not something mother was overly concerned with. Filling bellies sufficiently to alleviate hunger pangs was more her aim.

Father decided we should keep rabbits; we would collect their food in fields and meadows ourselves, fatten them up and eat them.

A rickety hutch was duly built, a pair of baby rabbits appeared out of the blue, were incarcerated and fed on grass, cabbage leaves (we had plenty of cabbage, we always had cabbage, cabbage was our main source of vitamins and minerals and cabbage made us all look fat and bloated, with huge bellies) and anything else we could find.

The rabbits became my pets. I visited them in the garden whenever I could, fed them by hand, even sharing my food with them, which made mother very cross.

I begged her to let them out occasionally, but she wouldn’t budge. These rabbits were to have no exercise which would lengthen the fattening process.

Soon one of them was pronounced ready for butchering. The problem was, how and by whom. In theory, turning a live rabbit into a dead one, ready for the oven, had seemed to be a simple task; in reality, father just couldn’t do it. His great idea had come to a dead end.

Still, these rabbits were food and destined to be cooked and eaten. So father took Hans (naturally, I had given them names), put him in a sack and took him to a farmer, who, in return for the skin, duly dispatched and cleaned him.

Father came home, handed mother the carcass and she cooked it. It was to be a very special Sunday treat. Despite the wonderful, rare cooking smells pervading the kitchen, the atmosphere was sombre, subdued. I was sitting in the corner, snivelling.

When the meal was dished up, my snivelling turned to howling; I absolutely refused to eat Hans; mother likewise felt herself become queasy; she toyed with a piece but soon pushed it over on to father’s plate. Father was determined to show true grit, he grimly worked his way through his portion and ate mine and mother’s as well.

The next day father took Gretel, the other rabbit away, “to set it free”, he said.

It is more likely that he exchanged it for eggs or butter with someone less squeamish than his own family.


  1. I was 8 years old at this time and I remember my father hunting rabbit in the woods behind our house. I never thought that he was getting it due to the rations etc. Well I will have to check into that. Great post.

  2. friko - i remember my dad telling me a similar story of a pet rabbit raised during the war and eventually revibrated into dinner. the effect on the family was similarly upsetting. steven

  3. Hi Friko: What memories! I recall my mother telling how her father butchered a pig for the family's needs - but her brother had made a pet out of this pig - and refused to ever touch any of the pork meals it provided.

  4. I am chuckling to myself here. I well remember coming home from school to find my 'pet' bantum chicken had been dispatched and cooked for dinner. Yum yum? I don't think so! A x

  5. I enjoyed this post thanks Friko. As a child, my mother lamented the day when her father ate her pet cockle! I'm afraid that being a hard hearted soul I enjoy eating my own home reared (and named) sheep, safe in the knowledge that I know how it hes been reared. But then they aren't really pets!

  6. my nan grew up on a farm and used to prepare her own pigs - we are very sheltered from the reality of where our food comes from - excellent post

  7. QMM - thank you for commenting. I don't know anything about rationing in the US, this was in 45 in Germany.

    Steven - 'revibrating' into dinner. Lovely!

    Bonnie - I thought there might be other tales like mine, what a bunch of softies!

    Wipso - we wouldn't do that, would we?

    Jenny Holden - what is a cockle? okay, I could cope with sheep too.

    Don't Feed The Pixies - you are so right, did you know that all meat comes ready-packed from the supermarket? Presumable it grows on trees?

  8. Hi Friko, I remember feeling very sorry for our Christmas Goose, called Waddy, though it didn't stop me tucking in. I really enjoyed this blog and look forward to hearing more.. what hard times you've lived through.

  9. How humane the members of your family were! It would take someone very cold and inhumane to kill and eat a pet. I grew up on a farm where something or other was always getting butchered. Thank God the pig, lamb, or steer that "belonged" to my sister, brother, and me was sold at auction so the ending wasn't quite so clear. Of course, we do do need meat, so there is the dilemma.

  10. To this day I will not eat rabbit because I had a pet rabbit when I was a child. Now that's squeamish!

  11. I'd be sniveling and howling, too. Honest.

  12. Hearts beat even in hard times

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  13. It makes such a huge difference to read a tale like yours from someone who actually lived through it. When reading your list I was surprised to see that it looks pretty much like a Cuban ration card, only that there are fewer items in ours.

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  14. Nostalgic for me. I recall something very similar when dad decided we should keep chickens as part of our war effort. Collecting the eggs was fine, but eating Gertrude... well, I ask you!

  15. lampworkbeader - you cannibal! thanks for the visit, come again.

    Margaret Pangert - that is the trouble, every bit of meat we eat needs to be killed first.

    Darlene -- Softie!

    Prospero - Are you just saying that to make me feel better?

    Cloudia - Forever, Amen. Aloha to you

    A Cuban in London - even less than that? How do they survive?

    Dave King - no never, glad to find another softie.

  16. Fascinating Friko. I shot a rabbit once as a teenager and managed to butcher it under instruction and even eat it. Could not have managed a pet one though!

  17. Hi friko~ I have two more comments, one on subject and one off:
    on - There's another rabbit story posted today at by Sagittarian. There's a funny video with it; you really have to see this!
    off - Shelia commented to me (right above your comment to me, btw, under Bruce's song) that "I have tried emailing Friko also sending her a comment on her blog but with no luck. I don't know if the blogs work differently in the UK or not." Do you think you could try her again at Please note that her name comes up as Shelia. Thanks!

  18. Oh my, great post! We have 2 rabbits (named Daisy and Gretel) and I have just posted about them too! Our Gretel is a boy and so is Daisy - long story!

  19. elizabethm - shot a rabbit yourself? I even have to look away when gardener aims at the rabbits which are eating my prize plants!

    Margaret - thanks, I replied on your blog.

    The Sagittarian - I've been and looked; the Pythons were great. I forgot to say, tell Margaret the accents are English, except for the one "Scots Git".


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.