Pictures of British coal miners are a bit of genre as October rolls into November of 1946, thanks to Manny Shinwell's abrupt admission that there is going to be a coal shortage this winter. Sincce, while abrupt, it is hardly surprising, the press is ready to comment, and, as I've already noticed, even The Economist manages to get off half-a-zinger about "home fires shivering."
I'd better talk about actual dairy cheese below, because this post just earned a "Cheese" tag.
Unlike Wikipedia articles, it's a bit of typing to paste in an old Economist article, so let's take a minute and admire what people can write in Wikipedia with a straight face:
"Coal had just been nationalized and the supply system collapsed, leaving Britain to freeze and close down. Shinwell denied there were problems and refused to assume responsibility, blaming the climate, the railway system, or capitalism generally. The cabinet had to take control away from him and he became the scapegoat."
That's right. You might, naively, think that the coal shortage problem, which affected the entire European continent, which had been building for years, and which led to the continent importing American coal, was due to there not being enough coal being dug. But, no, it turns out to be because of nationalisation! Disrupting the supply system! (Which wasn't actually nationalised.) If I weren't saving my best "Red scare" graph for the actual "Postblogging Technology, October, Part II" post next week, I'd be tempted to drop it here.
The coal shortage adds another thread of analysis here to add to tractors, agriculture and the manpower concerns of the old Red Army, but I swear there's a coherent story here. To get to it, I think that it is time to follow Lizzie Collingham on her tour of the world's farm countries. Before I launch into that, today's recipe of the week is fried samyat rice, which isn't actually rice. Strictly speaking, it is "Indian barnyard grass," or "Indian barnyard millet," not the very closely related Echinochloa esculenta, or Japanese barnyard grass. The recipe involves fying the milled grain with enough oil and seasonings to submerge the taste of the seed itself. so I think it would adapt. So would, probably, the Japanese approach of making a noodle soup out of them.
At this point, instead of talking further about recipes, I am going to mention just exactly why Japanese barnyard grass is so much appreciated. It is tolerance of cool weather and waterlogged ground, for its abundant tillage, and its high calorie count, and for being a fast-growing crop. In taditional agricultures, this means that it can be sown over a failed cash crop, or as summer cover, but it is not picky about its growing season, so it may do well as a spring crop in northeast Asian monsoon conditions, too. It is not appreciated for its tendency to establish itself as an intractable weed, including in rice paddies. That, in particular, carries the risk of what would be seen as a weed (from the landlord's point of view), being a good way of not dying (from the tenant's point of view.)
These were keen, competing perspectives on agriculture during World War II, an era in which an outsized enthusiasm for mass death developed quite on its own. People don't like dying, so it is interesting to read the data to understand how they contrived to not die. One of the striking things about the whole dying/not dying dichotomy is how much the "dying" crowd managed to undermine their own agendas.