Friday [Saturday] June 1st. The glorious first of June.
If a nations decadency be proportional to the amount the individuals thereof wash themselves, we must be the most rotten branch of a very decadent nation, for lately we have not even been able to get the German substitute for soap; so that washing nowadays is a long and painful business, and we have to be always doing it to keep anything like clean.
On account of their being cut off from many parts of the world, the Germans are short of a good many important things, and have invented many clever substitutes to take their place
Tea. I’ve head of as much as 25/- being paid to a Russian orderly for a lb. of tea. The tea commonly used here is made from the dried leaves of a type of mint.
Tobacco. Is only obtained in small quantity and is very dear. All sorts of poor Dutch Tobacco is smoked and cost 2/6 for a couple of ounces. Dried mint, and dandelion leaves is smoked, and various blends of all sorts.
Coffee. is a brew made from either some product of acorns, or from burnt barley.
Soap. The best costs 5/- an ounce and lathers poorly. Various cheap substitutes consist of fine whiting, coloured and perfumed. Today we got (June 1) a tablet of brown substitute marked 93 KA. SEIFE which looks like a soap, can be cut, lathers well, and looks to me rather like palm oil soap.
Leather is very scarce. A good pair of field boots costs £10-£12. We could sell a pair of Tommy’s ankle boots for £5. Most goods made previously from leather are now made from papier maché (e.g. my suitcase). Poor boots are made of the same thing, usually with wooden soles. You can hear the children when they come out of school with their hundreds of wooden soled boots on the asphalt.
White Bread Is not unobtainable, since white flour is used in white lard cakes, in soup, and in pancakes. Rye is largely grown in preference to wheat, since they say that rye bread (black bread) is more nutritious than white bread, and all classes eat it. There are various types of black bread, all of which I have had at times. The darkest, and coarsest is the kind eaten by the arm, and, to an English palate, quite the worst, and most sour tasting. It is said to be the most nutritious, and probably is so.
The Officers’ bread is equally dark, but better baked, of finer flour, and the crust has a fine glossy brown crust on it.
The Civilians bread is not quite so nutritious I believe. It is lighter in colour, due to an admixture of potato I believe; and is better tasting to our palates. We eat this now.
Wheaten bread, I have seen but not eaten. It is supplied in some hospitals to patients on light diet.
The amount of bread a man gets here depends on what he does. The army get all they want. A working man gets a certain amount. We get a little less than ½lb. a day.
Sugar: is rationed here to ½lb. a month.
Considerably more is grown I believe, but exported in exchange for certain scarce imports.
In 1916, when everything else was so short here, sugar was very plentiful. Since then beet growing has given place somewhat to other things.
Fat is used entirely for food, which is why soap is unobtainable.
Cocoa. Is unobtainable.
Cheese. The two chief sorts I have had here are Limburger, a very strong smelling , but a good tasty cheese; and goats milk cheese, a good cheese but not so tasty.
Sardines in oil are expensive, costing 3/6 a tin.
At Rastatt however we got tins at 1/6 each; each tin had been punctured however, the olive oil drained out, and bouillon put in and the tin re-closed.
Potatoes, here in Bavaria, at least, are very plentiful, but strictly rationed, and the balance sent to Prussia.
Given a big 2 kilo loaf each to last 10 days. Today is the first day, but some of us have already devoured considerably more than a tenth.