Wilfred Owen died on 4th November 1918, just one week before the armistice. He had wanted to be a poet prior to the war, but after he had almost drowned in mud, held a dugout in an advanced position, seen comrades blinded and killed, been treated for shell shock and been awarded the Military Cross, he had the subject matter to match his talent and ensure his reputation.
Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds,—
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved—still warm—too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?
Food in the trenches consisted mainly of bully (corned) beef, and stews.
Soldiers relied upon packages from home for any extras, such as chocolate.
Trench cake was a popular present. The recipe uses no eggs (as they would have been in short supply) and was republished recently to encourage people, and school children in particular, to try it out.
The measurements were given in pounds and ounces, so I have also included modern equivalents which keep the same ratios.
My cake didn't rise as much as a modern one would do, so I was relieved to see other efforts online which were all of a similar height.
½lb (220g) plain flour
4oz (110g) margarine, cut into small pieces
3oz (85g) brown sugar
2tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ginger
grated rind of 1 lemon
Grease and flour a cake tin.
Rub the margarine into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar, currants, cocoa, nutmeg, ginger and lemon rind. Stir all together well.
Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and vinegar, and add this to the dry ingredients.
Mix everything together.
Place in the cake tin.
Bake in a moderate oven (180°C/ 350°F/ Gas 4) for about an hour and a half.
Allow to cool a little, then turn out of the tin and allow to cool fully.
CHEESE AND LENTIL SPREAD
It did not specify which type of lentils to use, so I picked red lentils as they are the easiest to cook.
8oz (225g) cheese, grated
5½oz (155g) red lentils
3oz (85g) breadcrumbs
4oz onions, chopped finely
1tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Rinse the lentils and then place in a pan with about 100ml water. Add the onion. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, adding a little more water halfway through if required.
Place all the other ingredients in a bowl.
When the lentils are soft and have absorbed the water, take off the heat.
Add them to the bowl and mix well to make a paste.
I have served it here with bread, which would make it more special, as bread had become a luxury item.
This is where the recipe ends. However, as I was making it, I realised that the ingredients were very similar to those for a cheese and lentil loaf bake. So, I thought that it would be even more of a treat for Wilfred if I made him one of those:
CHEESE AND LENTIL LOAF BAKE
Ingredients as above + 1 egg.
Add the egg to the mix.
Grease and line a loaf tin and pour in the mixture.
Bake at Gas 5/ 190°C/ 375°F for about 50 minutes.
Wait a few minutes, then turn out onto a plate.
I allowed it to cool, cut it into slices and served it with some fresh salad.
For an alternative First World War themed meal, see Zelda's choice for Baldrick.