'HAVE YOU EVER EATEN CAT?"

  Yes.

It was during W.W.II when I lived in The Netherlands and we were occupied by the Germans.

After the failed Operation Market Garden (Battle of the Bridge of Arnhem) on 17 Sep 1944 the area of the four large cities Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and my hometown of Utrecht were closed off. No civilian traffic out or in; no food coming in from the farm region.

Food and commodities already were very scarce. We were on 450 calories a day. In November there was no water, no gas, no electricity, no salt, no soap - nothing.   We stole trees from parks and far outlying areas to burn in a little cast iron stove ("pot kachel").   We were rationed to a sugarbeet a week.   We had coupons for margarine or butter but there wasn't any. We stood from curfew to curfew in line at the greengrocer in the hope of getting some potatoes and maybe a cabbage.

Tiny city gardens were put into use to raise vegetables, though seeds were scarce (and the know-how of us city slickers was nil). We had a chicken, that didn't lay eggs as we had hoped, and when we finally cooked her it was really a tough old bird. We also had a rabbit, by the name of "Japikske", that we had to keep in the house because it would be stolen.

My neighbor, the bank-official, I caught stealing my other chicken. Then Christmas came and through the black-market bartering system my mother obtained a "rabbit".

We had just gone 15 miles in the woods to cut a tree, just mother and I, (best time to do that was during air raids, because the woods were part of a German encampment and they would sit in their bunkers while we cut a tree down) so we were able to cook it.  It did not look much like rabbit, but there was no tail and no head, mother had some wine left which had been doused over the meat while cooking. For salt she used some old lavender bath salts, rinsed once. I remember it was a nice meal. Only later were my suspicions confirmed.   It was a cat, female.   Mother wisely had not bought a tomcat, they taste bad.

After that the food situation became so deplorable we were eating food that was cooked in a central kitchen ("Gaarkeuken").   Every noon I had to go out with my pan  to get a scoop of something that looked either red or green.
They alternated the red and green though, that was nice.   I liked the green best - I presume it was something like peasoup minus the meat. The red was red cabbage.

Since I was on a convalescence list (had diphtheria) and for other reasons to be told in another story, I was allowed to eat once a week in the Protestant church (that was always cabbage and potatoes) and twice a week in the Catholic church.   I remember their food was good, sauerkraut with potatoes and if you were lucky you would find a piece of bacon rind.   You could suck on that for hours.




From "Fragments of My Life"
~ 1939 - 1945 ~ WW II
Holland
by Henny Carlisle
©Henny Carlisle - 2002
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