The Food Companions

Cinema and consumption in wartime Britain, 1939–45

By Richard Farmer

The Food Companions

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8313-6
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: August 2011
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Social & cultural history, History, Social & cultural history, History, HISTORY / Military / World War II, ART / Film & Video, The arts / Films, cinema
  • Series: Studies in Popular Culture


The introduction of rationing in January 1940 ensured that food became a central concern for the British people during the Second World War. The food companions investigates the cinema of this period and demonstrates the cultural impact that rationing and food control had on both government propaganda and commercial feature films.

Combining archival research, detailed film analysis, and the extensive use of contemporary documents and resources, this book is the first to fully address the extensive propaganda work of the Ministry of Food both inside and outside the cinema. It also explores the tensions contained in images of communal dining, investigating the role that food played in Gainsborough's narratives of excess and identifying and analysing a cycle of black-market feature films. Lively and illuminating, The food companions will be welcomed by film scholars, historians, students, and anyone who has ever wondered about the important contribution that tea made during the war to shaping ideas of Britishness.


The Food Companions is an outstanding book. It provides a comprehensive and wide-ranging account of food and consumption habits in British society during a time of national crisis. Thoroughly researched, elegantly written, attractively illustrated, and frequently humorous, the book should appeal to scholars interested in cultural, film and social history.


List of illustrations
Note on sources
List of abbreviations
Introduction: This is a film about food!
1. Not so quiet on the kitchen front: Ministry of Food publicity in the Second World War
2. Food flash! Ministry of Food short film publicity
3. Laying a table for a family of forty-five million: Celebrating and contesting communal consumption
4. The rat in England's storehouse: The black market in wartime cinema
5. The honourable company of tea drinkers: Using food to position Britain, her allies and her enemies
Appendix: List of food flash films


Richard Farmer is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Film Studies at University College London.

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