Through the spring and early summer the people were officially buoyed up with the hope that the new harvest would make an end of their troubles. They had many reasons, it is true, to expect an improvement. The 1915 harvest in Germany had fallen below the average. Therefore, if the 1916 harvest would be better per acre, the additional supplies from the conquered regions of Russia would enable Germany to laugh at the efforts of her enemies to starve her out. Once more, however, official assurances and predictions were wrong, and the economic condition grew worse through every month of 1916.
A LAND OF SUBSTITUTES
The only food substitute which meets the casual eye of the visitor to England in war time is margarine for butter. Germany, on the contrary, is a land of substitutes.
Since the war, food exhibitions in various cities, but more especially in Berlin, have had as one of their most prominent features booths where you could sample substitutes for coffee, yeast, eggs, butter, olive oil, and the like. Undoubtedly many of these substitutes are destined to take their place in the future alongside some of the products for which they are rendering vicarious service. In fact, in a “Proclamation touching the Protection of Inventions, Designs, and Trade Marks in the Exhibition of Substitute-Materials in Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1916,” it is provided that the substitutes to be exhibited shall enjoy the protection of the Law. Even before the war, substitutes like Kathreiner’s malt coffee were household words, whilst the roasting of acorns for admixture with coffee was not only a usual practice on the part of some families in the lower middle class, but was so generally recognised among the humbler folk that the children of poor families were given special printed permissions by the police to gather acorns for the purpose on the sacred grass of the public parks. To deal with meat which in other countries would be regarded as unfit for human consumption there have long been special appliances in regular use in peace time. The so-called Freibank was a State or municipal butcher’s shop attached to the extensive municipal abattoirs in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, and elsewhere. Here tainted meat, or meat from animals locally affected by disease, is specially treated by a steam process and other methods, so as to free it from all danger to health. Meat so treated does not, of course, have the nutritive value of ordinary fresh meat, but the Germans acted on the principle that anything was better than nothing. Such meat was described as bedingt tauglich (that is, fit for consumption under reserve). It was sold before the war at very low rates to the poorer population, who in times of scarcity came great distances and kept long vigils outside the Freibank, to be near the head of the queue when the sale began. Thus we see that many Germans long ago acquired the habit of standing in line for food, which is such a characteristic of German city life to-day.