Between bouts of cnn financial news I'm back reading my favorite anarchist Ran Priuer, found on a ran site: http://ranprieur.com/crash/barterfrance.html Barter in Occupied France from Occupation: The Ordeal of France, 1940-1944 by Ian Ousby home essays novel zines misc. crashwatch landblog about me "One managed as best one could," Simone de Beauvoir wrote by way of explaining her undignified appearance between the shafts of a barrow. People managed as best they could at the dinner table too. They copied their government in devising ersatz or national substitutes for foods which had grown scarce. For coffee they were driven to experiment with chestnuts, chick peas, dried apples and lupin seeds. When they got fed up with running the water three or four times over the same few spoonfuls of tea leaves, they turned to lime-tree leaves, apple skins or dried carrot tops. Sugar could be replaced by liquorice or boiled pumpkin, though everyone agreed that using grape juice instead of sugar to make raisine jam produced appalling results. So did most home experiments in baking bread with buckwheat, millet flour, chestnuts, oil cake, bean flour or even potatoes. "Well, if the war lasts till 1970 I expect we'll find that good!" joked one guest at a particularly unpalatable meal. The tabac national which contained -- indeed, soon largely consisted of -- dried grass and herbs gave the cue to smokers. They bought hand-rolling machines and mixed their own substitutes: oak leaves with camomile and peppermint or other kitchen herbs, perhaps, or lettuce leaves or beetroot leaves or corn silk or even Jerusalem artichokes. Every smoker had a special recipe to swear by, though none refused the chance of smoking real tobacco on the increasingly rare occasions when it presented itself. To combat the clothing shortage, women made themselves turbans or hats with extravagant decorations of artificial flowers and fruit, which had the advantage of concealing the lack of a proper perm. But no Sunday inventor or seamstress could do anything about the scarcity of leather. People had to depend on the ingenuity of manufacturers, who supplied shoes with soles of compressed paper or wood. Too flimsy in winter, the paper soles were less popular than the wooden ones, which were hinged to make them more comfortable, though the hinges easily collected loose pebbles. About twenty-four million pairs were sold during the Occupation and, as Maurice Chevalier celebrated in the song "La Symphonie des semelles de bois", the pavements rang again to the sound of clogs. The meat shortage was the most galling of all. In Paris some people who lived in flats took to keeping guinea pigs, and respectable folk could sometimes be observed braining the pigeons in the public parks. They meditated even more desperate expedients: in October 1941 the authorities found it necessary to publish warnings that it was unsafe to use cats in stews. In the country, of course, people could more easily rear their own chickens, pigs and rabbits, as well as grow their own vegetables. So city-dwellers found the Occupation a convenient time to remember their rural ties, and from 1941 people in the country were officially allowed to send them colis familliaux, or family parcels. Thirteen and a half million of them passed through the strictly supervised postal system in 1942 alone. They did not always arrive in an appetizing condition, as Simone de Beauvoir discovered with the meat she got a friend to send from Anjou. The beef had to be soaked in vinegar and boiled for hours; a joint of pork had white maggots in it, but she and Sartre cooked it anyway. Sartre was usually oblivious to what he ate but even he found the state of a rabbit so revolting he insisted on throwing it in the dustbin -- an action whose difficulty can really be appreciated, perhaps, only by someone who has lived through such times of hardship. City-dwellers who lacked obliging friends or relatives in the country set out at weekends on expeditions, returning with meat or sacks of produce slung over their shoulders. Such forays became so regular a custom that the train services from Paris were nicknamed after vegetables. Money changed hands less and less frequently in these transactions between country and city, and in all the other dealings by which people sought to fend for themselves. As people usually do in times of growing scarcity accompanied by growing regulation, the French reverted to an economy of barter. A city-dweller setting out for the country in search of meat or vegetables, home-made soap or eggs, would take not cash but something precious like real coffee or real cigarettes which country people were less likely to be able to grow, make or find in their own communities. Meanwhile, country people and city people were bartering freely among themselves. In Culoz even Gertrude Stein, a temporary resident who grew and reared nothing for herself, found she could still join in the system: a neighbour who lacked milk to fatten her pig agreed to take Stein's dishwater in return for guaranteeing Stein the right to buy eggs. If she had still been living in Paris, she might instead have collected cigarette ends and used them to establish a privileged arrangement with her butcher or baker. Exchanging waste matter for a place near the head of the queue might have been a bizarre transaction, but it was still more direct than the complicated chain of bartering which the need for even a simple commodity could often demand. "You have to buy what you do not want to buy in order to buy what you do want to buy," Stein herself explained oracularly. Alfred Fabre-Luce was more specific: "Whoever wants tobacco brings a chicken, and whoever wants a bag of raisins trades a cheese." Nor did the chain have to consist only of commodities, since services and ration coupons had their exchange value as well. A doctor would supply medical advice, or a plumber would mend a tap, in return for the food they wanted or for food that could be swapped for the food they wanted. Non-smokers would contrive to register for the tobacco ration. People who made their own bread at home would prize their unused bread coupons as highly as they prized their cash.