I was thinking just recently about how different food and meal times are today than when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s.
This was a time before most people had heard of a microwave and the slow cooker, pressure cooker and sandwich toaster were at the cutting edge of modern kitchen technology. You bought your greens from the greengrocer (or granddad’s garden), your bread from the baker, your dried goods from the grocer, your meat from the butcher, your fish from the fish shop, and, your booze from an off-license and the only take-away options were fish and chips or a Chinese – and neither would deliver. This was a time when the fruit and vegetables available in the supermarkets and greengrocers changed with the seasons and came in all kinds of non-uniform shapes and sizes. Esther Rantzen built her career on odd-shaped vegetables. The hypermarket was still a strange, foreign French phenomenon back then and Brussels had yet to begin to interfere too much.
Every main meal would feature potatoes – new, boiled or mashed (or creamed), or, more typically chipped. The chip pan was often a family heirloom passed down through the ages and with the oil rarely changed across the generations. These were proper chip pans – the kind that burnt your house down if left unwatched. No namby pamby oven chips or deep fat fryers for us. And, this was proper fat – proper artery clogging lard, dripping and the like. Not a poly unsaturated , extra virgin, or groundnut back in the day.
Every main meal also featured bread. No baguettes or ciabattas or pittas for us. It was sliced white with butter (or dripping) every time. I can still see my grandma sitting on the sofa and roaring at the wrestling on a Saturday afternoon while the butter softened on the hearth next to the gas fire in the lounge. Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy used to get her going. Saturday teas sometimes consisted entirely of jam sandwiches – my dad’s favourite.
The Sunday roast used to last for days. Big chunks of meat that always had a bone which I would pick clean while stirring mom’s home-made gravy. No Bisto or ready-made in our household. Sunday lunch would be followed by cold meat and bubble and squeak or a cottage/shepherd’s pie on a Monday or maybe a risotto (minced meat and rice) or a homemade pie. Mom had her own contraption for mincing meat.
There was always a homemade cake. A scone, a rock cake, a Madeira, Victoria sponge, coffee, or, fruit cake. Licking the bowl clean after a baking session was often a weekend treat. Sunday lunches were often completed by a pie or a crumble using apples, gooseberries or rhubarb from my granddad’s garden. Sunday teas were often followed by tinned fruit and condensed milk or Angel Delight – heaven in a packet.
Meals were always traditional. Spaghetti Bolognese was an exotic treat while curries (Vesta) were made by adding water to a dried powder and they always contained sultanas.
Cheese came in only a few flavours – Cheddar, Cheshire, Stilton (at Christmas) and magic little triangles of Dairylea.
These were happy days full of fresh, homegrown, homemade comfort food. While I enjoy today’s variety, ethnicity, and, ready availability, I do think that the modern ready meal, pre-made sauces, stocks and blah, blah, blah are lacking in something.
Now, what’s for dinner?
Entry filed under: childhood memories, middleman. Tags: angel delight, back in the day, big daddy, chip pan, dairylea, dripping, esther rantzen, Fish and chips, food memories, giant haystack, lard, pressure cooker, sandwich toaster, sliced white, slow cooker, vesta curry.