There was an interesting article in Saturday’s Guardian partly about convenience vs “proper” food, but also about food eaten regularly in the author’s childhood. While I was interested in some of the comments made, I found myself distracted by nostalgia for certain foods of my childhood…I wonder how they’d taste to me now? That is why I have enjoyed the BBC series “Back in time for…” and particularly the 60s and 70s, which were the decades when I was growing up.
What do I remember…?
Mum was a good cook, and she loved “entertaining”, and having friends for dinner. But I think the everyday feeding of three children, and a hardworking husband, while also holding down a job as a teacher probably wasn’t such a joy to her. She did rely on convenience foods to a certain extent, such as packet sauces. Meals I remember were
the occasional Vesta curry, served with chopped banana and raisins, for that “exotic touch”
The prawns were tiny, and slightly rubbery, but oh! We felt so sophisticated!
I didn’t like shepherd’s pie night – the tinned tomatoes were never really broken down, and I didn’t like mum’s addition of a tin of baked beans. Of course, now I understand she was stretching the meat content, but then I couldn’t work out why she would do this!
Butterscotch Angel Delight though was a different matter – Mum would usually serve this over chopped bananas, and with a crumbled Cadbury’s Flake over the top. I’d be very willing to help transport the dessert from the kitchen, and put it on the trolley in the dining room, because that gave me the chance to snaffle the largest pieces of chocolate from each dish! It was always served in little metal Sundae dishes.
And then, as a special treat, we might have a ring doughnut, served with vanilla ice cream and hot jam sauce! They were special times.
Sometimes she’d make “apple snow” – which wasn’t my favourite dessert, but was better than plain old stewed apple, or rhubarb “steamrollers” (thick pieces of stewed rhubarb)
I don’t think mum was a great pudding maker – relying on such things as Angel Delight and doughnuts – but she was well known for her apple pies. She has always had “pastry hands”, which I have not inherited!, and most Sundays we would have an apple pie, baked on one of those white enamel pie plates with a blue rim
Pastry top and bottom, stewed apple inside – I remember sitting in the kitchen on a Saturday morning, watching Mum peel the huge Bramley apples, and I’d beg her to try to cut it off all in one long spiral. She’d let me eat the peelings. Served with cream this was the perfect end to a roast dinner. Then Marks & Spencer started selling food, and Mum discovered “Lattice tarts”
Now, while these were acceptable as a midweek convenience pudding, there was near uproar when she brought out a rhubarb lattice tart for Sunday lunch! Poor mum! She did persevere though, and we did finally accept Lattice Tart from time to time. Just not every week!
We were not encouraged to eat biscuits and so on. I don’t remember a biscuit tin or biscuit barrel being readily available. But I do recall the cosy pleasure of “supper” when I was 16 or 17. My brother and sister had gone to university or the world of work by now, so it was just me, and my parents. Just before News at Ten, we would have a little something – a glass of milk, and either a slice of hot buttered toast, or a couple of digestive biscuits.
Dad tried to help out when he could, but he was a busy GP, who rarely got home before 7.30 in the evening. He had Wednesday afternoon off, and would go and play golf with his GP pals, but then would come home and cook a three course meal to give mum a night off…initially using Delia Smith’s “How to cheat at cooking” I remember a “cheese paté” made of cream cheese with chopped celery and red pepper in it.
But once Dad grew confident, he graduated on to using “The Hungry Monk” recipes, which were rather more sophisticated, being recipes from a real restaurant!
Dad was one for new food experiences – when the fish & chip shop at the Old Roan closed, but then reopened as a Greek restaurant, he took us there. When the Greek restaurant closed, but then opened up as a Chinese restaurant, we were first in the queue!
He bought Paul Masson wine (at the garage!) which came in its own decanter – there’s posh! – and mum and dad would have a glass with their meal
But the best times were when we went out for a meal to either a Berni Inn, or to Flynn’s Steak House, both in the centre of Liverpool. I think that maybe dad would be working in Liverpool, so maybe the rest of us would go in on the bus, and meet him for dinner. They really were special times! I couldn’t understand why we didn’t do it more often, but of course it must have been quite expensive to pay for 5 people, especially when I don’t remember there being a children’s menu – but maybe my memory is playing tricks.
I think the Berni was underground, which made it even more special – going down the red carpeted stairs made me feel really grown up! The choices were no doubt limited – I guess there was prawn cocktail or soup to start, but then it would be steak, chips, peas, button mushrooms and possibly onion rings. The ice cream or cheese and biscuits just topped off a sophisticated dining experience! I wonder what I had to drink: I don’t remember Coca Cola being allowed, or even tasted. Maybe an orange juice and lemonade, or just lemonade? It was such a special occasion to go out with Mum and Dad for a “grown up” meal.
Here’s an old advert for a Berni in Grimsby, with some of the choices that were available
And then there were the sweeties – again, I wasn’t really allowed many sweets, which made them all the more alluring. When we went to my Nana’s for Sunday tea, she would always give us one sweet from the sweetie tin just before we went home – there would be lots of different kinds of sweets: Nuttals Mintoes, strawberry Ruffles, Opal Fruits, and many more. Being a basically greedy, and remarkably unsubtle child, as the clock ticked nearer to 7.00, when we would leave to go home, I would start singing a little song that I had invented, which emphasised certain words: Candy and Andy and Sweetie-Pie…, I would warble irritatingly, until the tin came out.
I would often steal the odd sixpence from mum’s purse, when I was doing the shopping, and buy myself sweets – here’s a picture of various sweets and chocolates from the 70s. Do you remember any?
I remember the “Weekend” box of chocolates/sweets – which were often a disappointment – Caramac, Bar Six (basically KiKat by a different name), Spangles, Old Jamaica chocolate – I seem to remember this had shreds of something in it? – and orange Matchmakers. Oh, they were posh. Mum would serve those after dinner with her friends ( never After Eight, or mint Matchmakers, as she hated the combination of chocolate and mint!)
Talking of stealing, I remember (still!) stealing half a crown (two shillings and sixpence) from mum’s purse, which was a lot of money back then. I wonder how many problems that caused for the housekeeping that week. I went to the local Sayers cake shop and bought FIVE cream cakes (I told you I was greedy!) I sat in the park and ate them all myself, furtively cramming them into my mouth. A mum from school came across me, and asked what I was doing; I made up a story about an event at school, and mum giving me my picnic tea to eat – I wonder what she thought of the local doctor’s daughter eating five cream cakes for tea!
Well…there’s a meander through some of my food memories. What about you – is there anything you particularly remember from your childhood?