River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from a newcomer

September 2006

Marion looks at the way our eating habits have changed over the last 40 or 50 years...

Isn't it fascinating how our eating habits change over the years? I'm not talking about centuries ago - although it is interesting to learn that on May 18 1779 Parson Woodford gave his dinner guests 'a dish of Maccarel, 3 young Chicken boiled and some Bacon, a neck of Pork rosted and a Gooseberry Pye hot' - but in our own lifetime.

Reading food writer Nigel Salter's autobiography Toast has reminded me of all sorts of forgotten foods that we no longer eat but which were once a regular part of our diet. Banana custard, for example - a pudding made by every busy

mum that simply consisted of slicing a banana or two into a bowl of custard (Bird's Eye, of course).

A Sunday tea-time treat that you never see now is tinned peaches with condensed or evaporated milk. As children, we were always urged to eat a slice of bread and butter with this (presumably to fill our ever-hungry stomachs but it

made for a strange combination of taste and texture).

It's not just individual dishes that have disappeared from our lives but whole meals - teatime, elevenses and supper (a snack with a hot drink before bedtime) have all gone.

When I first started work, every office had a tea lady who trundled round twice a day with a trolley bearing the tea urn, sticky buns and Wagon Wheels. Ah, but that was in the days when 'calorie' was a word you had to look up in the

dictionary and our role models were buxom glamour pusses like Liz Taylor, not stick insects like Liz Hurley.

Not only did we all tuck guiltlessly into cakes and puds, we also ate lots of meat. A mixed grill was the most popular dish on restaurant menus. Money was scarce so we went for cheaper butcher's offerings such as faggots, brawn or tripe - all of which would be greeted with loud groans of 'Ugh!' by children today. They would be horrified to know that their grandmothers used to relish

cold chitterlings doused in vinegar or sandwiches filled with winkles teased from their shells with a pin.

Sandwiches weren't the mayonnaise-laden three deckers we know today. Instead they were filled with a thin layer of Shippham's paste or jam. When jam was scarce, children were given sugar sandwiches as a treat.

I suppose what we all remember best from childhood are comfort foods - the ones that we still crave when we are feeling poorly or depressed. For Nigel Slater, toast, with the black bits scraped off by his mother (who was not a good cook) was a comfort food. For me, it was Knorr's chicken noodle soup or potato mashed with lots of milk and butter. And most ailing appetites can be tempted

by a perfectly boiled egg with bread and butter soldiers.

I'd love to know what food today's youngsters will look back on with nostalgia. Probably take-away pizza or a Big Mac with fries. Mmmmm. Yummy.

Marion Clarke

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