Monday, February 25, 2008

1970s Food: Bread 'N' Dripping, Cereal Sausages, White Bread and Meaty Margarine...

Michael Barratt, BBC "Nationwide" presenter from 1969 to 1977, wonders how youngsters will survive without dripping in his "Weekly News" column, October 1974.

What did we eat in the '70s? Well, me and my very working class family tucked into such delicious delights as white bread, crispy pancakes, and cereal sausages...

Cereal sausages? Yes, this is what we now call the type of sausage my financially hard-pressed mother used to buy in the '70s. They were chipolatas, thin, tasted of nothing much except a hint of salt, and were quite dry. They weren't made of cereal officially. It was probably sawdust. They were horrible. Once on the plate, they'd quickly go all wrinkled - like fingers that had been submerged in water for a length of time.

Other treats included savoury pancakes. These really were a treat. When we could afford them, it was a sign of a financially sound period in that worrying era of galloping inflation.

We didn't eat pasta (apart from tinned spaghetti), courgettes, peppers, aubergines, nothing like that. In fact, I don't even recall seeing such things in the supermarket.

The only dried pasta available at the supermarkets was of the long, spaghetti variety.

We ate spuds - boiled, fried, chipped or mashed. We ate baked beans. We ate tinned processed peas. We ate lettuce, spring onions, cucumber and tomato as salad - and never had mayonnaise or salad dressing. It was always salad cream.

There was what "posh" people ate and what we ate in the '70s. And the two were very different things. And to be honest we didn't know much about how the other half ate.

Back then, I remember our margarine sometimes tasted meaty. I can't explain why, but it was sometimes quite strong. "You're bonkers!" children of the '80s and '90s tell me. But it's true. "It's whale," my mother used to say.

Bread was white. Cake was shop-bought for Sunday tea. Usually a Soreen malt loaf or dry madeira, but occasionally an artic roll! Real treat, that. The Sunday tea "savoury" was usually sandwiches. Paste. Or spam. Or corned beef.

We ate SO MUCH paste!

People try to make out now that we were all eating prawn cocktails and Black Forest Gateau in the '70s. I'm not quite sure when the prawn cocktail actually arrived. As far back as 1962, posh Annie Walker was talking about them in Coronation Street and Fanny Cradock wrote about the "ubiquitous prawn cocktail" in 1967 (more here). "Ubiquitous" in some circles. The Black Forest Gateau was a 1960s incomer. But my family had never heard of them in the '70s as far as I remember. Both were rampant in the 1980s when there was a bit of dosh around.

Soup was never tinned, it was too expensive unless you were ill, when tinned soup (particularly chicken) was considered to have great restorative powers. We had powdered packet soup, which was like dish water. However long you cooked and stirred, the bits of "pea" and "carrot" (ahem!) were hard and sometimes powdery inside.

Foreign food? Curry was a great fave round our way. The local takeaway served up awesome curries, swimming in yellow fat and in the case of chicken, containing nasty flabby pieces of chicken skin.

Mum fried in lard. We'd heard of cooking oil, but it was "dear" and an unknown quantity. Stick with what's cheap. Stick with what you know. A great favourite family filler was the traditional bread 'n'dripping. Actually, it had been falling out of favour for a decade or two and had always been a peasant food anyway. In the 1970s, it was still common amongst us commonest-of-the-common-commoners. When my step-granny used to bring round a pudding bowl containing cold meat juices and fat with the jelly on top, it was a tremendous culinary treat.

Spread it on your bread - LUVLEY! Fry the sausages in lard - LUVLEY!

Until around 1981, when I suddenly turned to my mother and said: "'Ere, Mum, don't you think cooking oil might be healthier?"

But that was around 1981.


Frank Purcell said...

Ugh! My mum used to do all the things you mention but there was no way bread and dripping was going down my throat. I was often sent to the shops for a pack of White Cap lard. The worst thing my parents fed me was tongue sandwiches which were great until my dad told me what they

One of the first things I bought with my paper round Chrimbo tips, around the mid 70's, was a Vesta meal. Was it freeze dried? I don't know. I felt really posh. It was nowhere near as good as my mum's curries (egg was a favourite, probably because it was cheap), but it did make my next door neighbour envious for a little while :-)

Andy said...

Hey, Frank, from the late '60s to the early '80s, Vesta meals were a great treat!!

And what about Instant Whip? YUMMY!

Certainly better than cereal sausages!!

Anonymous said...

70s were smashing,t rex,slade,chopper bike,thick leather watch straps,metal combs'76,elton & kiki,sun.drought,ladibirds, until september when i first met my future wife...i was only 18...wotta mug ...wotta waste of over 30 years...

Anonymous said...

As a site with 1970s experts reading...can anyone help us, we are trying to remember who the maker was of the Anytime Bar, a mint honeycombe-type filling with a thin chocolate layer. Wrapper was stripy green and whit, the bar wa sabout 6 inches long, an inch wide and an inch thick! We can only find three mentions of this bar online and no pitcures! Any help appreciated!

Andy said...

I'm sorry, I don't recall that one. Anybody else?

Anonymous said...

Nope, never got a prawn cocktail either - plently of salmon spread sandwiches though. I also remember the strikes and sitting in candle light for what seemed like hours. I was only a kid, but my mum has confirmed that it really was hours and hours........ My brother still has his chopper bike by the way....

Anonymous said...

was it not a Mint Cracknel?

Anonymous said...

I remember mint cracknell. My favourite treat as a child of the seventies