Chapter 112: an extra helping

photos5My nephew Don sent me this list which I read. The problem with such lists is that the author becomes stretched in trying to make something out of nothing. I wonder if the anonymous author actually lived through the fifties (or did any basic research – Ian).

My comments are in italics.

Can you remember ???

Yes, I can. Vividly.

Eating in the UK in the Fifties:

Pasta had not been invented.
Pasta was invented hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago in China and developed by the Arabs – The British and American troops fighting in Italy during the war looked for spaghetti when they got home. They were offered it. We were eating Macaroni in the thirties. We had Macaroni Cheese and Macaroni Pudding.
Pasta first mentioned in 1154 in Sicily
Mrs Beeton’s Macaroni Cheese recipe from 1861
Let me google that for you: “When was pasta invented”

Curry was an unknown entity.
The East India Company imported Curry powder into Britain from the early nineteenth century. Veeraswamy’s, the Indian restaurant in Regent Street, was established in 1926. An English cookery book of 1906 calls for the use of curry powder.
See: Curry mentioned in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management published 1861.
The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse published 1747 – the 1774 edition included a curry recipe.
A History Of Indian Food In Britain

Olive oil was kept in the medicine cabinet
Quite likely. However, cooks in the average family dwelling had used Lard for centuries. In more modern times, they would have used butter, margarine and cooking oils as well as Olive Oil.

Spices came from the Middle East where we believed that they were used for embalming.
Spices have been traded into Europe for centuries. They were used to preserve food and to enhance its taste. It was the need to find routes to the spice growing areas that encouraged all the great explorers like Vasto da Gama and even Columbus. Two thirds of the world’s spices come from India. Pepper and nutmeg are spices.
See: Eating in Medieval London – describes the use of spices (and garlic) in cooking: “Late-medieval Londoners ate well, thanks to their trade connections and their creative use of space. They also had a wide range of foods open to them: fresh fruits and vegetables, flavorful spices, abundant meat and fish and wine.”

Herbs were used to make rather dodgy medicine.
Herbs have been used in England since, at least, Roman times. Although their use was reduced during the Industrial Revolution, the famous four Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme were always in use.
See: Roman Food in BritainAmongst the many herbs that they introduced to Britain were rosemary, thyme, bay, basil and savoury mint.

A takeaway was a mathematical problem.
What do you call Fish and Chips if they were not takeaways. What about Pie and Mash and jellied eels, they were also takeaways. It’s the name that’s new.
Pie and mash shops in pictures.
Victorian History: A Fast Food Generation

A pizza was something to do with a leaning tower.
Pizzas, like spaghetti, was well known to the troops returning from Italy. They were also introduced by Italian immigrants into the U.K. A BBC site says that one of the foods “missed” during the Second World War were Pizzas. I don’t believe that, but pizzas were available in the fifties.

Bananas and oranges only appeared at Christmas time.
Sorry, before the War we had the occasional banana and lots of oranges during the rest of the year.

The only vegetables known to us were spuds, peas, carrots and cabbage, anything else was regarded as being a bit suspicious.
What about Swede, used as a potato substitute during the First World War. What about Haricot beans, runner beans and broad beans, Cauliflower, Parsnips, Turnips and Onions ?
See: Medieval diets ‘far more healthy’ (including details of vegetables available and consumed at the time, centuries before the 1950s)
Roman Food in Britain: The Romans introduced garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, cabbages, peas, celery, turnips, radishes, and asparagus.

All crisps were plain; the only choice we had was whether to put the salt on or not.
At one time, there were only Smith’s Crisps and they had a small blue bag of salt inside the bag holding the crisps.

Condiments consisted of salt, pepper, vinegar and brown sauce if we were lucky.
What about mustard ?

tizer Soft drinks were called pop.
We were more picky – We called them Tizer, Lemonade, Cream Soda and Orangeade.

Coke was something that we mixed with coal to make it last longer.
We never mixed our coal with our coke.
See: Coca-cola on sale in UK from the 1920s
(Below is a British advert for Coca-Cola from 1956 shown on ITV)

A Chinese chippy was a foreign carpenter.
What’s a Chinese Chippy ?

Rice was a milk pudding, and never, ever part of our dinner.
I was eating Risotto in the fifties.

A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining.
No comment !

A Pizza Hut was an Italian shed.
Oh Dear – stretching.

A microwave was something out of a science fiction movie.
More stretching !

Brown bread was something only poor people ate.
How absurd. Hovis bread was never cheap – towards the end of the twentieth century, brown bread became the preferred choice among the rich. We used to get a small Hovis as a gift when we visited the North Thames Gas Exhibition at Alexandra Palace in the thirties.

Oil was for lubricating your bike not for cooking, fat was for cooking.
Repetitive ! Cooking oils have been available for thousands of years. Olive oil is only one of them.

Bread and jam was a treat.
You must have been really poor.

Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves, not bags.
I remember it well – we had a tea caddy and a strainer.

The tea cosy was the forerunner of all the energy saving devices that we hear so much about today.
To us, the tea cosy would have been an anathema in that, by the time you drank the last cup of tea from a pot that had been kept warm by a cosy, the tea had become stewed.

Tea had only one colour, black. Green tea was not British.
Strange as it may seem, there is no British tea. Most of our tea comes from India and Sri Lanka and, of course China. People should try Chinese green tea, without milk or sugar, it is a wonderful drink to settle the stomach while eating.

Coffee was only drunk when we had no tea….. and then it was Camp, and came in a bottle.
Oh Dear ! Every restaurant and café (CAFÉ – got it ?) sold Café or Coffee. In Soho alone, in 1953, there were 26 establishments equipped with the famous Gaggia coffee machine.
See: Classic Cafes: The Coming of The CafesCoffee Houses had been around since the 17th Century.

Cubed sugar was regarded as posh.
It was more expensive.

Figs and dates appeared every Christmas, but no one ever ate them.
Speak for yourself.


A funny looking ‘toffee’

Sweets and confectionery were called toffees.
I used to buy a penny bar of Nestle’s chocolate on Brimsdown Station in 1936 when I was eight. Boiled sweets have been around since the nineteenth century. They were exhibited at the 1851 Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.
Sweet and Confectionery Timeline
Sweets through the ages timeline shows how treats have evolved over 10,000 years

Coconuts only appeared when the fair came to town.
You must have been one of those rare people who won a coconut at the fair. Usually is was impossible to loose a coconut from its seating in the coconut-shy.

Black puddings were mined in Bolton, Lancashire.
Oh, but they were eaten in Trulock Road, Tottenham.

Jellied eels were peculiar to Londoners.
They were not peculiar to Londoners, they used to eat them by the bucket load.

Salad cream was a dressing for salads, mayonnaise did not exist.
Mayonnaise was invented in 1756 – it just took a long time to get to London.
The term mayonnaise was in use in English as early as 1823

Hors d’oeuvre was a spelling mistake.
The spelling looks perfectly good to me.

The starter was our main meal.
We did not have a starter, we only had a main meal.

Soup was a main meal.
Well, of course, with a chunk of newly baked bread, what a meal.

The menu consisted of what we were given, and was set in stone.
I remember that menu.

Only Heinz made beans, any others were impostors.
It still seems to be the case.

Leftovers went in the dog.
We did not have leftovers.

1955-sprattsSpecial food for dogs and cats was unheard of.
Sorry, pet foods, in cans, have been around for over a hundred years. Pet foods as we know them today were on sale in the fifties.

Sauce was either brown or red.
What about Parsley Sauce with our fish ? What about Apple sauce with the Pork ? Bread Sauce ? Horseradish Sauce ? Hollandaise Sauce ? Mint Sauce ? Onion Sauce ? (Okay, so apart from parsley, apple, bread, Horseradish, Hollandaise, Mint and onion sauce…sauce was either brown or red – Ian)

Fish was only eaten on Fridays.
That was mostly the Catholics – the requirement for them was brought in to conserve supplies of meat. Fish became popular with non-Catholics because the quantity available on a Friday made it a cheap meal.

Fish didn’t have fingers in those days.
But, we could enjoy cod steaks and skate wings and kippers and bloaters, much more interesting.

Eating raw fish was called poverty, not sushi.
In the early thirties, I could buy my lunch for the equivalent of one penny. It consisted of a piece of fish, fried in batter, and a lot of chips. The fish cost 2d and the chips were a halfpenny. You would have to be pretty poor not to be able to afford that. I never heard of anyone eating raw fish during the fifties.

Ready meals only came from the fish and chip shop.
As stated, what about the pie and mash shop ?

For the best taste fish and chips had to be eaten out of old newspapers.
I bought my first fish and chips at the age of four in 1933. It was wrapped, first, in white paper and then in newspaper to keep it warm on the journey home. I have had fish and chips ever since, mainly bought from a fish and chip shop. At no time did I receive fish and chips wrapped directly in newspaper and I have never known anyone else who did. We would have regarded our fish and chips as being contaminated if it had come in contact directly with printers ink. Even during the War, our fish and chips were wrapped, first, in white paper. (As late as the early 80’s if you’d read a newspaper, you’d have ink on your hands, in my time chips were first in a waxed/greaseproof paper half bag, anyone ever claim they ate chips covered in printer ink? – Ian)

Frozen food was called ice cream.
Frozen meals have been available in the U.K. since 1953.

Nothing ever went off in the fridge because we never had one.
Of course, we used to shop daily for perishables and eat the shopping on the same day. Food was kept in the “safe” which was a dry cupboard. Kitchen routine was governed by the fact that there were no fridges in the average household.

Ice cream only came in one colour and one flavour.
Yes, it was vanilla ice cream, but Walls would sell their penny lolly which was orange. It was triangular in shape in a cover of thin cardboard. One would push the lolly up through the cardboard cover as it was consumed. It cost a penny.

None of us had ever heard of yoghurt.
You will have to speak for yourself, Yoghurt has been well known since the fifties and sixties in the United Kingdom. Ghengis Khan and his followers thrived on it.


“Jellies are so easy to make that you needn’t wait for a party”

Jelly and blancmange was only eaten at parties.
That’s what made parties special.

If we said that we were on a diet, we simply got less.
In 1940, my mother contracted a duodenal ulcer. She was put on a diet of boiled fish and milk puddings for a year. Other than that, I had never heard of anyone on a diet. In any case, any one on a diet should eat less, shouldn’t they ?

Healthy food consisted of anything edible.
It is probably true, but the problems of the consumption of animal fats, puddings and pies was outweighed by the physical activity that we all took part in in those days. We walked everywhere and got involved in sports of all kinds.

Healthy food had to have the ability to stick to your ribs.
All food was regarded as healthy. It was sometimes a struggle to fill the stomachs of the family and any food that would do that would be regarded as healthy.

Calories were mentioned but they had nothing at all to do with food.
Speaking of Calories came with the requirement for people to diet to lose weight. They started to count them.

The only criteria concerning the food that we ate were : did we like it and could we afford it ?
If we could not afford it, it would not be on the table. Mothers gave their family food that had been offered for years and that the mother knew they would enjoy. Experimentation with menus could be an expensive error.

People who didn’t peel potatoes were regarded as lazy so and so’s.
I do not recall knowing anyone who did not peel potatoes. The exception was jacket potatoes when we would consume the skin and enjoy it.

Indian restaurants were only found in India.
Not so, There were Indian eating houses in London in the nineteenth century catering for the small community of Asian seamen living in London. By 1911, there were a number of Indian restaurants in the country. In 1926, Veeraswamey’s opened in Regent Street and it is still there...
How Britain got the hots for curry

A seven course meal had to last a week.
I have never come across such a meal.

Brunch was not a meal.
I have never partaken of Brunch having resisted the habit of eating between meals. However, I can see that it would suit some people who missed breakfast and could not wait until lunchtime.

Cheese only came in a hard lump.
Yes, we used to have our family sized chunk of cheddar, but also, we had Kraft’s creamy cheese wedges in the thirties.

If we had eaten bacon lettuce and tomato in the same sandwich we would have been certified.
No comment !

A bun was a small cake back then.
I do not understand this one, a bun is still a small cake.

A tart was a fruit filled pastry, not a lady of horizontal pleasure.
Once again, a tart is still a fruit filled pastry and the word “tart” for a woman of dubious character was in common use in the thirties.

The word “Barbie” was not associated with anything to do with food.
No comment !

Eating outside was called a picnic.
Strange as it may seem, it still is. We also had the phrase “al fresco”.

Cooking outside was called camping.
Once again, it still is camping. Today, one does not have to camp to have a barbeque.

Seaweed was not a recognized food.
It is probably regarded in the West as a health food, but in the Far East it has been part of their normal diet for centuries.

Offal was only eaten when we could afford it.
What a strange thing to say. We used to eat kidneys, liver and heart in the thirties. They were not expensive, otherwise we would not have had them.

Eggs only came fried or boiled.
What about poached, what about omelettes ?

Hot cross buns were only eaten at Easter time.
What’s wrong with that ?

Pancakes were only eaten on Pancake Tuesday – in fact in those days it was compulsory.
Not in our house, we were not forced to eat anything.

“Kebab” was not even a word never mind a food.
Kebabs and Skuets were cooked by primitive man when he held pieces of meat, impaled on a stick, over a fire. In the Middle Ages, at the court of Richard II, his cooks would produce Skuets of pork on silver skewer, kebabs. So, although the word might have arrived late, the method of cooking had been around a long time.

Hot dogs were a type of sausage that only the Americans ate.
Well, did we not have Savaloys that we ate with a small dob of mustard ?
(and from 1926…)

Cornflakes had arrived from America but it was obvious that they would never catch on.
I was eating Kellogg’s Cornflakes in the thirties.

The phrase “boil in the bag” would have been beyond our realms of comprehension.
I disagree, after all, that’s how we cooked suet pudding. The cooking of other foods may have been unusual, but the principal was well known.

The idea of “oven chips” would not have made any sense at all to us.
I prefer the real thing – deep fried.

The world had not yet benefited from weird and wonderful things like Pot Noodles, Instant Mash and Pop Tarts.
I have never partaken of the first, did not like the second and I have never heard of the third.

We bought milk and cream at the same time in the same bottle.
Cream, in pots, was readily available in the fifties.

Sugar enjoyed a good press in those days, and was regarded as being white gold.
I had given up using sugar by the fifties.

Lettuce and tomatoes in winter were just a rumour.
There was no means of importing fragile seasonal vegetables then.

Most soft fruits were seasonal except perhaps at  Christmas.
Apples and Pears at Christmas were preserved from the previous summer’s harvest. Bananas came in, imported by the likes of Fyfe’s. Clementines and Mandarins were imported in from Spain in the fifties.

Prunes were medicinal.
They still are.

Surprisingly muesli was readily available in those days, it was called cattle feed.
Very ameusling

Turkeys were definitely seasonal.
Turkeys were out of my family’s price range, we were still buying a Capon, and then only once a year. Chicken was not cheap before the War.

Pineapples came in chunks in a tin; we had only ever seen a picture of a real one.
I was working in Soho in the fifties. I saw lots of them. In 1956, I stood in a pineapple plantation in Queensland.

We didn’t eat Croissants in those days because we couldn’t pronounce them, we couldn’t spell them and we didn’t know what they were.
Well, we were still eating breakfasts of bacon, eggs, sausages, fried bread and, maybe, kidneys, tomatoes and mushrooms.

We thought that Baguettes were a serious problem the French needed to deal with.
There is nothing to compare with a fresh baguette, baked in the local boulangerie, here in La Manche.

garlicGarlic was used to ward off vampires, but never used to flavour bread.
One could get the occasional whiff on the bus or underground. The use of garlic is as old as time.  (I look forward to the original author giving us an example of them warding off  vampires – Ian)

Water came out of the tap, if someone had suggested bottling it and charging treble for it they would have become a laughing stock.
What about Schweppes soda water sold in re-usable siphons ? Tap water was cheap then, it is not now.

Food hygiene was all about washing your hands before meals. Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Botulism were all called “food poisoning.”
I do not recall anyone I knew ever suffering from serious food poisoning. Perhaps we were immune in those days.

The one thing that we never ever had on our table in the fifties ……elbows.
However, we did have enough food.

© Terence Gallacher 2016.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One thought on “Chapter 112: an extra helping

  1. A brilliant and well thought out response to what appears to been the complete opposite by the person who created this list of statements about Eating in UK in the Fifties, which even if they hadn’t been around in the fifties, should at least have done their homework. I would be pleased to see ‘Terry Eating Places’ published soon, if only to educate so many of the experts.

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