When Food Was Crude, Part 2

Continued from yesterday

It isn’t just the food that has changed in the last 60 years. Imagine a time when advertising like this was acceptable?

Who's boss?
Who’s boss?

Again, behind the cut, ‘cos it do go on a bit.


Coconuts only appeared when the fair came to town.

…and weren’t they eagerly awaited! Hammer and nail at the ready…

Black puddings were mined in Bolton Lancashire.

There’s softie Southern prejudice for you! and I think they mean Bury.

Jellied eels were peculiar to Londoners.

Then, as now, they can keep ’em! (there’s ‘ard Northern prejudice for you.)

Salad cream was a dressing for salads, mayonnaise did not exist

I think that it did, but I also think that we laboured under the impression that it was nasty. Heinz Salad Cream did the trick fir us. For my Dad, it was a question of straight sugar on his lettuce, doused in malt vinegar.

The starter was our main meal.

It had to be, there was less of everything to go around. One thing that I always remember is that my mother bought 4 ounces of mushrooms as a treat sometimes. They were shared, for Sunday breakfast, between five of us – and always cooked in milk, so that they would not shrivel and thereby look less on the plate.

Soup was a main meal.

And your point is…? (Soup still is a main meal for us, and one that we enjoy a great deal.)

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

…and if you didn’t eat it, it was served up again, cold, at the next meal, and the next, until you ate it. Not a pleasant prospect, if it involved kippers, pilchards, or lamb fat.

Only Heinz made beans, any others were impostors.

“HP Baked Beans, They’re the beans for me…”

I could not tell you, I  have had a lifelong loathing of tinned baked beans.

Leftovers went in the dog.

We didn’t have a dog and there was so little on the table that leftovers were unheard of. If you didn’t clean your plate, it was served back for breakfast (see above.)

Sauce was either brown or red.

I believe we covered this one yesterday.

Fish was only eaten on Fridays.

Bollocks. Might be true of RCs, but we had our visit to the chippie on Saturdays.

Fish didn’t have fingers in those days.

So how did they manage to handle their cakes?

I was not fond of fish and preferred to minimise my intake by ordering Fishcake and Chips. The chippie also sold rissoles. Fishcakes were two slices of potato, with fish between, dipped in batter and fried. Rissoles were mashed fish and potato, coated in breadcrumbs.

For the best taste fish and chips had to be eaten out of old newspapers.

We were not allowed to eat in the street and F&C were decanted onto hot plates once they were brought home. But it is true, when stealthily consumed with the fingers in the fresh air, chips always tasted better from the newswrapper.

Frozen food was called ice cream.

Or Lollies. Or Jubblys. I never had a Jubbly – something else that was not permitted for “well brought-up children.” They were huge frozen tetrahedra of orange juice and looked very enticing. research shows that they were about 150ml in actual fact, but that seemed enormous to a five year old. Rather like a Wagon Wheel…


There was ample ice cream in my childhood. At some point when we were small, Dad quit the Corporation buses and went to Wall’s Ice Cream, delivering wholesale supplies to shops and cinemas. We did well for samples etc.When we accompanied him on the van at weekends, shopkeepers would produce lollies or sweeties for us, and the managers of local cinemas gave us free seats for the latest films. It was like having Willie Wonka for a dad.

Nothing ever went off in the fridge because we never had one.

Our pantry was through the door from the kitchen to the coal cellar stairs. Cool and dank, and the only place to keep anything remotely perishable.

Ice cream only came in one colour and one flavour.

Not true! There was Raspberry Ripple, and Cornish, as well as Neapolitan – and that had three flavours all in one go! Not to mention Tutti Frutti, with its glacé fruits. Yum, yum.

Believe me, see above, I was a child ice cream expert.

None of us had ever heard of yoghurt.

True, I think. According to my memory, I never had a Yoghurt until I lived down in Wadhurst. We left Sheffield in November 1962 and went first to Hawkhurst, then Maidstone. So my first Yoghourt was probably in 1964. Back then it came in glass jars an was plain, or possibly strawberry, set yoghourt.

Jelly and blancmange was only eaten at parties.

Not true. I would never eat Blancmange! Blancmange was served regularly for school dinners, often as hot pink custard served on iced sponge. My mother would make a set blancmange for tea sometimes, but I could not abide the skin. Bleugh! Jelly would also appear for tea, especially on Sundays. Jelly often had tinned fruit set in it (orange jelly and mandarins, lime jelly and pineapple chunks, lemon jelly and pear halves) or was whipped up with a can of evaporated milk to make a “mousse” that would feed the five thousand.

Healthy food had to have the ability to stick to your ribs.

If you couldn’t afford much food on the table, then high calorific content was a must – after all, it was the only kind of Central Heating that we had.

The only criteria concerning the food that we ate were … did we like it and could we afford it.

Some of us were not allowed the luxury of disliking a food. A further criterion was “will it go round?”

People who didn’t peel potatoes were regarded as lazy so and so’s.

And dirty buggers, no doubt.

Indian restaurants were only found in India .

I am not convinced. I would bet good money that “Indian” restaurants arrived earlier than the Fifties.

(They did, Britain’s first opened in 1809, in fact.)

Cheese only came in a hard lump.

Not so – it came in soft rubbery lumps of the processed variety and in triangles as spread. Lump cheese came with the rind on, cut from a large cheese, and we were warned never to eat the rind “because the shop cat wees on it.” Yes, in the Fifties it was normal, natural, and legal to keep a cat in a food shop, with uncovered food about. We survived it, too.

If we had eaten bacon lettuce and tomato in the same sandwich we would have been certified

ROFL. Oh, yes, I am sure. People thought we were weird because we ate Peanut Butter sandwiches.

A bun was a small cake back then.

It still is. You won’t get me calling a bun a cup cake.

A tart was a fruit filled pastry, not a lady of horizontal pleasure.

Quite. Preferably Apple and Bilberry  for me, please –  or Bakewell.

The word” Barbie” was not associated with anything to do with food.

Or anything else. Barbie dolls were a few years hence.

Eating outside was called a picnic.

And picnics were always a hard-boiled egg and some bread and butter, with maybe a Lyon’s individual fruit pie to follow.

Cooking outside was called camping.

Or Bonfire Night.

Seaweed was not a recognised food.

That would depend on where you lived – it was everyday food for some. Have you never heard of Laverbread?

Offal was only eaten when we could afford it.

Offal was eaten because it was affordable! Pig’s liver was a regular on the menu and when we went to buy it from the pork butcher he would feed my twin sister a piece of it raw, and she ate it with gusto. Mind you, she also liked Tripe (shudder).

Eggs only came fried or boiled.

What a daft thing to say. Of course not, they came scrambled and in omelettes too. And curried. *sigh*. Everything came curried.

Hot cross buns were only eaten at Easter time.

True. It is still the only time that I eat them.

Pancakes were only eaten on Pancake Tuesday – in fact in those days it was compulsory.

Both sides of this statement are utter tosh. Panckaes are quick, cheap and filling and therefore appeared regularly on the Fifties’ table.

Hot dogs were a type of sausage that only the Americans ate.

Them and the rest of us, when we went to the Fair – where Hot Dogs and Hamburgers were on offer. Both came tinned, from Westlers. How anything could smell so damn good and yet taste so bloody awful, I shall never know.

Cornflakes had arrived from America but it was obvious that they would never catch on.

Yes. I much preferred Sugar Puffs (launched in Britain in 1957)

FWIW, Kellogg’s arrived in Britain in the early Nineteen Twenties.

The phrase “boil in the bag” would have been beyond our realms of comprehension.

We would most likely assume it to be some kind of suet pudding.

We bought milk and cream at the same time in the same bottle.

And wasn’t the world the better for it? The ritual of shaking the bottle, or choosing not to and pouring the “top of the milk” instead onto your porridge? The Blue Tits stealing the cream before you could get to it? Little foil mushroom tops on cream stalks in the winter?

Lettuce and tomatoes in winter were just a rumour.

Ah, the joy, to  be spared the Summer Sunday ritual Salad Tea: 1 limp lettuce leaf, one slice of cucumber, 1 wedge of tomato, half a hard-boiled egg and a splodge of Salad Cream. Instead, to be given the Winter alternative… canned Pilchards on toast.

Where was the NSPCA when we needed them, eh?

Most soft fruits were seasonal except perhaps at Christmas.

Non-sequitur? Try “Grapes were only for invalids” and “strawberries came in a tin.”

Prunes were medicinal.

Prunes were School Dinner Fodder, with custard.

Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Sailor… nobody ever got to be a Rich Man – you were never served enough to get that far.

Turkeys were definitely seasonal.

Not even that – we had a “Nice Capon” for Christmas.

The one thing that we never ever had on our table in the fifties …. elbows.

Absolutely! Basic Good Manners. And,  of course, meals were always taken at the table, by the whole family seated together.

The rest of the list

Either these are non-sequitur, plain daft, or I have nothing further to contribute. Included for completeness only.

Coke was something that we mixed with coal to make it last longer.
A Chinese chippy was a foreign carpenter.
A Pizza Hut was an Italian shed.
A microwave was something out of a science fiction movie.
Hors d’oeuvre was a spelling mistake.
Special food for dogs and cats was unheard of.
Eating raw fish was called poverty, not sushi.
Ready meals only came from the fish and chip shop.
If we said that we were on a diet, we simply got less.
Healthy food consisted of anything edible.
Calories were mentioned but they had nothing at all to do with food.
A seven course meal had to last a week.
Brunch was not a meal.
“Kebab” was not even a word never mind a food.
The idea of “oven chips” would not have made any sense at all to us.
The world had not yet benefited from weird and wonderful things
like Pot Noodles, Instant Mash and Pop Tarts.
Sugar enjoyed a good press in those days, and was regarded as being white gold.
Surprisingly muesli was readily available in those days, it was called cattle feed.
Pineapples came in chunks in a tin; we had only ever seen a picture of a real one.
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.
We thought that Baguettes were a serious problem the French needed to deal with.
Garlic was used to ward off vampires, but never used to flavour bread.
Water came out of the tap, if someone had suggested bottling it and charging treble for it they would have become a laughing stock.
Food hygiene was all about washing your hands before meals.
Campylobacter, Salmonella, E.coli, Listeria, and Botulism were all called “food poisoning.”


  1. January 21, 2013

    Love your comments. I’m afraid all of this is well before my time.

    One thing: buns have always been bread rolls for me. I think this is regional though since in East Yorkshire they still call cakes buns.
    I don’t ever call cakes cup-cakes, unless actually cooked in a mug. They were fairy cakes or butterfly cakes when I was young. Now just cakes.

    Thinking about it, the whole ‘what do you call a bread roll’ debate could go on for a while. They are called bread cakes in York.

    • January 21, 2013

      I love the whole bread roll thing 🙂

      Yes, from Geordie-land down, and through much of North and East Yorkshire, it is a bread bun – but in the West Riding aka South Yorkshire, it’s a breadcake. Breadcakes when I was small were of the same shape and dimension as the fruited Teacake. Going westward, over the Pennines, the breadcake became a Bap.

      When I moved South, I was amazed to see breadcakes labelled as “Dinner Rolls”. Ooh, la-di-dah!

      For me a cake will always be something that you slice to serve and an individual one is a bun, with or without wings – we made Butterfly Buns.

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