Memories from the past often trigger other memories especially where food is concerned and since I recently wrote the popular blogpost "What we ate in the 1960s and 1970s" more food thoughts have come to me that I'd like to share with you now.
We British have some interesting names for our food dishes that are passed down from generation to generation. These include 'Bubble and Squeak' a Monday way of using up the leftover cold meats and vegetables from Sunday lunch by frying them: 'Toad in the Hole' sausages in Yorkshire pudding and loads of Bisto gravy: 'Fly Pie' another name for buttery and sugary Eccles cakes that have loads of currants in them (hence the fly lookalikes) and of course that pudding that makes everyone smile, 'Spotted Dick' a steamed pudding with currants and usually served hot with warm custard. Our family enjoyed all of these in the 1960s and 1970s. We kids once discovered the rudely named, 'Cock - a – leekie soup, and giggled about the name for months. In fact we were terrible gigglers at the dinner table and often got reprimanded by my strict and old fashioned father. Like all daft teenagers we'd want to snigger even more as he went redder and redder in his exasperation of trying to control us. Bless him.
We also had some silly names for some desserts including Jelly and Blank Monkey (Blancmange) and Dandelion and Bird Muck for the soft drink Dandelion and Burdock. I'm sure there were more besides. When my step mum made a trifle she would be very liberal with the colourful hundreds and thousands and those edible little silver balls. As our parents were only occasional drinkers of alcohol the sherry put in the trifle wasn't so liberal at all. Barely a sniff in fact.
Cheap meals were often an economic staple in the Lowe family diet and included a lot of meals like beans on toast; cheese on toast that bubbled away under the grill and was also called Welsh rarebit; macaroni cheese; pigs liver and onions with mashed potatoes; bangers and mash; scrambled eggs on toast awash with brown sauce; home made sausage meat pie; corned beef hash; plenty of Heinz or Cross and Blackwell's tinned soups but mainly cream of tomato, cream of chicken, oxtail and vegetable. To bulk the soup out we children were encouraged to eat lots of fluffy, thick sliced and processed white Hovis bread with it and slurping the hot soup was a heinous crime. The punishment for regular slurp disobedience was being sent to bed early – without any supper. The supper would be cheddar cheese and crackers with Branston's pickle. Occasionally we would go food barmy and have a choice of Cheddar cheese or Red Leicester or a white crumbly cheese like Derby or Derby Sage.
We also had plenty of beef stew type dinners or variations of. These were usually quite simple cooking but the stew and dumplings, the steak and kidney puddings, the beef and lamb casseroles and slightly more kitchen time consuming, Lancashire hot pots were all delicious and the memory of them forms some of my most pleasurable cooking methods today.
Meat joints such as a shoulder of lamb cooked on the bone or a rib beef joint or part leg of pork for roasting were purely the preserve of the Sunday dinner table and unaffordable to have in the week as well.
My step mum used to bake a lot and there always seemed to be constant supply of jam tarts and lemon curd tarts as well as sponge cakes, fruit bread and scones. And when the times for celebrating Christmas came around each year she would make the fruity and very alcoholic Christmas cake well in advance and it would sit in the pantry in a cake tin for seemingly months before December came around. To have a 'shop bought' cake in the house was unheard of if she could make a better one herself at home. So from her industrious hands and mixing bowl came, Victoria Sponges, Gingerbread, Dundee Cake, Coconut Castles, Pineapple and Cherry loaves, Swiss Tarts, Rock Buns and many a Chocolate Layer Cake! The only things that were shop bought were cheap Swiss Rolls and the Saturday treat of cream cakes from Birds the Baker. Otherwise all was home made and us kids queued up to lick out the pastry bowl or nick (with permission) bits of marzipan when the Christmas cake or a birthday cake was being made. My dad rarely did any cooking but he did enjoy making cheese sticks, gingerbread men and Bread and Butter pudding. Bread and butter pudding is a dish made with slightly stale buttered bread, sultanas, the grated rind of a lemon, two eggs, caster sugar and a pint of milk. It smelt great as it came out of the gas cooker and it was a particular family favourite. Incidentally the stale bread crusts were always removed.
Every year the family excitedly looked forward to Shrove Tuesday when we made and tossed pancakes and covered them in lemon juice from Jif lemons and lots of Demerara sugar. Why we used the plastic Jif lemon containers instead of real lemons I'm not sure.
Dad with blackberries collected locally.
My step mum often had the complaint that she bought in weekly supplies of fruit like apples, oranges, crisp pears and bananas and very little of it got eaten by us kids. There was a range of fruit that never graced our dining table and they were Ugli fruits, Persimmons, Paw Paws, Lychees, Limes, Mangoes, Kumquats, Greengages, and Figs. These all appear in a Reader's digest 1970s cookery book that I have on my shelf and they must have been available somewhere in the UK but presumably not something that our family or many other Chaddesden based working class families enjoyed or needed back then.
We had apricots, fruit salad, nectarines, peaches and pineapples rings or chunks from tins and occasionally a real live pineapple might make its way to our table. Gooseberries were grown from the bush, dates and nuts came around during the Christmas season, damsons were scrummaged from local orchards or former orchards in Breadsall Village. We might have had a melon or two but never ever had continental ham with it! Far too pretentious and Abigail's Party-esque.