I sometimes wonder where I get the inspiration for my blogs and today’s is just such a mystery. I guess something came up in one of the many social history groups I belong to in facebook. Some soul mentioned a foodstuff I had long forgotten about and it got me thinking. Do you have foods whose nomenclature you thought was unique to your household? It probably wasn’t as unique as you thought. For us Yellow Fish was always what we called smoked haddock. It was years later I learned that the garish yellow colour was completely artificial and that a bit of smoked haddock really should have a pale almost pastel yellow hue. If we buy the supermarket prepacked stuff I am delighted to see it is still available in dayglo Norwich City kit.
It is one of the few fish I will eat – my usual line in avoiding the stuff is ‘I peed in that ocean – and perhaps one of the few foods from my childhood that survives. As a younger child, I didn’t stay at school for school-dinners as my nan was at home and it was a 15 minute walk. Thus we always had dinner at lunch-time and it was a fairly rigid menu too. Monday was Shepherd’s Pie made with leftover meat from the roast minced up (The proper way) and it was always Shepherd’s Pie regardless of whether it was lamb or beef. Mincing of course was done on the Maid Marian in the lean-to using one of those hand-cranked oojamaflips that attached to the table with a G-Clamp. I’m sure I helped!
Tuesday was usually Ox Heart. Cooked like a roast and sliced with mash and peas. Sometimes for variety we would have some lamb’s hearts and nan would make a semblance of stuffing them by sprinkling Paxo over them. Come on, if life is too short to stuff a mushroom, its way too exciting to stuff a heart. Somewhere along the way nan or mum experimented by dropping rice in with the cooking heart. It absorbed all the juices and swelled up into a delicious kedgeree; mashed potato, you are so 1968!
Wednesday was mince. Cooked in the white enamel dish that the hearts had been done in and often layered with sliced boiled potatoes whilst Thursday was faggots (Brains of course) and Birds Eye Sliced Roast Beef in Gravy. The latter is remembered because of the TV advert that I finally found online recently. Thomas and his friend are turning a spit of meat over the fire in a medieval great house. “One day Thomas, roast meat will come in little boxes” “Aye, and one day a man shall land on the moon”. The ad was, of course, broadcast around July 1969. http://www.hatads.org.uk/catalogue/record/1cb50fa9-a308-4796-9fdc-35104df3a96f
Fridays was, of course, fish and chips. Home fried in deep oil in an open saucepan on the hob top. At some point mum must have seen one of the fire brigade safety films because she bought an electric deep-fat fryer. I’m kidding of course, she bought it because she wanted it not because of any film. Blimey, if she’d listened to Charlie I’d never have been allowed out of the house.
Saturdays were our most variable day when it could be her meatballs, Aberdeen Loaf, barbecue chicken or something else from the Woman’s Weekly cookbook. These are the childhood recipes my sister and I attempt to recreate when we visit each other for lunch. Porkies (Sausages wrapped in streaky bacon and cooked in condensed tomato soup) is a firm favourite.
As for desserts, well make your choice from jelly (Water and milk – the milk jelly was my alternative to vomit inducing Angel Delight), Creamola (Such a bugger to cook), tinned fruit cocktail and vanilla ice cream.
Well’s that lunch out of the way. What about tea? Well at some point there was a sea-change (or should be a tea-change?) in our tea-time habits. Before the change tea was bread and jam, boiled-egg and soldiers, poached eggs (Poached in little metal cups) with cheese sauce, weird pastes and spreads, or perhaps a Saveloy or two. Then there was, the coming of Bejam. More accurately the purchase of a freezer. This happened around 1970/1 when dad changed jobs and got – by his standards at the time – a considerable pay increase. Suddenly he learned to drive and we got a car, we had a pedigree dog instead of a mutt, and, as soon as the Wizard of Oz appeared on TV for the first time, we got a colour TV too. Now a whole new teatime world opened up. Findus Crispy Pancakes, barbecue spare ribs (Probably the first mechanically reclaimed meat we had ever tasted), frozen orange juice concentrate, reformed reshaped reconstituted fish lumps (I think we had previously had fish-fingers, probably just bought on the day we were to eat them and stored in that tiny little freezer inside the fridge) and Arctic Roll, of course, Arctic Roll. And that was it. Tea was never the same again. And gradually our eating habits changed to the extent that the occasional Chinese takeaway eventually entered our lives. It was the one takeaway that everyone in the family liked, even my nan!
Speaking of whom, let me end with an embarrassing moment for my nan. One day when young me was ill in bed, she thought a tin of vermicelli in milk might tempt me to eat. She stood at the bottom of the stairs and yelled up
“Do you want vermicelli for lunch?”
“What’s that?” I responded
“Long thin worms in milk” retorted nan, just as the postman arrived at the door!