Thursday, 14 May 2015

70s Food

In the 60s, rice was white and had to be “fluffy”. You were supposed to put it in a sieve and run it under the cold tap before cooking to “remove the starch”.

Melon was added to everything, but the melons were never ripe. No wonder they were hard and bitter. (And you just couldn't say you didn't like melon. It was like saying "I'm a chav".) We also ate unripe avocados because we didn’t know any better and you had to eat avocados or be cast out as terminally square.

Plaice and sole were popular – they lasted into the 80s as posh restaurant food. (Delicious with lemon and parsley, or white sauce. If you add halved grapes to the white sauce it becomes Sole Véronique.)

And then the 60s became the 70s and we ate:

mackerel paté
cheese soufflé
dried herbs

prawn cocktail
black forest gateau
steak au poivre

beef Wellington

lamb with rosemary
tarragon vinegar

home-made cheesecake
marinated minute steak

garlic bread
garlic butter
red beans, red beans, red beans, red beans

brown risotto rice
wholewheat pasta
wholewheat pastry

brown bread like slices of coconut matting
grapefruit in everything
salads made of finely sliced raw button mushrooms and cress

barmbrack (raisin bread flavoured with tea)
Julienne vegetables (cut into little straws)


Colman’s French mustard
(Bland, sweet, vinegary and not too hot. Colman’s have stopped making it, but you can get it at Waitrose).

gazpacho and cold soup of all kinds
(Gazpacho was terribly cool because of all the garlic and chilli.)

kebabs made with absolutely anything (cubes of ham, chunks of green pepper, raw mushrooms, cubes of pineapple)

Posh dinner party food consisted of meat stuck together with sweet, bland sauce – like chicken a la king or osso buco. It was such a welcome change from the 50s when everything was separate (meat, potatoes, greens) and sauce was frowned on ("foreign food smothered in complicated sauce"). Food actually became nice and easy to eat. Italy and Spain (paella, foreign holidays) were the inspiration. Also Greek and Middle Eastern – houmous, taramasalata. Really posh food consisted of lobster bisque followed by tournedos Rossini.

Yes, fondue was briefly popular. We didn't just have edible food at last, eating was supposed to be fun. Instead of minding your manners, you could all dip into a fondue pot, or battle hilariously with chopsticks. And food was brightly coloured instead of beige.

Recipes recommended that you “add some of the liquid from the tin”. But at least you didn't have to steam things for hours.

Omelettes, omelettes, omelettes. Omelette pans that you weren’t allowed to wash or use for anything else. Obsessing about omelettes and obsessing about not over-cooking them. Bossily telling other people how to cook omelettes using your own superior method.

Vegetarianism became more popular on ideological and moral grounds, but many expressed complete bafflement about what vegetarians ate, and vegetarians were bossed cruelly for daring to be different. But you had to say "We are all individuals" in case anybody thought you were boring and straight.

All recipes contained tomato puree and crushed garlic. French cooks add one clove of garlic to stock so that it subtly permeates rather than hitting you over the head.

Peppers, peppers, peppers. I've been to the South of France and they don't put peppers in everything. Yes, peppers got everywhere. You couldn't buy a plain tuna sandwich any more – tuna was adulterated with red peppers and sweetcorn and renamed "Mexican tuna". The only place you could escape peppers was the British Home Stores canteen (still going).

You could still get 50s favourites fish paste, cheese and tomato, cheese and onion, cheese and pickle, cheese and coleslaw, corned beef, liver sausage. All on white sliced bread.

The 60s added bacon and banana, date and cream cheese, and club sandwiches.

In the 70s you could get all of the above, plus brown bread and poppy seed rolls (I miss them). Hippy sandwiches were rather wartime: grated carrot and raisin, houmous and bean sprouts, all on very tough brown bread. We pretended to like them – how British! At festivals and rep cinemas you had no choice - unless you went for the oat and date slice.

Vegetarian food was all a bit stodgy and heavy: piles of brown rice and vegetables. Oodles was a vegetarian restaurant chain which offered spinach, potato and gorgonzola pie in wholewheat pastry.

More here, and links to the rest.


  1. You are giving me flashback nightmares! For food for entertaining, you cooked one ingredient, then you cooked another, then you cooked a sauce, then you combined them all and then you cooked it all again, probably with something sprinkled over the top. What were we THINKING?

  2. That's what I call an American casserole! I still like them.