Welcome to the second in my 1970s nostalgia blog posts – recalling the era in which my novel, LITTLE BASTARD, is set. The theme for Part Two is 70s Food and Drink.
Some of this stuff I remember, some I guess I had blanked out(!)…and, amazingly, some still survives in the supermarkets of today. Either way, it is probably fair to say that the 1970s was not exactly the most health conscious food era – and 21st century dieticians and fitness fanatics will often shake their heads at 70s cuisine in the same way that contemporary fashionistas look down their noses at the period as “the decade fashion forgot” (of which more in Part Three: Music and Fashion).
I was a kid back in the 70s…so my focus is going to be mostly on sweets (natch!)…plus a bit about the booze I remember the adults around me knocking back.
Food-wise the decade began with the introduction of the Curly Wurly chocolate bar in 1970. This was closely followed by Crème Eggs in ’71. I think both of these survive to this day – certainly the ubiquitous (and now all-year-round) Crème Eggs do.
Next door to my school was a small shop (rather imaginatively) called ‘The Tuck Shop’ in which we could spend our coppers on buying ‘a quarter’ of such stuff as jelly beans, wine gums or dolly mixtures. Behind a glass counter at the front lay the arena of the ‘penny chews’ – an assortment of sweets all at the bargain price of 1p a pop. These included gobstoppers, flying saucers, Fruit Salads, Blackjacks, milk bottles, cola bottles, sweet cigarettes and pink and white mice.
This was back in the day when ‘Snickers’ bars were called ‘Marathon’ and ‘Starburst’ was known as ‘Opal Fruits’. For a while there was also a quirky product called ‘Space Dust’ we used to buy like crazy because it annoyed the teachers at school. It was some sort of chemical that would fizz and pop on your tongue. It used to be routinely confiscated (and banned) at school – and it was hard to disguise the fact you were eating it. Even if you could stop the popping your tongue looked radioactive – a slight giveaway really!
Away from the sweet shop – dinner tables in the 70s used to feature such staples as Chicken Kiev, Duck A L’Orange, Smash mash (as advertised by robots in a flying saucer), Vesta ready meals, prawn cocktail, Alphabetti Spaghetti and Spam (…yes that Spam…once upon a time the word had a different meaning, kids!)
Desserts might be Arctic Roll, Angel Delight, Black Forest gateau or some sort of crumble covered in Bird’s custard. The health conscious would have a Ski yoghurt (into which they would dunk a Jaffa Cake)!
Snack-wise it was the era of Mother’s Pride bread. I still remember my father making himself bacon sandwiches on soft white bread and adding Sarson’s malt vinegar as a finishing touch!
1970s food is, of course, these days typified by its party food. Anyone who has ever seen the legendary 1977 satirical Mike Leigh play Abigail’s Party will know what to expect – even if they can’t recall the decade for themselves. Everything was either impaled on a cocktail stick (mini sausages, cheese and pineapple chunks) or served up from a Hostess trolley. Fondue was all the rage – and supposedly the height of sophistication!
Booze-wise, the adults used to seek rapid oblivion on Mateus Rose, Black Tower or Blue Nun. There was also Babycham – the original ‘something for the ladies’! Blokes would opt for Watneys Red Barrel (in ‘Party Size’ kegs) or Double Diamond or Colt 45 lager.
TV cooks such as Fanny Craddock (yes, really – and you can only imagine the images that presented when I googled that for some pix for this blog!) and Delia Smith dominated the culinary landscape. Delia was just starting out then – and she’s still teaching us Brits how to boil an egg in the following century!
In 1979 the decade ended with the introduction of a new food product that definitely survives to this very day……….the Pot Noodle! Says it all really!
In the main, we look back and laugh (and even cringe!) at some of the foodstuff of the 70s. Having said that, there is a nostalgia to be had in the food you grew up with – it really is ‘comfort food’ in that sense. Whilst the convenience food of the era is largely truly dreadful, there’s still a lot to be said for a perfectly made Black Forest Gateau.
Next time: 70s Music and Fashion