Eating in the 1940s and 50s

Posted on June 22, 2009 by Simon Ridgwell | 0 Comments


Today I went to Greyfriars Court Sheltered housing in Lewes and met with the older people who live there. They’d agreed to answer my foodie questions.
Such things as
‘When did you first eat an avocado, iceberg lettuce, or garlic?’
‘When did you get your first fridge and before that how did food keep cool?’
I took some Eccles cakes for a treat but they were a bit tough and the sugar on the top had caramelised somewhat! It was alively discussion and the group was well travelled and interested in food.
What new things did I learn?
Some ladies used liquid paraffin to make cakes during the war! I thought it was a bowel loosener, so a slice of their cake would have had strange effects later in the day.
One lady made wartime mayonnaise from cold thick custard, vinegar and mustard and she said it livened up a drab lettuce no end. Not sure I’m going to try it!
I wondered why Boots the Chemist sold olive oil that my mother would dribble in my ear when I had earache, yet we never thought of cooking with it. The group told me that people who ate garlic had to be really careful not to create smelly breath, and many people avoided it for that reason.
And why didn’t we eat much chicken? Seems that most of the birds were kept for egg laying, and by the time their laying was over, they were tough old boilers. Chicken was a feast for holidays and Christmas.
What had they learnt in school about cooking? – very little it seems except how to clean down tables and make pastry and cakes! Most of them thought cookery was useless and that they had learnt more from their mothers or cookery books. So that is my life work summed up!
I saw one lady’s recipe book with titles such as Mock crab, Muesli and pizza – quite adventurous for the 1950’s. So thankyou to the ladies and gentleman who took part.


Guild of Food Writers Awards

Teaching cookery in the 1970s

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