I mixed in some French mustard with my scrambled eggs this a.m. and strangely it reminded me of the first time I ate it, the mustard not the eggs; in France on my student exchange. It reminds me of how much food in England has changed, via the influence of foreign holidays and EU imports. I can’t remember the first time I ate garlic (or garlic flavoured food) but it wasn’t served at school or at University and was hard to find in the green grocers. I mean again, it was probably in France, chez Mary.
I was also reminded that the BBC did a a TV series, called Back in Time for Dinner, which talked about English food from 1940–1990. I watched when they first put it out and was fascinated. I said about that time,
I & Mrs L watched episodes, 3 & 4 of “Back in time for dinner”, the 70’s & 80’s. What’s great about this show, probably much to the chagrin of Giles Coren the presenter is the way it deals with food, the economics of its production, including the access to consumer technology (white goods in particular) and the economics of society. Its focus on women in society is also important to talk about in order to tell the full story.
The emergence and ubiquity of fast food in the 80’s was driven by the invention of the micro-wave and the need to get homemakers back to work. Also,
The story of British food in the 70’s is about the victory of the food chemist, they wait to the’80 episode to mention the ultimate victory of the food chemist, the election of Thatcher but I remember the food and the politics. While it was a defeat for the blandness and terrible cooking technique, it wasn’t good food. The power cut on the show, to represent the coal strikes [and the three day week] of the ’70s was fun, given that all domestic food production and storage now depended on electricity. The show mentions the food price inflation towards the end of the decade and the growing sense of a potential return to poverty and insecurity.
Nowhere does it mention the impact of the EU, the immigration, cooking styles & imports from Europe but I had my first kebab in the ’70s buying it from a shop on Tottenham Court Road and I remember my Father’s delight at taking us to a curry house when he and my mum finally felt that our tastes were mature enough to enjoy Indian cuisine. I can’t remember if I enjoyed it then, but I do now!
I wonder if it’ll go backwards now.
European food, will it go or will it stay?
Originally published at https://davelevy.info on February 13, 2022.