How Britain Became a Nation of Foodies
Food had been all about frugality and functionality for the best part of the 1940’s and 1950’s and whilst the food had been wholesome by the 60’s people were ready for a change. We didn’t want ‘make do and mend’ anymore and we were tired of ‘digging for victory’, instead we were fascinated by the idea of convenience food. No more cow heel soup and reserving the liquid from boiled vegetables to make soup. Bright, brash and decadent was the new trend, with different foods and cooking habits being introduced into the kitchen.
As people started to take the first package holidays, inspiration was brought home in the form of exotic dishes such as Coq au Vin and Duck a l’ Orange. Whilst fish and chips remained the nation’s favourite takeaway, fancy new dishes such as chicken Kiev and sweet and sour were being produced by housewives all over Britain. At the same time the arrival of Indian and Chinese restaurants heralded the beginning of the foreign takeaway tradition. The 1970’s even saw fast food taken to a new level with women’s magazines giving instructions on how to save time by freezing sardine sandwiches. Tastes were changing and food was about to become about feeding the eyes before the stomach, the phase ‘style over substance’, was increasingly relevant.
As the consumption of meat and sugar reached record levels and a much greater variety of foods became available in the shops, the 1960’s housewife really did become the hostess with the mostess. The growth of air travel meant fruit and vegetables could be flown in from exotic countries enabling the availability of fresh produce all year round, whilst the appearance of fancy fare such as avocados began to be seen in the shops and frozen asparagus tips were just around the corner.
As acclaimed television cook Fanny Craddock demonstrated how to cook for a dinner party whilst wearing a strapless evening dress, dramatic make-up and cocktail jewellery, it was clear that fine and fancy food was in vogue. It was out with bread and cheese for supper and in with the wine and cheese party. I still have a few Fanny Craddock books and I maintain that despite her outdated style reputation as somewhat of a dictator of the kitchen, her Swiss roll recipe is unbeatable.
By the end of the decade, the popular TV chef Graham Kerr, known as the Galloping Gourmet, was jet-setting around the world and providing viewers with recipes for far-flung dishes such as Lamb Apollo and Jambalaya. The nation was captivated by his culinary shenanigans and colourful cooking. I still find him entertaining to watch today and as I watch him swirl his wine around and introduce the viewers to the exotic world of tinned lychees I can’t help think that this was the birth of foodie Britain. It is certain that mealtimes were changing and grapefruits stuffed with crab were on the menu and salads were getting saucy.
By the 70s the British palette for all things foreign was insatiable and undeniably this was the decade that brought the dinner party to the masses. Fondue, foreign cuisine and fiasco’s of wine were the height of fashion as hosts entertaining at home were keen to wow their guests with exotic fruit, sophisticated recipes, fancy garnishes and colourful culinary combinations.
Whilst you may not fancy a serving of cheese and pineapple canapés or devilled kidneys it is certain that 60’s and 70’s breathed colour and life into British dining and started the trend of a more relaxed style of entertaining, with an emphasis on wowing guests with a taste of the exotic.