I cannot avoid my hipster heritage. Born into the time when ‘Ban the Bomb’ and nuclear power flirted precariously. Society wanted peace and comfort. Our parents had enough of privation. They especially wanted more electrical appliances. Colour TV and automatic(ish) washing machines were proudly shown off to neighbours. They took driving lessons and the streets began to fill up with Ford and British Leyland.
My generation had been shown the way. Mine was the generation when it was possible for ordinary kids to go to university. They even paid us to go. We saw a different life to the one my parents had ever dreamed of. We became the fondue set generation. One of the things that changed significantly was our food. No more stew. Fondue was the way. Dinner parties with wine (fashionably homemade) and Black Forest gateau (probably fashionably frozen). My parents would never have had a dinner party.
I went to school at a time when we were taught cookery. If you were a girl that is. Education was segregated in those days. Girls spent a morning a week in the domestic science room, learning how to wash socks in a twin-tub and how to cook a ‘square meal’ for the family. We learned to cook things that my parents found more than a little pretentious, sometimes with the noun and the verb swapped over to make it sound vaguely French. Like ‘plaice mornay’, which was a bit of grilled fish with cheddar cheese on top. We learned how to encase common sausagemeat in plaited flaky pastry, topped with more cheddar cheese, and the art of quiche. My domestic science teacher dared to describe the greasy onion and bacon confection, with yet more cheddar cheese, as ‘Quiche Lorraine’… No one knew how to pronounce ‘quiche’ so it sounded ironically like ‘kitch’. We didn’t learn how to make ‘stew’ but we did do toad in the hole during the ‘uses of batter’ segment of the course. This was the primrose path to the pancake filled with savoury things in sauces.
The following poem is about stuffed tomatoes. Stuffed vegetables were de rigeur in the seventies. Mushroom, pepper, aubergine… marrow. No wonder Shirley Conran got sick of stuffing mushrooms.
Those bloated red tomatoes like overblown
party balloons, only come into their own
with an egg and a slice of bacon.
Remember when we used to hollow out
their pithy cores, stuff them with white
Patna and pink plastic ham.
We served them at dinner parties,
thinking how our this elevated us
from the common meat and two veg.
We tried to teach our parents the new cuisine
bought cut glass for wine
and washed the plates in between
for courses they never before had.
Think now, after years, how we’ve come back to our roots
heating up the frying pan in celebration.