a tasty helping of nostalgia
A recent Telegraph feature explored the idea of “eating like it’s the 1970s”. In this instance, it was a sensible consideration on the virtues of smaller portion sizes (as opposed to ‘“portion distortion”), and featured a fillet of salmon accompanied by two lettuce leaves and a single boiled potato.
For many of us, however, the mention of 1970s food conjures memories not of how much we ate but of what we ate: namely bowls of butterscotch Angel Delight and the molten wonder of Findus Crispy Pancakes. Executives at Channel 5 clearly feel the same, because The 1970s Supermarket revisited these dishes, along with boil-in-the-bag rice, Pot Noodles and Spam fritters (Spam was introduced decades earlier but no 1970s school dinner menu was complete without them).
Historians explained how consumer habits began changing at the beginning of the decade. Supermarkets existed, but on high streets rather than vast out-of-town places with their own car parks. It was still common to go into a shop where the grocer would stand behind the counter, taking food off the shelves for you. I will think wistfully of that the next time I’m battling with a self-service checkout machine.
The show was an easy exercise in nostalgia, complete with archive footage and old TV ads. The programme-makers stocked a shop with 1970s products and invited people to wander the aisles. A middle-aged man became misty-eyed at the memory of the pastry on a Fray Bentos pie. A twentysomething was perplexed: “Casserole in a tin? Wow.”
Rustie Lee fried up some Spam before making her own version of Crispy Pancakes. I’m not quite sure what this Caribbean cooking queen was doing here, because she found fame in the 1980s rather than the 1970s, but nice to see her anyway – that laugh is still intact, and she barely seems to have aged. Food scientist Chris Clarke explained to us why Spam can seemingly last forever (it’s all about the preserving prowess of sodium nitrate, apparently) and how Angel Delight can be whipped up so quickly.
A quick browse of a supermarket website reveals that Crispy Pancakes are still for sale, now featuring mozzarella. Angel Delight also endures, with such innovations as Strawberry Magic flavour (“contains red sparkles that turn violet and might bring unicorns to life!”). Neither look terribly appetising. Some things are best left in the past.