Thursday, 4 February 2010

Food for thought - today's lovely grub

In any gathering of contemporaries I’m often in a minority of one when it comes to arguing whether life was better way back when. Give me now, I cry. There was never a Golden Age; it only seemed so because you were young. Everything was new and to be relished – often to excess. Time has jaded your appetite for life.
Take food itself. If you’re like me – over 65 and a life-long townie – you can’t tell me that the quality and variety of food isn't greatly improved.
I think even as a child I knew I was being short-changed in sweetshops with the only choices between rock-hard vegetable fat-laden ice-cream, gobstoppers, and toffee. Bread – Wonderloaf – was the same consistency as thick blotting paper and about as palatable. There was no food intended for children because this was a time before McDonald’s.
It was a big deal when you could begin to buy olive oil at the grocer’s – previously it had been dispensed at chemists. The beer was so awful it required the Campaign for Real Ale to bring some variety into our pubs.
First ventures in wine drinking brought the option of sweet German Rieslings or rough Algerian Reds. These days you have to be really unlucky to buy an undrinkable bottle of wine.
Look at the chilled cabinet in any larger supermarket. Previously it was mousetrap or nothing – now there is a continent of cheese to choose from. Once if you wanted salami, it had to be shipped back in suitcases from foreign holidays. Decent coffee was only to be found in Soho delis.
I’m not able to judge whether meat was better forty or more years ago; certainly every high street would have had its own fishmongers and greengrocers. So meals should have been healthier with convenience foods yet to take off. If only our mothers knew they were killing us with too much fat, sugar, and salt.
There’s about only one food item, which we should never have let slip from grace. Why did mayonnaise ever replace salad cream in the national diet?

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