What we Ate.

I touched on this aspect of 1950s life in my first post – The Blog Begins. This post shares some more thoughts on food in Post War Britain.

We had a much smaller range of food available to us in the fifties. Living in a backwater, we were probably a bit behind everyone else. I was 17 when I first ate a red pepper. I first came across pizza on a visit to London as a student. Cheese choices were all native – Carphilly, Cheddar, Cheshire, Red Leicester. The first exotic cheese I knew was Danish Blue.  Normal, everyday cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Ementhal, Mozarella were yet to be discovered in Britain!

Meals in recipe books and on menus didn’t have foreign names like Stroganoff, Risotto, Tagliatelle or Bolognese. Neither did they have convoluted titles like Pan-Seared Bass with Chargrilled Vegetables and a Caramelised Onion Marmalade. Or Hand-Cut, Triple-Cooked, Seasoned Potato Chips. Chips were just chips. We had meat and two veg (roast beef dinner, roast pork dinner), one pot meals (beef casserole, lamb stew), cold meals (ham salad, corned beef salad – how often do you hear of corned beef these days?) or chip meals (egg and chips, ham and chips, fish and chips). The meals which had names were reassuringly down to earth and self-explanatory – Toad in the Hole, Hot Pot, Macaroni Cheese (the only pasta we knew, but the word pasta was unknown to us at that time).

A 1950s nutriotionist’s thoughts on an ideal family menu for a week.

A 1950s Christmas menu.


Recipes didn’t have colour, or any, photographs. Most didn’t even have drawings like these – just text.

 Some ‘creative’ ideas for serving Spam in the 1950s.

The other old favourite was the snack on toast – beans on toast, scrambled egg on toast, poached egg on toast, cheese on toast, sardines on toast, spaghetti on toast (tinned spaghetti, of course.)

We also ate more offal than people do now; items like liver, kidney, tripe, brawn and sweetbreads.

Food was preserved by canning, salting, pickling, bottling, drying. With the advent of freezing came the arrival of delights (to we children, anyway!) such as fish fingers. Home freezers were uncommon until the very late 60s/ early 70s so fish fingers, frozen peas and Arctic Roll (mmmmm, loved it!) were bought and eaten on the same day.




Fruit any more exotic than apples or bananas were bought in tins. Tinned pineapple and peaches were eaten all year round and tinned pears, strawberries and mandarin oranges when the real thing was out of season. We ate fresh peas in summer when my dad grew them but tinned or dried the rest of the year.

   This was issued during rationing – which carried on after the war until 1953.

3 thoughts on “What we Ate.

  1. Ahh the Sunday Roast beef dinners with two vegetables and (apple pie, my mother’s favourite) and of course beans on toast and scrambled eggs. I think the first time I had Chinese food was when I was about 10 or so….. We didn’t have complex meals back then at all.. Diane


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