Keeping Food Fresh

Nowadays we don’t have any problems keeping food fresh and safe to eat. We have fridges, freezers, vacuum packs as well as the dried and tinned foods which have been around much longer. Also, everything – even tinned food! – has a sell by/ use by date printed on it. The humble sell-by date actually has a surprisingly short history here in the UK. It was introduced in Marks & Spencer’s storerooms in the 1950s before making its way onto the shelves in 1970. It wasn’t even called a “sell-by-date” until 1973. Like a lot of people who date back to pre-sell-by date years, I still rely on the look, feel and smell of food rather than panicking and throwing food away the day after the date has passed. I appreciate that people who eat meat and fish have to be extra careful and to take no risks.

       

 

       

 

When I was very young, in the early 1950s,  we didn’t have a fridge. I remember the arrival of our first one being so exciting! In the summer, my mum used to hang bottles of milk in a string bag in the stream to stop the milk going off. We had a pantry with a stone slab in it which was meant to keep things cool. It is very easy to tell when milk has turned sour. Bread goes dry, cheese goes mouldy, potatoes go green and start sprouting, some foods start smelling bad. When these sort of foods have been kept too long or have been stored incorrectly the result is obvious. The hidden danger is when food has turned and could be hazardous but there are no obvious signs which is when sell by dates are important.

 

A 1950s kitchen with an early fridge.

UK’s first frozen food product was asparagus made by Smedley’s of Wisbech which is a fact which surprised me as I had assumed the ubiquitous pea would have been the first frozen vegetable. Although frozen food went on sale for the first time in Britain on May 10, 1937, the average UK householder did not have easy access to it until the 1950s and 60s. Home freezers first became popular in the 1970s .  Apparently, the sales of frozen food were boosted during the Second World War as metals for tins were in very short supply but I reckon that would only have been in cities and not in the more rural areas such as where I grew up.

The face of Birds Eye in the UK – Captain Birds Eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

New Foods

A few weeks ago I was doing some clearing out/ de-cluttering. I realised that quite a few of my recipe books were now looking extremely tatty. On flicking through them before throwing them out I started thinking about the food items which didn’t appear in them and definitely wouldn’t have been around in the 1950s! I will just say next that most of the foods I’m going to list here already existed somewhere in the world. They are not new, just new to us in Britain.

Reading about the history of food trends in Britain, the first wave of ‘foreign food’ cuisine was French which arrived in the late 1950s and continued to be popular through the 1960s and to the present. These trends are ones I’ve read about but I was unaware of them as a child. Fashions didn’t spread as quickly back then and the average person in Britain didn’t come across fancy restaurants or try out recipes from cookbooks like Elizabeth David’s 1950 publication A Book of Mediterranean Food.

A Book of Mediterranean Food: Elizabeth David                          A Book of Mediterranean Food (Penguin Cookery L... by David, Elizabeth Paperback

An early copy.                                                                Still in print.

This famous book came at a time when many foods were still rationed and very few people went abroad on holiday. With the rise of Italian, Chinese and Indian eating places in the large cities in the 1950s and through to smaller towns over the next few decades, new foods began to filter down into normal households.

Food trends continue to ebb and flow, almost without us noticing. Here are some of the things I hadn’t even heard of even ten or fifteen years ago.

Halloumi

This is a traditional cheese from Cyprus but I can still remember the first time I came across it, not much more than ten years ago. I loved it then and still do!

Image result for halloumi cheese  Image result for halloumi cheese

Jackfruit

I haven’t seen this here in my part of Yorkshire yet but I keep reading about it in magazines and online. It’s being particularly hailed  as a meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans. I’ll report back when I eventually get to try it!

Image result for jackfruit     Image result for jackfruit recipes

The raw jackfruit                                   Cooked jackfruit

Prosecco

Suddenly this drink is everywhere! Ten years ago I had never heard of it now there isn’t a party, wedding, dinner party or hen do without it.

Image result for prosecco  Image result for prosecco

 

 

Panini

Another first taste memory. We were in France on holiday when I had my first panini (and I loved it) and now nearly every cafe has them on the menu. They’re a version of what we here call a toasted sandwich but with different bread and more adventurous fillings.

Related image  Image result for toasted sandwich

Panini                                                     Basic British toasted sandwich

Couscous, quinoa, freekeh

Where once we had rice, now we have a whole load of alternative grains and seeds to choose from. To date I have tried quinoa and couscous but not freekeh.

Image result for freekehImage result for couscous

Pesto, balsamic vinegar, coconut oil, coconut milk,

Image result for pesto                           Image result for balsamic vinegar

 

Image result for coconut milk tin  File:Coconut Oil amp 30050.jpg

This is an assortment of items which now feature in many of our kitchen cupboards and which were unheard of here until recent years.

Green tea and herbal teas

Image result for green tea  Image result for herbal teas

Tea used to mean a hot drink made from the leaves of the tea bush. Green tea has become very popular now and is also from the tea bush but it seems you can now call any hot infusion a tea. We see every sort of leaf, fruit, herb and spice presented as a tea, often in combinations of more than one.

 

Labels

Wholemeal, wholegrain, gluten free, decaffeinated, ‘Free From’, vegan, vegetarian, meat free, additive free, sugar free, low fat, fat free. These labels are everywhere now and SO helpful when you have specific requirements in your food shopping, whether from preference or for medical and dietary reasons. Back in the 1950s, with rationing just coming to an end, food was food. Be grateful, like it or lump it was the attitude. How things change!

 

Image result for free from foods asda

 

 

 

Evocative Smells

I haven’t given myself the easiest topic this time! How on earth am I going to convey smells to my readers?

This has come about following a recent conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about Ponds face creams. It turns out that we both had grandmothers who used to use Ponds. Suddenly we were recalling the size and shape of the pots, the colour of the lids and the distinctive smell which we found we could conjure up in our minds and which would forever remind us of our grandmothers.

Image result for ponds vanishing cream 1950s

Nivea was the cream of choice in our family. Mum always had a tin in the house and in winter she would rub it into our cheeks and hands before we walked to school to stop the cold air drying our skin out. In summer it was rubbed into skin which had burned in the sun – back in the 50s, people didn’t know how much damage the sun can cause. Some households favoured Astral over Nivea. Both creams are still widely available here and both have distinctive smells which can transport people right back to their childhoods.

Image result for nivea tin 1950s

Image result for astral cream 1950s

Milky bedtime drinks were an important part of life in the 1950s. In those post-war years, when food rationing had only just finished, they were looked on as cheap, filling and nutritious. Cocoa and drinking chocolate were popular and are still enjoyed by many children. The two non-chocolate drinks which had their own distinctive smells were Horlicks and Ovaltine. If I were to smell either of those again I would instantly be under twelve, wearing flannelette pyjamas and sitting in front of a coal fire.

Image result for ovaltine 1950s Image result for Horlicks tin 1950s

Perfumes are big business nowadays. There is a bewildering selection available, new ones are being released every year and if you’re a celebrity the chances are that you have one with your name on it. Back in my childhood, the main perfumes or ‘scents’ as we called them were floral in name and nature. There were others available, which were the more expensive ones, and some are still around today – L’Aimant, L’Air du Temps, White Fire etc. But the average mum, grandma, teenage girl used a floral one. If I were to smell Devon Violets now I would be back in my mum’s bedroom reaching up onto her dressing table to sniff her scents and creams. Lavender water and Lily of the Valley were also very popular.

Image result for devon violets 1950s      Image result for lily of the valley perfume 1950s

 

Back in the 1950s, deodorants were not widely used. I remember my mum using one called Odor-O-No but many people still relied on strong-smelling soaps and talcum powder. The soaps I remember with memory-evoking smells were Wright’s Coal Tar Soap, Lifebuoy, Imperial Leather and Pears. Imperial Leather and Pears are still sold but nowadays you have look hard to find the section of the supermarket selling bars of soap as squirty soap and shower gels have taken over.

Image result for lifebuoy soap 1950s      Image result for wright's coal tar soap 1950s

Image result for Imperial leather soap 1950s  Image result for talcum powder 1950s uk

Tinned soups are still around, they are definitely not a thing of the past, but if I were to heat up a tin of Heinz Cream of Tomato soup now I would be straight back in my childhood. Tinned foods were in their infancy in the 1950s and as there were so few labour-saving devices around and very few fridges and freezers, tinned soups must have been a delight for the average ‘housewife’ – as they were called then!

     Image result for heinz tomato soup 1950s

 

 

 

 

As before, I would like to say that images used are freely available on the Internet via Google Images. If anyone objects to my use of an image please contact me and I will remove it.

 

 

Planks of Wood and Lumps of Slate.

I was out for lunch with some friends yesterday and out of the five of us only two had meals served on china plates. This prompted a lively discussion and my friend Janet suggested that the topic would be a good one to cover in my blog. So here it is!

I don’t know if this has happened in other parts of the world, and I look forward to hearing from readers on this, but in the last decade or so there has been a bit of a trend in certain eating places to serve food on other things besides plates. This will not normally happen in higher end restaurants but more in the slightly up-market cafes and bistros. The sort of place you would go to do what I did yesterday and meet friends for lunch. At least, that’s my impression – others might think differently.

  • The commonest one is food served on a lump of wood or what I would use as a chopping board or bread board. This doesn’t feel particularly odd for a sandwich/ ploughman’s sort of meal, but some of the others are definitely peculiar!

wooden board  Meal served on a wooden board.

  • Pieces of slate are also spotted in these sort of places.

slate    A piece of slate serves as a plate.

  • Yesterday one of us had food presented in a basket. This reminded us all that the very first cases of this sort of food presentation happened in the late 60s/ early 70s when pubs (it was only pubs doing this) started serving bar snacks in a basket. The three usual choices were steak, chicken or scampi with chips. This was the first time steak and chicken had been served in small bite-sized pieces which you could spear with just a fork. Basket meals were SO new and SO trendy! My first one ever was when I was a student in a pub in the centre of Nottingham called the Blue Bell.

basket 2      basket

Other things which turn up on tables are:

  • Chips or side dishes served in small metal buckets.

buckets    bucket and barrow

Three buckets in a wooden crate.                      Side dishes in a bucket and a wheelbarrow.

 

  • Milk for tea and coffee in a mini milk churn.

churn    A wooden board and a milk churn.

  • Meals served on a flat cap – yes, I have really heard of this one although it hasn’t happened to me yet! I assume there is always a plate or a washable layer inside the cap – and that the cap is unworn.

cap

  • Food presented on a fireman’s shovel – another one I have heard about but not experienced.

shovel

  • I have had a meal served in a frying pan before and it was obvious that it wasn’t even one used for cooking the meal but a decorative one used as a plate.

pan

 

Here are a few others I have yet to experience. Some I’m not in a hurry to try.

fryer   hubcap

trowel

bat   shoe

 

Pictures all sourced from Google Images. If anyone sees one which they object to me using for any reason, please contact me through the blog and I will happily remove it.

 

Remember These?

A friend of mine mentioned recently that her favourite tinned soup is Mulligatawny but that she never sees it in the shops any more. I remember it too and her comment made me think of some other food items which have disappeared or almost disappeared in the past few decades. Some of these have been mentioned before in posts about foods I remember eating and ones I remember arriving on the scene when I was young.

I am not saying that these things don’t exist any more (although some of them definitely don’t) just that I don’t hear of or see them any more.

b_1360

I used to love Kraft Dairylea  triangles and for a while there was a box of flavoured ones being sold. I loved them! The picture is the nearest I could find to what I’m remembering but the flavours are not exactly the same.

IMG_3913

Turnips and swedes were once as common as carrots and parsnips when I was a child but are now they are like the poor relation of the root vegetable world. I certainly never see them on a menu when eating out! And does anyone still eat tripe? Or mutton?

I was watching a programme on TV the other night called Back in Time for Tea (recommended to me by the same friend) in which a family’s home is transported back to earlier decades. In the one where they were living as if in the 1960s – complete with 60s furniture, decor, clothes and food – there was a food item in their pantry which was Heinz tinned Vegetable Salad. I remember that there was also a Potato Salad one. There are many, many varieties of salad dishes available on deli counters now – coleslaw, rice salads, cous cous salads and tons more – in plastic pots. I had completely forgotten that their precursors came in tins!

download (1)   heinz-potato-salad

My grandmother absolutely loved butterscotch gums and I often took her a packet – weighed out from a large glass jar into a paper bag – when I went to see her. Spangles were a popular sweet when I was a child and for a while they had a packet called Old English Spangles with flavours like mint and liquorice. They were brilliant!

download (2)   196f5952f272e1173f28509819d5f4f3

Surprise Peas, which I have mentioned before, were what came before frozen peas and were ‘freeze dried’ and very quick to cook. The rise of home freezers and cheap frozen peas meant that Surprise Peas were no longer desirable so they disappeared.

womans-weekly-1964_part1-crest-surprise-peas-copy.jpg

Now we come to blancmange. Everybody of my age and older remembers blancmange. It was a set milky fruit flavoured dessert made in a mould and went with jelly like fish go with chips. It could be made from scratch but there was a packet mix which most people used. I read on a website when I was looking blancmange up that the nearest equivalent is the Italian dessert panna cotta.

blancmange.jpg    1950s-packet-pearce-duff-blancmange_360_de627073e5bc84a183883ef4953421a0

Burgers hadn’t reached Britain in the 1950s but we did have things called rissoles (I never hear that word now!) and faggots. I know faggot has a non-food meaning in some parts of the world but to us it was a kind of meatball.

faggots.JPG   download (3)

A few other edible things which are no more . . . .

3360817170_8b3c5c9205    13824818843_8d6f8177b6_z

huntley        s-l500

It’s unthinkable in this PC age but children could buy imitation cigarettes which were sweets!

01fa29a7deb74affac0b48754a2265ac     p5-smoking-b-20140106.jpg

The tinned milk products below are still available but are largely used in cooking desserts. Back in the 1950s in Britain when most homes, and many local shops, didn’t have fridges these were what we called ‘cream’ and we had them on fruit salads (tinned in those days!), trifles and fruit pies.

105914  carnation-evaporated-milk-desserts_1200x1200 ideal-milk

The Dawn of the Plastic Era.

Plastic are in the news every day just now. Although the problem isn’t new there is now an increased awareness of the damage we are doing to the planet by continuing to use non biodegradable plastics.

ocean-plastics      eyevine6.02587930cmyk.jpg

This is not going to be a historical or scientific post about the invention and use of plastics. Those facts are readily available on the Internet – and make fascinating reading! This post is about how I remember plastics arriving in our lives in the 50s and quickly reaching every aspect of our lives over the next few decades.

I do remember some of our toys being plastic. I also remember toys made of tin which sounds really odd now! On one occasion when I was quite young I was bought a small doll as a present. I remember showing my mum the letters and numbers embossed in the plastic somewhere on the body of the doll. I thought the doll’s name was Pat which was also my mum’s name. What I had seen was the patenting information which began with Pat but actually said ‘Pat. pending, Pat. applied for or Pat. number’ which seemed to be on a lot of items then.

Picnic ware from my early childhood was enamelled metal. Remember the white mugs and plates with a blue edge? Later on we had plastic beakers for garden and picnic use.

white-enamel-camping-plate-bowl-and-mug-set-500x500

My baby doll, which I received for Christmas when I was about eight, was made of pottery. She wasn’t a shelf doll, made to collect and display. She was for playing with and I had years of fun with her. I must have been quite a careful child as I still have her. Three years later my sister was given a baby doll and she was made of a soft pink plastic.

$_35      PalitoyTinyTears1980

Apart from the creeping in of plastic toys and housewares, there are other everyday differences which come to mind. Bread was wrapped in tissue at the baker’s, fish and meat wrapped in greaseproof paper and then an outer layer of brown paper or newspaper. Fruit and veg was weighed and put into brown paper bags. Sweets were weighed out from large jars into white paper bags. Packaged food came in tins, packets or boxes. All this shopping was put into shopping bags brought from home or brown paper ones provided by the shop. Larger quantities would be carried or delivered in a cardboard box.

Upper-Market-Butcher-Reg-Evans-1950s  1993fb6fd6842ac43a99bb8a7f5c821a

102674333  102296503

At home, leftovers were covered with an upturned plate or bowl to keep the, fresh. There was no such thing as cling film. Milk bottles and pop bottles were all glass and all returnable. No food was sold in plastic pots, bags or containers of any sort.

130417-lamb-on-shelves-Lambcheck1-c-no-credit      aldi_pasta_salad

soft-drinks-beverages-supermarket-21460402       vegetable     skynews-packaging-vegetables_4202753       download

 

 

The Dawn of the Packet Mix.

Another food post! This time I am looking at the instant food mixes which arrived during my childhood and were extensively advertised on TV and in women’s magazines. Preparing food for a family in the 1950s and 60s was hard work and totally dependent on what was available in the current season. Households in Britain at that time didn’t have freezers and many didn’t even have a fridge. Everything was made from scratch and there were no food processors or electric beaters either.The idea that one could produce a tasty dessert by adding milk to a powder and whisking must have seemed like magic. There were the cake mixes – one of our main brands was Green’s. They advertised that all you needed to add was an egg. I believe I have read somewhere ages ago that the manufacturers felt that if egg powder was in the mix so that you only needed to add water, the maker would not have felt as if she (well, it was always a woman!) was doing proper cooking. Adding an egg made it feel more like she was producing a home-made cake.

 

lemon meringuecake mix

I believe you made your own pastry base and meringue topping and the mix was for the lemon filling. The cake mix was usually Green’s. I think this photograph is 1970s.

trifle                 carmelle

The trifle mix contained a few different sponge fingers and dry sachets for making jelly, custard and the fake cream topping. Sprinkles might also have been included. I think you provided your own fruit (tinned). The Carmelle pudding was an instant way of creating a creme brulee style dessert just by heating some milk and opening two sachets.

dream topping     instant whip           ww240569angeldelight.jpeg

Dream Topping gave you a whipped cream topping in an era when you didn’t often have fresh cream available- and in those pre-fridge days it was considered a step up from tinned cream! Before Instant Whip and Angel Delight there was only blancmange which was made by heating milk with cornflour, sugar and colouring. The thickened mix was poured into a mould, allowed to cool then turned out and eaten with fruit and jelly. Instant Whip and Angel Delight, on the other hand, only had to be whisked with cold milk eaten. Also, they were crammed full of chemicals to make them set and to make them taste extra sweet and fruity – so kids loved them.

 

smash    vesta        surprise peas

In the 1960’s instant mashed potato arrived on the scene. We Brits do like our mash and this saves all the peeling, boiling and mashing. Next came Vesta. In the 1960s we were beginning to be aware of food from other countries but few people had access to the real thing. It was the height of cool to be able to serve a curry in your own home! Surprise Peas were amazing at the time. Until the freeze-drying method of preserving peas was invented, the only way of eating fresh garden peas was in the pea growing season. The rest of the year the choice was either tinned peas or dried peas (soaked overnight and when cooked turned into what we know as ‘mushy peas’). Surprise Peas, when added to boiling water and cooked for a few minutes actually tasted exactly like real, fresh peas. Once domestic freezers became a common household object, these peas were superseded by frozen peas and are no longer available here.

The things to remember about the popularity of these early convenience foods are that

  • Preparing and cooking food was a time-consuming business in the 1950s
  • Ingredients were limited to what was available seasonally and grown in this country
  • TV advertising had just burst onto the scene and made these things look sophisticated, trendy and modern so people wanted to try them

Now many people look down on instant food but then it was novel and the height of cool. I remember my mum trying some of them out (probably when we children clamoured for them after seeing the ads!) but she always said that for a family of five on a tight budget things like Smash, Vesta and cake mixes were totally impractical as the portions were small and it worked out more costly than making the food yourself.

Home Baking

A lot of my posts end up mentioning food and I have touched on baking before but this one is all about the cakes mums baked in the 1950s in Britain.

All the cakes in our house were baked by my mum. ‘Shop cake’ was a luxury and was reserved for when visitors came to the house. Every week, usually on a Friday or Saturday, Mum would bake enough cakes, buns, scones and tarts to last a week. I can still remember the difference in taste and texture between day old Victoria sponge and a slice which was five or six days old. But food wasn’t wasted in those post-war days! Dry scones could be split and toasted. Sponge cake which was too dry to be enjoyed was used in trifle. Stale fruit cake was used in one of my favourites – Cabinet Pudding.

In Britain in the 1950s, we hadn’t heard of chocolate brownies or cup cakes – we had chocolate cake and fairy cakes. The word gateau hadn’t yet arrived – we had cake or pudding. We had apple tarts rather than apple pies and flapjacks not muesli bars. Cakes never had any sort of cream in them. This was because few houses here at that time had fridges. Sponge cakes had jam or butter icing in the middle. For special occasions both! Sugar was sprinkled on the top. Chocolate cake had melted chocolate spread on top.

Here are some of the things commonly made at the time. The photos are mostly modern – not many people took photographs of their weekly baking session – and as always, come courtesy of the Internet. (If anyone objects to me using one of their pictures, get in touch and I will remove it.)

cake What happened to butterfly cakes? I haven’t seen one in years!

rock buns        jam tarts

Rock buns and jam tarts – two of the first things I baked as a child.

choc cake   sponge

grannys-scottish-scones.jpg                 medium-292-5382-fruitcake

Sponge cake, chocolate cake, scones and fruit cake – regularly baked by my mum.

maids of honour         swiss roll

Maids of Honour – a pastry base, some jam with a sponge topping and a Swiss roll.

apple-pie-702719__340                 lemon meringue

treacle tart                   apple-crumble-pie-718029_960_720

Here are some baked treats we used to have for dessert – the always known as pudding.       Fruit tart – apple, rhubarb, gooseberry, blackberry etc, depending on what was in season, lemon meringue pie, treacle tart and fruit crumble with one of the fruits I’ve just mentioned.

 

 

Thermos Flasks, Primus Stoves, Deck Chairs, Postcards and Scotch Eggs.

This post is about holidays and day trips and the things we did, ate and took with us then which are not heard of now. It was prompted by a thought about postcards. With so many other ways of communicating now, the humble postcard is a shadow of its former self. When I was a child we had a two week summer holiday every year. I have very clear memories of my mum writing loads of postcards. She would take her address book and her card list – I’m pretty sure it was the same list as for Christmas cards – and would spend ages working her way through the list of contacts. We children were encouraged to send postcards to school friends. Back at home, postcards would arrive all summer. Friends and neighbours who didn’t go away on a holiday (many were farmers and couldn’t leave the farm) would send one from a place visited for the day in the school holidays.
Postcards mostly fell into two main types – examples are shown here – the views and the humorous ones. Until I moved to Yorkshire I had no idea that the ubiquitous ‘saucy’ postcard, seen all over the UK, originated in the town of Holmfirth. I remember browsing through them in newsagent’s shops and the humour going right over my head!

pc-porthcawl50s     cleethorpes-winter-gardens-1950s-1-large

img_0410

A feature of holidays and day trips was the picnic. In the 1950s there were no cool boxes, cling film or plastic sandwich boxes. People in general didn’t have the spare cash for cafe stops and there were no fast food outlets apart from chip shops. When a family went out for the day they took a picnic which consisted of some or all of the following

Note – this is a very British list and will probably bear no relation to memories from other countries and continents.

sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper

hard boiled eggs

scotch eggs

tomatoes

cold sausages, sliced ham, pieces of pork pie

fruit

cakes or buns

tea

The last item is, of course, peculiarly British.  How could a family pass a whole day without tea? It was unthinkable! The only way to have tea to drink with your picnic was either

a. to take a Thermos flask

b. to take a camping stove (Primus) and kettle and brew up.

Plastic picnic ware was not around in the 50s. The standard unbreakable picnic mugs and plates were known simply as enamel and were metal (tin?) with a white enamel coating and a blue trim.
                        

 1950_s_boxed_thermos_flaskcu4                                  

We had a gadget – pictured here – which made toasted sandwiches. Back then the ubiquitous toasties and panninis were not heard of. We made cheese on toast at home and that was the nearest. This tool, however, was brilliant for providing some warm food at a picnic on a cold day – a feature of British summers! You take a normal sandwich, place it in between two iron plates on the end of a pair of tongs, squeeze the plates together and hold over the flame of a Primus stove.  Result – one perfect toasted sandwich! These were the first toasties I ever ate.

              

There is now a vast array of lightweight foldable chairs and tables for outdoor eating.  They are easily stowed in the boot of a car. When I was a child there were deck chairs made of wood and canvas which were available to rent for the day on beaches or were kept at home for use in the garden.  What we all did then was to take ‘picnic blankets’.  Woollen and usually tartan, these would be spread on the grass or sand for everyone to sit on and eat their picnic.  If the picnic was by the sea or a river a towel was always there to dry any feet which went paddling. The picture shows a typical 50s towel. It’s only when you see one that you realise how even towel styles change with time.

             

Twelfth Night Reflections.

As it is the 6th of January and I have just taken down my tree and my Christmas cards, I thought I would look back at Christmas 60 odd years ago. I have covered this before but I hope to mention some things which didn’t come up last time.

The build up to Christmas was nothing like as long as it is now but one thing which was always done early was the making of the Christmas cake and the Christmas pudding. My mum used to do these several weeks beforehand and it was always exciting to be a part of the preparation. It seemed very exotic when my mum added a small glass of sherry to the cake mix. When the pudding mixture was being stirred we three children all took a turn at having a stir and making a wish whilst stirring. Then came the bit where my mum concealed a silver sixpenny piece (carefully cleaned) into the bowl with the mixture. It was said that whoever got the sixpence in their portion on Christmas Day would have good luck. I have a feeling that when we were little my mum used to put three in our pudding so that we children found one each. Nobody would dream of putting a small metal coin into a pudding now in our safety-conscious age but none of us ever choked or broke a tooth!

sixpenses                                 Image result for christmas pudding  cloth

Our stockings were long brown hand-knitted woollen ones. I believe a relative had knitted a few pairs for my dad to wear under wellingtons when he was out at work in the forests. We had the same ones right through childhood and the feeling of those stocking stiff and full on a Christmas morning is still with me. There was always and apple and an orange in the toes, some chocolate coins, a new hankie, a new flannel and a new toothbrush, some sweets and a little novelty peeping out of the top – a small toy or a sugar mouse, maybe. Anything bigger than stocking size from Father Christmas (I never heard him called Santa at that time) was under the tree. We always had a selection box each.

After stockings and breakfast and before opening the rest of the presents we would walk to the village church for the Christmas morning service which was always one of the most exciting services of the year. The church would be packed, even though our village was tiny as everyone made the effort to attend on Christmas morning.

stockings_socks          sugar_mouse_white

There would be presents from a few relatives and presents from and to each other. Board games were very popular gifts and sometimes at Christmas there might be a compendium of games with five or six board games in one box. Other presents which were often given were paintboxes, weaving, sewing, raffia and painting by numbers kits, magic sets, dressing up outfits, Meccano and card games like Snap and Happy Families.

compendium-of-games-spears-toys-draughts-dominoes-ludo-_1           happy-families

In the 1950s in Britain chicken was quite a luxury and that was what we had on Christmas Day. Turkey came on the scene later.

The afternoon was always punctuated by the Queen’s speech. We listened to it on the radio through the 50s and then watched it on TV from 1961 when we got out first television.

biscuit-tin           roses

On Boxing Day there was always a circus on the TV in the afternoon which we all watched (with the curtains drawn as we did in those days!) whilst dipping into or selection boxes.

 

50s-christmas-paper-lanterns-1                                       baubles

Tree decorations were mostly baubles and the baubles were made of glass. I still have three of the ones we had on our trees when I was small.

50s-toys                  toys-walldisplay

We always received a new diary each for Christmas and in the back of the new diary I would carefully write down my New Year’s Resolutions. The other writing task was the composing of thank-you letters to relatives who had sent us presents. My mum always made sure these were done before we went back to school.