I’ve been watching a television series on the BBC called “Back In Time For Dinner.” A family was enlisted to go back in time to live the lives, or at least the food, of people in Britain from the 1950s onward. The family experiences one year each day. This is a great program. It’s a cross between a reality show and a documentary. I was afraid it would depict the lives of an affluent family, but they didn’t white-wash reality, not so much. (Those kitchens were pretty sparkling though!)
The first season’s episode is below (Source: YouTube: Back In Time For Dinner) It follows the Robshaw family through the decade of the 1950s. Their own house was remodeled in the style of each decade. In the 50s, the kitchen was smaller and there was a separate dining room. There was no refrigerator, just a larder, a closet with some canned goods and other mostly non-perishable items … an onion, powdered egg, and some pork drippings.
Britain was still experiencing post-war food rationing in the early 1950s. Meats were mostly liver and other offals purchased from a butcher (grocery stores as we know them didn’t arrive until the 1960s), and canned, or “tinned” products such as Spam, corned-beef, and pilchards (sardines). There was a lot of boiled potatoes and cabbage. The family was given one egg for 5 people for a week. There was a “National Loaf” that was widely distributed and eaten at most meals, often with “drippings.” Here’s some background on the bread from HomeFrontHousewife’s site:
Pre world war two white bread was universally eaten and any other type was viewed with suspicion. However most of the flour used to make this bread was imported from abroad. With the outbreak of war German u-boats started blockading merchant ships with these kind of imports from getting into Britain. So in 1942 the government introduced the National Wheatmeal Loaf which used all of the wheat grain including the husks. It also had added calcium to prevent rickets. The loaf was dense with a dirty grey colour and was unpopular with a population used to white bread. It quickly gained the nickname ‘Hitlers secret weapon’.
Bakers were banned from making any other type of bread except the national loaf. The Federation of Bakers was formed, to assist in organising the wartime production and distribution of bread. Sliced bread was also banned as it was seen as a waste of energy.
Besides calcium and wheat husks it also included potato flour and vitamin C. It was very dense; Rochelle, the mother in the family, is shown slicing it with vigor. I’d love to try it. I think I would soften it by steaming.
Below is the second program, through the 1960s. Mrs. Robshaw spent a lot of time in the kitchen in the 1950s. She had a bit more time to herself in the 60s, with the advent of prepared and packaged foods (Vesta Ready Meals: dump into a pot, add water, heat, and serve. Boxed breakfast cereals were introduced and aggressively marketed to children beginning in the 60s), and with the arrival of her first refrigerator, a small box barely 3 feet high.
As the economy heated up, jobs were easy to get. Girls left school around the age of 15 and started working full-time. Teenagers suddenly had a lot of disposable income that they spent on music, fashion, and rent for “betsits“, small bedrooms away from the family. This was the beginning of the Youth Culture, which endures today. Also, more people had cars, so more people traveled to restaurants for meals, which fueled a restaurant boom. Mr. and Mrs. Robshaw traveled to a service station to sample 1960s fine dining. Gas stations were apparently dining hot spots. No alcohol though:
I’m hoping to watch the rest of Season 1’s programs. I’m enthralled.