Friday, 24 April 2009

A ramble about old-school food

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for themed parties, even though I haven’t actually been to one in years. At university there were the ubiquitous 70’s, James Bond parties and Halloween parties – but these are truly best forgotten! I wonder if students today behave as badly today as we did back then? In fact the last themed party I went to was one I organised for our clients at the advertising agency I worked at years ago. The theme was films, I had carte blanche to do what I wanted – so I decorated the venue as if it was an Oscar’s ceremony, came up with film-themed cocktails, got hold of film soundtracks, organised a movie quiz and entertainment... it really was good fun – considering it was a work event. Alas, since then my parties have been strictly non-themed, partly because most people hate dressing up! For some odd reason, one of my party fantasies has always been to do a 70’s themed party with a focus on ‘retro food’ – the main problem with this is that retro food wasn’t particularly good! I think at that time in the UK, we had just discovered so-called ‘exotic’ ingredients such as garlic (!), pineapples, prawns and avocadoes; so these featured prominently in dinner party menus from the era... And it was never enough just to serve these ingredients simply on a plate, they always had to be dressed up – either with gloopy sauces (think Thousand Island dressing on your prawn cocktail – to cover up the taste of the defrosted prawns I would imagine!) or served in some outlandish vessel – such as a scooped out watermelon used as a serving bowl for fruit salad, or half an orange used to make a ‘hedgehog’s body’, with cubes of pineapple and cheese on cocktail sticks stuck into it to make the ‘spines’ ... These dishes didn’t always taste amazing, but funnily enough they never tasted bad, and they had a sort of faux glamour that just makes me smile :-) Of course it wasn’t all about party food – there are plenty of everyday dishes from the era that spring to mind – and for some reason most of them were tinned, jarred or frozen. Some of my favourites were Heinz Macaroni cheese in a tin (!), Findus Crispy Pancakes (the filling was totally inedible) and Heinz tinned baked beans with sausages. I guess at the time, processed or ‘convenience’ foods were a novelty, and all our mums were keen to feed them to us, thus freeing up a couple of hours a day to attend Tupperware parties, Avon parties, use their ‘Clairol heated rollers’ or do some other retro activity! (luckily for my health, I didn’t eat this rubbish every day – my mother also made plenty of home-made goodies :-))

Prawn cocktail – where are the prawns?

These 'hedgehogs' were at every childhood party I attended

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