Friday, 20 March 2015

Back in Time for Dinner

mum serves up cold liver 1950s style Back in time for dinner
Cold liver. Kids love cold liver.
Do you like retro recipes? I do; I've even got my own retro recipes tag over at Greedybots. Somehow Mr Robot and I completely failed to spot that Back in Time for Dinner was starting on BBC2. If you ever enjoyed the programmes Giles Coren and Sue Perkins did as the Supersizers, where they ate their way through the cuisines of various time periods, then you should enjoy BITFD. A family, the Robshaws (Mum, Dad, two teenaged daughters, small son) are eating their way through the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, one day per year. The meals are all authentic: for one week a year between 1940 and 2000, as part of the National Food Survey the British govenment got people to note down what they ate every day for a week. All the menus in this programme, then, are ones served up by real, identifiable people in a particular year.

The show started this week with the 1950s. The Robshaws went out, and while they were out the production team gave their home the sort of vintage makeover you might dream of, turning the knocked-through living area back into a front room and dining room, and putting in a properly 1950s kitchen. The thing is, there were pretty much no mod cons in most British homes at the start of the 1950s, not even a refrigerator. Mum Rochelle is a modern woman, with a job, and suddenly she's stuck in a kitchen with a mangle on the sink and a marble shelf in the larder to keep the milk cool. A lot of people in Twitter were laughing at her for not knowing how to use an old-style tin opener, but I reckon a fair few people nowadays, from all backgrounds, might struggle with one of those.

1950s grocery basket Back in time for dinner
And that's your lot!
Also at the start of the 1950s, rationing was in full swing. I did wonder how accurate a view you'd get of life under rationing from a few days, but faced with unfamiliar bread and liver for a meat ration, the Robshaws certainly seemed to be feeling the hardship. In their normal lives, Dad Brandon does most of the cooking, but he was banned from the kitchen and even ate his meals separately. Rochelle seemed to struggle to improvise, and after Brandon had liver and veg for lunch one day, she and the kids had the same things cold for dinner. Now, if you've got leftover potatoes and veg, don't just slap them cold on a plate, mash them all up together, make them into patties, coat them in flour and fry them. DELICIOUS. (I do that with leftover cottage pie too, it makes great rissoles.) Cold veg and spuds, not delicious. As the 'decade' rolled on, things got easier.

As I said, a lot of people were poking fun at the Robshaws, but I thought they did really well. These weren't vintage lovers exploring something they already knew a fair bit about, they are an average modern family, and despite everything there were no massive tantrums or dramas, just a bit of trouble with a tin opener and the kids complaining about being made to eat cold liver (and I'm with them on that). The 1950s dresses really suited all the ladies, and they had fun getting a demonstration of a smart 'new' electric cooker from Mary Berry, who did that as a job back in the 1950s. It was most interesting from a social perspective: Rochelle was obviously tired and fed up by the end, while Brandon felt he'd lost touch with his family from being forced into the more distant lifestyle of a 1950s man, though when they were talking to Scary Berry about getting a cooker on HP, the fact that a man's signature would have been required for the credit agreement didn't come up. 
1950s gas cooker Back in time for dinner
Rochelle struggling with her ancient gas cooker.
If you missed the first episode, it's being repeated at 12:20 on Sunday. I'm really looking forward to the 1960s next week. There will be a fridge! And hopefully some women's lib so Rochelle can get out of the kitchen and Brandon can sneak back in and show us his skills.

14 comments :

  1. I had six emails from people reminding me to watch this and I still forgot! I'll catch up on the i-player later.
    My Mum always used to make rissoles with leftovers. I hated them but was too scared not to eat them! x

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    1. Rissoles are a treat in my house. The trick is to fry them really well so they're good and crunchy on the outside. I have taken to making extra-large cottage pies to ensure plenty of leftovers...

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  2. Hello Mim.
    I haven't seen this series, yet.
    I have followed all the episodes of "Supersizers go..", "Turn back time" and the "Coalhouse" series.
    This series, like others, will have to wait (since I can't play the i-player in my country). But, DO TELL me all about it.

    Marija

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    1. Supersizers are great, aren't they? I think you will like this programme!

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  3. I have been a bit out of it lately - so missed this totally. Off to iplayer I go :)

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    1. Do eeeet! It's great fun. The home makeover is as enjoyable as the cooking, I reckon, and they do consider the social side too.

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  4. Oops, I missed this too thanks for the reminder! Oh rissoles, that's my childhood summed up in one word! I love them, which was lucky as in our house If it could be turned in to them it usually was and sometimes I actually preferred them the the original meal they came from!

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    1. Hehehe, we should all start bringing back the rissole.

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  5. I hadn't heard of this! I've missed the repeat but hope to get it on Iplayer, as I did love the historical one that Sue Perkins did. I think what I would find hardest eating a '50s diet, apart from the rationing, would be the lack of spices we have access to these days. x

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    1. Yes, that does look tough, though I suspect things weren't as bad as we imagine - curry powder was commonplace, even if individual spices weren't, and it's amazing how many herbs have fallen out of common use (marjoram, savoury, lovage etc).

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  6. I missed this too, but it sounds interesting. That cooker is just like the one my mum had in the 1950s and 60s! Yes, there was a lot of leftovers refashioning in my childhood, but it was OK, refried potatoes were a treat! xxxx

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    1. Refried potatoes are why it's always a good idea to make sure you cook too many potatoes, I reckon. If ever I do anything accompanied by potatoes and cabbage, I make sure to do extra for bubble-and-squeak.

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  7. We've been watching this too, the thing that irks us is the music being of the complete wrong year and that is something that drives Andy up the wall. I was hoping the fashions might change from day to day too, but alas, no.
    I was in love with the 60's kitchen though, that would be my dream kitchen.
    I couldn't figure out that tin opener either, so Rochelle wasn't alone!

    I always like these social history type programmes, but they're a bit thin on the ground lately. This is the same format as the technology one they did last year or the year before.

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    1. I'm starting to think the tin opener thing is a bit of a motif, as in the 60s episode she failed to use the key on a tin of corned beef. What will Rochelle struggle to open in the 1970s?! And you're right, that 1960s kitchen was gorgeous. Everyone seems to love that one.

      The whiny kids and their addiction to sweets annoy me.

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