Sunday, 26 April 2015

Back in time for dinner: the time travels are over

Back in Time for Dinner came to an end this week, and I'm quite sad to see it go. I really enjoyed sharing the journey of the Robshaws, following them from the 1950s to the 1990s and then, for one final episode, into the possible future of food.


The way the kitchen and living room was made over to match each 'decade' was brilliant, and the 1970s one really pushed the nostalgia button for me. Oddly, the 1980s one didn't – and I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that their crockery wasn't Eternal Beau. As a guttersnipe in the 1980s, that china and the way you could get absolutely everything to match, struck me as the height of sophistication. I'd gaze at it in the Grattan or Argos catalogue and marvel at how fancy it was. Before the 1990s episode I wondered if they'd have any Jeff Banks Ports of Call china, and lo, their dinner plates were just that. I still have some Ports of Call pyrex; my late nannie bought it for me and it reminds me of her every time I use it, so even though I'm not fond of the pattern, I'd never get rid of it. Did any of the homewares ring bells for you?
The 1970s. My nannie Mac had a full set of those 'face' pots.
My favourite kitchen was probably the 1960s one; I loved the blue colour and the geometric wallpaper. The 1980s one was my least favourite as it felt so cold, with all those icy whites and greys. Thinking about it, that's a bit weird as blue is hardly a warm colour, but the 1980s one just didn't feel welcoming. Whatever era the episode was set in, I constantly found myself wondering how long it had taken the programme makers to collect everything for each episode, especially for the earlier ones. Finding full dinner services can't have been easy or cheap.
My favourite kitchen
I really liked the way the family thought about the social changes that would have been going on, and that were reflected in what and how they ate, the way cupboards got fuller, and new gadgets (fridge, freezer, microwave) slowly crept in, and they started eating together less frequently. They also noted that their diets were getting less healthy. Nothing was said about the other aspects of every day life, and I did wonder about laundry in particular, as that obviously affected the amount of time a housewife would have had. The experiment only seemed to concern food.
Least favourite. Maybe it's the red...
One thing I've noticed on social media is that Rochelle got a lot of criticism, which I agreed with a little, but mostly thought was unfair. She's Jewish, so having a go at her for not knowing how to cook gammon for her family was a bit much. Her ineptitude at opening any sort of tin with any sort of tin opener was staggering, but the way it came into every episode made me think the programme makers had worked it in as a running gag, which backfired in the way it made people see her. The family is a modern family, dad Brandon prefers cooking, so usually he cooks. If Rochelle doesn't usually want to cook, that's her choice. That's the beauty of living nowadays. On the other hand, food is fundamental to human existence so I find it a bit weird that someone can't cook at all. Fair play to the whole family, though, for taking part in this fairly lengthy experiment, which must have been tough on them.
Microwaved chicken covered in Marmite. Just say no.
As they were following set menus a lot of the time, a lot of the joy of cooking, the creativity, would have been missing. Personally, I don't think I'd like being told exactly what to cook for six months, especially without access to my spice cupboard to liven up the rationing-era dishes. The BBC probably would never do it because it's too expensive, but if they were to do something similar in a future programme I'd love to see a broader range of people (couple, family, student etc) all being given the food and cookbooks from an era, but then given free range to work with those things and see how they cope over a number of weeks. However, what is definite is that a three-part series on Victorian baking has been commissioned, in which professional bakers (who can probably open tins) try their hands at Victorian rural baking, baking in an industrial city, and making bakes and confectionery for the high end of the 19th-century market, all with Victorian equipment and ingredients.
'Ports of Call' plates - I knew they'd have those!
In the mean time, a new programme is taking the Back in Time for Dinner slot, 24 Hours in the Past, in which six celebrities get to 'enjoy' a day in four different Victorian (Victorian is the new black) workplaces, starting with a day at a dump. Lovely. I have to say, as much as I like presenter Ruth Goodman, I'm less enamoured of most of the celebrities involved, so I don't think I'll enjoy that as much as Back in Time for Dinner. If you watched Back in Time for Dinner, what was your favourite bit?

17 comments :

  1. I was impressed that the son favoured the 50's as he really looked forward to having sweets then and knew he had taken them for granted before.

    I loved the sixties kitchen the best. The eighties one looked so clean and bright, I could have lived with those cabinets but not the wallpaper x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I found the son could be annoying but at other times he was really thoughtful. I did wonder how much of the annoying stuff, as with Rochelle and the tin openers, was put in by the programme makers because they thought it would be entertaining.

      I wonder if it's the red that doesn't grab me in the 80s kitchen? That could well be the problem.

      Delete
  2. Lots of people have talked/written about this series, and I managed to miss the whole thing! Oh well, I'll see if I can find it on Catch Up, I'm sure I'd love it. There's something about food that evokes huge nostalgia, I think everyone can remember some meals from their childhood. And sweets! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sweets! I was given a box of retro sweets for Christmas, and Swizzels Double Dipper - the candy stick with two flavours of sherbert - is now in a plastic packet. IT IS THE END OF CIVILIZATION. (Actually, the sherbert still tastes pretty good...)

      Delete
  3. The more I watched the programme, the more I enjoyed it. However I think there was potential for more. My favourite kitchen was the sixties one, but my least favourite was the nineties. I just looked too modern to me. Looking forward to all the Victorian programmes coming up as I work in a Victorian living museum.

    Www.pearlsandpurlsvintage.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the 90s one felt very modern. I sometimes wonder if there is simply less style nowadays, because in so many things since the 1990s, anything and everything has been done and redone. Nothing's ever in or out, it's just one shapeless mass. Which is great if a person likes things a little outside the norm, as 'anything goes', but it does make things somewhat bland looking back.

      Delete
  4. I didn't see the last show, I got distracted and wandered off, I'll have to catch up on the i-player. Enjoyed the series though.
    I liked elements of both the 1960s and 1970s kitchens. We've got a set of the Hornsea Heirloom canisters and several of my friends have that St Michael chopping board. I don't think I've ever been to a car boot and not seen at least one pickled onion head jar. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The last one was a bit dull, I reckon. There's a book out - I spotted it in the food section in Waterstones - and I wonder if that's a lot more on the social history side of things.

      I don't have any vintage in my kitchen, though the units are influenced by 1950s design. Then again, it's so tiny I don't know where I'd put anything decorative... It's fun to think of so many people having that chopping board.

      Delete
  5. I loved the look of the 50s kitchen, but wouldn't have liked to cook in it. I actually liked the 80s kitchen, as it is exactly the same as the one we had then, except the wallpaper. Mum had strawberry tiles scattered about. She loved it! And the series in general, as she remembers all those eras. Fascinating stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had a wooden kitchen in the 80s - I suppose that was the other side of the decade. Do you remember those brown dishes in the shape of chickens for storing eggs in? My mum still has hers. I probably would have envied the strawberry tiles, though.

      I think I would have enjoyed the challenge of the 50s kitchen, though I'd hate to go without a fridge. I cook a lot from scratch, so that wouldn't bother me, but as I work full time I only do one meat shop a week. Can't imagine having to go shopping every day.

      Delete
    2. in the 80s our kitchen changed little since the 70s lots of pannelling but we did and still have eternal beau and it still looks amazing have to say the stuff now has no character. Although I think the family were from a certain class in the 80s we were (hate saying it more working class and still are) which sometimes presents things from a certain perspective. Some people got things later. Microwaves we got later so didnt have ready meals in the 80s but I have to say we still use the 50s can opener, my mom remembers all 5 decades.

      Delete
  6. I've just started watching the show, and it seems amusing, really does.
    I like the kitchen designes, and they inspire me to get going with making mine... 💕

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I look forward to seeing what your kitchen ends up like.

      Ours is in need of a serious overhaul - the units are modern, but with a 1950s/1960s feel. However, the whole room needs repainting, and a new floor. Doing the kitchen is such a big job, isn't it?

      Delete
  7. I watched it, but not the last. I'm afraid I was a bit cat's bum mouth at her apparent hopelessness, but I didn't think he was any better!
    I liked the 50s kitchen best, made me think of being a child, I'm 48 but we had no electricity until I was five (and even then it was intermittent, and no fridges/freezers/phones etc until the 80s, mum eventually got an old Burco boiler and a spin dryer, but a proper washing machine was the 80s) and some places not until 1975. There was a solid fuel Rayburn in the living/kitchen room. All cooking was done from scratch, a lot of food fished and shot, we were all expected to be capable and useful. My mum and Granny were excellent cooks. Both had gone through the war, and I know that even with limited resources... and we didn't have a huge amount even when I was a child...would have cooked better meals than that, I think they deliberately found the worst cooks/menus they could find to make them copy! Being used to this I always feel rather shocked at how incapable so many people are now. My friend says none of the schools her children have gone to in Kent teach HE at all.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It was a great series, really interesting! I spent the whole time saying 'my Mum had one of those!' Or 'I remember those!'. It must have been a lot of fun for the family featured on it. Not sure I'd be brave enough to try a week of rationing though... X

    ReplyDelete
  9. The Sixties kitchen was my favourite bit; I even had to call Husband in from his Man Lair to exclaim: "This is my dream kitchen!". He was not in the least impressed!

    I didn't think much of the 80s kitchen, however. The wallpaper reminded me of my friend's bedroom - minus the Big Country and Blondie posters! Out 80s kitchen was wooden yellow pine complete with pine pannelllng on the walls with a jumbo microwave that took up a good third of the work surface! Although Mum never cooked a chicken in it - in fact I don't think she used it very much!

    P.S. I still have my 80s sandwich toaster and it still works perfectly!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I dont remember our 1980s kitchen like that more 70s and more modern defo a sandwich toaster i think our microwave came end of 80s early 90s and we didnt eat ready meals in it. Lots of home cooked food. I do remember transformers, lots of great toys riding bmx bikes playing outside. Takeaways were more treats than staples as now and we definitely ate as a family i think its more split up now than then. Christmasses were great lots of family board games, buffets - not so much now as everyone is even more busy. Fun time in 70s and 80s to be a kid and gadgets helped as long as they dont take over from cooking and freshness. I think it was more a gradual change than a quick one

    ReplyDelete