Food Nostalgia: Will Our Children Feel The Same Way About Childhood Meals?

14/08/2014 17:02 | Updated 20 May 2015

Angel Delight

When my son asks "What's for dinner?" every evening, I can't help but smile as I reel off one of our rotated dishes: pasta and pesto, veggie sausage casserole, roasted vegetable fajitas, grilled halloumi with salad, pitta and houmous... meals so very far removed from what I ate as an 11-year-old.

Back then ('then' being 1984 if you must know) meal times were undergoing radical changes – although my mum was a very traditional meat and two veg kind of cook, we had just acquired our first microwave oven, and were sampling the delights of 'nuked' food.

Prior to the microwave, typical dinners would be lamb chops, liver and onions, mince with peas and boiled potatoes, steak and kidney pie, and fish on Friday. Probably much the same meals as my Nanny and Grandad were dishing up a mile down the road and had done since dinner immemorial.

The arrival of the new-fangled microwave oven gave our trad, but stodgy meal times a complete overhaul – and not for the better! Suddenly, speed and convenience was king.

Our first 'microwaved' pizza will stick in my mind forever; mum not quite getting that the microwave cooked in seconds rather than hours, dished up a disc of concrete covered in congealed cheese and molten tomatoes.

Once she got the hang of the microwave, its 'ping' rang out every meal time; Findus Crispy Pancakes, again filled with boiling-temperature cheese, plastic troughs of macaroni cheese which needed no more prep than their lid piercing, jacket potatoes, cooked in 10 minutes rather than two hours – healthy until topped with a vast pat of butter (softened in the microwave, natch).

Looking back, I can honestly say I would rather spend all day in the kitchen than let my son eat some of the things I routinely consumed as a child!

If the dinners were bad, then the sweet treats were practically akin to GBH, and make me wonder how I still have a tooth in my head; being given sugar cubes to suck in cafés as a pre-schooler, eating banana and sugar sandwiches (call social services!) and going to school with a bag full of Trio and Viscount biscuits for break time.

But some things I remember just with pure 'good old days' nostalgia: Angel Delight used as icing in birthday cakes, REALLY long spaghetti sold in a blue paper packet, sandwiches made from fish paste, tinned fruit served up with a splash of condensed milk on top, and Sunday teas of salty, roast beef sandwiches made from left over cuts from the roast dinner, and again, only on Sunday, Mr Kipling cakes – French Fancies most often - on a tea plate with a doily.

"Sunday was the only day we had cakes," I told my son recently as he tucked into a slab of caramel shortbread tray-bake (what the hell? asked my 1984 self). I kept quiet that the rest of the week I would have been swinging from the light-fittings thanks to the sugar rush from my daily two ounces of cola cubes, a quarter of sherbet pips and a bag of Rainbow Drops.


I wonder if today's kids will never get misty eyed and nostalgic over food, or associate it with so many memories like I do. When I think of the Sundays of my childhood, I can practically smell the cabbage and roast lamb cooking.


My son will simply look back on it as the day we always went to Costa to do homework while eating a brownie and having a hot chocolate.

The same with picnics – in my childhood they were all about corned beef sandwiches and wasps circling my FAB lolly or Screwball. My son regards al fresco dining as falafel bites and couscous salads picked up from the deli counter. Puddings are not rhubarb crumble, home made apple pie or tinned fruit, but tubs of ice cream with chunks of salted caramel or cookie dough thrown in.

But with so much available to them, and nothing a 'treat' anymore, there probably is little for them to associate with only having on special occasions, or 'the way mum used to make it' – food to them is just something they consume while glued to the telly or their iPad and 'going out' is such a regular event, even restaurant food is no longer a treat.

When I reeled off some of the meals I (sometimes) enjoyed as a child, my son asked: "Why didn't you just eat NORMAL stuff like I do?" and offered up pasta and pesto and houmous and crudités as examples. That's 'normal' food?! Perhaps I should put him on a 'retro' diet for a week and give him some food for thought!

I asked around my mum-chums for the things they most remember eating from their childhoods which their kids will never know the pleasure of – can you remember any of these delights?

"Sweetie cigarettes – can you IMAGINE giving those to children now?" Patricia, mum of two.

"Dessert was always Neapolitan ice cream with Ice Magic, and I always had a mouthful of Fizz Wiz popping candy. No way would I let my children eat that!" Shelley, mum of one.

"Crackling from the pork roast dinners - would never dream of giving it to my kids though!" Leanne, mum of two.

"Angel delight... Had some again recently and demolished the whole lot before it had properly set. I suspect my daughter would love it as it's practically liquid sugar but I'm not about to test that theory!" Cathy, mum of one.

"Boiled eggs and soldiers – I'm way too busy to bother with that for my kids - I always scramble." Kirstie, mum of two.

"Defrosting a Bejams mousse for pud – my kids don't have a clue what I'm on about when I reminisce about those!" Helen, mum of three.

"Bread and dripping at my Gran's house – really!" Carol, mum of two.

"Primula squirty cheese, Arctic Roll, stuffed eggs - what a faff! I wish I could give my children a taste of late Seventies childhood! And my mum always made puddings - rice pudding, lemon sponge, bread and butter pudding. I just give my kids fruit." Tanya, mum of three.

And while we're on the nostalgic thread. Who remembers these toys?

More on Parentdish: Are our children food snobs?

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