Wednesday, 8 July 2015


It struck me today how our food habits have changed over the years.  The ingredients in our local supermarket seem to come from all over the world - the spices, the tins of various forms of coconut, the curry sauces, the pasta sauces, the exotic vegetables our parents had never even heard of.   Even the twenty or so different types of bread fill a whole shelf and fill the shop each morning with the aroma of freshly baked bread.

My parents had a very simple diet.   It consisted of whatever they grew in the garden, supplemented by meat from the butcher opposite (my mother dressed poultry for him for many years - she absolutely loved doing it)  who supplied meat in payment for my mother's work.

Roasts were done every Sunday - beef, lamb, pork  in that order, week after week.   Chicken on special occasions apart from old hens of our own which were put into a pot and boiled to extinction which then provided delicious chicken in white sauce and chicken soup.

Fruit pies with Bramleys from our tree -  jolly good cooker which lasted well after Christmas if it was stored carefully.

If all there was in the garden for tea was lettuce and radishes then that is what we had - with a pile of salt on the side of one's plate, a green salad dressed with vinegar, and home-made bread and butter.

Now life is much more complicated.   Today I made a Lyndsay  Bareham recipe for Cauliflower cheese.  The ingredients included pulled ham hock, grated cheddar and emmental, dijon mustard, crumbs fried in butter.   Not difficult but time-consuming and much more elaborate than anything my mother would have bothered with.  She would be quite scathing about all this 'fancy food' as she called it.

But there is one area in which she would never have given way to 'modern methods'.   Roast beef always had an accompaniment of Yorkshire Puddings.   She made the mixture early in the morning before chapel, put the beef in the oven (a side oven with the fire banked up) and then made the puddings on her return, using the fat from round the beef to grease the tins well.   Me?  I use frozen Yorkshire Puddings which take five minutes on the oven shelf from frozen.   Do they taste as good?   No but they are a jolly sight easier!



Joanne Noragon said...

When my uncle still was alive, and my sister in law visiting from Cambridge, he asked her about Yorkshire pudding and she whipped one up to accompany dinner. He said it did that old soldier's heart good to taste a Yorkshire pudding as good as he got before he was sent to France. I don't know how Hazel's compared to then, but they were darn good.

Rachel Phillips said...

How did we get to the point of using the word "pulled" in respect of meat we are about to eat and get excited about it? I don't understand this latest fad at all. If meat is nice and tender I prefer mine carved. If meat is described as "pulled" I am immediately put off. If I said to P we are having pulled pork for tea he would tell me to watch my language.

Gwil W said...

Living in another country poses challenges. Recently I tracked down a source for Bovril. It's a favourite drink. On the other hand there are compensations, for example some of the low alcohol wheat beers are quite drinkable. All in all I seem to manage. Farmers market is my main source of food. Fresh, natural, wholesome, nothing added, only soil.

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Hi Pat,
Salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and whole allspice are pretty much all the seasonings my mom used to cook the delicious, simple meals of my memory. Just sayin'.

I like to cook with whatever is on hand. Needed to thin the thrown together "barbecue sauce" marinade for the chicken the other day. All I had home was soy yogurt, so strawberry soy yogurt it was. Man, that stuff was drop dead delicious. (She said, modestly.) Husband urged me to write the recipe down so I could make it again. (He knows my off-the-cuff cooking style.)

:) m & jb who enjoys whole foods such as bird and rodent

Tom Stephenson said...

I spend enough time pulling meat during the week nights without wanting to do it at the weekends as well. I agree with Rachel - keep Sundays special.

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating post. I think people today eat too much both in quantity and variety, and probably more aged food too. We eat fresh from the garden all summer and try to keep things as simple as poss. I also use frozen yorkshires :o)

Sue said...

A Yorkshire farmer's wife using Aunt Bessie's? Pat, I'm truly shocked!

Heather said...

How right you are. I often wander round the supermarket and wonder who buys all the products they stock when there are many aisles I never visit. There is an increasingly bewildering range of just about everything and tracking down a basic commodity can be time consuming.

Leilani Schuck Weatherington said...

If we only had frozen Yorkshire pudding here in the US of A (well, maybe it is available in the big stores -- but not here in the country). The last time I made Yorkshire pudding it was a disaster. My mother knew how to coax delicious meals out of cuts of meat that were very cheap in the late 1950s and early 1960s -- beef tongue, smoked pork hocks, oxtail, chicken backs and wings. Now one can't find them or else they are outrageously expensive.

angryparsnip said...

I made Yorkshire pudding once and it came out fabulous. At lest we thought it fabulous.
Not sure how a UK cook would think it was.
I think some short cuts are just fine as long as they taste fine.
After all the cooking I did for years I just want simple, easy and fast for me.
But when family and friends come then I will take more time.

cheers, parsnip

jinxxxygirl said...

I love my crockpot or slowcooker as its called too.... I just put a bunch of stuff in it put the lid on... crank it up on high and in 4 hours i have a delicious meal... :) Thats my favorite way to cook... Nothing i hate worse than being tied to the stove... I can remember my mother standing at the stove making fabulous meals but i just can't do it... Hugs! deb

Frances said...

My tiny NYC kitchen does not encourage much elaborate cooking. Even simple Christmas baking requires a lot of preparatory shifting around of various equipment, and some hours of open time to keep the entire process pleasant and calm.

It's around this time of the year that I truly enjoy visiting the local farmers market at least once a week, as various fruits and veg come into their perfect ripening season. This afternoon's visit revealed that strawberry season has now moved past uu this was grand to sample that bounty. Cherries and blueberries and plums and early peaches are taking the stage.

Late winter and early spring root veg stalwarts are now sharing the warm sunlight with many varieties of lettuce, herbs, beans, squash and peas. Tomatoes are beginning to look promising. New potatoes show up in many shapes. It's a delight to gather a selection of this produce, knowing that it really is freshly picked, and that every bit that we purchase does reach the farm that produced it.

And...supper is quickly made. I associate slow cooking, preparing tender cooked meats as more of a cold weather kitchen calling.

May I tell you yet again what a pleasure it is to visit here? xo

Cro Magnon said...

I've been lucky. After the war (WW2) my mother discovered Elizabeth David, and became a devotee. Her foreign holidays always involved bringing back culinary treasures; occasionally huge tins of olive oil, or olives. Then at my upper school we had a Belgian chef who could make almost anything into a gastronomic delight.

At the supermarket I can always tell those who (like me) eat from their garden.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Yes, our eating has changed. Now, I'm trying to change mine back to the ways of my grandparents - by eating real food. Buying local and what is in season. We've been eating a great deal of the local summer squash, onions, eggplants, potatoes, peppers and peaches. Lots of tomatoes.And I've been getting the blueberries and cherries from the northern states.
My son, the chef, was home last week and he made us a dinner with halibut and lamb that took hours of preparations. So many sauces and different layers of flavor. I think he finds my cooking rather limited these days, yet he did enjoy the family favorites of spaghetti and our summer salads on the 4th of July.

I've never had Yorkshire pudding. Perhaps it is time to expand my palate and give it a try. I'm surprised at all the food I try these days.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the range of most interesting comments. Like Cro I aman Elizabeth David fan - her recipes are simple but always delicious and I have her book of Italianfood and also her Omelette and a Glass of Wine book. We are lucky that we have our own hens - they lay well and there is always something quickly made from them.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

We have a roast every sunday as the family are always around, so it is worth it. I would like to say that after all these years my yorkshires are always perfect, but they aren't,they are a bit hit and miss, while my daughter's are always perfect.
I struggle to find basic stuff at the supermarket nowadays because of all the choice and the aisles if junk. it took me forever the other day to find some suet

The History Anorak said...

I'm with Rachel on the subject of 'pulled' anything! Why not just call it 'shredded'?
On the other hand - my idea of simple cooking is an onion, a tin of tomatoes, garlic, herbs and a bag of dried pasta!

Mac n' Janet said...

My Dad wanted meat and potatoes for every meal and the meat had to be very well done so food wasn't exactly exciting when I was growing up. Married to a Spaniard my cooking range has certainly expanded.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Anne - I think shredded is a better way of describing that ham hock actually. I suppose some whizz kid has discovered that 'pulled' sells more than 'shredded'.