This week on my food blog, I hosted an event where the theme was retro classics. All participants had to cast their minds back to previous decades and the dishes that were hot back then. Isn’t it funny how fickle food fashion can be?
In the 1970s, a fondue set was considered de rigeur for the trendy home and fondue parties were all the rage. In the 1980s, we were all enamoured by nouvelle cuisine – starvation rations plated by an interior designer.
And as recently as 2004, the plates of food that I was served at an upmarket Cape Town restaurant looked as if a bomb had exploded in a frisée lettuce field, and the man wielding the balsamic vinegar squeezy bottle had developed Tourettes of the arm. How things change.
All this nostalgia got me thinking about my own childhood food memories. I am an obsessive recorder of events, as evidenced by my collection of journals and photo albums that take up a large part of my available storage space.
You could call me a nostalgia buff, a born archivist… or just a saddo! So let’s step into the time machine and see how many of these memories strike a chord with you too.
I remember that when I started school, a small packet of Simba chips cost 7 cents. I was shocked when, two years later, the price rocketed to 9 cents. Welcome to inflation, baby!
I remember Wilson’s toffees in original flavour (black wrapper), buttermilk (blue wrapper), banana (yellow wrapper) and, my favourite, cola (red wrapper). I remember that you got 1 cent and 2 cent Wilson’s toffees and the 2 cent ones were huge. Astonishingly, they are still around but no longer cost 2 cents.
I remember the Chomp advert with the little hippo crying because he could not get his mouth open wide enough to bite the extra large Chomp.
I remember ordering cream soda floats at the Wimpy. Because I was, like, so cool. I remember other kids drinking a mixture of coke, milk and ice cream, which I thought was gross.
I remember Lekka Liks – finger-like plastic packets of sugary water and garish food colouring that you froze and then ate like an ice lolly. In the days before we knew about tartrazine, obviously.
I remember when Spur introduced their Tex-Mex menu and all the dishes had to have a pronunciation guide printed next to them (kes-a-dee-yas, not kwes-a-dill-us). A more innocent time. Now any schoolboy will be able to explain and pronounce things like amuse bouche, millefeuille or morcilla.
I remember going to Mi-Vami in Pretoria Street, Hillbrow for my first schwarma. I remember thinking that schwarmas were the best and most exotic thing I’d ever tasted and that Hillbrow was the Coolest Place Ever. Afterwards, we’d go next door to Milky Lane in Hillbrow for an Awful-awful sundae.
I remember loose Russian sausages in corner cafés and how, when we went to buy the newspapers on a Sunday, my dad would get us each a piping hot Russian wrapped in a paper napkin. When you took the first bite, the fat would spill out and run down your arm.
I remember thinking that melba toast and avocado Ritz were probably the most sophisticated foods in the world.
I remember wanting a Sodastream more than almost anything in the world. I also remember the rude farting noise the Sodastream would make if you overgassed a bottle, and that the Cream Soda flavour was the best.
I remember picnics by the roadside, with a whole roast chicken, Granny Smith Apples, Salticrax, Elite cheddar and Hellmann’s mayo. I remember the tartan plastic coolbag that the picnics were transported in and its matching thermos flask. I remember when roadside picnics were not considered to be a particularly dangerous pastime.
What do YOU remember?
Jeanne Horak-Druiff is the face behind the multi-award winning blog www.cooksister.com. This ex-lawyer based in London now spends all her free-time cooking, photographing and eating good food.