Retro food. Do you go there?
My granny used to make instant puddings with Ideal milk, crushed
pineapple and Tennis biscuits crumbled at the bottom. At Christmas I
ate trifle with sherry-soaked cake and lots of preserved ginger. And I still love Peppermint-crisp tart.
is a powerful drug. It keeps us connected emotionally to a moment long
gone. I read somewhere that nostalgia is the death of hope. Growth
always requires a certain level of discomfort. Tasting something new,
growing our repertoire of dishes means giving up something very
comforting, something that makes us feel safe. Making or eating a dish
for nostalgic value, is a feeling of coming home or an attempt to
re-create a rose-tinted memory.
But what makes food retro – as opposed to just nostalgic or an old classic? Cottage pie – traditional. Avo Ritz
– so retro! For me there is a difference between traditional food that
has been made for celebrations and as family staples for generations.
These dishes may have also grown outdated given our current tendency
for fresher, lighter-cooked food, but we keep reinventing them. For
example, in 2010 we may not garnish the roast with a bunch of curly
parsley nor serve it alongside a moulded cucumber salad.
a retro dish must have the faded glamour of a once-fashionable flavour.
The Eighties gave us a host of retro dishes – abundant as it was with
fantastic inventions such as the Soda Stream machine, the microwave,
the instant powdered ice-cream that, really Mom, tastes NOTHING like
the real deal. Let me just say at this point that I’m not an uptight
food snob that deny myself the pleasure of processed foods. Melrose
cheese on white toast – I’m there.
That era also gave us Crayfish Thermidor, Sole bon femme and snails adrift in a sea of butter and garlic. Let’s
take a moment here and remember housewives everywhere setting pancakes
drenched in sticky orange sauce (and sometimes the table) alight at
Anyone who ever ate a piece of perfectly
good steak after dragging it through lukewarm sunflower oil and then
dunking it in a cheese sauce, while politely elbowing their fellow
diners, will know the horror that is fondue.
Okay, perhaps seeing a grown-man pass out after spiking himself with an
over-zealous fondue fork, did kind of kill the romantic allure of the
whole thing for me.
Perhaps it is at cocktail parties (or
funerals) that the culinary aspirations of those heady days were most
evident. I have vivid memories of my mom as a 33-year-old woman, in a
red velvet dress opening her handbag at the end of an evening. Out came
a guilty serviette spilling vol au vents
and tiny onions of artificial complexion, impaled side-by-side with
sweaty orange cheese on small sticks. And glaced cherries in bacon.
you an emotional eater? Which retro dishes do you crave, cook or
sometimes make for your family as a little plaster against the world?
excuse me while I wolf down this boiled egg with the yolk removed,
minced, mixed with a combination of mayonnaise, breadcrumbs and tomato
sauce and some cayenne pepper (the secret according to my mom) and then
assembled back again.