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Simple Eating

Call me nosy but I can’t help peering into other people’s shopping trolleys when I have to make my dreaded weekly dash round the supermarket. I did get into the habit of shopping online but it took away a chance to people watch which is always good fodder for a novelist.  

Some trolleys are stocked entirely with fruit, vegetables, low fat, low sugar products which makes me immediately put a packet of syrupy pancakes back onto the shelf as the guilt kicks in. Others are piled high with… well the other kinds of foodstuff. I’m not being judgemental but I am curious about how many people cook from scratch these days in the way I was taught by my mother as opposed to relying on a ‘bung it in the microwave’ approach.

One of the reasons for over-shopping is there’s too much choice and not always enough thought into meal planning unlike in the early sixties when women did a major shop in the grocery store – my mum used to put her order in at the local co-op to a smiling man in a brown overall every Thursday for a Friday delivery – and a fresh food shop when required. Everything was planned ahead but then we didn’t have a luxury of a freezer.

Even with very limited ingredients, we were well fed, healthy and the only thing I refused to eat was offal so I went without for that meal.

A chicken on a Sunday was a treat followed by canned peaches and carnation milk. Mum would boil the chicken bones on Monday to turn into a well-seasoned soup or stew with plenty of home-grown vegetables and potatoes or pearl barley for thickening. It would last a couple of days at least. Cottage pie, baked stuff haddock, cheese and potato flan, tinned salmon rissoles were all made from scratch without additives or unnecessary sugar.  Much of it was plain cooking with very little to spice it up… no mayonnaise but salad cream for a simple lettuce, cucumber and tomato salad maybe with a bit of ham or a boiled egg. Red and brown sauce were available but if I recall, it was used sparing in my childhood home. Does anyone else remember having thin slices of cucumber in malt vinegar as an accompaniment to a Sunday tea?         

One of the things I do recall was we had three good meals a day, breakfast, dinner and tea and snacking was restricted to an apple.  When I used to tell my daughters these tales, when they were younger, they would say, ‘ Bo..r..ing.’

I recall the day my mother tried to be a bit more adventurous. Dad came home from  a heavy day at work to find a Vesta beef curry on his plate, the rice arranged in a circle around the rim  and what passed for his first taste of spicy ‘food’ in the middle. ‘It’s foreign,’ she told him with trepidation. He walked out and went to my aunt’s. That was my first memory of fast food to be followed by the first Chinese restaurant in my home town. I’ve been lucky in life to travel all over the world and that’s meant trying out different cuisines. Now I’m no longer tolerant of sugar, wheat, spice and fat, the idea of a can of sliced pears in their own juice is a welcome treat.