According to many, this is also when our kitchen know-how began to dwindle and fade. We no longer had to cook from scratch, so we didn’t. Women simply hung up their aprons and trotted off to work, content in the knowledge that there was always a packet of something or other to which you could just add water for a quick evening supper.
Except this is not how I remember it. The Seventies is the decade in which I began to cook, learning from my mother and occasionally at school. But what really jump-started my obsession with cooking was Bird’s Trifle.
In adulthood, I too was dismissive of the collection of packets whose desiccated contents could be transformed into quivering layers of lusciousness.
Then a fellow food writer pointed out that to make a Bird’s Trifle you do have to do some cooking, however basic. A kettle was boiled in order to turn the jelly crystals into a scarlet sea which you then poured over the crisp sponge fingers causing them to become miraculously soft. Custard powder was carefully blended with milk then heated slowly on the hob (microwaves weren’t commonplace until the Eighties), stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Crucially, you needed patience to let each of these layers set before you could proceed to the pièce de résistance – making the whipped cream topping. Then you could unleash a shower of multi-coloured sugar strands as a final flourish. My friend was correct, but this wasn’t just cooking. It was alchemy. More importantly it was something I could prepare on my own with minimal supervision. A juvenile signature dish, if you will.
So, whilst I’ll never be an advocate of instant mashed potato or tinned mince, I do believe that certain convenience foods have their place and should be treasured. Today, if we fancy trifle for dessert, most of us buy one ready-made from the local supermarket. Now where’s the fun in that?
Visit my blog at comfortablyhungry.com for recipes using a favourite tipple of the Seventies, Babycham