Our recent Food Festival was a great success, with more than 220 people visiting the History Centre to celebrate Wiltshire’s food and drink heritage. Visitors heard talks on food through the ages, tasted Wiltshire Loaf (actually a cheese!) and had the chance to make gingerbread according to a medieval recipe.
As part of the event we asked our guests to let us know some of their favourite memories of food in Wiltshire. Here are a few of our favourites – a fascinating snapshot of our changing tastes over the last few decades.
The 1940s & 1950s
As you might expect, austerity and rationing dominated the food memories from the 1940s & 1950s:
“I grew up during rationing. My favourite food was a very slim slice of Spam fried in lard. Breakfast was often dried eggs on toast (very tasteless). My mum didn’t go in for gravy or custard so everything was very dry. Believe it or not I used to sneak a teaspoonful of Cod Liver Oil and malt. Yes, I really enjoyed it”
A mixture of home cooking and modern artificial food characterised the 1960s:
“Warm memories of helping my mum making Welsh cakes on the griddle. I had my own small rolling pin and cutter. Whilst I was too little to use the griddle for fear of burning my hands, I certainly enjoyed the fresh bakes! C.1960s”
“Does anyone else remember Creamola Foam, crystals from a tin added to water to make a foaming, exhilarating (and highly unhealthy) drink, long before the days of Red Bull (1960s)? Three flavours – lemon, orange and (my favourite) raspberry”
Apparently Creamola Foam has made a comeback – this time as Krakatoa Foam
Strangely, most of our 1970s memories revolved around school dinners – not all of them positive memories!
“I have very fond memories of school dinners for the early 70s. I was in infant school and we would have top infants playing mum & dad & serving up lunch to the rest of the table of younger pupils. Food was good and wholesome. Great puddings – sponges & custard. Yummy! At junior school I even liked the Pilchard salad!”
“Early 1970s. I can remember visiting a corner sweetshop with my grandad and being able to choose one sweetie from numerous containers of different types and ending up with a lovely selection in a white paper bag. Favourites were: Black Jacks, Fruit Salads, sherbet dips, flying saucers”
“1970 sweets – being sent to the shop to get a quarter of crystallized rock for mum, Merryman’s toffees for dad (still not sure how his dentures coped) and half of marzipan tea cakes for my brother and I. Treat – toast done on the coal fire with dripping and Instant Whip (for reasons I have still not fathomed I had to give my brother 2 spoons of mine!). Finally – anyone remember Rice Creamula? A ground rice/custard dessert – a bit like custard powder – am I the only person who remembers this?”
One thing that seemed to stand out for almost everyone who was at school in the 1970s was how much they disliked tapioca and semolina:
“I was in primary school in the 1970s & we were lucky enough to have our meals cooked on the premises; they were lovely! Braised chicken & rice was my favourite & there was always a queue for second helpings. The only things I remember not liking we cheese pie, semolina & tapioca – yeurgh!”
“School dinners in 1970s – best things were roast dinners with fantastic roast potatoes & lots of gravy. Worst things were tapioca (frogspawn!) and mashed swede or liver casserole! We always had to clear our plates, and couldn’t leave the dining hall till the plate was clean!”
But not everyone hated it:
“Love it or hate it! I loved it! That ‘pink’ school pudding…otherwise known as semolina and strawberry jam, stirred to create a fabulous creamy pink delight. C1970s”
1980s & 1990s
The 80s and 90s were all about the convenience food:
“I grew up in the 1980s – a Golden Age for convenience food – Angel Delight, Crispy Pancakes & Cup-a-Soup. My parents were too busy for cooking, but my gran was on hand to bake. Every birthday I got my favourite cake – chocolate sponge, buttercream icing and my age written in chocolate buttons”
“Mint Viennetta frozen dessert – the height of sophistication in the 1980s!”
“Viennetta for birthday teas! Camping food – Mr Mash & Bean Feast. Buying my dad Werther’s Originals every birthday because he once said he liked them”
“The 1990s were filled with a mixture of convenience foods for school lunches like ‘Lunchables’, baby bell, mixtures of super sour sweets that made your teeth fall out, as well as home cooked foods like the classic roast dinner by nanna. I remember a big staple of my diet being ‘smiley faces’ (potatoes in a J shape) with baked beans and sausages. (Also marmite or chocolate spread went on whatever food it could both to make something yummy or questionable.)”
2000s & 2010s
School dinners return in the Twenty-First century, a little different from those in the 1970s…
“School dinners of the 21st century are awesome! I really like sausages and mash”
“In maybe 2015 or 2016 I was round about 4½ . We were at lunch and I was waiting for my lunch when I noticed a new pudding! It had bright white icing. It looked very creamy. When I got my lunch I asked ‘what’s that?’ pointing at the strange cake. The girl next to me said ‘it’s lemon cheese cake’. When I took a bite…YUM! I LOVE IT!!!”
“Hi. I do not like school dinners except the pizza and puddings!! My fav food is pizza!!! I also love sweets and chocolate. From max aged 10”
If you have any memories of Wiltshire foods you’d like to share, let us know in the comments.