I Fancy Something Exotic Tonight. I Know, I'll Open a Can of Fruit!

Tuesday 8/2/1976

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Diary and Notes

I was an odd child.

I am sure you are quite surprised to hear that, but it is true.

One of the things I really hated doing as a youngster was eating. I dreaded food, mainly because it was always so bad. A sorry diet of spam fritters, faggots, corned beef pie and semolina. Even now I tremble in fear. As an example, up until the age of about eight, my absolute favourite meal in the world was Tyne Brand beef curry - a giant catering sized can of which (we have a big family) used to be in my Mum's shopping bag about once a month and was considered a tasty treat by everyone. I think if I tried it now I'd be ill, but back then it was the nearest thing to taste that appeared in our home. From a culinary point of view, my parents' divorce was a godsend for when I went to visit my Dad he would take us out for curries, Chinese food, Italian meals etc... mainly because he didn't know how to cook.

I will also give my Dad some credit for always having girlfriends who could cook. I believe this was his major (if only) criteria in picking women and shows a wisdom sadly lacking in the modern man of today.

Anyway, my point is; we have come a long way.

In comparison to our parents, the food we eat now is milk and ambrosia. Back in the dark days of 1976, having some meat to eat during the week was considered a treat. It wasn't that my family was particularly poor, it was that everybody was poor. Poverty was the norm. Biscuits were a rationed luxury. Jam sandwiches were eaten for lunch. Canned spaghetti bolognese was considered exotic. Oh what sorry days.

But I don't feel I need to return to such privation for my 1970's week, what I want to do is in some way capture the essence of the times, the food that people went out to eat, what was de-rigeur. I think today's meal is in essence a fine classic from that period and something that in Exeter at least, is still considered haute cuisine (Exeter lives in a bizarre time warp).

Gammon steak and pineapple - wow! There was something about those heady days of David Cassidy and Concorde collars that caused people to serve their meat with pieces of fruit on top. It was all the rage. Also, gammon steaks were considered to be such a delicacy that people would go out to restaurants (Berni Inns to be precise) and have them for romantic dinners. I also made that absolute must for a 1970's dinner party - duchess potatoes (mountains of mash with a bit of fresh parsley, baked in the oven until browned on top) and a simple cheese sauce. I could almost hear Wedgewood Benn raging against Europe, Enoch Powell and his racists fearmongering, radio Luxemburg giving us a new look on the charts and the screams of poor boys trapped by Gary Glitter.

Oh and today was pancake day, so I had some proper English pancakes with squirty jif lemon.


I haven't written any ingredients etc... as it's all pretty simple and obvious. I will point out that gammon steaks can be pretty tasty (the expensive ones) or really disgusting (cheap and processed). Sainsbury's were having a 2 for 1 offer on the cheap ones but I ignored this (I've had them before and they're salty and horrid) and bought some of their premium range ones instead. They cost 2.99 for two. That's about a years pocket money in 1976, now it's just a pint of beer and a packet of crisps.

Aah, nostalgia. It aint what it used to be you know...

Cake Blog

Pancakes with sugar and lemon juice. It's how we all did pancake day in the 70's (except that's all I'd have got for dinner, if it was pancakes that was it, no gammon for me).


  • Gammon Steak with Pineapple
  • Cheese Sauce
  • Duchess Potatoes
  • Frozen Peas