Infinity Magazine – Issue 48 – May 2022
English | 70 pages | pdf | 65.97 MB
Welcome to another great issue of Infinity Magazine, and also another typically rambling introduction, this time on my chosen topic of food. Speaking as a child of the 1960s, we didn’t exactly have huge meals back then. In fact we were so poor at times that we had Ordinary K for breakfast. But there was always one big meal to look forward to: The Sunday Roast. Nine times out of ten we had pork, because it was the cheapest, but we didn’t mind because we loved the crackling. On one occasion Dad did the cooking, which was a recipe for disaster since he could even burn water. The result was a pork joint without any crackling at all, for a reason that Mum pointed out later. “The meat needs to be scored,” she said, to which I replied “I’ll give it one out of ten,” earning myself a clip round the ear. At least we had fresh vegetables, but none of us could stand them. Admonitions such as “Eat your greens up or you won’t grow,” and “eat your carrots or you won’t be able to see in the dark” buttered no parsnips with me, my brother and two sisters. We were happy with our size and had no plans to walk around with the lights off.
In the early 60s, kids generally ate what they were given, and our Mum was certainly one of the “million housewives every day, who open a can of beans and say, ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz.’” We had beans with everything, and if we went round a friend’s house for tea we generally got the same. Our next-door-neighbours were the King family and they were even poorer than we were. So much so that Mrs King would actually water down the beans to make them go further!
Things improved however, at the end of the 1960s when Neville, a schoolmate of mine, got a job working at the Wimpy in Dorking High Street. He used to serve us up burgers and chips for free when the manager wasn’t around. The Dorking Wimpy is still there, by the way, though the Wimpy brand (which I’m sure you all know was named after Popeye’s burger-scoffing pal) has pretty much vanished from the scene in the wake of the world-conquering success of big franchise favourites like McDonalds and KFC.
Moving forward however, when I became a successful freelance journalist in the 1980s I suddenly found myself being invited out to restaurants to wine and dine with celebrities. But since I was not used to sophisticated eating
I often found myself at a loss for what to order. As I’ve mentioned before, when Adam (Batman) West took me to his favourite Covent Garden eatery for some ‘dinner-dinnerdinner,’ he recommended I try the steak tartare. When they plonked it down it was quite a shock. “Aren’t they going to run it under the grill first?” I said. He thought I was joking, but it puts me right off if I hear my meal mooing. Another sojourn saw your esteemed editor dining at The Ritz with beautiful Bond girl Fiona Fullerton. It was for the launch of a TV movie called A Hazard of Hearts and on offer was the dreaded Nouvelle Cuisine, which is French for “not enough food.” I guess the English equivalent would be Continental breakfast. Back then the smaller the portion the more impressed ‘hip’ people were. All I can remember of the main course was an empty plate with sauce. However, things improved when the dessert came along, a small amount of fruit salad in a = bird’s nest made of sugar, topped with cream and a cherry.
I finished mine off sharpish and then started breaking up the bird’s nest, much to Fiona’s horror. “I don’t think you are supposed to eat that,” she said, looking at me pityingly. “Of course you can, it’s made of sugar,” I said. “I wouldn’t eat it if it was a proper bird’s nest.” She smiled and then asked if I would like to eat hers as well, which I happily did.
I’ve not been back to the Ritz since. Fiona’s never asked me out for dinner, either. Just room for one more Nouvelle Cuisine story. In the mid-80s I had lunch with actor Gian Sammarco (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾). We were accompanied by a very posh PR girl, the kind who might call a collision a ‘crèche’, and she had selected the venue, which was a very trendy Soho restaurant where the only thing substantial was the bill. Gian was a nice young chap, and I could see when they brought our nosh that he thought we’d mistakenly ordered children’s portions; the after dinner mint was bigger than the steak. Finally, when Posh went off to settle the bill, he said: “Fancy a Wimpy and chips?” My enthusiastic response was “Make that a double and you’re on.” Even today it’s a good rule of thumb that you can never go wrong eating in any restaurant that has a red plastic tomato sauce ketchup bottle on the table. Allan Bryce.