Food, Tea Time, Meals in the 1950s

None of this toast and coffee type breakfasts! Breakfast was viewed as the meal to set you up for the day so was, at the very least, porridge, followed by bacon, eggs and fried bread, then toast and home-made marmalade, and lots of milky tea.

As children it was also when we had our vitamin tablets - Haliborange and Adexolin capsules.

School diners were interesting. Communal tables of 8 children who were expected to have good manners and be able to serve themselves from the bowls and tins brought to each table. Many days the main meal was a stew of gristly meat or a pastry pie with the grisly meat hidden underneath. A lot of mashed potato - I cannot remember chips ever being served - and watery cabbage and swede.

Puddings were the nightmare of childhood - yellow semolina, rice pudding with a swirl of jam and the awful slimeyness of tapioca; jam roly-poly and very thick custard. Mum used to make a macaroni pudding where the pasta element swam around in lots of boiled milk. She was not a great cook! We used to tease her that her pastry would serve to sole shoes as she energetically bashed it out with her wooden-handled rolling pin!

But tea-time was a small meal by comparison with lunch, which was served as the main meal of the day. We would come back from school to have, at about 5 o'clock, home-made bread, butter and jam and home-made sponge cake.

Sunday tea was more special. Then it would be ham or a salmon salad, with the ham or salmon coming out of a tin. There would be tinned fruit - usually peaches, mandarin oranges or fruit salad and evaporated milk. In summer time, if the ice-cream van came at an appropriate time. We might have an ice-cream block and wafers for 'afters'.

We rarely drank coffee. I can remember the Rington's Tea man bringing tea to the house.

Food was bought much more on a daily basis. The Co-op was close by, and in the 50s there was a separate grocery, Greengrocery and Butchery shop. Our store number was 94249 - remembered to this day.

Fish was still eaten on Fridays, so there was a fish shop in a lock-up behind the main shops. The wet fish was wrapped up in newspaper to carry home. Probably why most shopping bags were net bags. The bakery sold Hovis bread and this was also where you bought fizzy drinks - lemonade, ice-cream soda, Vimto and Iron brew.

I don't remember 'snacks' being readily available - the height of modernity was Jacob's Cream Crackers. Biscuits could be bought loose from tins, along with the broken biscuit selection. Fig Rolls, Ginger Snaps, Rich Tea, Marie, Digestives. Sugar came loose in blue sugar bags, butter was cut from a block as was cheese and bacon was sliced to order.

There wasn't a huge variety of fruit and vegetables available at any one time - much more seasonal. Exotic fruits just weren't there … and it was still a pleasant treat to find an orange on the toe of the Christmas stocking, along with a handful of Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds - all virtually impossible to crack without everything shattering into hundreds of pieces.

Dorne Coggins