My food history # 1. The 1950s and 1960s – my childhood diet



Late 1950s and early 1960s- my Childhood Diet

As a young child my family had a red-meat-centred diet.

We ate meat every day except Friday. We usually had two courses for evening meals, either soup and main course or main course and dessert. My mother served the food out and we needed to finish our main course in order to get dessert. Soups were home-made by my mother over many hours. Main course was lamb chops or sausages deep fried in beef dripping, or beef stews. We had three vegetables every night for dinner of potatoes plus an orange/yellow/red vegetable and a green vegetable. After school we would help with the preparation by shelling of the peas, and the peeling and chopping of vegetables. It was a routine afternoon activity. For desserts we had home-made sweetened milk-based puddings such as blancmange, custard, rice pudding, tapioca, or sago. These were often accompanied with jelly or stewed fruit. Sometimes we simply had jelly and custard.

The family all ate together at the evening meal, except my father who would come in late from work or sometimes had meetings to attend to in the evenings. My mother would keep his dinner warm by placing his plate over a saucepan of simmering water.

We drank full-cream milk and had full-cream milk on our breakfast cereals. For recess at school we had one-third pint of milk, delivered under a government program to each school for each child. We ate sweet biscuits after school dipped in glasses of milk.

For breakfast, we ate cooked porridge with brown sugar and milk, or we had one of three varieties of packet breakfast cereal (corn, rice, and wheat). At weekends we often had eggs and bacon. My father also had eggs, bacon and sausages during the week. Breakfast was always accompanied by toast, butter and spreads (yeast extract or jams).

We ate white bread. Butter was the spread on bread. For lunch we had sandwiches with preserved meats, processed cheese, and processed spreads. Sometimes, but less often, we had sandwiches of egg or baked beans. At recess and in the afternoon after school we had fruit or crackers and processed cheese, or crackers and yeast extract. At afternoon tea-time, we were allowed to eat as much as we wanted to stop our hunger.

We ate fresh fruit in season. In summer, we gorged on fruit. We had fruit in winter that my mother had bottled at the end of the previous summer. Berry fruits, cherries and melons were only available for a few short weeks around Christmas time.

My parents grew a lot of vegetables and fruit in our back-yard garden: peas, beans, cabbage, chokos, rhubarb, strawberries, passion-fruit, lemons, nectarines and mulberries. We had back-yard ‘chooks’ (hens) for eggs. Interestingly, we did not eat chicken often, except for when our own hens reached their use-by date. In the early 1960s, chicken was a special meal, reserved for Christmas and other special occasions.

On Fridays the family had takeaway fish and chips. Every second Friday we went to the local library about a half-hour drive away. On the way back our parents would stock up at a local vegetable market for those fruits and vegetables not available in our garden, as well as stopping for some fish and chips. At these times (once a fortnight) we also shared a family block of chocolate. That was a special treat.

On Saturdays we were allowed to buy an ice-confection from the ice-cream man when he came around our street ringing his bell. The family would also buy a block of ice-cream from the ice-cream man as a special dessert on Saturday night. The block of ice-cream was small and gave us one serve of ice-cream each and no more. Every Saturday we were given sixpence a week to spend at the local milk-bar on lollies (confectionery).

On Sundays we would have deep-fried roast lamb or beef with deep-fried or roasted vegetables and gravy at the mid-day meal. The dripping from the roast would be saved for use in cooking during the week. Sometimes we had corned beef with white sauce. This would be followed by a heavy dessert. The Sunday roasts were a special family gathering that took hours to prepare and were never missed.

Special treats were home-made fritters or pancakes with lemon and sugar on Sunday night, or crumpets with butter and honey on Sunday mornings. My grandmother would offer cakes, chocolate biscuits, sweet pies or scones with jam and cream. At school fetes there were toffees, coconut ice and chocolate crackles TM (2).

We drank water, full-cream milk and lemon cordial. Adults had tea with milk and sugar.

Most of our food was home-grown or home prepared. We dined out once or twice a year. At community events and fairs there were hot-dogs in buns with tomato sauce, meat-pies, fairy floss and flavoured sweetened milk. They were the only times we had those foods. At the annual school Christmas party we had fizzy drinks and cream-filled biscuits, rare treats for us. For Christmas itself, we had roast chicken, a huge variety of roasted and boiled vegetables, plum pudding, and an array of summer fruits, lollies, and nuts. Except for peanuts, we only ate nuts at Christmas time. Other nuts were too expensive or had to be broken open with a nut-cracker.

In the 1950s, we had no fridge. We had an ice-chest with a large block of ice home-delivered . The ice-chest kept foods cooled. Meat had to be purchased daily, except processed meats which would keep a few days in the cooler. Bread and milk were home-delivered. A few blocks away there was a butcher, a green-grocer and a small grocery store for flour, butter, biscuits, sugar as well as for household bathroom, laundry and cleaning products. When I was about five years old, our corner grocery store closed and small supermarkets began to appear further downtown.

Food availability was about to change…

This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.

This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.
My food history # 1 – My childhood diet – Late 1950s, early 1960s
My food history # 2 – Mid 1960s – First nutrition lessons
My food history # 3 – Late 1960s – Times are a-changing
My food history # 4 – Critical moments – my father
My food history # 5 – Fit 1970s – fibre – fruit – free of sugar
My food history # 6 – 1980s – Critical moments – a health scare – hypertension
My food history # 7 (part 1) – 1980s – Food Sensitivities – shattered ideals of healthy food
My food history # 7 (part 2) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – proving the culprit foods
My food history # 7 (part 3) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – hypertension & biogenic amines
My food history # 8 – The 1980s Healthy Eating Pyramid
My food history # 9 – The 1990s Nutrition studies – low GI – lipoproteins
My food history # 10 – 1990s combining ‘friendly’ with ‘healthy’ – a bland yet healthy diet
My food history # 11 – The 2000s – slow ticking time bombs
My food history # 12 – Critical events and life catastrophes.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.


Notes and References

(1) Image courtesy [Apolonia/] Std.Licence

(2) In 1953 Kelloggs trade marked the name ‘Chocolate Crackles’

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