Once, when Flea was about five, she came home from school with eyes like saucers.
“Mummy, we had something new for lunch today and it was delicious!” she declared. “It was called pastry.”
I think that was the moment I realised that our childhood diet really is something that’s tied to a specific era. As a child, Flea eats plenty of things I don’t think I experienced until I went to university.
It sounds ludicrous now, but I was a teenager before I got to try fresh mozzarella, and I’m not sure if I tasted olives or tuna that didn’t come out of a tin until I was at university. These days, from what I can tell, our kids eat impossibly posh food.
It’s only when you get to my age, I think, that you realise just how much our food, cooking and kitchens have changed through the years – and how closely our childhood memories are tied to those family meals.
This fab graphic from Prestige does a great job of putting it into perspective. Being a child of the 1980s, I well remember the excitement our first toastie grill caused in the household, along with our fizzy drinks maker. Although nothing quite came close to the excitement of the ‘pop man’ visiting on a Tuesday night.
My childhood is defined by some 1980s foods that – frankly – I wouldn’t give fridge room these days. But at the time it was not only normal, it was a-ma-zing. Here are ten 1980s foods that were staples of my childhood that I would NEVER consider eating now. How many of these did you get served at the tea table?
My Mum was a busy working Mum and quick, hot dinners (except I was Northern, so it was ALWAYS tea) were essential back in the 1980s. One of our favourite treats was to cook up one of these smoked sausages, chopped into three, and shared between us with baked beans and mashed potato.
As a teenager, I would occasionally make myself dinner by zapping a smoked sausage in the microwave for 60 seconds, slicing it up, and serving it in a white barm cake with lashings of ketchup. Mmmm. Taste the nutrition.
Smoked Cheese in a Tube
Talking of smoking, does anyone else remember that smoked cheese that came in a little sausage shape? Or – even worse – the stuff that came in a squeezy tube like tomato puree?
This stuff was QUITE the special occasion when I was in primary school, let me tell you. A New Years Eve in the 1980s round at the Whittles wasn’t complete until we sliced open one of these babies.
Forget Smash, in our house instant mash was all about Yeoman’s. It came in a box, and you’d mix it with boiled water and a little knob of margarine, and it looked almost like potato. We’d sometimes have JUST instant mash for dinner, with lashings of ketchup. There was a lot of ketchup in my childhood.
It was comforting and velvety smooth in a way that makes adult me suspect there was zero fibre involved.
If you were a working Mum in the 1980s, food shopping involved buying lots of stuff that went in the freezer, that your kids could prepare themselves. And I think that’s why we had so many turkey burgers.
I’m not sure I’m remembering accurately, but I have a distinct memory that you could even get turkey burgers that had a layer of cheese in the middle. Yep. I just Googled it, and you can STILL buy them. I wouldn’t recommend that you do, mind.
By the 1980s, Creamola was mostly only available in Scotland – which is where we went on holiday EVERY year. So we’d always rush to the shop and get some Orange Creamola. It was like a powder that you mixed with water to make an opaque drink that was frothy, and sweet. With hindsight, I think it was probably at least 99% sugar.
When we were kids, jelly made from melted cubes was IT when it came to dessert. If Mum had added a tin of mandarin pieces while it was half-set, so much the better.
Sometimes you’d have it with condensed milk. These days, jaded adult me can’t quite understand how melted pork gelatine is a food, considering the many other dessert options available to us. Flea agrees with me, as she’s vegetarian.
Frozen Mini Pizzas
If you never tasted these, try and imagine the worst of the worst, cheapest pre-made pizza base you’ve ever tasted, topped with ketchup and cheese so mild it has no taste.
They came in packs of 8 or 12, and you’d cook them on the grill. Of course, 9 times out of 10, the moment you put the fork into the topping, it would all slide off, and leave you with a slab of (to all intents and purposes) cardboard on the plate.
Heinz Tinned Sausages and Beans
It’s no exaggeration to say that, along with a copy of Look-In and a pair of white roller boots, this was my go-to, guaranteed happy-maker in the 1980s.
These days, I tend to assume (possibly incorrectly) that the sausages are made from less than stellar quality meat, and I haven’t eaten a baked bean in 20 years. Flea also hates baked beans, weirdly. And tinned spaghetti.
Milk Roll White Bread
Because who needs wholegrains? My Grandma swore by this cute round bread. You could eat loads, and it was like you’d not eaten anything at all.
The tremendous thing I remember about this bread was that you could pull it apart and roll it into little balls, and they’d have the texture of putty. Then you could float them in your soup. My brother also used to make them into ketchup sandwiches. I was way more sophisticated, of course. I had sandwiches made with lettuce and Shippams paste. Beefy.
Actually, I’m lying. I still love a potato waffle from time to time. After all, they’re waffley versatile.
What foods from your childhood would your children be horrified by?