When did children’s food get so… posh?

gammon egg and chips

Here’s a real conversation about food that happened in our house this week:

Me: Did you get a snack at school today?

Flea: Yeah, I had a bacon roll.

Me: OK. But if you’ve had breakfast, try and get something else, ok? Not always bacon.

Flea: Oh, I don’t always have a roll. Some days I have a waffle or a panini.


I’m fairly confident I was 21 and working in Soho before I tasted my first panini. It wasn’t until I went to New York that same year I realised not all waffles were frozen and made of potato.

If you ask me, kids’ food today has all got a bit fancy.

When I got home from school in the 1980s, it was to a PROPER tea.

My Mum worked full time and was a single parent to boot, so week night meals were quick and easy. Maybe sausages with boiled potatoes and peas. Fish fingers and instant mash, with carrots. Or jacket potatoes with tuna and salad.

On the weekends, when there was a bit more time, it might be spaghetti bolognese or cheese and onion pie, or Mum’s chicken and vegetable broth, cooked up with rice in the pressure cooker and served with chunky slices of bread.


Pudding was really just for treats, but on a school night there might be a Ski yoghurt or an apple. If we had guests or it was a special occasion, we might get to feast on a Wall’s Viennetta. Let the good times roll!

It seems these days like kids have forgotten how to eat like kids. We’ve been testing various food delivery boxes recently and I complained to one company the dishes didn’t seem all that child friendly. The firm apologised and sent me their “family box”.

Sample family recipes? Chorizo calzone. Beef ragout with black olive salsa. Chicken and spinach taquitos.


Checking out social media, it feels like even normal, home-cooked food these days seems to need to involve ingredients that 12-year-old me wouldn’t have known how to pronounce. Risotto. Fajitas. Grilled halloumi.

I can’t help but wonder if food hasn’t become just another social media status symbol. As though feeding kids herb-crusted salmon and pesto potatoes is BETTER than gammon and chips. *pause to remember how much I love gammon and chips* 

I get it, I do. To an extent, anyway.

Food’s more widely available than in the 1980s. Retailers have access to a global store cupboard of amazing foods. This is A Good Thing.

I love grilled halloumi as much as the next person, and I have been known to make a pretty mean risotto. Oh and that chicken and spinach taquito? Was flippin’ amazing.

But sometimes I yearn for simpler times when you could just stick something under the grill, and dinner would be ready 15 minutes later, without the need to stir fry or marinade anything. When the addition of little sausages to a tin of beans meant you had basically won at life.

Anyone else?

beanz with sausages

Image: Shutterstock


36 thoughts on “When did children’s food get so… posh?”

  1. I’m SO with you on this. My girls eat well and they eat a varied diet but so much of the fayrenfrom my childhood that I LOVED is missing. I gave them fish fingers, mash and beans for their tea last week and it was liken I’d given them something exotic and exciting! As my darling nan-in-law would have said, “a bit of what you fancy does you good” (does that apply to me and Chris Pratt?!) so something junky every now and again may not be good for your cholesterol levels but it’s definitely good for your soul.

  2. Oh vienetta. Always knew it was a proper special occasion if there was vienetta for pudding. I think as you say it’s all about availability. My kids eat all the posh nosh but given the choice they always go for fish and chips. I like the fact they experience the adventurous cuisine actually, I never even had a curry until I was 16. We usually go for simple stuff at home though. They had chicken, savoury rice and frozen veg today. Living the dream.

    1. I do like that Flea experiences foods – certainly because we travel a lot. But it’s a shame sometimes that we think a simple weeknight supper of pasta, or meat and vegetables is somehow lacking!

  3. Ha ha, I had my first panini when I went to uni in Paris. Never heard of them before that! I used to love Vienetta; it was such a treat! We had it as our Christmas dessert and my brothers and I were fighting over the last slice!

  4. I remember growing up eating hot dogs and noodles and on Sundays we had home made trifle. My children ask me for dirty rice and falafel burgers. My eldest who is 14 goes to Costa or Boost with his friend rather than hang out in the park.

  5. This is so true, through work I had to spend the day at the local high school last week, at break time all the kids were walking around with salami and grilled cheese paninis. They looked so good but all I kept thinking was that my school dinner was chips and beans in a bowl and a strawberry yoghurt for desert. Will there be anything new for these children to try when they become adults!

    1. There is the question of what there will be left to discover, I agree! Actually, what is exotic to my child is pastry, and burgers, and that sort of thing 🙂

  6. Killjoys 😉
    One of the things I love most about my kids is how much they love interesting food. I can’t stand that restaurants still think it’s ok to offer chicken nuggets and pizza on kids menus and expect 12 year olds to love it (maybe they should do stages of kids menu…?).
    I do totally get the need for beans on toast or a baked potato on a school night when there’s no time, but I love that we all eat the same stuff most of the time in our family (because me and Jason do love nice food – it’s how we relax in the evenings). And I love that when I cook properly, my kids are learning to put flavours together as well. My son is all about the chilli and coriander – but then he’s an odd boy, what 9 year old wants lobster and squid on his birthday?
    Mind you, I do love a Viennetta.

    1. I do get what you’re saying, I really do, but… my irritation sometimes is that “cooking properly” often means “fancy”.

      A poached egg on toast. Sausage and mash. Who says that’s not proper? It’s obvs about what you enjoy and what you like to eat but I’m not sure how many 10 year olds would be all, “YAY, chorizo calzone!”

  7. Oh my kids eat plenty of beans & sausages or fish fingers I can tell you. I’m a rubbish cook. Dave does all the good cooking in our house. I don’t think our kids would really be very impressed with herb crusted salmon or chicken and spinach taquito . . . that’s the sort of thing we’d eat after bedtime 😉

    1. It’s tricky – I love that Flea enjoys foods, and will try new things, but sometimes – ugh – it’s such an EFFORT. Does everything in life have to be Pinterest-worthy, ALL THE TIME?

  8. OMG, the sausages in the tins of beans were like the best thing ever. And Vienetta? I’m sold. I’m with you on the fancy food thing – they can order what they like in a restaurant but if you think I’m cooking something up at home which requires actual mixing of ingredients, then they’ve got another thing coming. What’s wrong with fish fingers and peas all of a sudden?

  9. This really made me laugh. My (grown up) kids can’t quite believe me when I tell them I was 16 before I had my first Chinese meal, 17 before I had my first curry and 20 before I ate pizza. Now I cook and eat all kinds of food, but as a working mum I often cooked things which were simple and quick. And when we went camping we ate tinned or dried food for a week – I didn’t go shopping at all! Yes – that did include baked beans with sausages.

  10. I’m now feeling quite bad that dinner staples for my toddler are: spaghetti Bolognese; chicken, chips and beans; cheese and ham pizza. I clearly need to up my game!!

    …but he likes those things much more than paninis.

  11. I think i’m still stuck in the 80’s then!! we eat spag bol. sausages and fish fingers!! They are partial to chicken fajitas which is something we never had-mexican food definitely hadn’t made it Newcastle until the noughties i reckon! The food box sounds good and look forward to reading your review of it.

  12. It’s almost always chicken and veg here. Although now that I found a Glorious soup I can use as a base for a “curry” we have that a lot too. Having said that Squidge loves mussels and calamari and jacket potato w/ tune & sweet corn but NOTHING and I mean nothing beats lasagna or mac & cheese with my girls! It’s good to expose them to lots of things and I think Squidge gets a weird selection of food because of my influence.

  13. Dexter’s grateful he gets fed at all tbh … but totally agree with you. We were definitely a meat and 2-veg house growing up, with corned beef has on a Saturday every, single, week. Didn’t do me (too much) harm!

  14. I had everything that you mentioned as a kid and more plus, like M.Brain’s Faggot’s, the complete Bernard Matthew’s range, Findus Crispy Pancakes, Angel Delight etc.But mum couldn’t cook.I went to catering college at 19, where I was already a veggie (now vegan) all before I had my eldest 14 years ago.Becoming a single mum with 8 years of working in a restaurant and having 3 kids under 9 years old, I opted for home cooked foods.It’s a sign of the times, my kids would rather go for a Subway or eat in local veggie restaurant than eat in Mcdonald’s when we’re out too.And I remember as a kid that pasta and lentils were for making collages with, now they are weekly meal staples for us.

  15. I’m a terrible cook and I hate putting together a menu for the week. This all sounds very familiar to me. I feel a lot of pressure to whip up something exciting in the short hour we have between picking the kids up from nursery and them going into meltdown because they need their beds. Simple meals are usually what they get. However, when I look at what they’re getting, it’s balanced and nutritious, so what’s the problem? It’s that pesky mummy guilt! Oh, and I love gammon and chips, mmmmm!

  16. All of this! It’s great that my kids will grow up with a wider palate, but I think maybe our childhood favourites are getting lost amongst the other stuff and that’s a shame. I look back at my childhood mealtimes and think ‘Ahh, grandma’s cheese and onion pie. Now that was a meal’. They’ll look back and think ‘Ahh, chicken and chorizo paella.’ Not the same is it!

  17. I have ridiculously fussy eaters for children, so a lot of what they eat at home is done begrudgingly whilst giving me evil looks. To be fair though I am really not a great cook and sometimes I throw mine away when they aren’t looking and make a sandwich, or if they’ve gone out to play beans on toast …

    I also think I was at least 27 before my first panini … well Cornwall usually adopts most things later than the rest of the country 😉


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