Helen Bach: Our food has come a long way since the 1950s

The TV programme Back in Time for Dinner was an eye-opener, says Helen
The TV programme Back in Time for Dinner was an eye-opener, says Helen

Back In Time For Dinner was so much more than a clever name for a TV programme.

It was a little piece of social history served up week by week as a food show, accompanied with great music.

If you missed it, it featured a delightful family called the Robshaws who ‘time travelled’ via food.

They started in the 1950s with post-war rationing, and then went through each decade sampling the culinary ‘delights’ from the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Their home was transformed each week to resemble those from the past, complete with (or lacking) kitchen equipment, and the family also undertook traditional roles and dressed according to the era.

We saw Rochelle, the matriarch of the family, struggling with her role in the 1950s where she was practically chained to the kitchen and had to prepare every meal from scratch, including offal.

As the decades passed, her role evolved and she went out to work, but still did most of the cooking. She seemed to perpetually struggle with tin openers though.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that husband Brandon got back into the kitchen – he apparently does most of the cooking in real life – but he had found it strange he had to sit in the dining room reading his paper while Rochelle cooked dinner alone.

It was fascinating to see how the family shopped, and see the packaging from foods throughout the years.

They went from using small specialist shops in the 1950s and 60s, to the rise of the supermarkets, and the specialist freezing centres which occurred in the 1970s.

Mary Berry was even on hand to give advice too, as freezers were new-fangled gadgets that nobody knew how to use.

The 1980s saw the arrival of the microwave oven and the sandwich toaster, and nouvelle cuisine in posh restaurants.

After the BSE crisis in the early 1990s some people understandably went vegetarian, there was more organic food and bagged salad appeared.

This was also apparently the decade of the Pop Tart – who knew?

It’s available on iPlayer if you want to catch up.

Read more from Helen here.