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Category Archives: Old School Stuff

It’s Dinky, It’s A Diary… It’s Dinky Diary!

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A friend and I had a wander around a book shop this afternoon when we stopped at the diaries that were on display. My friend picked one up and flicked through it, declaring that she’d never be dedicated enough to fill it in every day. Talk then turned to the diaries we used to keep when we were teenagers and the sort of things that we used to write in them. Yes, it was the usual teenage girl stuff, though by the sounds of it, hers sounded more angst-ridden than mine. It wasn’t that I had an idyllic life – I just chose to gloss over the not-so-great stuff!

Image from orchardhill.org.uk

Image from orchardhill.org.uk

But the conversation reminded me just how much I used to be into keeping a diary. There were some years where I was very good and managed to fill it in almost every day. Then there were years when there’d be nothing written after March! but I definitely had an addiction to diaries, and it was what I looked forward to at the end of every year. Even though I tended to buy myself diaries, I think there were a few years where I knew that one of the beautifully-wrapped gifts under the tree contained a book in which I would later write all my inner-most thoughts, courtesy of one of my friends who knew about my diary addiction. And one year I actually bought myself two diaries because I couldn’t choose between them – how’s that for an addiction?

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Today, I’m not sure that people keep diaries the way they used to. I used to manage a stationary shop and I’ve lost count of the number of organizer inserts and diaries that we had to reduce to almost nothing in order to get them out of the shop once we reached March. A lot of these would eventually end up getting binned. It’s hardly surprising – modern technology has made it so that we don’t need book-style diaries anymore. Our mobile phones perform all these kinds of functions and more making it unnecessary for us to buy a book to scribble down reminders and our thoughts. It’s a real shame because to me, using your mobile phone – as practical and convenient as it may be – it’s just not the same. I find it so impersonal. There’s nothing quite like putting pen to paper, and holding an actual book in your hand. I may be super old-fashioned but… you like what you like!

Image from journalbuddies.com

Image from journalbuddies.com

Why did I like diaries so much? Well, I liked the idea of having something to record my thoughts. I also knew that it was something that us girls did. I don’t recall ever having one with a lock (although I did want one!) but I didn’t wrap a hundred hair bands around it either – I kind of figured that that wasn’t going to stop anyone from breaking and entering! I also really liked the ‘extras’ that came with the diary. These were the additional pages that contained interesting and useful information. Some of the diaries I bought were typically aimed at girls, so there was information on diet, beauty, fashion, socialising etc. A diary for girls that I bought in the early ’90s by Letts, even contained weird and wonderful real life stories as well as self-defence tips. I loved it!

Image from apeekatparadise.com

Image from apeekatparadise.com

I also think that at the time I harboured ambitions about being the next Pepys. However when I look back, I really don’t think that there’s anything in them that would have made people want to read them five hundred years later. I remember at school, during a life skills class, one of my classmates revealed that although she kept a diary and wrote in it every day, she would throw it out once the year was over as she didn’t want to run the risk of anyone finding and reading them. I thought that was a terrible shame; after all in years to come it’ll serve as a reminder of your youth.

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Fast forward many years, and I think I may, just may have one diary lurking around somewhere. So I probably did the same as my classmate did and chucked them out. Or they somehow got lost. Within the last decade, I’ve probably received just a couple of diaries as gifts. I certainly don’t buy them for myself any more. And when I do have a diary, I’m more likely to jot down appointments and other reminders rather than pour out my heart and soul into it!

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Apart from the Letts Girls Diary, I had two other favourites. One looked more like a Filofax, the must-have accessory from the decade I remember too well – the 1980s. As well as space to record your thoughts, there was also a school planner, recipes, all kinds of useful information, and stickers which could be used throughout the diary. It was very brightly coloured and interesting.

Oh how I miss this design! What my Dinky Diary looked like - but with tons more colour! Image from http://www.ipaustralia.com.au/

Oh how I miss this design! What my Dinky Diary looked like – but with tons more colour!
Image from http://www.ipaustralia.com.au/

The second diary that I had was the fabulous Dinky Diary. This came out, I believe, at the end of the eighties, although I didn’t buy mine until the early nineties and it really was a craze among teenage girls. Dinky Diaries, which were made by an Australian company, were very brightly coloured and were available in hot pink, blue, yellow, orange, purple and possibly red. They were more like organizers than basic diaries. I remember mine being purple while my sister nabbed the hot pink one. It was like a fold out book with a thick, hardback magnet cover that opened up into 3 sections: one for notes, one for addresses and a journal. It was and we felt very grown-up as we carried this diary around with us as though we had an exorbitant amount of information to either jot down or be reminded of. I went to an all-girls school so it went without saying that just about every pupil had one, and they would often adorn our desks. Why they were never confiscated I don’t know as I’m sure we spent more time fussing around with them than we did paying attention to the teacher. I don’t think that Dinky Diaries or anything that closely resembles them are available any more which is such a shame because more than two decades on, I’m sure there’s a new generation of young girls who’d love them just as much as we did.

Even though my Dinky Diary featured a different design, it's very similar to the organizer I had. Image from pinterest.com

Even though my Dinky Diary featured a different design, it’s very similar to the organizer I had.
Image from pinterest.com

I was probably in my early twenties when I stopped using a diary. I’m not completely sure of the reason why. I don’t think I could be bothered to write in it at the end of every day – the adult world leaves you very little time for such pursuits. However, writing this post has made me think about keeping a diary again. I’m sure it won’t amount to me doing anything more than jotting down appointments and reminders, but if I find one for 2015 that I think is interesting, not overly business-like and unashamedly girly, I could be tempted…

RELATED LINKS:
http://lynleystace.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/on-keeping-a-diary/

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Ten Ice-cream Memories That Will Hopefully Make a Comeback

It’s summertime and it’s absolutely sweltering. I don’t think I’ve ever known it to be so hot (I probably say that every summer!) and I am literally melting away!

On a more positive note, I am definitely gorging on more and more ice-cream in a bid to keep cool, and I suppose I should make the most of it. After all once the hot weather gives way to the cold, I won’t be looking at another ice-cream until next summer.

This got me thinking about the lovely ice-cream treats we used to feast on when we were kids. When we were growing up, ice-cream was not a freezer staple but something Mum got in when we were having a party or a family gathering, so it really was an occasional treat and regarded as something quite special. Back when we were kids, the weather didn’t matter a bit – we would have happily devoured ice-cream in below freezing conditions!

However, I’ve noticed that a lot of the ice-cream treats that were very popular in the ’80s and ’90s – and most probably even before then – seem to be virtually unheard of today, or at the very least they’re not as common. I’ve noticed that twenty-first century ice-cream has been given something of an image overhaul. With an array of flavours and textures, ice-cream nowadays is smoother, slicker and sophisticated and most definitely not just for kids.

But I’ve also noticed however, that despite ice-cream being given something of a revamp, most of the time it’s just an accompaniment to a dessert such as a fruit pie or tart, fudge cake, or waffles etc.

With these old time classics, however, Ice-cream is very much the star of the show.

1. JELLY AND ICE-CREAM

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The classic kids dessert. No child’s birthday party was complete without jelly and ice-cream. I haven’t been to any kids parties for quite some time now but I do hope it still features on the menu. I absolutely loved this as a kid. I didn’t care what flavour the jelly or ice-cream was; as long as one half of the bowl wobbled and the other was icy.  I’m sure jelly and ice-cream were most people’s childhood favourite dessert but while most kids grow out of it, I still have a massive bowlful most weekends as a not-so-little treat. My not-so-guilty pleasure!

2. ICE-CREAM FLOAT

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A glass of soda with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. My mum introduced me to the delights of an ice-cream float when I was about five. But Hubby was horrified when he heard that Mum used cola and not root beer which he insists was the only soda used in making an ice-cream float in the States. Well over here in England, it was always cola floats – especially as we don’t really get good quality root beer over here. And I’m almost certain that Mum has used cream soda a few times as well. Though whether you use root beer or cola, they’re both equally delicious. I think so anyway! There is now a new trend for sodas and ice-creams of any flavour. Hmmm… don’t know how Hubby will feel about that!

3. ICE-CREAM SANDWICH

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This was an amazing treat when we were growing up. An ice-cream sandwich is a layer of ice-cream sandwiched between two biscuits, cookies, slices of cake, or -as in the ones Mum used to make for us – wafer. Ice-cream sandwiches have been eaten all over the world and most countries have their own version of it. Admittedly it probably wasn’t such a hit for people with sensitive teeth but it was seriously delish. We tended to use mainly vanilla, Neapolitan, or raspberry ripple ice-creams (with the latter being my fave!) Basically ice-creams which were typical of the 1980s.

Now that I think of it, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an ice-cream sandwich. Hmmm… time to start buying packs of wafers, I think!

4. ICE-CREAM CUPS WITH LITTLE WOODEN SPOONS

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I haven’t had these in England since childhood but I have stumbled across them when I visited India – and the ice-cream was delicious! These are not to be confused with miniature tubs of ice-cream which are still readily available. The ones I’m referring to were little cardboard or lightweight plastic cups of ice-cream with peel-off paper lids. These were eaten with the little wooden spoons that came with them, although they resembled paddles rather than spoons. The ice-cream was almost always vanilla but I’m sure I vaguely remember vanilla ice-cream that contained ripples of chocolate or strawberry flavoured sauce.

Mini tubs of ice-cream today don’t come the little wooden spoon, and if it does come with a spoon at all, it’s always plastic, which handy as it is, it’s just not the same. I actually think the little wooden spoon made the ice-cream taste better!

5. BANANA SPLIT

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Now who doesn’t like a good ol’ banana split? My aunt used to make a very simple version of this classic dessert which she served as afters during the summer months. Hers consisted of a banana cut into quarters served with vanilla ice-cream. Simple, not quite like the traditional version, but still very appetizing.

The classic version – which originated in Pennsylvania – involves splitting a banana lengthways and placing it in a boat-shaped dish before filling it with three scoops of ice-cream (usually strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla) before being topped with sauces, whipped cream, crushed nuts and a cherry. Many different versions of this dessert exist but one thing remains – it’s unlikely you’ll find anyone who can finish a whole one by themselves!

Banana splits can still be found in ice-cream parlours and diners, but thanks to the emergence of more sophisticated desserts, this retro pud is not as ‘talked about’. In fact three years ago, there were reports that Wimpy had dropped this dessert from their menu due to a fall in demand. Are people mad?

6. KNICKERBOCKER GLORY

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At the mere mention of a Knickerbocker Glory I’m immediately transported back to the 1980s. Another retro dessert like the banana split, a Knickerbocker Glory is an ice-cream sundae served in a tall glass which contains layers of fruit, ice-cream, jelly, cream, nuts, meringue, sauces or syrups. This dessert is as peculiar to Britain as the banana split is to America, and has been served up in ice-cream parlours across Britain since the 1930s. There is no set recipe for making a Knickerbocker Glory and flavours can vary. This was another dessert which didn’t survive the cull at Wimpy and was cut along with the banana split three years ago.

There are some things I will never understand…

7. ARCTIC ROLL

Image from dailymail.co.uk

Image from dailymail.co.uk

I must have been about seven when a friend told me that she was going to have an Arctic roll for dessert after her tea. I had no idea what an Arctic roll was at the time – but I soon found out!

An Arctic roll is similar in appearance to a Swiss roll. It’s made of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of sponge cake to form a roll, with a layer of raspberry flavoured sauce or jam between the sponge and the ice cream. This dessert was invented in Britain by a Czech lawyer who had emigrated here, and it has been around since the 1950s, though it became extremely popular during the 1970s.

Since being enlightened by my friend, my family and I had worked our way through quite a few Arctic rolls in our time, with the pud being a firm favourite with Mum. Production of the Arctic roll ceased for a while, beginning in the 1990s due to a slump in sales, but it resurfaced again in 2008 due to a combination of low-cost and nostalgic charm. Reviews were mixed with some regarding the dessert as too old-fashioned while the nostalgics among us welcomed it’s return. Despite it still being available to buy – with chocolate versions available as well – it’s not as popular as it once was. But at least it’s still here!

8. ICE CREAM IN A CARDBOARD BLOCK

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Those of us old enough to remember, will know that back in the day ice-cream didn’t come in rectangular plastic tubs, or  cylindrical tubs a la Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s. No, instead was available in the form of a block and wrapped in a cardboard container. Flavours tended to be vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, raspberry ripple or Neapolitan – the flavours of the day. As you can imagine, a cardboard wrapper wasn’t very practical: if you didn’t get your shopping home fast enough on a hot day, the ice-cream would melt and start to seep out of the packet. The softened ice-cream would also be at risk of being squished by heavier goods. Furthermore, if you were able to get the ice-cream home in one piece,  it was best eaten once opened, as it was impossible to seal properly and the ice-cream would develop a layer of frost in the freezer. My mum especially liked the ice-cream that came in tubs because she could store things in them after the ice-cream had long been devoured.

But there’s something extremely nostalgic about the old block-form ice-cream – and they did have their advantages: less waste and you could cut the perfect slice to put into your ice-cream sandwich. I very much doubt it’s available in the UK anymore although, I have seen them abroad – so there’s a chance that they could make they’re way back to these shores again.

9. ICE-CREAM BOMBES

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This dessert is believed to have originated during the Victorian era and it’s got something of a retro vibe. Also known as a bombe glacee, this ice-cream pud is frozen in a spherical mould so it resembles a dome, and they sometimes had a hard chocolate shell. I don’t remember Mum ever making these but I do remember her buying packs of these from Iceland (when the frozen food chain started springing up everywhere) so we clearly enjoyed them. I also remember tucking into these during an extended-family meal in a restaurant when I was about eight. It was mint flavoured ice-cream which I was crazy about at the time, served with fresh cream. Yum!
10.BAKED ALASKA

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As far as I’m concerned, Baked Alaska is the queen of ice-cream puddings. A very decadent-looking ice-cream dessert which generally consisted of ice-cream and fruit on a cake base, covered in meringue before being browned in the oven. And here’s the amazing bit – the ice-cream doesn’t melt! Baked Alaska was a very popular dessert when I was growing up and although it’s been virtually unheard of for at least fifteen years, I’m thrilled to see that Marks and Spencer have brought out their version of this classic dessert.

AND FINALLY…

I must say though, that one memory I’m glad has become a very distant one is that delightful combo of vanilla ice-cream with… tinned fruit salad! When I was a child I was obsessed with tinned fruit salad. In fact my mum used to say it was the only time I would go near a piece of fruit. I remember for school dinners, desert would sometimes consist of tinned fruit and custard (which I thought was yum!) But our family gatherings and parties weren’t any better: dessert was almost always tinned fruit and vanilla ice-cream. Don’t get me wrong; at the time I thought it was fab. But then I hadn’t developed the sophisticated palate that I have now! I have no aversion to fruit and ice-cream only now I insist on using fresh fruit rather than opening a tin.

Now if only we could bring back the other old classics…

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The Cookery Year: A Meal For All Seasons

When it comes to cookery books, most people can’t wait to get hold of Jamie Oliver’s or Nigella’s latest offering – and I’m no different. But there are no words to describe just how thrilled I was to have recently got my hands on a copy of The Cookery Year by Reader’s Digest. I’ve been hunting around for this iconic cook book for a long time, hoping to add it to my overwhelming collection of cookery books. For me, this little gem is the king of cook books – and an integral part of my childhood.

The Cookery Year as I remember it

The Cookery Year as I remember it

From the moment Reader’s Digest published The Cookery Year in the early seventies, it became the cook book no kitchen was complete without. It contained a month by month guide to seasonal produce plus recipes. My mother was the proud owner of a copy from the seventies, and being the strange child that I was, I used to spend hours poring over the pages. I must have been the only five year old who knew what a blini was! It was this book which got me interested in food and cooking at a young age all those years ago, and it introduced me to the delicious summer pudding; the delightful ouefs a la neige, and the flaming brilliant Crepes Suzettes!

My new copy of the cookery year

My copy of the cookery year

But what I liked most about The Cookery Year were the beautifully illustrated opening pages listing information about different types of fruit, vegetables, cuts of meat, fish and cheese, complete with instructions for preparation and cooking. I enjoyed looking the pictures and once I’d learnt to read, I was also able to find out when certain produce was available and preferable cooking methods though why a primary school-aged child needed to know such information, I’ll never know! Who’d have thought that The Cookery Year could be so educational? Furthermore whenever I played the Name Game, with friends, I was very rarely stuck when it came to the fruit and vegetable category – and I have The Cookery Year to thank for that!

August - my month as it appeared in the 1970s edition

August – my month as it appeared in the 1970s edition

Now my mother’s cook book – the same one I used to look through when I was a child – certainly looks as though it’s been through the wars. Battered and worn, with the cover and many of its pages missing, this book has been well and truly used! I remember Mum used to follow the recipes for some of the cakes that featured in this book and I did make something from The Cookery Year when I was about twelve – orange foam sauce which we served with spotted dick as we’d run out of the milk we needed to make the custard so this recipe saved the day!

Poultry

Poultry

Being reunited with this book is like being reunited with a missing piece of my childhood. I thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with this cook book; flicking through the pages; feeling amazed at how much I’d remembered… I came across recipes and photos I instantly recognised. Grapefruit in brandy… scallops served in the shell… turbot with sweetcorn… salad elona… it was as though I was being transported back in time. I also came across dishes I hadn’t heard of in a long time which were extremely popular when I was growing up such as cock-a-leekie soup, melon and prawn basket, Steak Diane and peach melba. And oh my goodness, kidneys! A lot of kidneys were consumed in the seventies and eighties if these recipes are anything to go by. Maybe there are some changes in twenty-first century cooking for which we can be thankful!

Cuts of meat

Cuts of meat

The edition of The Cookery Year which I have found is from 2009 rather than from the 1970s and even though it’s done it’s best to adhere to the original format, there are differences. The hardback cover of the 1970s edition featured a variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices, artistically arranged and photographed, while the 2009 edition has charming illustrations of fruit vegetables and fish emblazoned across its paperback cover. Some of the photographs inside the book are different to what I remember and some have been omitted altogether. Furthermore some recipes have also been removed such as the delightful ‘bunnies on the lawn’ that I always hoped my mum would make for my next birthday party.

The yummy cake page I remember so well which is missing from the 2009 edition

The yummy cake page I remember so well which is missing from the 2009 edition

Just as clothes go out of fashion, so does food and there are some dishes here which probably haven’t stood the test of time. I can’t see anyone serving up tomato ice as a starter or the delightfully named kidney scramble when they fancy a light snack. But there are still a huge number of classics such as chicken pie, tarte tatin, boef bourguignonne, and Lancashire hot pot as well as the famous summer pudding which outnumber the dishes which now seems outdated, so The Cookery Year is still a worthwhile buy. And in any case, any recipes that seem a bit dated can be adapted to modern tastes and to what is now available, or simply stick a ‘retro’ label on it and it will immediately be en vogue again!

Apparently not so common! Well maybe in another time...

Apparently not so common! Well maybe in another time…

It’s also amazing to see just how far we’ve come from the seventies in terms of food. Offal seems to be off the menu in a lot of households and restaurants, thank goodness. Chilli chocolate, salted caramel, pulled pork and many of today’s current food trends didn’t appear to exist then. In the seventies edition of The Cookery Year, peppers, avocados and courgettes were considered ‘less common vegetables’. Fast forward forty years and everyone’s fridge is full of them! And despite there surprisingly being lots of foreign influences, it’s missing a lot of the Thai, Japanese and South American flavours which are so popular today.

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I really do think that every household could benefit from owning a copy of The Cookery Year. It really is a must-have book. Those who already have this cook book have said that they’ve never really needed another cookery book as this one has everything they need to develop their culinary skills. It’s perfect for beginners to cooking enthusiasts alike; serious homemakers to those setting up home for the first time; parents and children – I even saw a comment from a lady who said that her three year old daughter sits on the work top looking through the book while her mother cooks. Sounds very familiar! Another mother has said that she uses the opening chapters as a teaching aid about food for her children. There are also menu suggestions for special occasions like weddings, Christmas and dinner parties. To say this book is extremely useful is an understatement – it’s the cook’s bible!

I’m so glad that The Cookery Year is part of my life again. I honestly don’t know how I lived without it for so long. I love the format, the month by month guide, the menus, the advice, the recipes, the illustrations, the photographs – in short, EVERYTHING! However, I’m still going to keep my eye out for an original edition like my mum had. What can I say – I’m so old school!

So I’m going to leave you with the recipe  from The Cookery Year for the orange foam sauce I made many years ago with great success. It really is a delicious, versatile and – if a twelve year old can do it – easy to make sauce. It goes well with most pies, tarts, hot pudding and cakes and even Christmas pudding!

ORANGE FOAM SAUCE

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Ingredients:

1 oz unsalted butter
1 orange (grated rind and juice of)
1 all-purpose flour
2 oz superfine sugar
1 egg
lemon juice

Method:

  • Cream the butter and grated orange rind and gradually beat in the flour mixed with sugar.
  • Separate the egg and beat the yolk into the butter & flour mixture.
  • Add the orange juice (made up to 5floz with water)
  • Don’t worry if the mixture curdles at this stage, it will become smooth again as it cooks.
  • Cook the sauce in a small heavy based saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and the flour is cooked through.
  • Add a little extra water if necessary to keep the sauce to a pouring consistency.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.
  • Just before serving, beat the egg white until stiff and then fold it into the sauce and sharpen the sauce slightly with a little lemon juice.

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Video

When The New Kids Rocked The Super Bowl…

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America has been football crazy for a while now (and that’s American football crazy not European soccer!) and the atmosphere must be absolutely electric right now as they are just hours away from the Superbowl. Whether the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos will emerge victorious is yet to be seen. The only thing I know for sure is that I am well on my way to becoming a Super Bowl widow!

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Of course being a Londoner, the Super Bowl wasn’t exactly a big deal in our household although it was for one of my uncles who’s a huge sports fan. However, it’s something that Hubby grew up with so he will most definitely be watching all the action as it unfolds tonight.

NKOTB: The best boy band ever!

NKOTB: The best boy band ever!

But I was thrilled to come across a clip of the best-boy-band-in-the-world’s half-time performance at the Super Bowl way back in 1991. For those who don’t know who the best boy band in the world are (and shame on you!) it is of course New Kids On The Block – my first crushes; my first loves; the first group I ever took a real interest in, and a band who were around when pop music was actually pretty darn good! It’s too bad we knew nothing about the American sport back then – I can just see my sister and I sneaking downstairs to wait for the New Kids at half-time even though it would have meant falling asleep in class the next day!

The New Kids dancing their feet off at the 1991 Superbowl

The New Kids dancing their feet off at the 1991 Superbowl

Although it was my first time watching this clip it still nonetheless managed to stir a lot of memories. I loved the New Kids. Their music; image; choreography; performances etc. etc. were awesome and I was convinced I was going to marry that Jordan – and nothing anyone would say could convince me otherwise! It also brought back a lot of memories of the early 1990s and my childhood at that time. Things were all so simple back then. Too bad no one told me that!

So enjoy the clip of the Boston quintet’s Disney-themed performance. What I wouldn’t give to be one of the kids perched on laps of the New Kids…

 

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Video

Not So Rosey On Quality Street

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Christmas is over, the decorations have long been taken down, and we’re all heaving a sigh of relief that we won’t have to look at another turkey until the end of the year. However not all traces of Christmas have completely disappeared as we’re still surrounded by a huge mountain of chocolate that we couldn’t manage to get through during the festive season – even though we had been dutifully stuffing our faces with the stuff!

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Among the stash which is going to take us another year to finish – I won’t need to bother buying chocs this Christmas – is a plastic tub of Heroes which is now half full of miniature chocolates, which I don’t mind but I’m not over the top crazy about, so I’m contemplating turning them into a scrummy, yummy fondue or a brownie so that they’ll be fully appreciated and not sit lingering in the tub for the best part of a year.

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But despite consuming an amount of chocolate that would make an oompa loompa very happy (actually my brother often calls me an oompa loompa but we won’t talk about that!) what was missing this year was the mammoth tin of Roses or Quality Street we used to receive every year since we were knee-high to… an oompa loompa! To us, those tins of chocolate are as synonymous with Christmas as tinsel covered trees and nativity cribs – Christmas just isn’t Christmas without them!

I remember these!!! image from timeplan.com

I remember these!!! image from timeplan.com

 

One of the highlights of our Christmas involved working our way through a tin, tub or glass jar of either Roses or Quality Street (if we were extraordinarily lucky – both!) We couldn’t wait to take the lid off the tin and get stuck in. Even though Roses and Quality Street are available all year round in their standard box form, there’s something about seeing those beautifully wrapped sweets in bright jewel tones at Christmas that makes them very apt for that festive time of year. Opening a tin of Roses or Quality Street was like entering Aladdin’s cave; all those interesting colours, shapes, sizes and textures… no wonder it was such a huge hit with young children.

I still have one of these - minus the lid and label sadly. Image from ebay.com

I still have one of these – minus the lid and label sadly. Image from ebay.com

 

The chocolate tin was the equivalent of the Olympic gold medal in our house – it was regarded as something special that everyone wanted to get their hands on. And it was ideal, no, a necessity for Christmas telly viewing. All six of us would be gathered together in the living room. Dad would be sprawled out on the sofa, rummaging through the tin and gobbling up chocolate as though his life depended on it. Chocolate wrappers would be scattered on the floor much to Mum’s annoyance and our amusement. This would soon be followed by a surprised cry of “Oh! It’s all gone! Who finished it?” Er, you did, Dad but I suppose we should thank you for having the decency to finish the orange fondants and coffee creams. We may love our Roses and Quality Street but I seriously do not know anyone who actually likes these.

As Quality Street tubs appear today.

As Quality Street tubs appear today.

Now that I’m married, I wanted to continue the tradition. Buying a special Christmas edition tin of Roses or Quality Street that is, not having Dad scoff the lot. As Hubby is from the States, he’s never had either before, so he left it up to me to decide which one to get. As it was our first Christmas together in the UK, I thought I’d go all out and get both. However, I was soon left sorely disappointed.

First of all, they now come in a plastic tub not a lovely metal tin as in years gone by which was ideal for storing biscuits or if you’re like my mum – rice! Then I discovered that for both types of chocolate collections, many of my favourites had been discontinued. The selection of chocolates available were greatly reduced and if I’m being brutally honest, I didn’t like most of them. What have they done to my beloved Roses and Quality Street?

A quick look at reviews and forums indicate that I’m not alone. There have been many complaints regarding both quantity and quality of the chocolates. Many have noticed that the flavours have changed and that the chocolates tastes sickly sweet. Some have put the change down to takeovers by different companies while others believe that it’s due to having to be economical in times of financial crisis. But whatever the changes may be it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not the chocolate assortments that we once knew and loved.

And although it’s a more minor issue, I can’t say I’m too thrilled with the new look designs. Although they disappeared fourteen years ago, I wish that Nestle had not got rid of the image of the two characters Major Quality and Miss Sweetly – who incidentally were inspired by the knowledge that people in the 1930s craved nostalgia. And as for what’s supposed to be an abstract rose which features as part of the Roses design, well it just looks more like a child’s scribble. The design on my mum’s old tin has a beautiful design from either the late 70s or early 80s. I know things have to change as years go by but I thought change was supposed to be for the better.

With Major Quality and Miss Sweetly

With Major Quality and Miss Sweetly

Roses and Quality Street appeared in the 1930s; a time when boxed chocolates could only be afforded by the wealthy. These assortments were reasonably priced and nicely presented, low-cost packaging thus making it available to most working people. And over the years it has been a massive hit. Christmas aside, we knew we were in for a real treat if someone gave us a box of Roses or Quality Street as we were growing up. I also bought into the slogan “Say ‘Thank You’ with Cadbury’s Roses” and it would always be my go-to box of chocolates if I ever wanted to give a small token of appreciation.

Sadly, it’s not something I would do now. And unless the quality of these chocolates improve, I think it’s safe to say that it will be another tub of Heroes again this Christmas.

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Walnut Whips: A Childhood Classic!

I was shocked when a friend revealed that she’d never before  heard of a Walnut Whip! She’s definitely old enough to remember them but even when I described them to her she still didn’t know what I was talking about. Oh dear girl, where have you been all these years????

Nestlé's Walnut Whip

Nestlé’s Walnut Whip

True, they’re not as common as they once were and from checking out the  forums, I can see that it is a common misconception among Nestlé’s Walnut Whip fans that they no longer exist and have found a place in choccy heaven. Thankfully, this isn’t so as they do still exist but admittedly they are unfortunately not as readily available as they once were. It’s a question of hunting for them – but they can be found. Supermarkets tend to stock up on Nestlé’s Walnut whips around Christmas time where they can be bought in packs of six. If you can’t wait until Christmas – and who could blame you – that other great British institution Marks and Spencer’s have their own brand of Walnut whips which are readily available throughout the year. In fact this year celebrates fifty years since M&S launched the walnut whips in their stores.

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Walnut whips were definitely a childhood treat when we were growing up in the 1980s and they bring back memories. As business owners, my parents had access to wholesale suppliers and were able to buy Walnut Whips at trade cost – which meant that our fridge was packed full of chocolaty goodness! I really don’t think Mum had space for much else. I dread to think how many my sister and I used to get through each day. You’d think we’d be sick of them by now seeing as we’d had enough to last us a lifetime.

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Originally launched in 1910 by Duncan’s of Edinburgh, Walnut Whip is now produced by Nestle. It consists of hollow whirl-shaped milk chocolate cone filled with a delicious soft, marshmallow-like, whipped, vanilla fondant cream filling, topped with… a walnut! I’m clearly not as old as I thought I was because apparently there also used to be a walnut actually inside the cone. Eventually the walnut piece inside the chocolate was removed, leaving the one nut that topped the cone – which is the only walnut piece I remember!

 

Marks and Spencer's Walnut Whip

Marks and Spencer’s Walnut Whip

 

The Whip has undergone a few transformations over the years including the ridging on the surface of the cone; and the texture of the filling which was supposed to have been more dense, and I think I vaguely remember this. Another thing I recall is that the packaging – even though it was still blue – wasn’t the same shiny, metallic wrapper we see today. Furthermore, I’m sure it was a darker shade of blue too. I also remember that the Whip used to be perched on a thin card base inside the blue wrapper – and for reasons I cannot understand why, I was quite taken with the card base! I was a very strange child…

 

Could this be the Walnut Whip wrapper from my childhood?

Could this be the Walnut Whip wrapper from my childhood?

 

Over the years, Nestle  have produced a few different flavoured fondant fillings but it is the vanilla one which still prevails today. As part of their fiftieth anniversary celebrations, Marks and Spencer’s have also brought out other flavours such as  mint and an assorted box containing one toffee pecan, one double chocolate and an original flavour. However I really don’t think that anything can ever be as good as the original vanilla flavour… although I do look forward to testing out my theory!

 

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In our house, Christmas is not complete unless we had a few boxes of Nestlé’s Walnut Whips in the cupboard. And it had to be Nestlé’s because of the distinctive blue packaging. Anything else just wouldn’t be the same.

Roll on Christmas!

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Down Memory Lane On A Milk Float!

Milk glorious milk

Milk glorious milk

Hubby and I were on our way to work a couple of days ago, when we spotted a milk float. At a risk of sounding like a couple of people who don’t get out much – and maybe we need to after this – but we got all excited! Neither of us could remember the last time we saw a milkman doing the rounds on his milk float, when as kids we used to see them every morning. Furthermore, Hubby said he didn’t think milkmen existed in the States any more (if you’re a milkman in America, please feel free to prove us wrong!)

Milk as I remember it

Milk as I remember it

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, it was as common to see a pint of milk on someone’s doorstep as it is to see someone yacking away into their mobile phone today. My mum always used to ask the milk man to deliver several pints a week, and I remember her leaving the empty bottles on our doorstep for him to collect as well as the occasional note she would roll up and pop into one of the bottles when she needed to amend the order. And of course milkmen used to deliver products other than milk including eggs, bread, cheese and other dairy items. They were pretty much a corner shop on wheels! And they were also a huge help to stay at home mums with very young children who perhaps couldn’t pop down to the shops as often as they needed to.

Milk as we know it today

Milk as we know it today

Today, even though milk men are still driving around in their milk floats, they are few and far between. Perhaps with supermarkets open twenty four hours a day and other local shops open even on a Sunday, most people don’t think it’s such a struggle to pick up a pint of milk themselves, which is quite ironic considering we live in an age where we like to have everything done for us.

Milkround

Milkround

However, most people realise that they could save themselves a few pennies by nipping down to the supermarket to pick up some milk. Furthermore, the introduction of long life milk; adequate packaging and good refrigeration means that it’s not necessary for the milkman to have to deliver milk to your door every morning. There’s also the possibility of milk being taken from doorsteps, especially today when certain people are likely to walk off with anything that’s not nailed down. On a more sinister note, the reason we stopped using the services of the local milkman was after our house was broken into. The neighbours were convinced it was the milk left on the doorstep for too long that gave away the fact that no one was at home at the time. So Mum cancelled all future orders and took herself off down the shops if ever we needed milk. A sad end to many happy years of seeing our cheery milkman! I suppose all of these factors have contributed in the dramatic decrease of milk delivery people.

Milk float

Milk float

And seeing a milk float always reminds me of Open All Hours, a BBC comedy starring Ronnie Barker and David Jason of which my dad was a huge fan. Jason’s character Granville, is romantically involved with the local milk woman and he waits for her to go by in her milk float before dashing outside to talk to her. So milk floats remind me of the happy times we spent as a family watching Granville’s escapades.

Arkwright and Granville in Open All Hours

Arkwright and Granville in Open All Hours

The milkman and his float is a big part of my childhood memories. Hubby’s too. According to the Dairy UK website, there are five thousand milkmen and women today who deliver to around 2.5 million homes. When you consider what the population of the UK is, those figures are alarmingly low. It’s a pity that milkmen seem to be disappearing and I would hate to lose yet another iconic symbol of my childhood in the 80s. Furthermore, we live in an era where ther’s something of a green revolution so surely environmentally friendly reusable bottles are a great idea. Hopefully more people will start to use milk delivery services again – but I have a feeling it’s going to take more than nostalgia to float people’s milk floats!

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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Old School Stuff, Products

 

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