Particularly intense is the shift that took place in choosing food in the last five decades.
Not too long ago it was common for families to have a weekly range of certain dishes that kept quite static. Witness of this time is Colin Lighten who provides an insight in a classic week in terms of food when he was a child.
The following article is taken from the internet and not anyhow changed, altered or rewritten:
“We always had a Sunday roast and that piece of meat sort of did service for about four days. I try and remember it in the correct order but it was always a Sunday roast. I think Monday was always cold meat because there were still some reasonable cuts left off of it, and then Tuesday was shepherd’s pie or rissoles or something like that because that was just about the last of it, and Wednesday – I can’t always remember what happened on Wednesday but I think it sort of depended what was left. Thursday, my mother got paid when she was out at work – so we always had a mixed grill Thursday night to sort of celebrate. Friday was fish and chips, there was never any variation for that at all. And because my mother was working, Saturday then became wash day. So because the kitchen was in upheaval – I mean it wasn’t an automatic machine, you dragged the machine out and stood it in front of the sink – we always had sausage and mash ‘cause that was quick to do. And then Sunday back into the weekly routine again.”
Microwaves and Poptarts
The way we eat and prepare food has changed hugely for the average family over the last few generations. When our parents and grandparents were children, food was generally prepared by the woman of a household. The family was expected to eat whatever was provided – rather than being choosy about special likes and dislikes. Today, packaged foods such as crisps or string cheeses, ready meals and new kitchen technologies such as microwaves have changed things dramatically – in many homes different family members help themselves to food throughout the day, often preparing it themselves. Even young children can work microwaves, and will make a ‘poptart’ for breakfast or a hot snack when they return home from school. The old fashioned ritual of eating as a family round the dinner table has been replaced in many families with separate snacks eaten in front of the television, or standing in the kitchen.
Food and time
And it’s not just how we eat today that’s new, it is also what we eat. Up until a few decades ago, many families kept to a weekly food pattern, eating the same foods on the same day of the week most weeks of the year. What was cooked each day depended on the leftovers that needed using up or whether it was a pay day or a work day. Old fashioned housekeeping skills – the ability to run a household cheaply and simply – were central to the kinds of foods that were prepared.
Today we are surrounded by choice. Takeaways, fast foods, packeted snacks and ready meals have completely changed the way we prepare and eat food. Many people have not acquired the culinary skills that their parents had. However, the rising interest in cooking marked by the many TV celebrity chefs and best-selling cookery books, may be the first sign that things are changing once again. Similarly, a growing awareness of health issues connected to diet, such as obesity and heart disease, may encourage people to leave McDonalds and go back to the kitchen.
Surviving the everyday
It must be remembered that for millions of people throughout the world, each day is shaped by the struggle to find enough food to survive. Whether this means walking miles to collect wood on which to cook, trying to feed a family on low payments for cash crops or searching for food among a city’s rubbish tips, the possibility of hunger or starvation is an ever present threat. For most people in the Developed World the ways that the everyday is shaped by food are very different. More than 30% of food in Britain is thrown away, and it’s more likely that a British person is faced with too much choice than too little.
British Library (2016) British Food. Available at: http://www.bl.uk/learning/citizenship/foodstories/Accessible/eatinghabits/changesineatinghabits.html (Accessed: 20 April 2016).