Since my last post we have now entered into another new year, one that will be my 75th and I guess that, as I have lived here on Sheppey all of my life, it makes me someone with a quite full memory bank of how things have changed over the years.
My first New Year was that of 1950, a new decade and I was just two and half years old and not celebrating my third birthday until the July of that year. That year and indeed for much of the decade, we were to struggle to rise up from the austerity and poverty of the previous decade and it's World War, I believe that we still had food rationing until around 1953.
I'm always fascinated when old black and white photos from those times appear on on our local Sheppey History Facebook Page, and people comment jealously at how clean and tidy the town's roads were. An easy answer to that is the fact that councils employed teams of local road sweepers in those days, people who conscientiously walked the streets with a barrow, broom and shovel and were aided by the fact that there was none of the throw-away packing and litter that we have nowadays. But it wasn't all the Shangri-La, that those photos made it look, yes life was much simpler but in the side streets and roads behind the High Streets, there was a lot of poverty. In my childhood in the 1950's food there was only enough food each day because of the invention of mothers who never wasted a scrap. They would shop in local shops each day, buying food that was fresh, in small quantities because there were no fridges and often in ounces rather than pounds. In the butchers the cheapest cuts were always bought and often included ox-tails, hearts, brawn, belly linings, pig's trotters. Chicken was a luxury that we sometimes had at Christmas and often came from the few scraggy birds that we kept in the back yard for our eggs. The carcass of those birds was used the following day to boil in a large pan with vegetables and turn into a broth. Likewise, a rabbit in a small hutch was also kept each year for the purpose of a Sunday or Christmas dinner and I recall that my grandparents wasted nothing from those animals, even the head was cooked and the brains eaten afterwards!
To continue the non-waste of food, there was bubble and squeak. In my house it was usually left over food items from the Sunday roast such as vegetables and scraps of meat, all fried in a pan the next day to create another belly filling meal.
And what of puddings, or "sweet" as we knew it because it was normally just that, sweet. A common one was suet pudding. Those puddings were a staple of the Sunday Roast, created on the day by mother cooking the ingredients in the well used pudding cloth and then sliced and added to the roast as a typical stodgy belly filler. Any that was not used in the roast was served afterwards for "sweet," coated in sugar, jam or treacle. Other stodgy belly fillers were rice or macaroni, or in the summer months, home-made fruit pie and custard.
And so it went on, nothing was wasted, nothing came ready packaged with use by dates and vegetables and fruit were seasonal, sprouts and parsnips for instance only appeared in winter and when they did were seized on for the seasonal treat that they were.
So, younger generations might look at those old black and white photographs and wish themselves back in those times but in reality they wouldn't know where to start.