Sunday, May 12, 2013

British Food ... A salute to all mothers on this the American Mother’s Day!

I'm excited to introduce the very popular Hilary Melton-Butcher as our special guest today! She has a wonderful blog where you always learn something new, and her sunny personality is sure to cheer you up. I was blessed to have her on Tina's Terrific Team for the Challenge. Please give her a warm welcome!

During April and my A – Z posts on Aspects of British Cookery, Marks and Spencer released some information which reveals how over the past century British shoppers received some of the foods we now take for granted with bemusement, scepticism and, occasionally, outright horror.

I remember my father coming back from Waterloo Station with new fruits – the Ugly stands out for me ... a very thick skin and a cross between grapefruit and orange. 

I stand corrected ... it is an "Ugli" – a tangelo (grapefruit, orange and tangerine) coming from Jamaica ... as I note it is a fruit with 'a bit of a complex'. 

The 'Ugli'
They certainly aren’t much more popular today, than when bought by my father from a barrow at the station on his way home to the back of beyond – as west Surrey was in those days ... not the urbanised sprawl of greater, greater, even Greater London that it is today.

We did not have an M+S in Woking in those days ... so we did not experience some foods til we knew how to eat them ... but apparently M+S had to educate the British housewife on how to eat and what to do with these exotics ...

  • Avocado pear: peeled, stewed and served with custard?!  Yes – but the lady, who complained ... was politely told ... preferably serve as a starter with vinaigrette or lemon juice!

  • Pistachios: the dentists enjoyed a resurgence!  M+S had to include instructions: ... please first take the shells off - then eat!

  • Chicken Kiev: the Chairman of M+S (1972-82), Marcus Sieff, who revolutionised the company’s food, personally vetoed Chicken Kiev, saying the British were not yet ready for garlic!  He admitted later ... that he couldn’t have been more wrong – it sold everywhere.

I do remember the clerks serving my mother from her list of groceries ... but when the new “self-service” shops came in they were so disorienting for shoppers that M+S had to publish a leaflet explaining how the “experiment” worked.

Some early "self-service"  M+S stores had personal shoppers accompanying the housewife, as she was considered incapable of choosing for herself – being advised that this product is very new ... we’ll show you how to do it!!

It’s fascinating to think back on how much has changed ... M+S’s food technology department, founded in 1948 while produce was rationed and the economy languished, was given the job of lifting the dismal high street.

Their first forays were into cakes .... we always made ours at home – but again my mother was a brilliant cook ... yet like us many families turned their noses up at a bought cake ... but now, by the 1950s, the M+S advertorial would tempt these aspiring ladies to give bought cakes a try.

The horizons of everyday households broadened, no doubt spurred on by the ‘gossip’ of town and village life ... as women shared, or competed with each other to try new things ...

Look where we are today ... mass marketing, mass catering – yet artisanal foods, farmer’s markets, farm shops are being founded to offer creative and home made selections of foods.

The M+S advertorials, the in-house (back then) staff magazines, the rise of the cookery writer, cookery magazines, articles in newspapers all gave the aspiring, more affluent housewife the impetus and encouragement to try new recipes ...

... we are now a nation of gourmets celebrating the joy of fine food!

I hope today around the world on Mother’s Day, even though in Britain we keep the custom of Mothering Sunday (usually in March), we give our mother bunches of wonderful flowers, prepare a special meal for them and their family ...

... remember their tough times guiding their families through those early years, then celebrating all their achievements and love for their family and with life itself ...

I give thanks to all mothers today - for this Mother’s Day!

Please visit my own blog where I celebrated Aspects of British Food during the A - Z Challenge ... for a wrap up post on the way we eat now ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina and all bloggers - it's lovely to be here and to celebrate motherhood with you -

I've read one or two heart warming posts on our mothers .. which bring back many memories -

Have a lovely day enjoying time with your family ... with big hugs - Hilary

A Daft Scots Lass said...

Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful lassies that give up pretty much everything to grow and nurture their wee bundles of joy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Hilary for another wonderful post, I do enjoy your post as they are always so interesting and educational. I shall be thinking of my own mother today, being widowed when I was three life was hard but the one thing I was never short of was Love.
Love and hugs.

MunirGhiasuddin said...

Thank you for the guest post with Hilary. I was just there a couple of minutes ago. My compliments to her for writing a terrific educational and interesting post on British Cuisine. I am pretty sure I read most of the A to Z posts by her, and again I will go back and check on the whole month's posts to double check in case I missed out on some. Due to my Asthma I stay up wee hours of the night and I am exhuasted during the day.
Happy Mothers Day to all of the Mothers out there.

Billy Blue Eyes said...

Some how being British I can't get used to Mothers day being in May, the food yes your right, I've seen all types of restaurants open up though I still love my curries. M&S have been one of those stores which have survived the changes and tried to keep up with the rest.
Having no mother anymore I find it hard to relate the day now but I did visit her grave this morning and said a prayer.

Tony Van Helsing said...

I don't often shop at M&S but when I do I usually make a beeline for the bakery section.

JoJo said...

I stumbled onto Hilary's blog during the challenge and am following her now! Great stuff!!!

Manzanita said...

A great tribute to all Mothers, everywhere. Food does seem to go hand in hand with Mothers day. A day when Mothers are taken out to eat and relieved of their kitchen duty. I smiled at the personal shopper at the M&S store and also a warning to remove the shells of pistachios.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there! I'd love to try the Chicken Kiev and thanks for the Jamaica mention. *Grins* Guess where I'm from.

liz young said...

It's American Mothers' Day today? We had that last week in Spanish territory. I hope that goes for Canada too and I can expect a call from my younger son!
M&S Foods are one of my treats when I visit the UK from sunny Tenerife.
A fascinating glimpse into the past, Hilary - thank you.

Jo said...

I do wonder though, when I see programmes like the one's where Jamie Oliver was trying to get decent food into British schools, and showing how very few mothers cook these days, is this specific to the north or is it all over?

Tina said...

Wonderful post, Hilary. Thanks for helping us celebrate American Mother's Day. I just enjoyed breakfast in bed brought by my 13 year old! Scrambled eggs, with bacon and sweet potatoes and my "I can't start my day without it" Earl Grey tea.
Happy Mother's Day to all the Mother's out there, and to all of you who are missing your mothers today, I'm thinking of you.
Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

DayDreamer said...

So funny to think people needed to be educated on such commonplace (these days)types of food, though of course when you come across new foods it's not automatic to know how to deal with it. I do remember most British families breaking spaghetti up into smaller pieces before cooking as they weren't able to twirl it round their forks, many years ago.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gill - enjoy your Jo'burg Mother's Day ..

@ Yvonne - yes life is difficult for those who lose their mothers - and other relatives ... Love is the most important thing in life ..

@ Munir - thanks so much for commenting over on my blog. That's so kind of you to return to reread my A-Z posts ... I'm sorry for your asthma - it does take its toll on our life. Hope it eases for you ..

@ Bill- yes I find it difficult .. but it seemed a good one for me to write this year, as I lost my mother in July 2012, and she loved her food and was such an innovative cook and mother.

M&S .. seem to keep on coming up with new ranges, and small express stores in strategic locations - I'm glad to say!

My mother passed away last July - and when I get to Cornwall I will spend some time with her ... watching Penzance Bay, St Michael's Mount, remembering many happy days spent there ..

@ Tony - that's one area I manage to stay away from .. though their bakery is very delicious.

@ JoJo - thanks and you've been such a regular commenter ever since - I'm very grateful ...

@ Manzanita - lucky mothers .. and yes it's so lovely to see families out together enjoying themselves ... we usually have lunch at home on Mothering Sunday ...

The personal shopper and pistachio stories were fun snippets weren't they!

@ Sheena - I think I might guess where you live! I've never been and would love to visit Jamaica one day .. I've had goat in Greece .. but would love to try Jamaican goat curry ... Usain Bolt and the Jamaican Olympic team were bringing some over to the London Olympics I think!!

@ Lizy - was yours last week .. the 'feasts' do seem to move around date wise. I hope you get a call from your younger son. Let's hope ..

M&S foods seem to be a big draw for most of us and tourists - lucky you being in Tenerife ... another place I'd love to visit ...

@ Jo - many weren't taught to cook as youngsters .. and laziness has crept in - too many fast foods .. very sad.

@ Tina - pleasure to guest post here ... and I do hope everyone who is celebrating Mother's Day today is having the most beautiful day with their mothers, grandmothers, children, fathers and grandfathers ...

Lucky you with scrambled egg, bacon and sweet potatoes - good choices, then Earl Grey (real English!) .. what a great thought from the young teenager ... all of 13!!

.. and to all of us whose mothers have died, as mine did last year - thanks for the thoughts, Tina ..

@ DayDreamer - isn't it strange to think we needed to be educated on things we don't think about today ... I still do break spaghetti into smaller pieces!! Sad but true. Don't make my food difficult to eat - I sulk!! But I would love to be able to slurp it up ...

Cheers to you all - and have much love and happiness with your families .. and hope those overseas calls materialise ... Hilary

Unknown said...

Nice to meet you, Hilary Melton-Butcher. Loved your Guest Blog! I'm visiting from A-Z Road Trip. :)

Anonymous said...

Chicken kiev is one of my all time favorites to make. I make it with panko so that my corn allergy does not get in the way. It is simple yet delicious. Happy Mother's Day to all and remember a mom does not mean that you gave birth it means you gave love.

Julie Jordan Scott said...

Hilary - your posts always make me smile. You share with such positive energy both for the food and your history, naturally I love each word.

I also appreciate you visiting my blog and commenting as well. So many times your comments have popped in exactly what I needed *something* to keep me going.


Julie Jordan Scott
Literary Grannies from A to Z

Unknown said...

Oh Gosh Hilary what a fab post, what fascinating reading. This wasn't just any post this was a Marks and Spencer post! I do miss my M & S but they do now delivery to Brazil. We have a similar fruit to an ugli it's called a Sidra about twice the size of an orange and tastes vile but is meant to be very good for you if your squirt a bit in a glass of water. every morning. We have one tree in the garden that grows them, which is quite enough. Great job and see you soon:)

Kristen said...

What a lovely Mother's Day post. Love the cute children's drawing too. :)

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

My mother in Vancouver gets two Mother's Day wishes from me. Yes, the British and the North American one.

And thus, happy North American Mother's Day. It's celebrated in Canada as well, you know! With that, I'm now going to have some toad-in-the-hole and spotted dick.

And Tina, Happy North American Mother's Day to you and all you lovely mothers out there :)

Arlee Bird said...

Who doesn't love to read about food? Now I think I'll go have some dinner.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Mark Means said...

As always, Hilary, great post on one of my favorite! :)

Philip Verghese 'Ariel' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philip Verghese 'Ariel' said...

Hi Tina, and Hillary,
A wonderful treat on the beautiful day.
indeed an apt post for the day.
i have posted one about my Mother
few years back. A tribute to a departed soul
I am sure you all mothers like it. If time permits
pl. do go thru.
A Bit Belated Happy Mother's Day to All Our Mothers Out There :-)

A Mother is remembered on this wonderful day called Mother's Day

PS: The earlier link is broken here is the correct one. sorry for the inconveniences caused.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Debra - nice to meet you too - are you on the road trip .. I'll join in soon!

@ Tammy - Chicken Kiev is delicious isn't it .. well at least you've found an alternative: Panko - is a new ingredient to me .. and is useful to know about ..

Love the phrase ... 'to be a mother, doesn't mean that you gave birth, it means you gave love'

@ Julie - appreciate your thoughts here .. I'm glad I give you a gentle boost occasionally .. thank you.

Your Literary Grannies are amazing to read about - a great theme for the A-Z ... or at any time ...

@ Maggie - thanks re the fun take on the M+S adverts!! Then you tell me they deliver to Brazil - crazy, crazy world - but so good for you and lucky too!

The Sidra ... your description doesn't enamour me to give it a try ... and the health fundis haven't cottoned on yet ... so I guess it really isn't very palatable. Sounds like one tree is plenty. Though now I'd like to try!

@ Kristen - the card came from Wikipedia .. seemed a fun one to put up.

@ Gary - lucky mother! I used to get awfully muddled in South Africa -I'd forget Mothering Sunday and then realise .. that the British don't celebrate this particular Day. Toad in the Hole and Spotted Dick with custard I hope! Sound good - the weather is cold enough isn't it ..

I got muddled exactly where Mother's Day is celebrated .. so left it as America ...

@ Lee - well, very glad you read this when dinner was on its way!

@ Mark - lovely to see you here .. food is always a good subject isn't it ..

@ Phil - Mothers deserve their mention and thanks for coming by here .. and leaving us with a link across to your post.

Cheers to you all - and have a wonderful week ahead .. Hilary

M Pax said...

I was amused to hear how folks had to be instructed, Hilary. I don't think I've ever eaten an ugli fruit. I do try new fruits and veggies when I see them, though. It's fun to be adventurous.

Pearson Report said...

Hi Hilary - great to see you here!

I'm a day late for Mother's Day but in my book everyday should be Mother's Day!

I'm salivating and thinking it's time to do a quick shop and fill the fridge!

Cheers, Jenny @ PEARSON REPORT

Silvia Writes said...

Happy belated Mother's Day. What a great post to help us celebrate.

Silvia @ Silvia Writes

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mary - I had no idea about the instruction sheets .. but I do sometimes look at things and wonder what they taste like and what to do with them. However I love trying new things - and good to see you enjoy Thai food in the middle of nowhere per your comment over at my place.

@ Jenny - lovely to catch you here too - Mother's Day everyday .. well the restaurants and florists would be thrilled! Breakfast in bed - ok I could do that.

Food - I need to do a small stock up today too .. what shall I have for supper!

@ Silvia - many thanks .. food, flowers, happy memories are all good to stimulate that brain ..

Cheers to you and have a lovely year all mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and the male fraternity! Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Great post, Hilary! (Sorry I'm so late to the party.)

Stephen Tremp said...

Now I'm hungry for something a little more sophisticated than scrambled eggs for breakfast.

The Chicken Kiev is always a winner. I can make that for the fam tonight.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan and Stephen .. no worries - always good to see you all .. I am rather fond of Chicken Kiev too ..

Cheers to you both and all readers - Hilary

Karen Lange said...

Look where we are indeed. I am thankful for new recipes and developments and whatnot, but just as thankful for the old standby recipes as well. Good post, Hilary!

Amanda Trought said...

Hilary, it is always great to read your posts, so informative. I remember when the first M&s opened in Camden town. A couple of our christmas presents were brough from there and we were dissapointed as children to find out that they were vests and socks rather than the toys we had eyed up all year:)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi everyone .. gearing up for this year's A-Z .. I realised I hadn't come back to reply to Karen and Amanda ..

I love the old recipes, sometimes I 'forget' them ... but I guess not cooking for family makes me do simple foods for me! But I do enjoy trying new things ..

@ Amanda - fascinating about your early experience of M&S .. of course most of our underwear in those days came from M&S ... we didn't have M&Sfood in the country for years ...

Cheers to you both and all - belatedly, I know! Hilary

Jo said...

I don't remember reading this post last year Hilary. Nor do I remember much of what you wrote about. I do remember sailing to France and Belgium and finding cream cakes which we sure didn't have after the war - my mother was always a good cook though and she also never bought pre prepared foods. I love the thought of avocado prepared that way, must have tasted terrible.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

HI Jo - I'm sure the French would have had great patisserie in those early years after the War ... lucky you having that experience ... and our mother's must have been similar ... capable ladies able to turn their hands to most things ..

Isn't it fun (or revolting actually!) to think of avos being cooked - though they can be in a savoury dish .. but I don't like baked avo .. give me the fresh sort!

Cheers and thanks for catching up this year .. Hilary