The other day we told you about Guinness’s drive to get more publicans serving food in the 1960s. Now, as promised, here’s some info on the recipes they were pushing.
The book, more-or-less A5 sized and in hard-covers, has a mix of black-and-white and colour photos, the latter with that particular gaudiness that makes food look faintly obscene in any book published before about, say, 1990. If you follow @70s_party on Twitter you’ll know what we mean although it must be said nothing in the Guinness book is as fundamentally horrifying as most of the excessively ‘creative’ recipes presented there.
It begins with a few double-page spreads like this one:
That’s interesting because it summarises where things were at in 1961: food definitely wasn’t the norm and people needed convincing, ideally with a bit of what we assume passed for female-friendly eye candy back then.
The first set of recipes are for sandwiches which, to modern eyes, look simple to the point of being plain — where’s the small pail of chips, the handful of rocket, and the crusty ciabatta? The suggested fillings range from classics we still enjoy today (ham, beef, chicken mayonnaise) to things that won’t be showing up in Wetherspoon’s any time soon such as kippers, tongue and…
Next, there are suggestions for nibbles to accompany drinks, perhaps even to be given away free of charge. Cheese tossed in a dressing of vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper sugar and mustard actually sounds pretty good, and is something we’d buy if pubs offered it.
Fish titbits, on the other hand — ‘Bottled or tinned mussels, shrimps and prawns… in little bowls’ — seem somehow less appealing — like a shortcut to A&E.
The more substantial meals come in several categories out of which ‘Lunch Snacks’ most closely resembles the classic pub grub line-up: mixed grill, shepherd’s pie and fish pie are all still (just about) to be found in pubs today. Sardine salad? Not so often. These days, we’d probably expect lighter food at lunch and substantial meals in the evening, wouldn’t we? Suggesting, perhaps, that the rise of pub grub was fuelled in part by business expense accounts but sustained by the growth in leisure dining.
A selection of Farmers’ Specials includes pasties, cheese and onion pie by the slice, and a dish that has made a comeback in recent years as a trendy-pub staple:
Those look pretty awful, though — like they were laid by a Pterodactyl and preserved in the bed of a dried-up river.
Finally, here’s how quickly American fast food hit the pub after its introduction via Wimpy burger bars in the late 1950s:
That hot dog with melted Gruyere, it must be said, looks very up-to-date and pretty tasty.
In conclusion, there is definitely the seed of what would become the standard food offer in pubs by the 1980s but the emphasis is on snacks — on dishes that can be prepared with little equipment in a small pub kitchen by one person, perhaps without anything more than a simple grill for heating things through. There’s no steak and ale pie, no lasagna and, perhaps most shockingly, no chips! It perhaps has more in common with the beer-friendly tapas of Andalucia than it does with the gastropub fare of today.
Our copy of the book cost £2.81 delivered, via Amazon, and there are loads out there. But yours might not come, as ours did, with ketchup stains and Sellotape.