If you reckon recipe cards are a recent phenomenon invented by Waitrose in a bid to flog more product, think again. We’ve come across a collection of cards that probably had pride of place next to a stack of Tupperware on the Formica worktop of a 1960s kitchenette.
The recipes they depict certainly speak of a bygone era when foreign food like frankfurters and stuffed tomatoes would have been considered unusual – exotic even – to the average Brit. After all, this was before we’d joined the Common Market let alone tried to Brexit. Actually, some of the fare featured on these cards provides pretty good evidence to convince even the staunchest remainer that not all things European are good.
Mind you, some of the dishes from abroad have been given a peculiarly British slant which hasn’t necessarily improved them. We’re pretty sure, for example, that the Scandinavian concept of the open sandwich was never meant to feature corned beef – no matter how beautifully it was arranged in geometric patterns atop delicately shaped white bread.
The ‘Rindsgulasch’ is a particularly watery-looking beef paprika stew, but even that may have appeared more authentic and appetising in a rustic earthenware pot rather than an opaque glass dish of the kind which, back then, you could get with your Green Shield stamps.
Even more adventurous and far-flung is the ‘Jhal Farzi’ all the way from the sub continent and described as ‘Cooked Meat Curry’. This browny-grey slurry is cheered up by a selection of colourful accompaniments – although the Indian provenance of the salted peanuts and tinned mandarin segments may be somewhat spurious.
We sound facetious but in actual fact we love these recipe cards. They provide a nostalgic snapshot of a time when food was being explored and experimented with. A time before we were spoilt by having every type of overseas cuisine on every high street everywhere. A time before supermarkets were brimful with Italian, Indian and Chinese ready meals and outlandish imported ingredients. A time before supermarkets full stop.
Okay, so some of these 60s dishes look ridiculous with their ‘snazzy’ presentation – but no more ludicrous than today’s trend for decorative smears of jus or dollops of fizzing, saliva-like foam.
We appreciate these lurid images of alien culinary delights so much that we’ve turned them into pop art by framing them together in a vivid array that never fails to evoke wonder and intrigue.