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Still hungry after all these years

Bill Deedes, 91

Columnist, editor of the Daily Telegraph for 12 years, and immortalised first by Evelyn Waugh as Boot in his novel Scoop and then as ‘Dear Bill’ in Denis Thatcher’s spoof diary in Private Eye

I was born in 1913, which meant that from the ages of one to six I had to live through the First World War, when food was in pretty short supply. What happened after the war was a flu epidemic, which killed more people than the war had killed. My mother always told me that this was because during the five years of war everyone had been kept very short of sugar and fats like butter and that this had reduced their resistance and made them much more prone to what really became a raging epidemic, almost a plague. It isn’t often mentioned but it killed some six million Europeans. Funnily enough, I think that was what inspired Churchill in the Second World War to appoint Lord Woolton as Minister of Food. Although the rations weren’t exactly lavish, there was much more even distribution than there had been in the First World War. I would not recommend the reconstituted eggs available under rationing though.

Bread was in short supply during the Second World War because so many ships bringing corn were sunk by U-boats. Rationing continued far into peacetime. Now, when I hear of sanctions being imposed I think it is unfair, as it is the rulers who are doing wrong but the people who suffer. I know what a prolonged shortage of food can do to people.

I was in the army in the Second World War. Army rations were an awful lot better than what the rest of the country had. I don’t remember a single day, even in Normandy, when we went hungry. We felt rather Authentic Prada Fairy Bag Sale guilty that we were getting so much more than our loved ones could at home.

I have to say the Americans’ food packs were rather special. They had the most incredible, gorgeous bacon. I thought it was so delicious. And they had Authentic Prada Handbags Canada cigarettes, which we didn’t have in our packs. But in a way it was silly to be envious, because we were really very well fed. We had bacon too, bully beef, endless tea, and biscuits which were very hard. No eggs of course. We did find good food once we got into Normandy. We never looted anywhere, we had very strict rules about that, but we did take food if we came across a deserted farmhouse and there was clearly no one there who was actually going to eat the food themselves. I have to say, though, the most exciting thing in Northern France for us was the cider. Boy, oh boy that was good. Then they distilled Calvados from the cider, which is pretty strong. I remember telling my sergeant major that the boys could drink the cider but to keep them away from the Calvados.

After the war, when we had actually got as far as Germany, we discovered the Germans had done a very thorough job of looting the French champagne industry, and consequently there was an awful shortage of bottles in the Champagne region. We found out that they were so grateful for bottles that for every two empty bottles of champagne we sent back they would return a full one to us. It’s too late now for anyone to court martial us, so I can reveal that we used to illicitly send three-tonne lorries down to Champagne filled with empty bottles which would return half-filled with full ones. I think I drank more champagne between the war ending in May and leaving Germany in December than I have done during the whole of the rest of my life. We thought of ourselves as rather dashing, the 8th Armoured Brigade with all our champagne. We stayed in a chateau one night, I recall, and I remember taking a bottle of wine from the cellar – something terribly old but only one bottle – and we shared it around a group of us over a dinner of rations. The first chap took a sip straightaway and proclaimed it to be ‘beautiful’, but the last chap to get a sip spat it out: ‘Horrible!’ We realised that the Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Messenger Bag wine was so old that in the time it took to pour six or seven glasses the air had spoiled what had been a marvellous red.

I have just come Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada back from a week in Sudan, which of course is totally dry. And I have to say that, come six or seven in the evening, a whisky and soda or even two is very welcome. I was deeply moved by everything I saw but I was very heartily pleased to get back on the BA plane at Khartoum. We boarded at about 2am and the steward came up and asked me if there was anything he could get for me. I replied, ‘Yes, you can get me a large whisky and soda.’ I have to say, it was one of the best moments of this entire year.

I don’t think it is the food people eat today which makes them unhealthy. I can’t blame the supermarkets or fast food. I blame it on the ubiquitousness of the motor car. We really don’t eat much more than people did in the18th or 19th centuries, but we need to learn that if you do moderately frequent exercise you can eat more or less whatever you want. We mustn’t put too much emphasis on what is eaten, rather on what activities are done. I go for walks in the wood and I drive golf balls in a field near my house most days.

Today, if it’s really well cooked I favour liver and bacon: very nourishing and quite healthy. I do like egg and bacon, but only if the bacon is properly cooked – I want it to break up on my plate. I don’t get on well with Indian or spicy food. When I am abroad I am very careful what I eat. When I was in Dharfour just now I really stuck to bread and eggs, with the odd tomato. I avoid salads and uncooked vegetables, really anything I can’t peel.

· Lord Deedes is one of the writers included in Weekender: Adventures in Calcutta (Ebury, £7.99), sold in aid of Unicef.

Ena Norris, 97

Ena Norris left school at 14, went into service and later became a ‘nippy’ (waitress) at a Lyons teahouse

I was born in 1907 and grew up in London, near Arsenal. Food was very plain, of course, when I was young. There was tea and toast for breakfast and sometimes porridge. Lunch would be stew or steak and kidney pud with potatoes and boiled green vegetables. Then we had tea at four – a bit of bread and jam and always cake. My mum would make currant cake or a cake with caraway seeds in, which I never actually liked! One of my mum’s specialities was bread pudding – not bread and butter pudding – made with stale bread, which we couldn’t afford to waste, soaked in milk and then Are Prada Handbags Cheaper In Italy mixed with fruit, spices, sugar and marge, so it was sort of spicy. I still make it now if I’ve got any bread left over.

We didn’t eat salad except on Sundays for tea and it would only be lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, maybe a little beetroot. We always had a roast lunch on Sundays and the whole family always ate it together. My mum cooked lamb or beef and my dad always did the carving. Chicken was expensive so we only had it at Christmas. We had roast potatoes and cauliflower and then something like apple tart with custard for afters.

I left school when I was 14, which was when I went into service in London. It wasn’t a question of whether I wanted to – we weren’t well off and things were a struggle for my parents. I did do a bit in the kitchens, when I was a general maid, and that was when I first started liking cooking, even though Mum had made sure we knew enough to get by in life. I still do my own cooking now, except when I go to my lunch club.

In 1924, when I was 17, I left service and became a nippy at a Lyons teahouse. Nippy was just a name for us waitresses and I think it came about because the service was so quick because we nipped about all the time. We had a proper lunch that the cook made, but we had to pay for it – a shilling and six a week [7p]. If you wanted a cream Bicester Village Prada Refund cake for tea you could have it, but it would get written in a little book and taken out of your wages every week. The cook was amazing. She did sausages and mash and toad in the hole – that was one of our favourites.

We had regulars who’d come in day in, day out, morning coffee and then lunch, and on a Thursday, if the shops were open late, they’d come in for their tea too. A cup of tea was about thruppence [1p], coffee was a bit dearer. A steak would be between sixpence [2p] and a shilling [5p], chops were about eightpence [3p].

I got married in 1930 and when you got married you had to leave – Lyons didn’t employ married women. Silly, old-fashioned idea. But in my case, George died in 1931 of meningitis, when we’d only been married six months. I was only 23. Lyons took me back and I worked there until 1936, when I got married again. Tom was a customer. He worked at Boots and used to come in every night for his tea. In 1940 we moved into the house I still live in today. I’d had a great time at Lyons. They had a club and we all went to dances there. We worked hard, mind, 54 hours a week, Amazon Uk Prada Bags for £1 seven and six [£1. 37].

After the war, new foods began to arrive here, but I wasn’t all that interested in exotic stuff like avocado and peppers – I’m not really now either. It was just nice to see Tom and my son getting excited because we had enough meat to make a steak and kidney pie. We kept to our old habits. Nowadays, I go to the supermarket once a week and, although I get a couple of ready meals for the freezer, mostly I cook for myself.

John Mortimer, 81

QC, barrister, playwright and novelist best known for the Rumpole of the Bailey series of novels

In the days before Elizabeth David had struck and nouvelle cuisine was yet to be invented, we didn’t, as one might presume, live in an age of total food barbarism. In fact, we had very nice dinners. This was before the curse of these dreadful chefs who appear on TV and muck food up. In the Thirties, we did have a celebrity chef in Marcel Boulestin, a little French man who wrote (badly) in the Evening Standard, but he was the only one, thank goodness.

I was an only child, and a real pain in the neck. My mother wasn’t a great cook, so quite early on I took over. I even wrote little menus out in French (oh, I was intolerable). We ate very well, but some culinary treats when I was young are commonplace now. Chicken or salmon, for example, were much harder to get hold of.

My parents used to take me to the theatre a lot and we’d always go out to a restaurant before a show, usually at the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus. Dinner eaten out in those days consisted of a starter, then fish, then meat, then a sweet, then savoury again, like herrings on toast, welsh rarebit or angels on horseback. After the food, the waiters would serve our coffee and pour rosewater on our hands, saying it was from the river Jordan and to rub, smell and wish. We also used to go to a famous Italian restaurant called Quo Vadis in Soho’s Dean Street, which is still there now. Karl Marx used to live there.

When I went to Harrow, the food was simply disgusting. I remember the footman, wearing a blue tailcoat with gold buttons, bleeding into the cabbage as he served it to us. The only good thing about mealtimes was that, when we reached the age of 15, we were allowed beer.

The war started when I was 16. I actually had quite a good time because I had a good job writing film scripts. Rationing meant that we were not allowed to spend more than five shillings [25p] at a restaurant; this even applied to the Ritz, where you might be able to have a few extra bits like smoked salmon if you paid more. Meat was hard to get hold of, but one thing that was available was whale meat. I remember eating whale steak, which was called Moby Dick and chips. It wasn’t pleasurable. We were tragically short of wine, so we used to drink communion wine mixed with gin, which was sold on the black market and called Gin and Altars. It was hideous. Everyone was terribly healthy because they were issued government orange juice, but people were not health conscious as they are now. It was in the Seventies that this terrible thing about being healthy started. I’ve always believed that no pleasure is worth giving up for six months in a geriatric home in Weston-super-Mare.

From Harrow, I entered Oxford, where our don shot the cook in the foot in home guard training, so we got nothing but cold food from then on. In the Fifties there was a huge explosion of Italian cooking and hundreds of Italian restaurants opened. By then, my mother’s food had become more Italian, but my favourites were the old English dishes like steak and kidney pudding which I’d order in restaurants like the Hungry Horse.

In the Sixties and Seventies I used to go to J Sheekey, when it was still a dirty little fish restaurant. I go there to this day and it still has the same photographs of Peter Sellers and the like on the walls. I also liked the old Le Caprice in the Seventies, which used to have red curtains and was extremely glamorous. I think the best rule for choosing a restaurant is not to eat anywhere if you know the name of the chef or if they’ve appeared on television. Those are the type of modern places where they put chocolate on the plate of the main course. Avoid them like the plague.

· Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murder by John Mortimer is published by Viking, £16.99.To order for £14.99 call the Observer book service on 0870 836 0885. Interview by Chloe Diski

Marguerite Patten, 88

Born in 1915, she became home economist to the Ministry of Food during the Second World War. She is still working.

My mother knew a lot more than most people about eating healthily. She was an ardent gardener, so while everyone else was eating meat and two veg we’d be eating salads. She was way ahead of her time. Other children would turn their noses up at her ‘funny salads’ and I longed for dreary salads like everyone else instead: hers would have blackcurrants and pieces of apple in. Everyone else had normal things like round lettuce, tomatoes and radishes, maybe a bit of boiled egg. She taught me to cook. The first thing I ever cooked was rabbit pie – she skinned the rabbit and I did the rest.

We all came home from school for lunch in the week (my dad died when I was 12, so my mother went to work as a teacher to support us). We often had roast meat, but rarely chicken – that was expensive. And we only ate fish on Fridays. For supper we’d have things that people would never dream of eating now, like cold tongue or herrings’ roe on toast.

When I left school I Best Prada Outlet In Florence got a place at Rada, but I didn’t get a grant and couldn’t afford to go so I trained to be a home economist. For a while I lived a life of luxury, travelling and eating in hotels. I tried Parma ham, figs, prosciutto and pâté in the late Thirties, things the average family wouldn’t taste until 30 years later.

When rationing was announced in 1940, food changed dramatically. I went round the country demonstrating dishes that could be made without the foods we’d come to rely on.

I started doing cooking demonstrations on the radio in 1944 on a programme called Kitchen Front. I joined Woman’s Hour in 1946 and in 1947 I started demonstrating on the first ever women’s magazine show on television, Designed for Women. From the Fifties until the Seventies, I did demonstration shows at places like the London Palladium and the Palace Theatre, Manchester in front of thousands of people, mostly women.

Today, I think that we are a divided nation when it comes to food. Half of us love food and cooking and the other half subsist on ready meals. I have nothing against ready meals per se, and if it’s a question of eating a ready meal or having a nervous breakdown then eat a ready meal. But it does make me angry that we worked so hard to keep people healthy during the war, with so little food, and, now we have an abundance, a great number of people are nowhere near as healthy as they should be.

John Bayley, 79

Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford and was married to novelist Iris Murdoch, who died in 1999.

I enjoy eating with my wife and I enjoyed eating with Iris. Iris and I used to live a rather hand-to-mouth existence. We got married in 1956, which was about the time we started to eat out in pubs. When we didn’t, I was the cook and produced mostly things like sausages, baked beans and sardines. Raw tomatoes is as far as we went vegetable-wise and there was always chocolate in our house.

I don’t feel the desire to have good food in that sense, although my present wife is a very good cook. One thing we’re very fond of is brains. They’re very hard to get hold of now because of CJD, but it was rather a delicacy in the Seventies and Eighties. The last time I had that sort of thing was in Spain with my wife. There was a mixed dish of kidneys, brains and something else on the menu, so we asked the waiter what it was. He blushed and said ‘testiculos’. Well, the testicles were the best thing I’ve had for a long time. They taste rather strong and creamy. Unlike anything I’ve had in my lifetime.

My family returned from India in 1928. As a child, I was indifferent to food. I intensely disliked meat and potatoes and all sorts of things children had pushed onto their plate. My mother didn’t have a cook very often, so she did most things herself. I enjoyed her homemade rice pudding and jam immensely. I was very fond of plain chocolate, though it was not as good as what you can buy today.

We all used to eat a lot of beefsteak and beefsteak pie at that time. There was also a lot of cabbage around, which everybody hated because it was so badly cooked that it was inedible. I was rather fond of it. We never thought in terms of nutritional Authentic Prada Purses Sale value or vitamins in those days. I do recall there was a scarcity of good, reasonable restaurants. There were plenty of cheap places to eat and very grand places like the Savoy, the Ritz and Claridge’s, but I never went to them. I don’t even recall entering a pub until I joined the army in 1943.

I went to Eton in 1938. The food was beyond description. On the whole, fairly rich parents could send food and gave their children money for the tuck shop. Mine, I’m afraid, weren’t that rich – we were what you would call middle class – so my food couldn’t be subsidised. Eton food was all horribly unimaginative, stews and the like, and the only thing I enjoyed was fish.

When war started, fish became more common and I think if it hadn’t been I would have starved. The children at Eton rather despised the sort of common fish we were given: cod, herring, mackerel. I loved them. If anything, I think the food at school got better during the war.

I went into the army when I was 18. I was astonished to find the food was so much better, even in the lower ranks. One used to get very simple things such as meat pies and fishcakes and things of that kind. Once I was at Oxford I reconciled myself to the fact that the food was still as awful as the food at Eton. However, sardines were quite cheap – I still like them and eat Skippers sardines.

I don’t think I was ever drawn towards the world of good food, and I haven’t got a food vocabulary. Iris tried to interest me in the Good Food Guide but I was always rather mean and didn’t pay much attention. If we happened to be going to Tunbridge Wells we looked up the best restaurants to go to, so we quite often went to good ones. I remember feeling very sophisticated, some time in the Seventies, when I had smoked salmon and a glass of vodka with it. But, to be honest, although I enjoy eating, I find it a rather solitary activity.

Dinner’s ready. Who wants carrot flan and margarine cream?

Home cooks had to become remarkably resourceful during the Second World War. If you couldn’t find it, you faked it with ‘mock’ recipes.

Mock apricot flan

Line a large 9-inch pie plate or flan dish with shortcrust pastry, oatmeal pastry or potato. Bake blind in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate 1lb of young carrots. Put into a saucepan with a few drops of almond essence, 4 tbs of plum jam and only about 4 tbs of water. Cook gently until a thick pulp. Spoon into the cooked pastry. Spread with a little more plum jam if this can be spared.

Note: The carrots really do taste a little like apricots.

Mock crab

1/2 oz margarine

2 reconstituted dried eggs

1 oz cheese, grated

1/2 tbs salad cream

few drops vinegar, salt and pepper

Melt margarine in a saucepan, add the well beaten eggs. Scramble until half set then add the other ingredients. Serve as a sandwich filling or over mashed potato.

Mock cream

serves 2-4

preparation time 5 minutes

1 oz margarine

1 oz sugar

1 tbs dried milk powder

1 tbs milk

Cream the margarine and sugar. Beat in the milk powder and liquid milk.

Mock goose

serves 4

cooking time 1 hour

11/2 lbs potatoes 2 large cooking apples 4oz cheese 1/2 tsp dried sage salt and pepper 3/4 pint vegetable stock 1 tbs flour

Scrub and slice potatoes thinly; slice apples; grate cheese. Grease a fireproof dish, place a layer of potatoes in it, cover with apple and a little sage, season lightly and sprinkle with cheese, repeat layers leaving potatoes and cheese to cover. Pour in 1/2 pint of the stock, cook in a moderate oven for 3/4 of an hour. Blend flour with remainder of stock, pour into dish and cook for another 1/4 of an hour. Serve as a main dish with a green vegetable.

·Wartime Kitchen (Hamlyn) by Marguerite Patten, £14.99. To order for £12.99 plus p & p call the Observer book service on 0870 836 0885.

So then

1938: On the menu at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand Roast saddle of mutton and redcurrant jelly costs 4 shillings

1967: Microwave oven, $500

A must-have in posh kitchens – everyone wanted one of the new appliances

1967: Weightwatchers

Arrives in the UK from America

1974: McDonald’s

First branch opens in UK. A meal contained 600 calories.

So now

On the menu today at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand

Roast saddle of lamb and redcurrant jelly costs £19.95

Rorgue Oven, £67,000

A must-have in posh kitchens (including Gordon Ramsay’s)

Atkins

The no-carb diet arrived from the US in 2000.

Big, big macs

1,500 branches. Supersized meal has 1,300 calories

So Authentic Prada Clothing then

1912: Iced coffee 2d, from Lyons There were over 260 Lyons Corner Houses and Teashops

1911: Vegetable curry, 6d First Indian opens in UK: Salut e Hind in London

1919: Pop-up toaster, $13.50 A status symbol is born (kitchen porn for the rich)

1930: White sliced Wonderbread hits the shelves

So now

Frappucino from Starbucks, £3.25 First Starbucks opened in UK in 1998. Today there are 421 branches

Chicken tikka masala, £5.50 We eat 23 million portions of the fake Indian dish yearly

Dualit toaster £218 A status symbol of the kitchen porn 90s

Ciabatta We eat £36 million worth of the stuff

Still hungry after all these years

Bill Deedes, 91

Columnist, editor of the Daily Telegraph for 12 years, and immortalised first by Evelyn Waugh as Boot in his novel Scoop and then as ‘Dear Bill’ in Denis Thatcher’s spoof diary in Private Eye

I was born in 1913, which meant that from the ages of one to six I had to live through the First World War, when food was in pretty short supply. What happened after the war was a flu epidemic, which killed more people than the war had killed. My mother always told me that this was because during the five years of war everyone had been kept very short of sugar and fats like butter and that this had reduced their resistance and made them much more prone to what really became a raging epidemic, almost a plague. It isn’t often mentioned but it killed some six million Europeans. Funnily enough, I think that was what inspired Churchill in the Second World War to appoint Lord Woolton as Minister of Food. Although the rations weren’t exactly lavish, there was much more even distribution than there had been in the First World War. I would not recommend the reconstituted eggs available under rationing though.

Bread was in short supply during the Second World War because so many ships bringing corn were sunk by U-boats. Rationing continued far into peacetime. Now, when I hear of sanctions being imposed I think it is unfair, as it is the rulers who are doing wrong but the people who suffer. I know what a prolonged shortage of food can do to people.

I was in the army in the Second World War. Army rations were an awful lot better than what the rest of the country had. I don’t remember a single day, even in Normandy, when we went hungry. We felt rather guilty that we were getting so much more than our loved ones could at home.

I have to say the Americans’ food packs were rather special. They had the most incredible, gorgeous bacon. I thought it was so delicious. And they had cigarettes, which we didn’t have in our packs. But in a way it was silly to be envious, because we were really very well fed. We had bacon too, bully beef, endless tea, and biscuits which were very hard. No eggs of course. We did find good food once we got into Normandy. We never looted anywhere, we had very strict rules about that, but we did take food if we came across a deserted farmhouse and there was clearly no one there who was actually going to eat the food themselves. I have to say, though, the most exciting thing in Northern France for us was the cider. Boy, oh boy that was good. Then they distilled Calvados from the cider, which is pretty strong. I remember telling my sergeant major that the boys could drink the cider but to keep them away from the Calvados.

After the war, when we had actually got as far as Germany, we discovered the Germans had done a very thorough job of looting the French champagne industry, and consequently there was an awful shortage of bottles in the Champagne region. We found out that they were so grateful for bottles that for every two empty bottles of champagne we sent back they would return a full one to us. It’s too late now for anyone to court martial us, so I can reveal that we used to illicitly send three-tonne lorries down Biggest Prada Store London to Champagne filled with empty bottles which would return half-filled with full ones. I think I drank more champagne between the war ending in May and leaving Germany in December than I have done during the whole of the rest of my life. We thought of ourselves as rather dashing, the 8th Armoured Brigade with all our champagne. We stayed in a chateau one night, I recall, and I remember taking a bottle of wine from the cellar – something terribly old but only one bottle – and we shared it around a group of us over a dinner of rations. The first chap took a sip straightaway and proclaimed it to be ‘beautiful’, but the last chap to get a sip spat it out: ‘Horrible!’ We realised that the wine was so old that in the time it took to pour six or seven glasses the air had spoiled what had been a marvellous red.

I have just come back from a week in Sudan, which of Authentic Prada Fairy Bag Sale course is totally dry. And I have to say that, come six or seven in the evening, a whisky and soda or even two is very welcome. I was deeply moved by everything I saw but I was very heartily pleased to get back on the BA plane at Khartoum. We boarded at about 2am and the steward came up and asked me if there was anything he could get for me. I replied, ‘Yes, you can get me a large whisky and soda.’ I have to say, it was one of the best moments of this entire year.

I don’t think it is the food people eat today which makes them unhealthy. I can’t blame the supermarkets or fast food. I blame it on the ubiquitousness of the motor car. We really don’t eat much more than people did in the18th or 19th centuries, but we need to learn that if you do moderately frequent exercise you can eat more or less whatever you want. We mustn’t put too much emphasis on what is eaten, rather on what activities are done. I go for walks in the wood and I drive golf balls in a field near my house most days.

Today, if it’s really well cooked I favour liver and bacon: very nourishing and quite healthy. I do like egg and bacon, but only if the bacon is properly cooked – I want it to break up on my plate. I don’t get on well with Indian or spicy food. When I am abroad I am very careful what I eat. When I was in Dharfour just now I really stuck to bread and eggs, with the odd tomato. I avoid salads and uncooked vegetables, really anything I can’t peel.

· Lord Deedes is one of the writers included in Weekender: Adventures in Calcutta (Ebury, £7.99), sold in aid of Unicef.

Ena Norris, 97

Ena Norris left school at 14, went into service and later became a ‘nippy’ (waitress) at a Lyons teahouse

I was born in 1907 and grew up in London, near Arsenal. Food was very plain, of course, when I was young. There was tea and toast for breakfast and sometimes porridge. Lunch would be stew or steak and kidney pud with potatoes and boiled green vegetables. Then we had tea at four – a bit of bread and jam and always cake. My mum would make currant cake or a cake with caraway seeds in, which I never actually liked! One of my mum’s specialities was bread pudding – not bread and butter pudding – made with stale bread, which we couldn’t afford to waste, soaked in milk and then mixed with fruit, spices, sugar and marge, so it was sort of spicy. I still make it now if I’ve got any bread left over.

We didn’t eat salad except on Sundays for tea and it would only be lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, maybe a little beetroot. We always had a roast lunch on Sundays and the whole family always ate it together. My mum cooked lamb or beef and my dad always did the carving. Chicken was expensive so we only had it at Christmas. We had roast potatoes and cauliflower and then something like apple tart with custard for afters.

I left school when I was 14, which was when I went into service in London. It wasn’t a question of whether I wanted to – we weren’t well off and things were a struggle for my parents. I did do a bit in the kitchens, when I was a general maid, and that was when I first started liking cooking, even though Mum had made sure we knew enough to get by in life. I still do my own cooking now, except when I go to my lunch club.

In 1924, when I was 17, I left service and became a nippy at a Lyons teahouse. Nippy was just a name for us waitresses and I think it came about because the service was so quick because we nipped about all the time. We had a proper lunch that the cook made, but we had to pay for it – a shilling and six a week [7p]. If you wanted a cream cake for tea you could have it, but it would get written in a little book and taken out of your wages every week. The cook was amazing. She did sausages and mash and toad in the hole – that was one of our favourites.

We had regulars who’d come in day in, day out, morning coffee and then lunch, and on a Thursday, if the shops were open late, they’d come in for their tea too. A cup of tea was about thruppence [1p], coffee was Authentic Prada Bag For Sale Philippines a bit dearer. A steak would be between sixpence [2p] and a shilling [5p], chops were about eightpence [3p].

I got married in 1930 and when you got married you had to leave – Lyons didn’t employ married women. Silly, old-fashioned idea. But in my case, George died in 1931 of meningitis, when we’d only been married six months. I was only 23. Lyons took me back and I worked there until 1936, when I got married again. Tom was a customer. He worked at Boots and used to come in every night for his tea. In 1940 we moved into the house I still live in today. I’d had a great time at Lyons. They had a club and we all went to dances there. We worked hard, mind, 54 hours a week, for £1 seven and six [£1. 37].

After the war, new foods began to arrive here, but I wasn’t all that interested in exotic stuff like avocado and peppers – I’m not really now either. It was just nice to see Tom and my son getting excited because we had enough meat to make a steak and kidney pie. We kept to our old habits. Nowadays, I go to the supermarket once a week and, although I get a couple of ready meals for the freezer, mostly I cook for myself.

John Mortimer, 81

QC, barrister, playwright and novelist best known for the Rumpole of the Bailey series of novels

In the days before Elizabeth David had struck and nouvelle cuisine was yet to be invented, we didn’t, as one might presume, live in an age of total food barbarism. In fact, we had very nice dinners. This was before the curse of these dreadful chefs who appear on TV and muck food up. In the Thirties, we did have a celebrity chef in Marcel Boulestin, a little French man who wrote (badly) in the Evening Standard, but he was the only one, thank goodness.

I was an only child, and a real pain in the neck. My mother wasn’t a great cook, so quite early on I took over. I even wrote little menus out in French (oh, I was intolerable). We ate very well, but some culinary treats when I was young are commonplace now. Chicken or salmon, for example, were much harder to get hold of.

My parents used to take me to the theatre a lot and we’d always go out to a restaurant before a show, usually at the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus. Dinner eaten out in those days consisted of a starter, then fish, then meat, then a sweet, then savoury again, like herrings on toast, welsh rarebit or angels on horseback. After the food, the waiters would serve our coffee and pour rosewater on our hands, saying it was from the river Jordan and to rub, smell and wish. We also used to go to a famous Italian restaurant called Quo Vadis in Soho’s Dean Street, which is still there now. Karl Marx used to live there.

When I went to Harrow, the food was simply disgusting. I remember the footman, wearing a blue tailcoat with gold buttons, bleeding into the cabbage as he served it to us. The only good thing about mealtimes was that, when we reached the age of 15, we were allowed beer.

The war started when I was 16. I actually had quite a good time because I had a good job writing film scripts. Rationing meant that we were not allowed to spend more than five shillings [25p] at a restaurant; this even applied to the Ritz, where you might be able to have a few extra bits like smoked salmon if you paid more. Meat was hard to get hold of, but one thing that was available was whale meat. I remember eating whale steak, which was called Moby Dick and chips. It wasn’t pleasurable. We were tragically short of wine, so we used to drink communion wine mixed with gin, which was sold on the black market and called Gin and Altars. It was hideous. Everyone was terribly healthy because they were issued government orange juice, but people were not health conscious as they are now. It was in the Seventies that this terrible thing about being healthy started. I’ve always believed that no pleasure is worth giving up for six months in a geriatric home in Weston-super-Mare.

From Harrow, I Authentic Prada Bags For Cheap entered Oxford, where our don shot the cook in the foot in home guard training, so we got nothing but cold food from then on. In the Fifties there was a huge explosion of Italian cooking and hundreds of Italian restaurants opened. By then, my mother’s food had become more Italian, but my favourites were the old English dishes like steak and kidney pudding which I’d order in restaurants like the Hungry Horse.

In the Sixties and Seventies I used to go to J Sheekey, when it was still a dirty little fish restaurant. I go there to this day and it still has the same photographs of Peter Sellers and the like on the Authentic Prada Handbags Outlet Online walls. I also liked the old Le Caprice in the Seventies, which used to have red curtains and was extremely glamorous. I think the best rule for choosing a restaurant is not to eat anywhere if you know the name of the chef or if they’ve appeared on television. Those are the type of modern places where they put chocolate on the plate of the main course. Avoid them like the plague.

· Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murder by John Mortimer is published by Viking, £16.99.To order for £14.99 call the Observer book service on 0870 836 0885. Interview by Chloe Diski

Marguerite Patten, 88

Born in 1915, she became home economist to the Ministry of Food during the Second World War. She is still working.

My mother knew a lot more than most people about eating healthily. She was an ardent gardener, so while everyone else was eating meat and two veg we’d be eating salads. She was way ahead of her time. Other children would turn their noses up at her ‘funny salads’ and I longed for dreary salads like everyone else instead: hers would have blackcurrants and pieces of apple in. Everyone else had normal things like round lettuce, tomatoes and radishes, maybe a bit of boiled egg. She taught me to cook. The first thing I ever cooked was rabbit pie – she skinned the rabbit and I did the rest.

We all came home from school for lunch in the week (my dad died when I was 12, so my mother went to work as a teacher to support us). We often had roast meat, but rarely chicken – that was expensive. And Biggest Prada Store London we only ate fish on Fridays. For supper we’d have things that people would never dream of eating now, like cold tongue or herrings’ roe on toast.

When I left school I got a place at Rada, but I didn’t get a grant and couldn’t afford to go so I trained to be a home economist. For a while I lived a life of luxury, travelling and eating in hotels. I tried Parma ham, figs, prosciutto and pâté in the late Thirties, things the average family wouldn’t taste until 30 years later.

When rationing was announced in 1940, food changed dramatically. I went round the country demonstrating dishes that could be made without the foods we’d come to rely on.

I started doing cooking demonstrations on the radio in 1944 on a programme called Kitchen Front. I joined Woman’s Hour in 1946 and in 1947 I started demonstrating on the first ever women’s magazine show on television, Designed for Women. From the Fifties until the Seventies, I did demonstration shows at places like the London Palladium and the Palace Theatre, Manchester in front of thousands of people, mostly women.

Today, I think that we are a divided nation when it comes to food. Half of us love food and cooking and the other half subsist on ready meals. I have nothing against ready meals per se, and if it’s a question of eating a ready meal or having a nervous breakdown then eat a ready meal. But it does make me angry that we worked so hard to keep people healthy during the war, with so little food, and, now we have an abundance, a great number of people are nowhere near as healthy as they should be.

John Bayley, 79

Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford and was married to novelist Iris Murdoch, who died in 1999.

I enjoy eating with my wife and I enjoyed eating with Iris. Iris and I used to live a rather hand-to-mouth existence. We got married in 1956, which was about the time we started to eat out in pubs. When we didn’t, I was the cook and produced mostly things like sausages, baked beans and sardines. Raw tomatoes is as far as we went vegetable-wise and there was always chocolate in our house.

I don’t feel the desire to have good food in that sense, although my present wife is a very good cook. One thing we’re very fond of is brains. They’re very hard to get hold of now because of CJD, but it was rather a delicacy in the Seventies and Eighties. The last time I had that sort of thing was in Spain with my wife. There was a mixed dish of kidneys, brains and something else on the menu, so we asked the waiter what it was. He blushed and said ‘testiculos’. Well, the Authentic Prada Outlet Uk testicles were the best thing I’ve had for a long time. They taste rather strong and creamy. Unlike anything I’ve had in my lifetime.

My family returned from India in 1928. As a child, I was indifferent to food. I intensely disliked meat and potatoes and all sorts of things children had pushed onto their plate. My mother didn’t have a cook very often, so she did most things herself. I enjoyed her Bergdorf Goodman Prada Mens Shoes homemade rice pudding and jam immensely. I was very fond of plain chocolate, though it was not as good as what you can buy today.

We all used to eat a lot of beefsteak and beefsteak pie at that time. There was also a lot of cabbage around, which everybody hated because it was so badly cooked that it was inedible. I was rather fond of it. We never thought in terms of nutritional value or vitamins in those days. I do recall there was a scarcity of good, reasonable restaurants. There were plenty of cheap places to eat and very grand places like the Savoy, the Ritz and Claridge’s, but I never went to them. I don’t even recall entering a pub until I joined the army in 1943.

I went to Eton in 1938. The food was beyond description. On the whole, fairly rich parents could send food and gave their children money for the tuck shop. Mine, I’m afraid, weren’t that rich – we were what you would call middle class – so my food couldn’t be subsidised. Eton food was all horribly unimaginative, stews and the like, and the only thing I enjoyed was fish.

When war started, fish became more common and I think if it hadn’t been I would have starved. The children at Eton rather despised the sort of common fish we were given: cod, herring, mackerel. I loved them. If anything, I think the food at school got better during the war.

I went into the army when I was 18. I was astonished to find the food was so much better, even in the lower ranks. One used to get very simple things such as meat pies and fishcakes and things of that kind. Once I was at Oxford I reconciled myself to the fact that the food was still as awful as the food at Eton. However, sardines were quite cheap – I still like them and eat Skippers sardines.

I don’t think I was ever drawn towards the world of good food, and I haven’t got a food vocabulary. Iris tried to interest me in the Good Food Guide but I was always rather mean and didn’t pay much attention. If we happened to be going to Tunbridge Wells we looked up the best restaurants to go to, so we quite often went to good ones. I remember feeling very sophisticated, some time in the Seventies, when I had smoked salmon and a glass of vodka with it. But, to be honest, although I enjoy eating, I find it a rather solitary activity.

Dinner’s ready. Who wants carrot flan and margarine cream?

Home cooks had to become remarkably resourceful during the Second World War. If you couldn’t find it, you faked it with ‘mock’ recipes.

Mock apricot flan

Line a large 9-inch pie plate or flan dish with shortcrust pastry, oatmeal pastry or potato. Bake blind in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate 1lb of young carrots. Put into a saucepan with a few drops of almond essence, 4 tbs of plum jam and only about 4 tbs of water. Cook gently until a thick pulp. Spoon into the cooked pastry. Spread with a little more plum jam if this can be spared.

Note: The carrots really do taste a little like apricots.

Mock crab

1/2 oz margarine

2 reconstituted dried eggs

1 oz cheese, grated

1/2 tbs salad cream

few drops vinegar, salt and pepper

Melt margarine in a saucepan, add the well beaten eggs. Scramble until half set then add the other ingredients. Serve as a sandwich filling or over mashed potato.

Mock cream

serves 2-4

preparation time 5 minutes

1 oz margarine

1 oz sugar

1 tbs dried milk powder

1 tbs milk

Cream the margarine and sugar. Beat in the milk powder and liquid milk.

Mock goose

serves 4

cooking time 1 hour

11/2 lbs potatoes 2 large cooking apples 4oz cheese 1/2 tsp dried sage salt and pepper 3/4 pint vegetable stock 1 tbs flour

Scrub and slice potatoes thinly; slice apples; grate cheese. Grease a fireproof dish, place a layer of potatoes Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Messenger Bag in it, cover with apple and a little sage, season lightly and sprinkle with cheese, repeat layers leaving potatoes and cheese to cover. Pour in 1/2 pint of the stock, cook in a moderate oven for 3/4 of an hour. Blend flour with remainder of stock, pour into dish and cook for another 1/4 of an hour. Serve as a main dish with a green vegetable.

·Wartime Kitchen (Hamlyn) by Marguerite Patten, £14.99. To order for £12.99 plus p & p call the Observer book service on 0870 836 0885.

So then

1938: On the menu at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand Roast saddle of mutton and redcurrant jelly costs 4 shillings

1967: Microwave oven, $500

A must-have in posh kitchens – everyone wanted one of the new appliances

1967: Weightwatchers

Arrives in the UK from America

1974: McDonald’s

First branch opens in UK. A meal contained 600 calories.

So now

On the menu today at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand

Roast saddle of lamb and redcurrant jelly costs £19.95

Rorgue Oven, £67,000

A must-have in Authentic Prada Bag For Sale Philippines posh kitchens (including Gordon Ramsay’s)

Atkins

The no-carb diet arrived from the US in 2000.

Big, big macs

1,500 branches. Supersized meal has 1,300 calories

So then

1912: Iced coffee 2d, from Lyons There were over 260 Lyons Corner Houses and Teashops

1911: Vegetable curry, 6d First Indian opens in UK: Salut e Hind in London

1919: Pop-up toaster, $13.50 A status symbol is born (kitchen porn for the rich)

1930: White sliced Wonderbread hits the shelves

So now

Frappucino from Starbucks, £3.25 First Starbucks opened in UK in 1998. Today there are 421 branches

Chicken tikka masala, £5.50 We eat 23 million portions of the fake Indian dish yearly

Dualit toaster £218 A status symbol of the kitchen porn 90s

Ciabatta We eat £36 million worth of the stuff

Still hungry after all these years

Bill Deedes, 91

Columnist, editor of the Daily Telegraph for 12 years, and immortalised first by Evelyn Waugh as Boot in his novel Scoop and then as ‘Dear Bill’ in Denis Thatcher’s spoof diary in Private Eye

I was born in 1913, which meant that from the ages of one to six I had to live through the First World War, when food was in pretty short supply. What happened after the war was a flu epidemic, which killed more people than the war had killed. My mother always told me that this was because during the five years of war everyone had been kept very short of sugar and fats like butter and that this had reduced their resistance and made them much more prone to what really became a raging epidemic, almost a plague. It isn’t often mentioned but it killed some six million Europeans. Funnily enough, I think that was what inspired Churchill in the Second World War to appoint Lord Woolton as Minister of Food. Although the rations weren’t exactly lavish, there was much more even distribution than there had been in the First World War. I would not recommend the reconstituted eggs available under rationing though.

Bread was in short supply during the Second World War because so many ships bringing corn were sunk by U-boats. Rationing continued far into peacetime. Now, when I hear of sanctions being imposed I think it is unfair, as it is the rulers who are doing wrong but the people who suffer. I know what a prolonged shortage of food can do to people.

I was in the army in the Second World War. Army rations were an awful lot better than what the rest of the country had. I don’t remember a single day, even in Normandy, when we went hungry. We felt rather guilty that we were getting so much more than our loved ones could at home.

I have to say the Americans’ food packs were rather special. They had the most incredible, gorgeous bacon. I thought it was so delicious. And they had cigarettes, which we didn’t have in our packs. But in Are Prada Nylon Bags Worth The Money a way it was silly to be envious, because we were really very well fed. We had bacon too, bully beef, endless tea, and biscuits which were very hard. No eggs of course. We did find good food once we got into Normandy. We never looted anywhere, we had very strict rules about that, but we did take food if we came across a deserted farmhouse and there was clearly no one there who was actually going to eat the food themselves. I have to say, though, the most exciting thing in Northern France for us was the cider. Boy, oh boy that was good. Then they distilled Calvados from the cider, which is pretty strong. I remember telling my sergeant major that the boys could drink the cider but to keep them away from the Calvados.

After the war, when we had actually got as far as Germany, we discovered the Germans had done a very thorough job of looting the French champagne industry, and consequently there was an awful shortage of bottles in the Champagne region. We found out that they were so grateful for bottles that for every two empty bottles of champagne we sent back they would Bicester Village Prada Refund return a full one to us. It’s too late now for anyone to court martial us, so I can reveal that we used to illicitly send three-tonne lorries down to Champagne filled with empty bottles which would return half-filled with full ones. I think I drank more champagne between the war ending in May and leaving Germany in December than I have done during the whole of the rest of my life. We thought of ourselves as rather dashing, the 8th Armoured Brigade with all our champagne. We stayed in a chateau one night, I recall, and I remember taking a bottle of wine from the cellar – something terribly old but only one bottle – and we shared it around a group of us over a dinner of rations. The first chap took a sip straightaway and proclaimed it to be ‘beautiful’, but the last chap to get a sip spat it out: ‘Horrible!’ We realised that the wine was so old that in the time it took to pour six or seven glasses the air had spoiled what had been a marvellous red.

I have just come back from a week in Sudan, which of course is totally dry. And I have to say that, come six or seven in the evening, a whisky and soda or even two is very welcome. I was deeply moved by everything I saw but I was very heartily pleased to get back on the BA plane at Khartoum. We boarded at about 2am and the steward came up and asked me if there was anything he could get for me. I replied, ‘Yes, you can get me a large whisky and soda.’ I have to say, it was one of the best moments of this entire year.

I don’t think it is the food people eat today which makes them unhealthy. I can’t blame the supermarkets or fast food. I blame it on the ubiquitousness of the motor car. We really don’t eat much more than people did in the18th or 19th centuries, but we need to learn that if you do moderately frequent exercise you can eat more or less whatever you want. We mustn’t put too much emphasis on what is eaten, rather on what activities are done. I go for walks in the wood and I drive golf balls in a field near my house most days.

Today, if it’s really well cooked I favour liver and bacon: very nourishing and quite healthy. I do like egg and bacon, but only if the bacon is properly cooked – I want it to break up on my plate. I don’t get on well with Indian or spicy food. When I am abroad I am very careful what I eat. When I was in Dharfour just now I really stuck to bread and eggs, with the odd tomato. I avoid salads and uncooked vegetables, really anything I can’t peel.

· Lord Deedes is one of the writers included in Weekender: Adventures in Calcutta (Ebury, £7.99), sold in aid of Unicef.

Ena Norris, 97

Ena Norris left school at 14, went into service and later became a ‘nippy’ (waitress) at a Lyons teahouse

I was born in 1907 and grew up in London, near Arsenal. Food was very plain, of course, when I was young. There was tea and toast for breakfast and sometimes porridge. Lunch would be stew or steak and kidney pud with potatoes and boiled green vegetables. Then we had tea at four – a bit of bread and jam and always cake. My mum would make currant cake or a cake with caraway seeds in, which I never actually liked! One of my mum’s specialities was bread pudding – not bread and butter pudding – made with stale bread, which we couldn’t afford to waste, soaked in milk and then mixed with fruit, spices, sugar and marge, so it was sort of spicy. I still make it now if I’ve got any bread left over.

We didn’t eat salad except on Sundays for tea and it would only be lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, maybe a little beetroot. We always had a roast lunch on Sundays and the whole family always ate it together. My mum cooked lamb or beef and my dad always did the carving. Chicken was expensive so we only had it at Christmas. We had roast potatoes and cauliflower and then something like apple tart with custard for afters.

I left school when I was 14, which was when I went into service in London. It wasn’t a question of whether I wanted to – we weren’t well off and things were a struggle for my parents. I did do Alex Pradas Quiles a bit in the kitchens, when I was a general maid, and that was when I first started liking cooking, even though Mum had made sure we knew enough to get by in life. I still do my own cooking now, except when I go to my lunch club.

In 1924, when I was 17, I left service and became a nippy at a Lyons teahouse. Nippy was just a name for us waitresses and I think it came about because the service was so quick because we nipped about all the time. We had a proper lunch that the cook made, but we had to pay for it – a shilling and six a week [7p]. If you wanted a cream cake for tea you could have it, but it would get written in a little book and taken out of your wages every week. The cook was amazing. She did sausages and mash and toad in the hole – that was one of our favourites.

We had regulars who’d come in day in, day out, morning coffee and then lunch, and on a Thursday, if the shops were open late, they’d come in for their tea too. A cup of tea was about thruppence [1p], coffee was a bit dearer. A steak would be between sixpence [2p] and a shilling [5p], chops were about eightpence [3p].

I got married in 1930 and when you got married you had to leave – Lyons didn’t employ married women. Silly, old-fashioned idea. But in my case, George died in 1931 of meningitis, when we’d only been married six months. I was only 23. Lyons took me back and I worked there until 1936, when I got married again. Tom was a customer. He worked at Boots and used to come in every night for his tea. In 1940 we moved into the house I still live in today. I’d had a great time at Lyons. They had a club and we all went to dances there. We worked hard, mind, 54 hours a week, for £1 seven and six [£1. 37].

After the war, Authentic Prada Fairy Bag For Sale new foods began to arrive here, but I wasn’t all that interested in exotic stuff like avocado and peppers – I’m not really now either. It was just nice to see Tom and my son getting excited because we had enough meat to make a steak and kidney pie. We kept to our old habits. Nowadays, I go to the supermarket once a week and, although I get a couple of ready meals for the freezer, mostly I cook for myself.

John Mortimer, 81

QC, barrister, playwright and novelist best known for the Rumpole of the Bailey series of novels

In the days before Elizabeth David had struck and nouvelle cuisine was yet to be invented, we didn’t, as one might presume, live in an age of total food barbarism. In fact, we had very nice dinners. This was before the curse of these dreadful chefs who appear on TV and muck food up. In the Thirties, we did have a celebrity chef in Marcel Boulestin, a little French man who wrote (badly) in the Evening Standard, but he was the only one, thank goodness.

I was an only child, and a real pain in the neck. My mother wasn’t a great cook, so quite early on I took over. I even wrote little menus out in French (oh, I was intolerable). We ate very well, but some culinary treats when I was young are commonplace now. Chicken or salmon, for example, were much harder to get hold of.

My parents used to take me to the theatre a lot and we’d always go out to a restaurant before a show, usually at the Trocadero in Piccadilly Circus. Dinner eaten out in those days consisted of a starter, then fish, then meat, then a sweet, then savoury again, like herrings on toast, welsh rarebit or angels on horseback. After the food, the waiters would serve our coffee and pour rosewater on our hands, saying it was from the river Jordan and to rub, smell and wish. We also used to go to a famous Italian restaurant called Quo Vadis in Soho’s Dean Street, which is still there now. Karl Marx used to live there.

When I went to Harrow, the food was simply disgusting. I remember the footman, wearing a blue tailcoat with gold buttons, bleeding into the cabbage as he served it to us. The only good thing about mealtimes was that, when we reached the age of 15, we were allowed beer.

The war started when I was 16. I actually had quite a good time because I had a good job writing film scripts. Rationing meant that Bicester Village Prada Bag Price we were not allowed to spend more than five shillings [25p] at a restaurant; this even applied to the Ritz, where you might be able to have a few extra bits like smoked salmon if you paid more. Meat was hard to get hold of, but one thing that was available was whale meat. I remember eating whale steak, which was called Moby Dick and chips. It wasn’t pleasurable. We were tragically short of wine, so we used to drink communion wine mixed with gin, which was sold on the black market and called Gin and Altars. It was hideous. Everyone was terribly healthy because they were issued government orange juice, but people were not health conscious as they are now. It was in the Seventies that this terrible thing about being healthy started. I’ve always believed that no pleasure is worth giving up for six months in a geriatric home in Weston-super-Mare.

From Harrow, I entered Oxford, where our don shot the cook in the foot in home guard training, so we got nothing but cold food from then on. In the Fifties there was a huge explosion of Italian cooking and hundreds of Italian restaurants opened. By then, my mother’s food had become more Italian, but my favourites were the old English dishes like steak and kidney pudding which I’d order in restaurants like the Hungry Horse.

In the Sixties and Seventies I used to go to J Sheekey, when it was still a dirty little fish restaurant. I go there to this day and it still has the same photographs of Peter Sellers and the like on the walls. I also liked the old Le Caprice in the Seventies, which used to have red curtains and was extremely glamorous. I think the best rule for choosing a restaurant is not to eat anywhere if you know the name of the chef or if they’ve appeared on television. Those are the type of modern places where they put chocolate on the plate of the main course. Avoid them like the plague.

· Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murder by John Mortimer is published by Viking, £16.99.To order for £14.99 call the Observer book service on 0870 836 0885. Interview by Chloe Diski

Marguerite Patten, 88

Born in 1915, she became home economist to the Ministry of Food during the Second World War. She is still working.

My mother knew a lot more than most people about eating healthily. She was an ardent gardener, so while everyone else was eating meat and two veg we’d be eating salads. She was way ahead of her time. Other children would turn their noses up at her ‘funny salads’ and I longed for dreary salads like everyone else instead: hers would have blackcurrants and pieces of apple in. Everyone else had normal things like round lettuce, tomatoes and radishes, maybe a bit of boiled egg. She taught me to cook. The first thing I ever cooked was rabbit pie – she skinned the rabbit and I did the rest.

We all came home from school for lunch in the week (my dad died when I was 12, so my mother went to work as a teacher to support us). We often had roast meat, but rarely chicken – that was expensive. And we only ate fish on Fridays. For supper we’d have things that people would never dream of eating now, like cold tongue or herrings’ roe on toast.

When I left school I got a place at Rada, but I didn’t get a grant and couldn’t afford to go so I trained to be a home economist. For a while I lived a life of luxury, travelling and eating in hotels. I tried Parma ham, figs, prosciutto and pâté in the late Thirties, things the average family wouldn’t taste until 30 years later.

When rationing was announced in 1940, food changed dramatically. I went round the country demonstrating dishes that could be made without the foods we’d come to rely on.

I started doing cooking demonstrations on the radio in 1944 on a programme called Kitchen Front. I joined Woman’s Hour in 1946 and in 1947 I started demonstrating on the first ever women’s magazine show on Are All Prada Products Made In Italy television, Designed for Women. From the Fifties until the Seventies, I did demonstration shows at places like the London Palladium and the Palace Theatre, Manchester in front of thousands of people, mostly women.

Today, I think that we are a divided nation when it comes to food. Half of us love food and cooking and the other half subsist on ready meals. I have nothing against ready meals per se, and if it’s a question of eating a Black Prada Bag With Gold ready meal or having a nervous breakdown then eat a ready meal. But it does make me angry that we worked so hard to keep people healthy during the war, with so little food, and, now we have an abundance, a great number of people are nowhere near as healthy as they should be.

John Bayley homesite, 79

Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford and was married to Authentic Prada Shoes Sale novelist Iris Murdoch, who died in 1999.

I enjoy eating with my wife and I enjoyed eating with Iris. Iris and I used to live a rather hand-to-mouth existence. We got married in 1956, which was about the time we started to eat out in pubs. When we didn’t, I was the cook and produced mostly things like sausages, baked beans and sardines. Raw tomatoes is as far as we went vegetable-wise and there was always chocolate in our house.

I don’t feel the desire to have good food in that sense, although my present wife is a very good cook. One thing we’re very fond of is brains. They’re very hard to get hold of now because of CJD, but it was rather a delicacy in the Seventies and Eighties. The last time I had that sort of thing was in Spain with my wife. There was a mixed dish of kidneys, brains and something else on the Authentic Prada Leather Handbags menu, so we asked the waiter what it was. He blushed and said ‘testiculos’. Well, the testicles were the best thing I’ve had for a long time. They taste rather strong and creamy. Unlike anything I’ve had in my lifetime.

My family returned from India in 1928. As a child, I was indifferent to food. I intensely disliked meat and potatoes and all sorts of things children had pushed onto their plate. My mother didn’t have a cook very often, so she did most things herself. I enjoyed her homemade rice pudding and jam immensely. I was very fond of plain chocolate, though it was not as good as what you can buy today.

We all used to eat a lot of beefsteak and beefsteak pie at that time. There was also a lot of cabbage around, which everybody hated because it was so badly cooked that it was inedible. I was rather fond of it. We never thought in terms of nutritional value or vitamins in those days. I do recall there was a scarcity of good, reasonable restaurants. There were plenty of cheap places to eat and very grand places like the Savoy, the Ritz and Claridge’s, but I never went to them. I don’t even recall entering a pub until I joined the army in 1943.

I went to Eton in 1938. The food was beyond description. On the whole, fairly rich parents could send food and gave their children money for the tuck shop. Mine, I’m afraid, weren’t that rich – we were what you would call middle class – so my food couldn’t be subsidised. Eton food was all horribly unimaginative, stews and the like, and the only thing I enjoyed was fish.

When war started, fish became more common and I think if it hadn’t been I would have starved. The children at Eton rather despised the sort of common fish we were given: cod, herring, mackerel. I loved them. If anything, I think the food at school got better during the war.

I went into the army when I was 18. I was astonished to find the food was so much better, even in the lower ranks. One used to get very simple things such as meat pies and fishcakes and things of that kind. Once I was at Oxford I reconciled myself to the fact that the food was still as awful as the food at Eton. However, sardines were quite cheap – I still like them and eat Skippers sardines.

I don’t think I was ever drawn towards the world of good food, and I haven’t got a food vocabulary. Iris tried to interest me in the Good Food Guide but I was always rather mean and didn’t pay much attention. If we happened to be going to Tunbridge Wells we looked up the best restaurants to go to, so we quite often went to good ones. I remember feeling very sophisticated, some time in the Seventies, when I had smoked salmon and a glass of vodka with it. But, to be honest, although I enjoy eating, I find it a rather solitary activity.

Dinner’s ready. Who wants carrot flan and margarine cream?

Home cooks had to become remarkably resourceful during the Second World War. If you couldn’t find it, you faked it with ‘mock’ recipes.

Mock apricot flan

Line a large 9-inch pie plate or flan dish with shortcrust pastry, oatmeal pastry or potato. Bake blind in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate 1lb of young carrots. Put into a saucepan with a few drops of almond essence, 4 tbs of plum jam and only about 4 tbs of water. Cook gently until a thick pulp. Spoon into the cooked pastry. Spread with a little more plum jam if this can be spared.

Note: The carrots really do taste a little like apricots.

Mock crab

1/2 oz margarine

2 reconstituted dried eggs

1 oz cheese, grated

1/2 tbs salad cream

few drops vinegar, salt and pepper

Melt margarine in a saucepan, add the well beaten eggs. Scramble until half set then add the other ingredients. Serve as a sandwich filling or over mashed potato.

Mock cream

serves 2-4

preparation time 5 minutes

1 oz margarine

1 oz sugar

1 tbs dried milk powder

1 tbs milk

Cream the margarine and sugar. Beat in the milk powder and liquid milk.

Mock goose

serves 4

cooking time 1 hour

11/2 lbs potatoes 2 large cooking apples 4oz cheese 1/2 tsp dried sage salt and pepper 3/4 pint vegetable stock 1 tbs flour

Scrub and slice potatoes thinly; slice apples; grate cheese. Grease a fireproof dish, place a layer of potatoes in it, cover with apple and a little sage, season lightly and sprinkle with cheese, repeat layers leaving potatoes and cheese to cover. Pour in 1/2 pint of the stock, cook in a moderate oven for 3/4 of an hour. Blend flour with remainder of stock, pour into dish and cook for another 1/4 of an hour. Serve as a main dish with a green vegetable.

·Wartime Kitchen (Hamlyn) by Marguerite Patten, £14.99. To order for £12.99 plus p & p call the Observer book service on 0870 836 0885.

So then

1938: On the menu at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand Roast saddle of mutton and redcurrant Agatha Ruiz Prada Online Shop jelly costs 4 shillings

1967: Microwave oven, $500

A must-have in posh kitchens – everyone wanted one of the new appliances

1967: Weightwatchers

Arrives in the UK from America

1974: McDonald’s

First branch opens in UK. A meal contained 600 calories.

So now

On the menu today at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand

Roast saddle of lamb and redcurrant jelly costs £19.95

Rorgue Oven, £67,000

A must-have in posh kitchens (including Gordon Ramsay’s)

Atkins

The no-carb diet arrived from the US in 2000.

Big, big macs

1,500 branches. Supersized meal has 1,300 calories

So then

1912: Iced coffee 2d, from Lyons There were over 260 Lyons Corner Houses and Teashops

1911: Vegetable curry, 6d First Indian opens in UK: Salut e Hind in London

1919: Pop-up toaster, $13.50 A status symbol is born (kitchen porn for the rich)

1930: White sliced Wonderbread hits the shelves

So now

Frappucino from Starbucks, £3.25 First Starbucks opened in UK in 1998. Today there are 421 branches

Chicken tikka masala, £5.50 We eat 23 million portions of the fake Indian dish yearly

Dualit toaster £218 A status symbol of the kitchen porn 90s

Ciabatta We eat £36 million worth of the stuff

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