Heritage Teatime

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Sue Page from the Redbridge Heritage Centre invites you to a reminiscence session at Woodford Green Library this August, to share your memories of food, glorious food

Our eating habits have changed a lot over the last 80 years. If you lived through the Second World War, you will remember the dietary restrictions brought about by rationing, which began in January 1940. If you lived in Woodford, you would have had to register with a particular retailer in the area to purchase bacon, cheese, fats and sugar.

Rationing meant some foodstuffs were traded on the Black Market.   A Woodford café owner was charged in 1946 with obtaining rationed foodstuffs “in excess of points allocated”. He had received 480 tins of salmon and 24 tins of syrup illegally. Hopefully, he wasn’t going to serve them together!

You may have eaten in a British Restaurant, communal kitchens which were created in 1940 to help people who had been bombed out of their homes or who had run out of ration coupons. They disbanded in 1947. There was a British Restaurant at the Memorial Hall in South Woodford, opened by Mrs Winston Churchill. The food at these restaurants was relatively cheap and filling.

Many foods continued to be rationed after the war and people were urged not to waste any. A letter to the editor of the Woodford Times newspaper in 1946 from “Disgusted of Horns Lane” stated that 11 complete loaves of bread had been found in the pig bin. He demanded the punishment of the miscreants for “wasting the staff of life”.

During the 1950s, some shops converted to self-service, although in Woodford there continued to be independent food retailers. The butcher, baker and greengrocer all existed side by side with the supermarkets. Packaging became more eye-catching and food became more plentiful. Pressure cookers and food mixers made home cooking easier. Woodford LEB advertised state-of-the-art new cookers with auto-time controls. In 1957, Dairy Cookery Week was organised by the Electricity Board and free demonstrations on cooking with milk, cream, cheese and butter took place in Woodford. No such thing as cholesterol in those days!

The 1960s saw an increasing variety of products hitting the supermarket shelves. The range of breakfast cereals also increased with the arrival of Coco Pops and Sugar Smacks. The 1960s may have been when you had your first Vesta Curry – foreign food became popular as travel increased.

In the 1970s most people owned a fridge and many also owned a freezer. This meant people were able to buy and consume more convenience food. This trend continues today with microwaves and fast food outlets changing the way we eat.

Residents can share their food memories at this Vision RCL event at Woodford Green Library on 22 August from 2.30pm to 3.30pm (free; booking required). Call 020 8708 9055