Baby Boomers have been the driving force behind just about every fad for the last 60 years, influencing everything from toys to fashion to music and especially food fads. From the time they (we!) could walk we were at the fore front of the “brave new world” or so we would like to believe.
The 50’s is a blur and still belonged to our parents with glimpses of our older sisters screaming over Elvis, TV dinners and mum and dad still bothering to dress up for a night out on the town.
Burgers, malted milk shakes and onion rings were the order of the day and by the end of the 50’d, Ray Kroc has opened more than 200 McDonald’s restaurants, bringing the burger fad to a fevered frenzy. And no hotel restaurant menu was complete without the quintessential Club Sandwich, Waldorf salad and Prawn cocktail.
Welcome to the 60s! Now we’re talking, this was our era. We were going to change the world!! With so many restrictions and taboos still binding the teens in the 1950s, it was only inevitable that the boomers with their coming of age, their raging hormones and insatiable appetite for anything new would produce the most influential cultural backlash the world has seen.
Hippies, Free love, flower power, mind altering drugs, and political mayhem — these were the trends of a decade that saw turmoil in social values and cultural behavior.
As The Beatles twisted and shouted, the Stones rolled, Dylan preached and the Jefferson Airplane flew, the world saw changes in its political and social order. We protested everything from the Vietnam War to civil rights. The new sexual revolution influenced fashion and social morality. When it came to food everything was pre-packaged and sliced, instant and fast, the Boomers grew up with food trends that our parents could never have imagined. We started experimenting with new food cultures and dishes. I still remember my mother’s attempts at fried rice and turmeric flavored roast chicken.
Beef Wellington was a fashionable dinner party main dish. Anything drenched in alcohol and flambéed was in. Quiche Loraine and Fondues were popular. Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Maryland were the height of culinary extravagance and cooking with canned soup took off— thank you Andy Warhol!
In the 70’s when the hippies started to mellow a little we saw a swing toward whole foods: homemade breads and vegetarian food. Macrobiotics was the word on everybody’s lips and palate and we started to look for food that was pesticide free, and cooked fresh, including whole grains, and other types of proteins aside from beef. And it wasn’t long before some of these now maturing flower children traded their tie-dyed T-shirts for white aprons and opened restaurants. Standard items on the menu were vegetarian chili, guacamole, gazpacho, zucchini bread, tofu with everything, carrot cake and, of course, granola.
In Europe there was a return to the 50’s nostalgia fad and the hamburger craze took off once more with the first Hard Rock Café opening in London. The 1970s was also an era of time-saving innovations, instant gourmet meals and comforting casseroles, Tuna and Noodle Casserole, Chicken Casserole, potatoes au gratin and Spanish chicken and rice
The 80s was the era of gizmos, as pocket calculators and digital watches became status symbols, searching out all types of gourmet foods and buying the latest kitchen gadgets, state-of-the-art mixers and food processors.
Kitchen cupboards were full of imported virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars older than we were.
We fell in love with regional Italian cooking and authentic Indian cuisine and were inundated with cook books showing us how to cook perfect pasta and real Indian curries. Luxury gourmet grocery shops sprang up everywhere and a new reliance on the microwave alongside increasingly innovative ready-meals like Shake-It-and-Bake-It-Style Chicken and Taco shells with all the fixings from a tin.
We heard the first rumblings of eco-produce and the rise of urban farmer’s markets and locally grown produce. This was fueled, in part, by the desire of Baby Boomers to buy more local, organic, fresh foods as well as holding onto our youth.
The 90s found us changing gears once more. Simplifying, localizing and minimalism were the catchwords of the day which saw the rise of the gastro-pub and the slow food movement. We were experimenting with Thai curries; buying bagged salads and snacking on cereal bars alongside our de-caffe latte take out from Starbucks.
This was also the era when many chefs came out from behind their stoves to revel in their new found notoriety. Wolfgang Puck became as much a household name as his gourmet pizzas and attracted the new “beautiful people” to his restaurant, Spago.
British TV rock star chefs were beginning to flood our screens encouraging us to cook more exotic dishes at home, Green Thai curry, Tart Tatin and Tandoori chicken.
The Cajun trend started by another proud Boomer chef, Paul Prudhomme from K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, introduced his famous blackened redfish and before long we were, blackening everything from chicken to vegetables. A tasty trend but as usual it was taken to ludicrous excesses and luckily disappeared from menus at decade’s end.
The new decade began with a penchant for anything new and shocking with restaurants and chefs more intent in feeding their egos rather than their customers and making us pay for it! Food available for dining out has changed considerably since the baby boomer was born and food trends have affected the way we eat considerably.
Molecular cuisine was deconstructing everything the boomers thought of as sacred, foamed bacon and eggs and foie gras dust……thank god this gastronomic madness didn’t last that long.
This culinary change has given the now aging Baby Boomers a new passion, the joy of cooking and eating at home (sometimes ever more frequently cooking for one!) With the shrinking world and increased Boomer travel we have become more interested in other cuisines and choices. Cooking for ourselves the dishes of the Far East, Middle East and even a return to our childhood favorites
Today with our mighty boomers looking ever so cautiously forward, with some ready to exit the workforce and an almost hysterical search for anything organic or foods that promise longer life and miracle health benefits (as if this will erase the past decades of over indulgence and good eating) we are increasingly looking for anything that will give us an extra decade or even two.
Well, you know? It’s been an incredible ride up to now so who can blame us for wanting to stretch it out a little longer………….
A few recipes to get nostalgic over:
500g Fresh beef mince
400g spaghetti or tagliatelle. Use only the best pasta.
4 rashers of streaky bacon or pancetta finely diced.
2 tins of chopped tomatoes.
2 medium onions peeled and finely diced.
2 sticks of celery trimmed and finely diced.
2 carrots trimmed and finely diced.
2 cloves of garlic peeled and finely diced.
1 medium chili seeded and finely sliced
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for grating over.
2 tbsp. tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock.
Handful of fresh basil, plus extra for garnish.
1 tsp. dried oregano.
1-2 bay leaves.
Sea salt and black pepper.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat a nice amount of olive oil and fry the bacon until crisp, then reduce the heat and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Sautee for around until the veg has softened.
Next, increase the heat slightly, add the mince and stir until the meat has broken up and is starting to cook and lose all raw meat color.
Stir in the tins of chopped tomatoes. Add the remaining herbs, tomato puree, stock, and chili.
Stir with a wooden spoon, breaking up the plum tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to low, put the lid on and leave to cook for about an hour Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t catch.
Just as the sauce is nearly ready, add the parmesan and season to taste. Meanwhile add salt to a pan of boiling water and cook the pasta according the packet instructions. Once the spaghetti is ready, drain it in a colander (save a cup of cooking water to add to the sauce if needed) and add it to the pan with the sauce. Stir to coat he pasta. Serve with a little grated parmesan and use the extra basil leaves to make a great little garnish
1 kg beef fillet tails (thinly sliced)
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups sour cream
1 medium onion (chopped)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
200 gram mushrooms (sliced)
60 ml brandy
1. Cut the filet tails into strips.
2. Place butter in large skillet and, when bubbling, add the meat and brown quickly on each side. Remove meat and keep warm.
3. Add the onions to the skillet. When these are golden, add the mushroom slices and stir until they are wilted.
4. Return the meat to the pan, season with salt and pepper.
Add the brandy and flambé, and reduce heat.
5. Add half the sour cream and mix mustard with the other half. Add this to the mixture and stir until it is quite hot, but do not bring to a boil. Garnish with paprika and served with fluffy steamed rice
Chicken Casserole with Dumplings
1tbsp olive oil
25g unsalted butter
8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
2tbsp plain flour
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into
3 medium leeks, washed and cut into 2.5cm lengths
12 baby turnips, tops trimmed
1tsp thyme leaves, chopped
200ml sweet sherry
500ml chicken stock
1tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
For the dumplings
100g self-rising flour
50g light suet
1dsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
50g mushrooms, chopped
1tsp thyme leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Heat the oil and butter in a casserole dish. Dust the chicken thighs with the flour and fry skin-side down until golden brown. Add the remaining ingredients (apart from the parsley), bring to the boil, place a lid on top and bake for 25 minutes.
To make the dumplings, sift the flour into a bowl, add the suet and season. Heat the oil in a frying pan. When hot add the onion and garlic, and fry until golden brown. Add the mushrooms and thyme, and cook until the mixture is dry. Add the mixture to the flour, stir well and add enough cold water to make elastic dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Shape into 4 balls.
Remove the casserole from the oven and increase the heat to 200 C. If the gravy seems thin then mix 1dsp corn flour with a little cold water, add to the casserole and stir. Place the dumplings on top of the casserole and return to the oven for 20 minutes. Scatter the parsley over and serve.
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray
1 tube jumbo bake-off biscuits (recommended: Pillsbury brand “Grand’s”
A sprinkle cayenne
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
125 gram white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons chopped pimentos
1 cup frozen green peas
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven according to package directions for biscuits
Arrange biscuits on nonstick baking sheet and sprinkle with a little ground cayenne pepper then place biscuits into a preheated oven. Bake until golden, remove biscuits from oven and then cool.
In a medium skillet, bring 1 cup white wine and 2 cups chicken stock and 1 bay leaf to a boil. Slide in the chicken breasts and gently poach them in simmering broth and wine for 10 to 12 minutes.
Preheat a second skillet over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into oil, add mushrooms and onion and cook 5 minutes until tender. Add flour and cook another minute.
Pull chicken from broth and set on cutting board. Ladle cooking liquid into the mushrooms, whisking it in. Add 2 to 2 1/2 cups of liquid and discard the bay leaf. Add pimentos and peas to the sauce. Dice chicken into bite-size pieces and slide into bubbling sauce.
Split the biscuits, place bottoms on dinner plates and cover with ladles of Chicken a la King. Cap with biscuit tops and garnish with chopped parsley.
A true golden oldie…the Original Prawn Cocktail
The Golden Gate Casino in Las Vegas started serving the shrimp cocktail in 1959, at which time it cost 50c. The cocktail is served in a 6 ounce glass and there is no padding, not even lettuce. It is pure shrimp with cocktail sauce.
30 fresh jumbo shrimp with shells.
In pot of boiling salted water, cook shrimp until pink, about 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
Remove all shell and head except the tail, devein
Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Cocktail Sauce: mix together
1 cup ketchup (must be Heinz)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon onion juice
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
A few drops Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon salt
Chill in refrigerator.
For completing cocktail:
Arrange in 6 chilled sherbet glasses:
Lettuce or curly endive
Arrange 5 shrimps in each glass. Top each serving with the Cocktail Sauce.
From Julia Child’s Kitchen
1/2 cup very thick-cut bacon, cut into strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
Medium size whole chicken, cut into parts, thoroughly dried
1/4 cup Cognac or Armagnac
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
20 small white onions, peeled
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups red wine, preferably Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, or Pinot Noir
About 2 cups chicken stock or beef stock
1 or 2 garlic cloves, mashed or minced
About 1 tablespoon tomato paste
300 gram fresh mushrooms, trimmed, washed, and quartered
Sauté the bacon in 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole until lightly browned.
Transfer the bacon to a side dish, leaving the drippings in the pan.
Heat the drippings over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken pieces, before careful not to crowd the pan. Sauté the chicken, turning frequently, until nicely browned on all sides.
Pour the Cognac or Armagnac into the pan; let it become bubbling hot, and then Flambé the sauce, tilting the pan by its handle and swirling the sauce to burn off alcohol.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaf and thyme to the pan and place the onions around the chicken. Cover and simmer gently, turning the chicken once, for about 10 minutes.
Uncover the pan, sprinkle the flour over everything, and turn the chicken and onions so the flour is absorbed by the sauce. Cover and cook, turning once or twice, for 3 to 4 minutes more.
Remove the pan from the heat and gradually stir and swirl in the wine and enough stock or bouillon to almost cover the chicken. Add the bacon, garlic, and tomato paste to the pan, cover, and gently simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and simmer 4 to 5 minutes. The sauce is ready when it is thick enough to lightly coat the chicken and vegetables. Taste the sauce carefully, and correct the seasoning accordingly. Serve immediately.
And one more straight from my childhood
My mother’s cooking repertoire wasn’t big or even outstanding but one of the stars was definitely crispy on the outside and soft on the inside potato latkes
2 large baking potatoes
1 large yellow onion
3 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp flour or matzo meal
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Vegetable oil for frying
Place a heavy sauté pan over medium heat.
Peel the onion and cut in half. Peel the potatoes and cut in a size which will fit into the shoot of your food processor if using the food processor. I definitely prefer a hand grater for that touch of authenticity.
Grate the onion and then the potatoes. Put the grated potatoes and onion into a mixing bowl. Crack the egg onto the potatoes then add the salt, pepper, flour (or matzo meal) and add grated nutmeg. Mix thoroughly with your hands, squeezing out any excess liquid. Add a shallow layer of oil to the pan and allow to heat. Test the oil with a drop of the potato mixture, if it sizzles, the oil is ready. Take a nice palm full of the mixture out of the bowl and again squeeze out the liquid. Pat into a rough circular shape and place into the oil and pat down with a spatula so that the oil comes up to about half way up the side of the potato pancake. Cook the pancake for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown. Carefully, flip the pancake with a spatula and cook until the other side is golden brown. Remove the pancakes as they are done and place onto absorbent paper towel.
You can serve them as they are or with sour cream or even with a sprinkle of sugar.
What memories Gary! What about the old Surf & Turf and Chiko Rolls?
I always love your blog… 🙂