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Milk puddings and Edwardian childhood

2016 February 16

Wilson How we Learn to EatI used to think when I was presented with milk puddings for Saturday lunch that this was done because it was “good for me”. However, I never much liked them. For me macaroni and rice were the ingredients of sweet puddings (rather than ingredients of wonderful Italian savoury dishes.) Tapioca or “frog spawn” was horrible and semolina even with a dollop of jam in the middle was not something to look forward to. The macaroni or rice usually had an unpleasant brown burnt surface caused by the sprinkling of nutmeg – much like the vile congealed top to Bird’s custard (It was not until I was an adult and discovered Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson that I realised that “real” custard was actually made from eggs…)

However, having just read Bee Wilson’s First Bite. How We Learn to Eat I have noted that this post-war “dish” was probably a comfort food that my parents – both born well before 1920 – had enjoyed as children (and probably thought I would too.) I was also interested to learn that despite the best endeavours of pioneering Labour councils such as Bradford to feed Edwardian children with tasty vegetables and milk puddings children invariably refused to eat the food. Drawing analogies with ubiquitous junk food today Wilson says that many children preferred just to eat bread and dripping and had to be coaxed with small bites into eating  a better diet.

While not primarily a history book this engaging read is fascinating about the changing approaches to diet and reasons for obesity (and malnutrition) in Britain and the US.It also acted as a memory trigger in unexpected ways!

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