14 April 2012

Tasty, Tasty, Very Very Tasty Bran Flakes, Kellogg's Super Noodles And More...

Two ads from 1982 - "Tasty, Tasty, Very Tasty" Bran Flakes and "make mealtimes really new" with Super Noodles.

We've already written about the changing eating habits of the UK public in the 1980s elsewhere on this blog (here). We've examined the wonders of the F-Plan Diet, pasta as an exciting range of dishes, bottled water, courgettes, peppers, the thrill of fancy fillings in baked spuds, star fruits, savoury rice and turkey sausages. We've "humphed" impatiently at nouvelle cuisine and giggled afresh at the Weetabix skinheads. We loved our '80s grub - particularly in the mid-to-late decade when so much changed. And, of course, the 1980s were the era of the foodie!

Memory often plays food writers tricks. 1960s innovations the prawn cocktail and Black Forest gateau only reached the humblest of the humble working class folks in the 1980s. It was around the early 1980s (once more, I won't rely on the Web) that prawn flavoured cocktail crisps were launched and, although I couldn't abide the dish they were based on, I couldn't get enough of the crisps!

The '80s also gave us those lovely Hob Nob biscuits, and the early part of the decade saw Pot Noodles in the ascendancy. Not sure of a UK launch year for these, and won't rely on the web, but I do know they were becoming all the rage and bombarding us with lovely new flavours in the early-to-mid 1980s. And, of course, there quickly followed the imitators (remember Snack Pot? "We put the Snack before the pot"? We do!).

Pot Noodles were becoming the thing to snack on by 1981. We were no stranger to food we needed to re-hydrate, but the idea of re-hydrating then eating straight from the pot - no need for washing up - appealed to many of us and seemed very revolutionary indeed.

This leads me to a personal recollection of mine concerning a school mate (let's call him Steve). Steve had a big fat belly, and used to chortle and say:"That's my beer belly!" Macho nonsense of course - he didn't drink alcohol. He seemed happy being a big lad, until 1981 when, with leaving school staring him in the face, he suddenly decided to become "fancyable". The opposite sex had been steering well clear up to now, and so Steve launched a strict diet to reduce his wobble factor.

One lunchtime, I went to Steve's house to eat my paste sandwiches and have a cuppa with him. He lived just a couple of streets away from our school, so always went home to lunch. It was the time when the Rubik's Cube and illegal CB radio were the big fads (CB was due to be legalised in November '81, but a slackening of controls in the run-up saw the illegal craze running wild) and we discussed these, and then, having reached his house, Steve introduced me to his latest ally in his own personal inch war - a Pot Noodle. This was his lunch, he told me proudly. Zilch calories compared to his usual midday four paste sandwiches and bowl of soup nosh-up.

He prepared his Noodle, I munched glumly on my paste sandwiches. And then it happened. Steve fetched a tub of marge from the fridge, and began to ransack a previously unopened loaf of white bread which had been sitting innocently on the dining table. As if in a trance, he dunked slice after slice of bread and marge in his Noodle, in between slurping it down, and by the time he'd finished there were two slices of bread left in the packet (I checked).

"STEVE!" I gasped. "You're doin' your diet no good at all, mate!"

"'Course I am, Andy," Steve chortled. "Pot Noodle 'n' a couple of slices of bread for lunch... What's wrong with that?"

On the way back to school, he bought himself a Marathon - "That Pot Noodle ain't quite fillin' the gap. One bar won't hurt!"

By altering his usual lunchtime food intake as part of his stomach-reducing diet, Steve had ended up eating loads more than he usually did. I gave up.

The '80s changed my diet tremendously, and there's no doubt I began eating a lot better. Those courgettes, those peppers, those fancy baked potatoes, that carrot cake were delicious!

The supermarkets suddenly seemed to erupt with affordable goodies.

But, of course, whilst scoffing up the carrot cake, meeting real sausages for the first time, indulging in all those fancy salad dressings, and experimenting like crazy with veg and pasta, being a young man about town there were many times when I desired the quick and simple solution to what to have for dinner.

Matthew's turkey sausages, savoury rice and tinned green beans were a mainstay, as were those scrummy mini-pizzas from Bejam. And Bejam did small cube sized blocks of bubble and squeak! Heaven!

"Make Meal Times Really New", said the Kellogg's 1982 Super Noodles ad featured at the top of this post, and I adored them, once more with sausages and green beans. If you overcooked the noodles slightly, you could let them cool a bit then have them in a sandwich. Delicious!

Last week, my wife and I went to our local supermarket thinking about the Big Hair decade. The pasta ranges seemed vastly smaller compared to the mid-to-late 1980s when doing things with pasta was so new and exciting in this country, and we couldn't find a single packet of wholemeal pasta which, in the era 1986-1989, would have been cause for outrage.

A Tesco magazine advertisement from December 1984. Pasta was just becoming exciting in the UK.

We spotted some Super Noodles, tucked away, and suddenly decided we'd have an '80s convenience meal. Sausages and green beans went into our trolley and, that night, we tucked in. Lovely! And so nostalgic...

After the meal, instead of me dashing around showering and gelling my hair and getting myself done up like a dog's dinner for a night out, as I had back in the '80s, I sat in my armchair, with my middle aged spread, and gently drifted off to sleep - which is the norm nowadays.

It all seemed a bit sad. 21st Century Andy can revive '80s food, but 21st Century Andy is not '80s Andy - with all his youthful vigour and dodgy fashion sense - and '80s Andy is not coming back...

Never mind. The memories are very sweet. We'll definitely be having Super Noodles again.


Anonymous said...

V useful stuff - got the kids in school doing a "decades" project and this has been great - thanks

Drew said...

I'm glad it was useful! :)