There is nothing like the Christmas and New Year period for bringing out a little nostalgia in us, is there? Time spent with family and old friends often turns to reminiscing about shared bygone days, things that we had and did and the people with whom we shared the good times and laughter.
As a child of the 1970s, brought up in the East End of London, family and community were a big feature. Families often lived in the same streets and everyone knew each other irrespective of which side of the family they were on – generally through the neighbourhood or the workplace.
The key commonality of these years was that no one had very much. Parties and gatherings were looked forward to for a good old jolly up and a feed. It was all about being together. No restricted invite lists. All welcome.
There were no fancy venues either. Parties and wedding receptions were generally held in church halls or houses and the family gathered in the morning to do the catering followed by a knees-up to celebrate.
Now all us this brings me on to a question that that has had quite a lot of airtime over the holiday period.
Whatever happened to the loyal and trusty Vol-au-Vent?
Because as a child of these times, no gathering was complete without the attendance of the Vol-au-Vent family. In fact the sheer delight of being part of the catering team on Vol-au-Vent duty was enough to knock anything that Father Christmas might bring into a cocked hat.
Those in the Vol-au-Vent inner circle will remember that the cases were a frozen purchase which, once cooked, would turn from a flat circular structure into a flaky pastry tower. As they departed the oven, it was then generally the responsibility of the children on the production line to remove their circular hats.
With the hats placed to one side, the famous filling process would commence, generally Prawn (singular) in Marie Rose Sauce, Creamed Chicken and Mushroom and Egg Mayonnaise. Were any of these your guilty pleasure?
Then, and only then could the hat be placed back on top and the Vol-au-Vent would take its place on the buffet table – generally alongside a foil covered grapefruit hedgehog containing cheese and pineapple on sticks.
Over-catering was the norm at such times which meant that a Vol-au-Vent could be enjoyed as a Sunday morning breakfast along with slightly crusty sandwiches and a generous slab of catering Black Forest Gateau. What could be finer!
So what did happen to this 1970s favourite? There have been some crude attempts at gentrifying this humble buffet item by trying to pass it off as a pre-made Canapé but a true original has not been seen in years!
One of the things that has struck me in all of this talk of food and community is the sheer simplicity of life in the 1970s. I don’t use that word loosely as many of our parents and the older generations will have experienced the most dreadful of times yet they were a group of people who quite simply wanted to be the best they could possibly be and for whom good times came easy. These were much simpler times.
They were times when generosity was abundant. There was lots of giving but not of material things. Hospitality and warmth being the only riches on offer.
And these trips down Memory Lane can actually be quite humbling. Because life can sometimes becomes a little over-complicated. Too serious. Competitive. Angry even. There is a lot that we can learn from these simpler times. After all, isn’t it the simple life that we are all supposedly in search of?
Spending time in the company of others that make us feel comfortable and enjoying the simple things are often passed over if we are always in search of the next best thing or offer.
Fortunately, it turns out that we don’t have to go too far beyond our front door to find this simplicity.
Now that’s got to be worth cracking open a Party Seven and banging the dustbin lids for – surely?!
So I’ve decided that I’m going to be embracing my inner frozen sausage roll in 2019 and choosing the simple and easy options.
That will commence with a nationwide hunt of the freezer aisles!
Anyone care to join me?