Having recently been to a seventies-themed dinner party, I have to wonder how the hell we all managed to survive into the eighties. And I'm not just talking about the horrific clothes that all seemed to come in a nasty shade of dysentery brown and septic orange ether - I'm talking about the food.
Everyone who turned up at the aforementioned historical re-enactment nosh-and-booze-up was required to bring along some authentic seventies food. Not from the actual seventies - that would be asking for food poisoning, there's only so long a packet of Vesta Curry will go past its sell-by-date after all, and nearly thirty years is probably pushing it - but everything had to be made from era-appropriate recipes.
She who must and I turned up bearing a tuna mousse, made in the traditional manner with Carnation evaporated milk, tinned tuna, and packet gelatine, all lovingly poured into a brass mould in the shape of a fish. Next up: strawberry milk jelly in a lumpy doughnut-ring-style Tupperware mould*. And last, but not least: Mexican mince, which is what passed for chilli back in the day (when beans were baked, not kidneyed).
Of these, the only thing thing that was even vaguely edible was the Mexican mince. The tuna mousse was like sucking on a fisherman's sock while he's still wearing it. And he's suffering from an infected, ingrowing toenail. And possibly some sort of fungal infection. The milk jelly split into a gritty layer of curdled white bits, and a wobbly layer of apologetic pink. But people could keep down the Mexican mince without going green and sprinting for the toilet.
Someone had gone to the trouble of buying a vintage Fanny Craddock** cookbook and lovingly crafted a traditional Boeuf Bourguignon, using some extremely good beef. But by the time Fanny got through with it, it might as well have been cavity wall insulation. How the hell did that woman become a mainstay of British culinary endeavour? She's a menace. Plus looked like a cross between Dame Barbara Cartland and a shaved Rottweiler. And her Boeuf Bourguignon tasted (and I use the following word in full knowledge of its inherent campness) ghastly.
But the superstar of the whole seventies food-fest was the person who squeezed Primula onto Ritz Crackers and topped them with a copule of prawns. Not big meaty king prawns, but those little pink commas you get in the freezer section of supermarkets. And they were great. So great in fact that She Who Must Be Spoiled With Exotic Comestible Treats and I bought a tube for ourselves the next week, and ate the whole thing in two days. Mmm, cheese you can squeeze...
I don't know why, but there's something inherently wrong about cheese that comes in a tube. And there's something equally wrong about cheese with bits of stuff added to it. But the chive-speckled Primula just works. It's savoury toothpaste for the soul.
The strange thing is, that all this horrible, claggy, vile food was the height of sophistication in 1970's Britain. Christ only knows why. In the aftermath of The Dinner Party That Time Forgot the Fanny Craddock cookbook was showered with vitriol, profanity, and finally lighter fluid. Then barbecued in full ceremonial fashion. Yes, it could have gone to a charity shop, but that would be a bit like leaving a cannister of smallpox lying about on the shelf, just waiting for someone to pick it up and ruin their life, reputation, and stomach lining.
* As you can probably tell, putting stuff in moulds was the height of sophistication in seventies Aberdeen. Oh yes, we knew how to live the wild life!
** The best Fanny Craddock quote has to come from her husband Johnnie, who was a bit of a dypso, and after she'd finished making doughnuts on live TV, turned to the camera and said to an eager nation, "And I hope all your doughnuts turn out like Fanny's." Which is a lot ruder in the UK than it is in the US. Even if that does sound like he's wishing everyone in America a dose of deep-fried arseholes.