Last time I wrote about weird food from my Sixties childhood in general. This time I'll cover that rainbow of culinary delights, where every crock is filled with gloop. Yes, its pardy time and in the Sixties Party Food was where anything went and it often went in the bin! A Sixties kids' party spread: when Willy Wonka did the cooking whilst Fanny Craddock slipped down the boozer!
Here are a few of my Party favourites:
Jelly: a kids' party without jelly was just not cricket. It'd have been like Sindy having eagle eyes, a scar and gripping hands. Inconceivable! Jelly WAS a party and as long as it was on the table centre-stage it didn't really matter what else was jostling for space. Either set in a mould, usually in the shape of a rabbit or a rounded mountain, or simply set in a large bowl, the essential jelly could be garnished with cute flowers of whipped cream or bathed in lashings of carnation milk and sprinkled with the confetti of choice for Barbie and Ken, hundreds and thousands. It was quite simply spoon heaven.
Sausage Rolls: now, whoever first had the idea of putting a log of sausage meat in a flaky envelope, was in my greasy-fingered opinion a genius of the same order as Einstein or John Noakes. The sausage roll has everything; slender looks, easy grip shape, alluring aroma, portability and a taste to swap your Hot Wheels for. The combination of pork and pastry is a party in itself and as natural a pairing as Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop. A kids' party without a Sausage Roll would be like a Captain without his log. Unthinkable.
Cheese and pickles on a pineapple: looking like a captive from the planet Spiky, this dome of fun was often the centrepiece of a party spread, the kids' equivalent of the boar's head. The specification for the complete sputnik was always the same with some variation on the details:
1. Party Plate = preferably Thunderbirds or Batman
2. Grapefruit halved - left as so or covered in foil
3. Small foodstuffs impaled on cocktail sticks
4. Said sticks stuck into the grapefruit in a pleasing fashion.
Symmetry was essential for the desired wow factor when the gang walked in and a whole box of cocktail sticks had to be used in creating the full bristle. Later additions in flashier households included sparklers and candles but in my view theses detracted from the honesty of the crown.
The actual stick combos could vary from cheese and pickled onions, cheese and pineapple chunk or just plain old cocktail sausages. British tapas at their best, these were canapes for the most discerning juvenile tastes and many a tale of Major Matt Mason breakages and Superball losses were discussed over these 'horses doofers'. Like any work of modern art, it was only ruined by the steady removal of its constituent parts until all that was left was a perforated grapefruit and a pile of sticks. If the Pinhead and his Cenobites didn't eat souls they'd eat this.
Vol-au-Vants: often found at adult soirees, these small sumptuous wells of pastry migrated easily to the kid's party spread. Infinitely munchable, the vol-au-vant, despite no-one knowing what it meant, was basically a flaky beaker filled with either chicken supreme or prawn cocktail, the latter being reserved for adult get-togethers on account of its inherent fishiness.
No words can quite describe that first bite into the wafery wall of the vol-au-vant, when its filo bastion was breached and the creamed treasure therein heartily plundered until, two bites more, it was completely gone. To quieten any further dissent amongst the vol-au-vents, a further stuffed cup had to be conquered for the victory to be complete. The vol-au-vant was the poshest thing we'd ever eaten and probably still is.
Lemonade Floats: there were many party drinks for us Kids in the Sixties and Seventies: Pepsi [for the cool crowd], Tizer, Iron Bru [made from old Lucasade] and if your Paremts were hip, then a Sodastream too. But my favourite was the simple duet of sparkling lemonade and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, served in a tall glass and commonly known as a float [as opposed to a floater, which required a much larger pool of liquid].
The lemonade float was a drink that said 'Its fun every day at Butlins' with every sip, which was usually done slowly through a paper straw. The head of the drink was a creamy haze of fizzed vanilla and lying just below, like an ice-berg from Wonkaland, was the lush ball of Wall's best ice-cream. With every slurp you knew that the best was yet to come, that heavenly moment when nought was left 'cept this creamy prize.
Programmed with the customary good manners of the Sixties, you would at first try to suck the ice-cream through the straw, only to realise after several near-asphyxiations that this defied a basic principle of physics, that large objects cannot rise up a narrow tube. This revelation usually resulted in one of two scenarios: impaling the ice-cream with the straw and eating it until the straw bent and the ball descended to the floor or much more sensibly, checking the table for a spoon, calmly sitting down and savouring every freezing mouthful.
Trendier households may have even had long sundae spoons designed specifically for the job. Less successful variations of the drink included coke and ice-cream [liquid coal] and Tizer and ice-cream [liquid brick]. Combining the ade of lemons and the cream of ice was a holiday in a glass.
If kids designed kitchens, the cold tap would be lemonade float.
So that's it for Party food folks. There were many more modern morsels that muscled in, like pizza slices, marsh mallow lollies, hot dogs and burgers, but these were but brash pretenders for the party crown. What were your favourite celebratory foodstuffs?