Party Feast!

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It is fascinating how everyday objects can awaken memories and take us back in time. Many of the items featured in Evergreen transport you through the decades, and when discussing articles for each issue it also prompts us here in the office to share recollections, which is a real tonic. Music and places are frequent sparks for reminiscing, but so too is food as I discovered in my local supermarket the other day.

I was strolling down the aisles, when I spotted packets of the tiniest, most intriguing biscuits ever made - Iced Gems. (Remember them? The miniature biscuit was the base for a pointed, brightly coloured swirl of hard, sweet icing.) All of a sudden I was taken back to the birthday parties of my childhood. A feast of nostalgic party food was served in my mind. There were Fox's Party Ring Biscuits, Jammie Dodgers, Cadbury's chocolate Fingers and Animals, Mini Rolls and jam tarts. Also on the table was an array of savoury treats. Golden Wonder, Smiths, KP and Walkers worked their magic with the humble potato to conjure up crisps and crunchy delights ranging from Chipsticks to Wotsits, Skips to Quavers, Hula Hoops to Monster Munch and Frazzles to Ringos. They came in all shapes, textures and flavours - although the latter's description on the packet didn't always match the actual taste! My favourites were always the salt and vinegar Chipsticks and Twiglets.

No birthday party was complete without the two silver (foil-coated) "hedgehogs", one bearing cheese and pineapple and the other sausages on sticks. These were masterpieces of construction and often given pride of place, only to be destroyed in minutes! An assortment of sandwiches (usually white bread) and filled with ham, cheese and egg were on offer and sometimes there would be the biscuity TUC Cheese Sandwiches (two biscuits stuck together with a layer of curiously hard cheese). The challenge was to prise these apart without breaking the biscuits.

Top billing on the party menu, of course, went to the cake. This was always homemade and much simpler in style and decoration, but no less delicious, than the creations that are baked and bask in the television limelight today! Just to keep our energy levels up there were also jelly and ice cream, while a stash of sweets acted as the prize fund for all those games - or to pacify any argumentative or tearful party-goers.

Today's nutritionists would undoubtedly despair if they looked at the levels of sugar, salt and additives we wolfed down but, as far as we were concerned, the brighter, sweeter and more intensely flavoured the food the better. Interestingly enough, I don't recall any children having food allergies or intolerances in those days - with the exception of school dinners and vegetables!

In later years, I remember birthday trips with friends to the cinema or skating rink, and then we'd end up at the local Wimpy Bar, with its red and white plastic seats and formica-topped tables, for hamburgers, chips (never "fries"!) and milkshakes. Today's youngsters, with their all-action, dynamic celebrations, would be mystified by these simple pleasures, but we loved them. Indeed, just writing about this has sparked other memories about restaurants of yesteryear, such as Berni Inns (Prawn cocktail, steak and Black Forest gateau, anyone?) where my grandma was rather partial to their Calypso Coffee, served with cream and a generous measure of Tia Maria!

The menus back then might have been more limited, less cosmopolitan and health-conscious than today, but as diners we enjoyed every mouthful and the happy, heart-warming memories are still nourishing us all these years later.

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