University of Portsmouth's History Blog

‘Fodder for the masses’: Student recipes in the 1960s

Dr Jodi Burkett is Principal Lecturer in History at the university, and teaches across the undergraduate course including a special subject on ‘Students and Youth in postwar Britain’. She is currently doing research on student activism around issues of ‘race’, racism and anti-racism between the late 1960s and early 1990s which includes reading a lot of student newspapers.

While waiting in an epic queue in the Hub, or eating your Co-op meal deal, I’m sure many of you have asked yourselves:

What did students eat in the late 1960s?

For many undergraduate students, going to University is the first time that they are living on their own and having to cook for themselves. The student newspaper at the University of Warwick in the late 1960s saw this and decided to help students out by giving them some recipe ideas. In their weekly student newspaper, the Warwick Campus, during January 1969 there appeared a column titled ‘Fodder for the masses’. All of the student newspapers from this era at Warwick can be accessed digitally here:

The recipes seemed to have two things in common – they are simple and they can be done on the cheap!

For example, the recipes in the issue from the 10th of January 1969 all revolved around eggs. They included wonderful ideas like ‘Egg and Ham Moulds’ and ‘Egg in a window’. But my personal favourite (for the gross factor alone) was ‘Eggs stuffed with pate’.

Source: Warwick Campus, 10 January 1969, p.2.

The following week’s newspaper was themed ‘New Ways With Meat’ and featured ‘Liver Josephine’. What exactly that consisted of (and who was poor Josephine?) I’ll leave up to your imagination!

In the wake of this, there appears to have been a move towards worrying about the health, or, more precisely, the calories, in food. In the newspaper on the 24th of January there was a long list of the ‘Horrifying Facts When Visiting the Food Machines’ which included the calorie content of everything from crisps, to scotch eggs, fruit pie, peppermints and apples. In order to offset the seemingly ‘horrific’ 25 calories in a carton of milk, they offered recipes for a ‘Devilled Cutlet’ (Approx. 280 calories) and a ‘Cottage Cheese Salad’ (Approx 300 calories). The ‘recipe’ for this last one was particularly simple:

Top 2 tinned pears with 4 oz cottage cheese and eat with salad.

Source: Warwick Campus, 24 January 1969, p. 2

That’s it. That’s the recipe. And the entire column the following week was devoted to ‘Sandwiches’ listing 12 savoury and 7 sweet fillings that you could choose from to help break out of the ‘cheese and luncheon meat rut’. They included a number of ways to use ‘bacon juice’ including sprinkling it over peanut butter and apple slices (savoury) or tossing it with grated apple and mixing with honey and raisins (sweet).

The interest in food among Warwick students, although short-lived in the newspaper having been largely phased out by February 1969, did not die out completely and was published in a recipe book in 1972

Other than being disgusting and mildly amusing, what can this tell us as historians? There are a couple of key issues when using these recipes as historical evidence: 1) we don’t know if anyone actually read the students’ newspaper, and 2) we don’t know if anyone actually tried these ‘recipes’. That said, they can still be used as interesting and important historical sources. They can tell us about what kind of foods were readily available and considered commonplace, and they can tell us about how students were perceived, amongst other things. They can give us a ‘flavour’ of what life was like on Warwick campus at this time and encourage us to look at the offerings of the Hub’s ‘Thursday Curry Club’ with a bit more appreciation…

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