We never went hungry during rationing

A typical cockle seller
A typical cockle seller

Tash Tales with Alf Ridyard

In the early 1950s food rationing was still in force in the UK, it wasn’t until 1954 that meat became freely available and sugar rationing was only withdrawn in 1953.

Butter, margarine bacon and tea rationing lasted until 1952, so we had some strange ideas of meals.

Some years ago a family friend told me the strangest thing regarding the good old bacon butty, the bacon was in those days fried in lard and not grilled, when taken out of the pan the bacon slices were placed on the children’s bread, squashed then removed and placed on the parent’s bread who had then a bacon butty as we know it, the children having slices of buttered bread with the taste of the bacon and the lard it had been fried in.

These were known as bacon print butties, a derivative of the dripping butties no doubt, spoken of many times over the years.

Another breakfast for children was pobs, hot milk poured over chunks of dry bread, in my case liberally covered in sugar.

Had the bread not ended up covered in milk it would have been stuck on the toasting fork over the coal fire then riddled in butter, even though butter was still rationed, the bread being considered too dry for making sandwiches.

Sunday dinner was meat and two veg with roasted potatoes and again nothing was wasted, any leftovers were mixed together in the faithful frying pan on Monday and a great comfort food called bubble and squeak was created, so called as the cabbage bubbled away with a strange squeaking noise.

Derivatives of this was tatter ash, much the same really. Very little meat from the animals was wasted but today youngsters would not eat some of the offal parts that were prevalent in the 50s.

Tripe (cow stomach lining), elder (made from a cow udder), haslet (pig liver with onions), brawn (from the head of a pig or calf), faggots (pig heart, liver and fatty belly meat), cow eels, pigs trotters, oxtails (for homemade soup) ham shanks (for pea and ham soup which could almost be eaten with a fork it was so thick) were all commonplace back in those days, although savoury duck/faggot is to me still a delicacy.

Spam also made its appearance in WW2 and being tinned was more convenient for storage along with corn beef which had been around longer, both are still widely used today, many older people more than 70 will have fond memories of the Duck and Cake shop on the old market square in Leigh, a visit after a few pints was a must or a fish supper on the way home, restaurants at the time were extremely rare in the local towns, probably the only ones were the “British restaurant” a relic of WW2 where people could get a cheap satisfying meal for 9d (4p) during the war years, these were now run in Leigh (Back Salford) and Atherton (Market Street/Bag Lane) by the councils and probably only open during the day.

These places disappeared in the middle 50s, the Leigh one became the central kitchens for school meals and Atherton’s became the electricity board shop.

Pubs did not serve food back then other than crisps, pickled eggs or later in the 50s cheese and biscuits and silver skin onions, neatly packaged and hanging on a card behind the bar.

Peanuts and pork scratchings similarly packaged also made their debut in the middle 50s.

A regular treat at weekends was the visit from the cockle man, selling vinegar-soaked cockles, winkles or whelks in packets or little polystyrene pots, now long since gone.

No article in Leigh regarding food would be complete without a mention of the Leigh delicacy Lobby, of course this was not just a post-war delicacy it had been around since the early 1700s, made simply from cheap cuts of meat, potatoes and onions, each household adding their own special ingredient, of course nowadays the majority of people make it with corned beef.

This is one dish that has stood the test of time, the kebab shops, Indian, Chinese and pizza takeaways have failed to quell our appetite for this king of foods.

Ambrosia may have been the food of the Gods in ancient Greece but Lobby is the food of Leythers, pass me the red cabbage and a hunk of crusty bread.

Once the Lobby had been eaten, puddings would be mother’s homemade rice pudding or a piece of singing Lilly ( pastry filled with currants) or jam and coconut cake, again a pastry base with a thin filling of jam and covered with desiccated coconut.

Times were tough in those years but I and all my friends never went hungry, meals were put on the table at a specific time and that’s what you got, not a choice, if you did not eat it you got nowt.