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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Sepia Saturday - Eating Out Memories

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers the opportunity to share their family history through photographs. 

Eating out in France.

Cafes & Canteens is the theme of this week's Sepia Saturday prompt, and I cannot  remember ever as a child going for a meal to a cafe or restaurant.  I grew up in the 1950's and we simply never ate out.  I don't think we were unusual - people just did not do it, when you could eat at home. 

We lived then in the north west seaside resort of Blackpool, so there was an abundance of cafes and fish and chip shops - but they were there for visitors, not for us.  My only memory is of a regular Saturday afternoon trip with my mother  into town to meet my Aunt Edith at a cafe that specialised in icecream from the local Palatine Dairy.   

In my  early teens we moved to York,  and again I have no recollections of eating out. This must  have been the time of the coffee bar culture, but that passed me by, and at weekends I met friends at my home or theirs. There was no "just hanging out". 

By my late teens we were living in Edinburgh and I remember going for a birthday treat with my mother to the Chocolate House (long since gone) on Princes Street.  (I remain a chocoholic!)   There was also the tea room at PT's (Patrick Thomson's) department store on the North Bridge, where it was all very genteel with soft music playing and waitresses serving.  

I suppose my first experience of eating out must have been school dinners.

Like most people I hated them, especially the fatty meat, liver, red cabbage, sprouts and anything with hot milk such as custard and the milk puddings - rice, tapioca (nicknamed frog spawn or fish eye pud!) and semolina where I tried to eke out the miserable spoonful of jam to disguise the awful taste.  Also among my dislikes,  soggy bread & butter pudding  and Queen's pudding (apart from the meringue topping),  Menus did not seem to change much over my 13 years of school life. Fly pie (current slices), chip butties and kilted sausages were my few favourite. 

As an impoverished student, I lived off beans and chips for lunch (1s.6d) as the cheapest item on the refectory menu.  Meeting friends,  we would go to a  a Wimpy Bar and make one coca-cola last all evening.

Now eating out is one of our great regular pleasures, not just for special occasions such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries or family visits,  but to enjoy a relaxing lunch in a pub, bistro or country house hotel.  

Eating out on holidays abroad is extra special, especially if it is out of doors (we don't get much chance of that in Scotland)   and we are extremely partial in Bavaria and Austria. to visiting "Konditorei" (the equivalent to  French patisserie) .

A sign at our hotel in Berchtesgarten. Bavaria.  

I was an avid reader in my early teens of the Chalet Scghool stories, set in the Austrian Tyrol where having "Kaffee und Kuchen" seemed to be a favourite phrase.  It was not until I learned German at school that I realised the correct pronunciation - "und" was "unt" and the ch in Kuchen was as  in "loch" not as in "chips" 

By the time we went to Austria I could order from the amazing selection of delicious cakes and pastries at the Cafe/Konditorei Zauner, founded in 1832 in the spa town of Bad Ischl,  It more than met my expectations of an elegant, old fashioned  Viennese style cafe. 


We indulged!  

Click HERE to see  other bloggers enjoyed  the cafe culture.  

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserv


  1. Like you, I grew up in England in the 50s and also have no recollection of eating out. I do remember sitting in the car with a bag of crisps and a lemonade while mum and dad had a drink in a pub. This was usually on the way home from visiting relatives. There were no worries about drinking and driving back then.

  2. I don't remember eating out a lot as a kid but I remember my dad bringing home hamburgers from the What-A-Burger diner. We thought they were called "water burgers." That doesn't sound one bit appetizing but they were delicious, maybe partly because we didn't fix them at home.

  3. I'm still laughing over "frog spawn." It's an absolutely PERFECT name for that disgusting stuff...and I, too, am a chocoholic (dark, dark, please!).

  4. No hot dinners at school here, just byo sandwiches or takeaways from the canteen /tuckshop, and we didn't go to restaurants in the sixties either. My parents occasionally indulged in Friday night takeaways from either the fish and chip shop or the local Chinese, which incidentally is still going fifty years later and has become quite a pleasant restaurant.

  5. Frog spawn? Boo. I love tapioca pudding. My mom used to make it with crushed pineapple. Ohhh, & all those pastries under glass! I can almost taste them. Cute pic of Neil just about to partake of a bite of something obviously good! :)

  6. I'm glad to see that others grew up in an environment which didn't include eating out. And at secondary school only the bus travellers from outlying districts ate their cut lunch at school. The rest of us went home for lunch, in my case a mile home, a two course cooked "dinner" and a mile back, all in one hour. If I had that meal at lunch time these days I'd fall asleep.

  7. I think the Viennese perfected the cafe culture first, but now it seems everywhere. Over the past years on our visits to London there has definitely been a cultural change in British food fashions. Markets are more sophisticated with fresher produce; pubs now usually have good food; and there are many more French style cafes than American burger joints.

  8. I'd have loved the Chocolate House.

  9. in Winnipeg, where I grew up, we didn't eat out either. We got take-home chop suey about once a year. As a teen, I started going out with friends for coffee, fish n'chips and the like. As an adult in the food business I had times when I ate nothing at home. All my calories had to be "spent" for professional purposes.

  10. Thank you to everyone who shared their memories of eating out. Wherever we lived in the world, it seems those of us growing up in the 1950's did not have much of that pleasure. What a change in today's society!

  11. Hi Sue - yes I guess I don't remember really eating out much as a child of the 60s...what we did do was have lots of picnics though which sadly seem to have dropped off the menu of late. I do enjoy fresh air and eating outside.

  12. I was a teenager in the early 50's and my future husbands family ate out at a little Italian place. I was included in their family dinners there -- which to me was sooo special -- we dinna eat out either. However, I do remember going out with my dad to a wrestling match and aftewards we stopped at this little hamburger place. We sat on turn-y kind of stools at the counter and ate our hambburgers. I can still remember the sights, sounds and smells of that burger joint. Probably had more to do with having my dad's undivided attention than the burger joint.


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