Eating Out

I enjoy reminiscing; my dad told the same stories over and over and I like to think I’m not as dull as that but I expect my children will tell it differently. The result is, when someone puts up a  prompt that makes my memory bank tick over I’m inclined to give into the urge.

Irene Waters is a writer of memoir over at  Reflections and Nightmares who has started a new monthly challenge – Times Past. This first challenge is

Prompt 1: The first time I remember eating in a restaurant in the evening.

She’s intrigued by the different regional and generational experiences and asks us to reveal where we fit into the categories that have been attributed to different generations. I’m slap bang in the Baby Boomer category – yes, Generaton Xers and Generation Nowers and Generation Whingers, I know we are the ones who spent it all and, boy, have we enjoyed it. Soz and all that.

Any way moving on, living as I did, first, in the deep tree-strewn suburbs of Surrey and then in the family hermitage in the arse-end of nowhere in the New Forest, my opportunities to see other people, let alone eat in company were severally curtailed. This, to my pretty certain knowledge is the first time.

The Angel Inn

We moved house in 1969 when I was turning 13. Not just a street or two away but 100 plus miles. My parents called it an adventure; I called it cruel. What about my friends, why did I have to leave my home turf?

Because of the distance and the complications of the English conveyancing system, meaning moving out of one house and into another in one day was more than a challenge, we were to be treated to a night in a local hotel – the Angel Inn in Lymington. This was, is, an old coaching inn with archway to the coach-yard off the High Street and small pokey rooms. It also had a restaurant, of some small repute back then and we were to dine there.

05 BOX-001

Dressed for a big night out, circa 1969

My first meal out, ever. I mean it’s not like we had lunch out. Even if we went to the pub, the Archaeologist and I sat in the garden or the car while Mum and Dad went inside. Ok, that’s not quite true. My uncle Les – something of the family black sheep back then and consequently something of a glamorous lure to this inhibited twelve year old – took the Archaeologist and me to the fun park, Dreamland I think, at Margate in a sidecar a year or two before this. He treated us to lunch in a Wimpey Bar. This was the rather sad precursor to MacDonald’s. When my grandmother heard where Les had taken us, she was mortified – not because  Wimpey was inherently dangerous or likely to poison us (though that might in fact have been true) but because my snob of a mother wouldn’t want her darlings to be exposed to anything so lacking in class as  a Wimpey – I mean they sold chip sandwiches, for heaven’s sake.

So here I am on the threshold of teenager-ship – as hippies roamed wild and free twenty miles south on the Isle of Wight shedding clothes and inhibitions and ingesting anything with a  super-complex chemical structure – about to be inducted into the mysterious world of adulthood. Avant-garde? Daring? Alternative? Hardly. We are in the epicentre of the G&T encrusted, old boyish, polished brass, prudish, Tory heartlands where the teenager has yet to be invented: a case of neither seen, nor heard.

I’m a child dressed as an adult; a sort of generational cross-dressing as I pretend to be something I’m not, something I want to be but can’t access. I want to come out as an adult but am fearful of the ridicule.

There’s a code of behaviour here that I don’t understand. ‘Behave’ was a reasonably constant parental requirement back then but how? I’m dressed as a twenty-something in tweedy jacket and cast off tie but what do I do?

We are shown to our seats by a black uniformed waiter and given a menu. It gives me something to do with my hands, at least. Maybe there is a special, a question or two from my parents. Dad has a beer and the rest of us soft drinks – Mum can’t drink alcohol. A treat is bottled Britvic pineapple juice, the nearest I get to sophistication. The Archaeologist, always the contrarian, insists on ginger beer and sulks if they don’t have it. I envy his outward confidence to do it his way. Me, I conform in the same way others breathe. I’m the hassle free one, terrified of making a scene, being noticed. I prefer to be watching and absorbing how others conduct themselves.

The menu is explained. A starter choice of Prawns Marie Rose or melon with a glacé cherry. I don’t know what melon tastes like but I love a cherry and chose that. I will regret melon later. For the main course I chose a steak because Dad does. I have no clue what I’m getting never having seen a steak before. How do I want it cooked? In my head I answer ‘In a pan, please.’ Mum answers for me; I expect it is well done. Do I want a knob of garlic butter with it? The Archaeologist gags to my right; even the smell of garlic will cause such a fuss and lead to a stand off with Dad of Kennedy-Khrushchev proportions so I’m encouraged to avoid escalation and have it plain. It comes with chips – at last something familiar. Peas too. Good though tricky to eat as we’ve been taught you must use the back of the fork and not scoop them up – someone tell me why?

Guests at other tables actually talk. We sit silent, allowing Dad to conduct a monologue to fill the gaps between being served. Pudding, apparently called dessert but having nothing to do with sand, arrives in the guise of ice cream. A post meal coffee and Silk Cut for dad – cue Olympic class whining from the Archaeologist about the dangers of smoking – he was always ahead of his time and just as irritating as all the rest who’ve been similarly prescient. We go and sit in the lounge. Dad has an Irish coffee and we marvel at the cream floated on the top.

Freed from starchy white table clothes and be-penguined flunkies we all relax and joke. Dad tells when he was propositioned in a  Manchester hotel and rang mum from his room phone for help. We’ve ‘behaved’ apparently so all’s right with the world. Meanwhile, across the water Bob Dylan plays a set that will go into history. I don’t know this for ten years and a little part of my dies when I realise how close I was to genius. Still I learnt what a steak knife was so that’s a compensation of sorts.

Is this true, a real memory? No, I suspect not but it encapsulates a lot of what I went through back then. And the Archaeologist will read it and maybe fill in any gaps…

 

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in families, family, food and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Eating Out

  1. Love this Geoff. Sounds true enough to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindahuber says:

    Ah yes – getting the peas on the back of your fork! The nightmare of our generation…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gordon759 says:

    Not that inaccurate if my memory is anything to go by, the many subtle and not so subtle ways in which our father was persuaded not to smoke. Now as for eating peas by pressing them on the back of your fork. That is all part of the curious changes in the way we ate that took place during the eighteenth century. I think that will have to be the subject of a future blog – after all there cannot have been many people who, when they saw a two pronged eighteenth century fork asked, ‘but how did they eat peas?’ or the long and curious quest I followed before I serendipitously found out.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Dammit I wrote an unbelievably witty response to this post and WordPress refused to post it – now it’s lost in the early morning pre-coffee murk of my head ……..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Geoff you really should write memoir. Your descriptions of place and people combined with your humour makes for a wonderful read. Thanks for joining in the challenge. You’ve added an English layer to the mix.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: A New Monthly Challenge:Times Past | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  7. Enjoyed that, and the Bob Dylan bit at the end. I think my first evening meal out was at a Berni Inn in Windsor. I wore a new C&A dress and finished my plaice, chips and peas, the first time I had finished any meal not made at home, much to my sister’s disappointment (she had her eyes on the chips). I wonder what was going on across the road at the Castle?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Ah food envy. Yes I’ve had my share of that. What was the occasion? My first meal out with Linda was a Berni in Bristol.

      Like

      • trifflepudling says:

        As far as I remember, it was a pre-going-back-to-boarding-school treat! Made a change from, similar to your experience, sitting with a bag of crisps in the car in the pub car park (where the large male landlord was known as Diana Dors for some reason!) while M&D had a drinkie inside! Sometimes they would sit in the pub garden with us and there was one famous occasion when Daddy drove off with a tray of empty glasses on the roof! I looked the pub up on the internet last night, still there, same name, but rather more food-orientated and posher these days.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I remember those days too. The paper twist in the Smiths crisps and dad giving the bag a shake before it exploded in his grasp.

        Like

  8. noelleg44 says:

    With all that detail, I can’t imagine it’s imagination. There’s a BIG kernel of truth in there somewhere!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. willowdot21 says:

    Parents……………….. we’d not be here without them!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Annecdotist says:

    Great reminiscences, Geoff, and I think you both look lovely in your jackets and ties!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My lot specialise in repeatedly interrupting my stories then making fun of me for dragging them out. I think it’s a set up

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Love this prompt Irene has set out. It’s so interesting. And I’m surprised at how many of us didn’t eat out until we were older(ish). Great story, too. 😀 “In a pan, please.”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Charli Mills says:

    I’m enjoying the results of Irene’s monthly prompt so far! First, I have to ask about the peas. Radio Geek went to the UK for two weeks on a theater expedition on high school and returned with the knowledge of “mashy peas.” Is that a thing? We’ve mashed our peas ever since, thinking we are eating them in the style of Brits, but really I have no idea! 🙂 I love that you hung back and watched how everyone else “behaved” and that you ordered steak. Ah, so close to Dylan but wielding a steak knife counts for something.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gordon759 says:

      I think you are confusing two peas. This first is the traditional (since the late eighteenth century) British method of eating peas, by pressing them on the back of a fork in order to make them stick there so they can be carried neatly to the mouth.
      The second is the dish ‘Mushy Peas’, a rather revolting way of cooking large, ‘marrowfat peas’ in such a way that they turn into a thick, lumpy greenish brown paste. A type of fast food developed in the second quarter of the twentieth century.

      Liked by 3 people

      • TanGental says:

        Mushy peas… Hmm never a favourite though they will always be close to my heart because of their role in embarrassing Mandleson over the ‘is this guacamole?’ Faux pas.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Marrowfat peas…sounds like something that would pair well with haggis. Is that the origins of “peas porridge hot; peas porridge cold; peas porridge in the pot nine days old”?

        And we don’t press so neatly…true western-Yank-style, overdo it and mash ’em all up and still scoop! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        That would be what I understood as pease pudding as a child. Sort of unspiced tarka Dahl. Ghastly.

        Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      The Archaeologist has given you the facts but there’s a moth south split here. Mushy peas are a delicacy of the northern industrial heartlands whereas peas squeezed onto the back of a fork is a southern prevention. At least that’s the stereotype!

      Liked by 2 people

      • gordon759 says:

        Having grown up in an entomological household I like the idea of a moth-south split. However the division is slightly more complicated, than a simple either or. Garden peas were, and I suspect still are, eaten by being pressed on the back of a fork in all parts of the British Isles, indeed one of the earliest clear descriptions of eating peas pressed on a fork comes from Northern England. Mushy Peas, on the other had are a Northern ‘delicacy’ but seem to have originated comparatively recently, the term is first recorded by the OED in 1973. This would suggest that the dish was not developed until the twentieth century.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        A prevention? Like preventing peas escaping the plate?

        Liked by 1 person

  14. julespaige says:

    I was very much like you, a misfit of the 1960’s and right in the heart of it too.
    I enjoyed this prompt. And was glad to participate.
    I’m starting with reading other Baby Boomers. And there was your story!
    I was a quiet youth… but no more. I think we have both ‘bloomed’. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: Historical Reconstructions – Cutlery and Peas | The Curious Archaeologist

  16. Pingback: Times Past: Prompt 2 Women’s Work? | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

If you would like to reply please do so here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s