Is there any part of our lives that is more open to scrutiny at the moment than our eating habits? From celebrity chefs to Channel Four’s hilarious You Are What You Eat and all those house makeover programmes, dining has never been more under the spotlight.
Middlesex University sheds yet more light on the kitchen, in the form of its latest exhibition, What’s for Dinner? Half a Century of British Eating Habits. The university’s Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture curator Zoë Hendon has pulled together video interviews, statistics, ads, photographs, recipes, magazines, packaging, utensils and food to demonstrate the extent of the UK’s culinary revolution.
Rather than design-for-design’s-sake items, Hendon has picked the quotidian, mass-produced stuff. These products give clues about how lifestyles have changed since rationing ended. For instance, Denby and Pyrex dishes were designed to be oven-to-tableware, which in this era of microwavable ready meals, seems very quaint. But then, in 1961, the average woman spent one hour 40 minutes cooking every day. By 2010, it is predicted to shrink to just eight minutes.
Hendon’s favourite piece is a pink and white 1950s cup and saucer, produced by Silvant Plastics, which goes by the pun of TV Set. She likes fact that the saucer has been elongated, to make space for a Rich Tea biscuit, perhaps. Given that we now eat one in seven meals in front of the box, perhaps this piece should be reissued.
What’s for Dinner? Half a Century of British Eating Habits runs until 29th October, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Middlesex University, Cat Hill, Barnet, Herts, EN4 8HT. Tel: 020 8411 5244