The Guinness Guide to Profitable Snacks (cover)

The other day we told you about Guinness’s drive to get more publicans serving food in the 1960s. Now, as promised, here’s some info on the recipes they were pushing.

The book, more-or-less A5 sized and in hard-covers, has a mix of black-and-white and colour photos, the latter with that particular gaudiness that makes food look faintly obscene in any book published before about, say, 1990. If you follow @70s_party on Twitter you’ll know what we mean although it must be said nothing in the Guinness book is as fundamentally horrifying as most of the excessively ‘creative’ recipes presented there.

It begins with a few double-page spreads like this one:

'Why snacks?' (spread with man drinking beer and bullet point list)

That’s interesting because it summarises where things were at in 1961: food definitely wasn’t the norm and people needed convincing, ideally with a bit of what we assume passed for female-friendly eye candy back then.

Still life: sandwich ingredients.

The first set of recipes are for sandwiches which, to modern eyes, look simple to the point of being plain — where’s the small pail of chips, the handful of rocket, and the crusty ciabatta? The suggested fillings range from classics we still enjoy today (ham, beef, chicken mayonnaise) to things that won’t be showing up in Wetherspoon’s any time soon such as kippers, tongue and…

A sardine/sild sandwich.

Next, there are suggestions for nibbles to accompany drinks, perhaps even to be given away free of charge. Cheese tossed in a dressing of vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper sugar and mustard actually sounds pretty good, and is something we’d buy if pubs offered it.

'Piquant Cheese' -- a bowl of cheese nibbles and a basket of bread.

Fish titbits, on the other hand — ‘Bottled or tinned mussels, shrimps and prawns… in little bowls’ — seem somehow less appealing — like a shortcut to A&E.

'Fish Titbits' -- bowls of prawns, mussels, etc.

The more substantial meals come in several categories out of which ‘Lunch Snacks’ most closely resembles the classic pub grub line-up: mixed grill, shepherd’s pie and fish pie are all still (just about) to be found in pubs today. Sardine salad? Not so often. These days, we’d probably expect lighter food at lunch and substantial meals in the evening, wouldn’t we? Suggesting, perhaps, that the rise of pub grub was fuelled in part by business expense accounts but sustained by the growth in leisure dining.

A selection of Farmers’ Specials includes pasties, cheese and onion pie by the slice, and a dish that has made a comeback in recent years as a trendy-pub staple:

Scotch Eggs in a dish.

Those look pretty awful, though — like they were laid by a Pterodactyl and preserved in the bed of a dried-up river.

Finally, here’s how quickly American fast food hit the pub after its introduction via Wimpy burger bars in the late 1950s:

7_burger8_hotdog

That hot dog with melted Gruyere, it must be said, looks very up-to-date and pretty tasty.

In conclusion, there is definitely the seed of what would become the standard food offer in pubs by the 1980s but the emphasis is on snacks — on dishes that can be prepared with little equipment in a small pub kitchen by one person, perhaps without anything more than a simple grill for heating things through. There’s no steak and ale pie, no lasagna and, perhaps most shockingly, no chips! It perhaps has more in common with the beer-friendly tapas of Andalucia than it does with the gastropub fare of today.

The rear cover: a ham roll with a glass of Guinness.

Our copy of the book cost GBP2.81 delivered, via Amazon, and there are loads out there. But yours might not come, as ours did, with ketchup stains and Sellotape.

19 Comments

  1. Adrian Tierney-Jones

    The pictures and your commentaries are making me laugh aloud — brilliant!

  2. CarsmileSteve

    I cant remember the last time I had a proper mixed grill or even saw one on a menu, but this is more to do with my pub choices I think?

  3. Yeah, they’re still around, but you have to go old school — those pubs that were listed in pub guides in the 1980s and haven’t changed. Or the chains — Brewers’ Fayre, etc. (Side fact: I once got a certificate for finishing a ‘Jumbo Challenge’ mixed grill. Then ate what was left on my pal’s plate too. I am not proud.)

  4. A toasted sandwich was considered the height of sophisticated pub snacking when I started drinking, back in the early 1970’s. Either that or a packet of KP peanuts!
    Some great illustrations, but curled, dried-up slices of “Mother’s Pride” bread, anaemic tomatoes and limp looking lettuce, sardines and tongue, remind me that is not an era I wish to be transported back to!
    ps. What type of fish is sild? Never heard of it.

  5. Paul — there’s a whole double spread on ways to revive stale loaves — dip in water and put in the oven for 10 minutes, for example.

  6. Stanley Blenkinshop

    Exactly what a chum of mine tells me used to happen at a bakery where he worked.
    Day-old rolls were dunked in water and then shoved back in the ovens and always put on the back of the delivery lorry so they’d be the first to go.

  7. Flower’s included a section on food in their “Flower’s Guide to Publicans and Sinners”, published in 1960 (intended as a brief guide for licensees). It contains some interesting sandwich recipes, such as anchovy and horseradish and – quite strange – French bean. And we are told that “if you have guests staying, don’t throw away those bacon rinds after breakfast. Keep them and fry them to a crispy state, chop into lengths of about one inch, sprinkle with salt and you have a tasty thirst-giving snack for the counter”. I don’t think I have ever seen this advice put into practice, however.

  8. Thanks, John — great stuff, as always.

  9. Sild is the Norwegian name for (Atlantic) herring

  10. Thanks, Helge. I remember eating it as a kid and what distinguished it, at least as sold in the UK, was the size — somewhere between anchovies and sardines.

  11. Matthew Curtis (@totalcurtis)

    My Dad often reminds me of how he used to be able to get a pint of John Smith’s and a slice of bread and dripping for 12p when he was a student in early 1970’s Sheffield. Maybe bread and dripping will be the next street food craze? I’d eat it.

  12. We got served a free plate of bread and dripping with every round at a pub in Wrocław when we went a few years back — it was great. You see the same basic thing on pubs menus in Germany and Poland fairly frequently (Schmaltz/Smalec). Filthy, wonderful stuff.

  13. Whatever happened to the hawkers of seafood that used to come around pubs later in the evening?

  14. Elf’n’safety, shouldn’t wonder. I was reminiscing the other day about the pubs that used to serve proper ploughman’s – great hunks of Stilton and Lancashire cut from a whole cheese right there in front of you, no messing… – when it occurred to me that the real reason nobody does this any more is almost certainly that they can’t. Cheese at room temperature, open to the room? It’s a bacteriological nightmare.

  15. There’s a bit of discussion about that in the comments here.

  16. Over here in SE London you still them from time to time selling the usual cockles, mussels etc. There’s also a bloke with a supermarket shopping basket full of sweets who does a brisk trade.

  17. Last time I definitely saw someone selling seafood from a wicker basket in a pub was around Christmastime 2010, in a pub in the South Yorkshire village where I grew up. I’ve spent the last twelve or thirteen years living in London and then Manchester – I’ve never seen this practice in those places. The only other place I’ve seen it done is Nottingham, probably about ten years ago.

  18. Last one I saw was in the Cross Keys, Chester in 1988 (then a Boddingtons pub) – I think I had a Whelk.

  19. I can’t be certain of wicker baskets but to this day The Lord Nelson on the Isle of Dogs in East London sells shellfish, prawns etc out the back every Saturday morning.

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