In this extract Jim Quinn reflects on the changes in the types of food eaten during his lifetime. He remembers that people would buy things like sugar, tea and coffee loose in brown paper bags. He remembers that butter used to come in giant slabs and the grocer would cut a pound off for the customer. He says most people didn't eat curries or anything like that. Potatoes were very common and salt and pepper were the primary condiments. He also notes that cooking conditions were very different, a lot of people didn't have electricity so they used gas for lighting or they had paraffin lamps. Most people cooked on their fires, they didn't have cookers.

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And so what changes do you notice most around food now and when you were younger?

Well everything was bought, for instance, my mother would go over to Talbot Street there and go into a place called, I probably forget now but I think it was Becker’s they called it and you’d buy tea, sugar and coffee if you wanted it, very few people drank coffee of course, buy tea, sugar, and stuff like that, all in brown paper bags … so everything, there wasn’t … everybody bought that loose, they bought all this loose … butter come in big slabs and people would... they'd cut a pound off it, that was the creamery butter… but all during my youth right up until after the war there was always farmers’ butter which would be a salty butter, cheaper than the other butter and of course potatoes and potatoes but, as I said, an awful lot of people didn’t eat … didn’t use curries or anything like that but there Dublin there was a tradition, you wouldn’t get it down the country, or you would depending on what sort of town you were in, any of the garrison towns they might have it, the British Army brought in this sort of thing but most people didn’t … I mean they’d pepper and salt and the main condiments and that you know …

So do you think we eat a bigger range of food now?

Yeah, bigger… you've a huge big range, like, I mean broccoli is something I didn't see, I mean... you’d have the usual like turnips, white and swedes and all of those but turnips and carrots, parsnips and onions of course, I’d say you nearly had… then bit by bit things start changing and people start eating em French beans… beans was also another of the things, people used to buy the dried broad beans… but then again bit by bit the cans of beans took over and there’s not much different but they have everything packed up and... or cooked or something which I’m not too sure is it a good idea but having said that that’s what they do now, it’s a huge difference in the foods, a huge difference… and then again you must remember, when I was young first, the house I was living in in Shaw Street had electricity, but nobody else had electricity, it was all gas and everybody had gas so there wasn’t, like, there was no electric lights you know, and some of them had paraffin lamps which were beautiful things but they were the ones... that's the big difference rather than the food… and then again you’d only gas and a lot of people cooked on fires …

So it’s a big difference, yeah …

… big difference, yeah, I mean if you were going to do roasting or anything else …


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Dublin City Life, Housing, Food and Cooking



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"Jim Quinn reflects on the changes in the types of food eaten during his lifetime.." Lifescapes: Mapping Dublin Lives, Item #198 (accessed February 21 2018, 7:21 am)