MEMORIES FROM THOSE WHO ATTENDED FRIENDS' SCHOOL, SAFFRON WALDEN

Food

Shân Lancaster [Poynder]: Food is the most evocative thing of all. When I smuggled a friend of mine from home into a Sunday evening tea once she was traumatised by the awfulness of the bowls of beetroot swimming in vinegar, the leathery, dry, strangely chewy lettuce (no dressing – not even salad cream) and the rectangular white slabs of cold pastry with some sort of processed meat filling. We called tea (served in big copper jugs) “char” and there was some special word for butter – tack? I got into trouble for joining a butter-flicking craze – we used to have one huge slab of margarine per table and a tiny circular individual bit of butter each, arranged around it – remember?

If the butter was just warm enough to be firm yet adhesive you could flick it up to the ceiling where it stuck until the room got warm enough to melt it and it landed on the person below. I thought this was very amusing but that thin, blond biology teacher John Chapman, who was going out with Therese Roxby-Bott, didn’t.

The best things they ever served up were boiled eggs and a roll – you could make a hot egg sandwich. Some people used to put marmalade on their fantastically greasy fried bread….but the tinned tomatoes were better I thought.

The tables in the dining room had big cracks in them, full of congealed bits of former meals, which you could excavate with your fork while you waited for your plate to be passed down with its wafer-thin slice of dark-brown, crumbly beef or pale pink pork with a huge bit of white fat dangling all round.

The good thing about all this was that it was dead easy to diet. Very few of us were fat!

Anna Roberts: The truly appalling food which we sat down to eat in that baronial dining hall…. porridge that would cement bricks together springs to mind!

Angus Willson: At the 2002 reunion Greg Bufton (1977) reminded me what it was like to be a vegetarian at the time when meals were conducted with table service. It meant the ‘veggie table’ had a wide span of year groups which he recalled as a great privilege. I am sure that this interaction, combined with a host of siblings, was an important influence on our lives. (For Greg’s assessment of the 1973 year group, ‘They were gods then, they’re still gods now.’ see www.cedars.demon.co.uk/fssw77/reviews.html (- link now broken).

For my own part, being vegetarian was, and still is, more of an inconvenience to others which arises from a personal preference, not through high-minded principle. I did eat sometimes meat as a student and in the early years of our marriage but subsequently we opted for a vegetarian diet and have remained so for years. I can be as boring on this subject as any other, but I don’t feel compelled to change the world. I hadn’t thought of this aspect when considering this collection of memories, but clearly the lifestyle-minority inclusion of a Friends boarding school enabled this choice for many more to follow. These days, you don’t even have to sit at a separate table.

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One Response to “Food”

  • David Heydecker says:

    Please excuse the intrusion from someone in the year above. The butter-flicking craze reminded me of the distribution of butter pats (one per person at each table) around a block of marge. There was a period when much of the marge was rancid. Once, we returned our noxious block to the hatch for replacement. What was returned seemed to be in much the same state and someone remarked that it looked like the same block of marge, but on a plate of different colour. We put this theory to the test. An “X” was inscribed- corner to corner- on each of the six faces of this block. These markings must have been obvious to anyone but the rancid marge made several more return trips (at least three, but I remember a stupid number), each time being re-issued on a different plate to that on which it was taken up to the hatch. After we’d had enough fun with this, MD (full name withheld for the moment), a young man of formidable argumentative power even then, went to remonstrate. I suspect the kitchen staff never knew what hit them….

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