Julie Bindel

My 1970s kitchen nightmare

It’s filled with useless aspirational gadgets of my youth

  • From Spectator Life

During the Covid lockdowns, I accrued a number of kitchen implements I used only once or twice before confining them to the back of the cupboard. One item that lurks among the mismatched Tupperware is a rather expensive chip pan, namely a deep fat fryer with a whacking three litre capacity, in stainless steel, with a viewing window. I live with one other person, not in a lesbian commune, so why I thought I needed one as big I cannot fathom. In fact, why I needed one at all I have no idea.

Stuck at the back of my cupboards is a soda stream, coffee percolator, and an electric carving knife

Then there is the pasta maker I could not resist buying, along with supplementary gadgets including a ravioli tablet; drying rack; and roller and cutter set. I have used it only once, and it takes up a full cupboard all by itself.

Before you judge me as a money-wasting brat with an Amazon Prime habit, do remember that the restaurants were closed for what felt like an eternity, and I missed decent French fries and home-made pasta. But both were a disaster: the fries were soggy and burned at the same time, which was quite a feat, and the pasta looked (and tasted) like an explosion in a wool factory.

The most disturbing thing about my collection of kitchen implements is that they all seem to belong in the 1970s. Stuck at the back of my cupboards is a soda stream, coffee percolator, and an electric carving knife. These are embolic of the kitchens of aspiring working class women in the 1970s, acquired from Grattan’s catalogue and paid for on the never-never. Such gadgets were often on display to impress visitors and never used.

Other popular items in a 1970s kitchen included a toasted sandwich maker, pressure cooker, hand-held whisk, soda stream, and spice rack, all of which I possess, along with an egg slicer which remains unused. But perhaps I am simply ahead of the game, and totally on trend. According to large department stores such as John Lewis, 1970s kitsch is making a massive comeback, and that includes the food as well as the décor.

The upmarket magazine Country Living told us last year that 1970s kitchen wallpaper is creeping back on the market. Then there are the terracotta floor tiles which were the rave when I was at school, and the hostess trolley, used by women (because no man has ever been seen near to one) would pre-prepare an entire menu, such as Sunday roast, well in advance and leave it simmering on the hot plates. By the time lunch was served the gravy had to be sliced, and the vegetables were waterlogged. That electric carving knife would come in handy to slice the rock-hard beef.

Although the trolley does not seem to be enjoying a revival, steamers, teasmades and even yogurt makers are back in fashion, and in cool vintage styles. And sales of old classics such as prawn cocktail, Arctic roll, chicken Kiev and angel delight have significantly increased lately, according to Waitrose. The supermarket chain has also seen a growing trend in retro dinner party recipe searches on its website since lockdown. I have begun to make jelly, but with prosecco or margarita mix rather than water, and then topped with fresh coconut and caramelised pineapple.

One of the most popular dishes at pretentious dinner parties in the 1970s was the cheese fondue – that atrocious mix of bubbling cheese laced with gin. Some restaurants, such as St Moritz in London’s Soho, have kept fondues on the menu throughout the decades, but I loathe the stuff. Why, then, have I got an entire fondue set in my already cluttered cellar? I think I might be having a car boot sale this weekend. Anyone nostalgic for Fray Bentos place mats?