Saturday 26 November 2022

What to Wear 13


Upper Upwards wear a lot of cashmere in subtle colours. Samantha Upward buys her jerseys (never a "jumper" or "sweater") from ebay, and sometimes dyes them with Dylon or natural dyes like onion skins, tea and blackberries. The garments are old, and wear through quickly or get eaten by moths, but you can always buy more. You can even cut out squares from the uneaten bits, machine them together and turn them into another garment.

Here’s a list of very upmarket items you didn’t know you needed. 

Cashmere wash
Cashmere brush
Yacht varnish
Escargot tongs
Grape scissors
Mink storage closet
Marble polish
Silver champagne trug
Cordless hoover for your yurt
Curry comb for the alpacas

Per the Times, Nov 2022, middle-class parents dress and accessorise their children entirely in “sad beige”. This extends to dolls, toys and even mugs and plates. But as Jilly Cooper points out, “All little girls are lower middle class” (Class, 1975). Aged six, I wanted to wear a tutu all the time, and see-through plastic high heels, and wave a pink plastic miniature umbrella printed with ballerinas. Mum disdained shop-bought fancy dress – she always made ours, without consulting us, so we were forced to wear a humiliating cracker costume instead of what we wanted – something pretty.

Kate Long (@volewriter) is fighting the good fight against small boys’ clothes plastered with dinosaurs and spaceships, while girls’ clothes are pink and decorated with mottos like LOVE or PRINCESS. She’s right to be indignant, but this is also a class thing. Clothes covered in slogans, feathers, rhinestones, pink plastic beads and a unicorn appliqué are naff. But I always wanted organdie, gauze and net. And multiple flounces. And I still want to meet Prince Charming.

Again quoting Jilly Cooper: when working class men go tieless, they spread their shirt collar neatly over the lapels of their jacket. There was a fad a few years ago for middle-class men to lose the ties, but they were awkward and half-hearted about it. They just took the tie off and the shirt collar looked empty and untidy. I think the trend has passed.

Who was Liz Truss's stylist? Women politicians are going for dresses in block colours, rather than suits. It's a uniform: safe but dull, skirts to mid-calf, featuring the kind of drapery over the bust that used to be recommended to large ladies circa 1955. Truss has an hourglass figure, and nobody advised her to adopt the Bessie Braddock armoured corset. But in a short skirt her curtsey would have looked even more uncertain. 

Are Fair Isle jumpers a sign of frumpy nerdiness? Aran jumpers probably the same, though they had a moment in the 70s.

Sam buys an outfit for her daughter’s wedding, but shudders at the term “occasion wear”. Middle-class Jen Teale yearns for the days of the coffee lace two-piece – dress with matching coat. Caro Stow-Crat wears a short jacket with a fishtail midi skirt to hide her legs in the photographs. 

When Jen takes off her jersey, her T shirt never rises with it, exposing her midriff or still worse, bra. She has just learned and rehearsed a method – she probably tucks the shirt into her waistband. 

Sharon Definitely never wears the same designer outfit twice – she buys the garment, tucks in the labels, wears it once and returns it. (Dress hire companies still exist and flourish.)

Don’t tie your jumper or cardigan round your waist, or you’ll look like a child from the council estate – I was told by a girl from the council estate. And pushing up your sleeves "made you look like a washerwoman", said the nuns - especially if you then put your hands on your hips. Folding your arms was out too. (Any gesture that meant your hands touched your body were out – including putting your palms on your thighs when sitting down – these are injunctions that go back to the 18th century.)

Working-class people buy “name brands” to show they can afford them. This means the middle classes shun those brands and buy cheaper generic clothes – or expensive brands that don’t flash their identity. Boden-wearers like to pretend that they spend their entire lives on a deserted white-sand beach.

Caro asks: What happened to “country clothes” and “town clothes”? There was a moment in the 1920s when women could only wear black in town. So if you lived there year-round it would be rather funereal! The answer is that you didn’t live there all year round – you spent most of your time in the country, where you wore tweeds and emphatically no black unless someone had died. There are many restrictive rules about what you can’t wear in the country (high heels, black stockings), but what about the town? It’s full of visitors wearing hiking costume, though there’s still a dress code in the City.

From the 30s to the 50s, ankle-strap shoes were beyond the pale, especially with Cuban heels. But the most vulgar shoes ever are orange plastic kitten-heeled slingbacks with square toes from the mid-60s – worn with a touch of grime on your ankle bone, as Nell Dunn (Up the Junction) observed. Upwards could not wear sexy shoes back then, because they were “bad for your feet”. Probably true.

In the 70s, boots slid down the class ladder (became cheaper and more available), and were adopted by a secretary called Dawn. She had long hair parted in the middle, a vacant smile, a skinny jumper and an A line miniskirt. Her’s boots only reached mid-calf – Upward girls wore boots that came up to the knee (and were probably more expensive). Of course you needed to be slender and long-legged to pull off the Dawn look. She saved for a month to afford her boots. Upward girls never saved, they just ran up an overdraft.

Hercule Poirot’s patent leather shoes, that he thinks are smart and shiny, mark him out as “not one of us”. Yet he can tell that a client is not really a lady because her shoes are cheap and too new. A lady wears “good” (expensive) shoes but then gets a lot of wear out of them. Before patent leather was invented, the aim was to get black leather shoes and boots as shiny as possible – this took a lot of work. In a big house, a boy was employed to clean the household’s shoes. He was known as the “boots”. In the army, a lot of time was spent (wasted) on “bull” – polishing equipment including boots until everything shone. Shoeshine boys in the streets made a good living. But keeping patent leather shiny took hardly any work. Suddenly shiny black shoes were no longer a “sign” of being able to employ someone to spend hours on your appearance, or of having done the hard work yourself.

Upward women can’t dress too sexily – what they'd call "stereotypically feminine". They may wear a more relaxed version of current clothing – nothing too tight, skirts not too short, makeup discreet, hair not too processed, heels not too high. They aim for a natural, healthy, wholesome, practical look (see the Boden catalogue). When this cuts no ice, they may try too hard, but their tight jeans and exposed cleavage will only garner disapproving looks from their female friends. But at least the “natural look” is preferable to the academic bag lady look – layers of flapping garments that entirely conceal the figure. 

In the 70s, pretty girls were referred to as “pre-Raphaelite”. Lank hair, unmade-up face, absence of bra and cheesecloth top were supposed to be deliberately Unsexy, and it was galling when men found these girls attractive. This elfin, waiflike look was only available to the young, small and slight. And these girls didn’t have to be warm, friendly or outgoing, didn’t have to learn one subject of conversation really well, meet people halfway, or make any effort at all. They just had to BE. Lucky things. (Upward advice is always of the "work on yourself" variety – never "get a makeover". That would be far too practical.)

Unlike the British upper middle classes, well-heeled Europeans show off their wealth. They used to wear fur coats, and still sport expensive leather jackets, good handbags with gold chains, well-cut jeans, and leather boots. Their clothes look very new and clean. They go blonde, not grey – honey blonde, since they usually start out with dark hair. 

Labour Party leader Michael Foot did not wear a donkey jacket to the memorial service at the Cenotaph, it was an olive green duffel coat without shoulder protectors. Middle England still woofles that he was disrespectful not to wear the establishment uniform of black or navy Crombie overcoat. And as a Labour leader he just would have worn a donkey jacket, the uniform of the Irish navvy, wouldn't he? But so what if he had? 


More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 24 November 2022

What to Wear 12 (In Quotes)


New winter coat has arrived and I am delighted to officially look like I own a chain of 1970s bingo halls. (@GoldenVision90)

According to Twitter, the following are naff:

Babies or small children with their ears pierced.
Wedding and engagement rings in 9-carat gold.
Massive watches.
Gold jewellery on men.

Deck shoes.
White clothes unless T shirts or shirts.
Clothing with the labels on the outside.
Active wear if not actually exercising.

Ugg boots.
Sweet, sickly perfumes.
Men walking around with their tops off at the first sight of sun.
Any form of clothing with obtrusive logos on.

Shoes without socks.
Builder’s bum.
A tartan to which you are not entitled.
Stiletto heels in the country.

Babies dressed as adults, especially in trainers.
Headbands on babies. 

Deliberately unbuttoning the first button on the sleeve of your jacket/coat is a sign of a bounder and a cad.

Janice Turner in The Times laments that this is the fifth summer of milkmaid cosplay. (2022-06-16)

The real decline of Western culture is pyjamas becoming outdoor clothing. (@VeteranGamerUK. He’s right – “athleisure” is pyjamas.)

All that money and power, yet the Queen dresses like a dinner lady at a country wedding. (@anon_opin)

The kind of holiday jewellery you would wear with a kaftan, somewhere hot and exotic: a tangle of necklaces or an armful of bracelets. (Jess Cartner Morley in the Guardian, Aug 2021)

I remember a time when everybody in the Liberties was wearing Burberry. Not realising it was, still is, very common. You would never see Burberry in Rathfarnham, Terenure or Rathgar
(@bluredfrank)

A writer-in to Points of View (Sept, 2020) complains that The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades wears a flat cap indoors – in front of ladies!

Does every academic have at least four stripy tops(@DrMagennis)

Dressing slovenly is a super posh thing. See also driving an old banger. People from normal backgrounds don't have such luxuries. (@Otto_English)

My mother is urging me to have my ring ‘upgraded’ because a respectable American middle-class woman needs a bigger diamond. (Dear Prudie, slate.com)

High fashion dresses have more than a touch of Margot from The Good Life - in evening wine and cheese for the boss mode. (@Amanda_Vickery. Penelope Keith and her dresser used to raid Harrods.)

She had about nine bracelets and bangles, consisting of chains and padlocks, the Major's miniature, and a variety of brass serpents with fiery ruby or tender turquoise eyes, writhing up to her elbow almost, in the most profuse contortions. (William Makepeace Thackeray, A Book of Snobs)

In Hampstead, you must wear sports attire in the morning. Around lunchtime, change into something seasonally appropriate. Gay couples wear matching sunglasses. Gentlemen, if it’s warm then you may wear your jumper over your shoulders like an 80s catalog model. Jeans are acceptable as long as they are accompanied by either a Ralf Lauren Polo shirt or a long-sleeved shirt without a tie. Ladies, long coats in autumnal colours are more than acceptable over either a jersey dress or jeans and a shirt that coordinates with your partner...  No matter what the age of your small human their outfit must cost between £50 and £500, no exceptions if your little human is not appropriately clothed then your family will be marched up to the tube station and sent to Edgware. (Via Facebook, paraphrase. Is this person really talking about Hampstead? Ralf Lauren? Catalog?)  

According to Drusilla Beyfus, in Lady Behave, 1956, when entertaining the Queen to lunch, women must wear white gloves. There was a complicated etiquette of when you took the gloves OFF (to eat finger food) and put them back ON... The Queen carried on wearing white gloves, probably because she had to shake a lot of hands. So that’s what she kept in her handbag – a spare pair!

I bought a cheap two-piece suit from the high street, hoping to make a good impression. Ten minutes before we sat down [for the client meeting, my boss] pulled me to the side, wanting to know if I could find anything more ‘relaxed’ for next time: 'the suit is a bit… pompous,' he added. So, at the next meeting, I took his advice. I showed up in the same jumper and chinos I wore clubbing the previous Saturday in the West End. But I felt shabby. 'I look underdressed,' I recall telling him, as the client strolled out in his immaculate navy jacket. And yet that was the point. As a representative of the advertising agency, I was told we couldn't be seen as old-fashioned. (Spectator)

Likewise, a woman worried that her clothes and hair didn’t “read as professional” on a Zoom call.

Her white blouse, fastened at the throat with a brooch depicting a couple of tennis rackets, was sprinkled with various bits of cheap jewellery which her means had permitted her recently to acquire. Under the rackets, a wish-bone, a turquoise horseshoe, and a bedizened safety-pin were followed by a pendant proclaiming that her Christian name began with a P. Westward, a watch hung. To the north east, a silver insect, with amethyst wings, would have been solitary but for a “Chaste design, set with fine quality pearls, at £1 10s.” A yard or two of chain encircling her neck became a loop line on a true-lover’s knot of red enamel before its terminus in a bunch of charms at her waist. (The Position of Peggy Harper by Leonard Merrick, set circa 1900. Like Jacky in Howards End, Peggy is not a lady. But Jacky is always good-humoured, and would never go back on a pal.)

I've told the tale of me wondering why it was that I could go to an exhibition dressed in jeans and no one would look at me, then go in a suit and everyone will talk to you. Then I got to be on a stand and had 20 people around wanting info and I just went straight to the guy in the suit. I've since seen this in academia where the secretary would tell everyone what to do because she dressed smarter than everyone else. And that's when I started to dress smarter as it sets expectations in people. (Matthew Jones)

Novelist Jeffrey Eugenides wrote about a student who wears self-crafted grey felt clothes and calls herself "Moss". Everybody knows that when she graduates she will put on a blouse and skirt and get an ordinary job, and change her name back to "Susan". 

When we met, my girlfriend was finishing up grad school and dressed a little young for our age—clashing or mismatched colours, old and tattered clothing ... just not what a lot of other people our age are wearing... She’s pretty eco-conscious and doesn’t believe in throwing things away... clothing that’s faded and dirty is still a part of her daily wardrobe. (Dear Prudie. Note how students are expected to morph from Bohemian to preppy to office wear. I’m guessing the Bohemian look is just as much a uniform – when you’re 19.)

For some reason that I’ve never fully fathomed, parents in those days always tried to prevent their children wearing grown-up clothes as long as possible. In every family there was a stand-up fight before a boy had his first tall collars or a girl put her hair up. (George Orwell's Coming Up for Air, talking about the years before WWI. Teenage girls wore mid-calf skirts until they were 17 or 18, even though they might be working from the age of 14.)

"She's cleverer than she looks." I've had two exec producers say this about me. Assume it's because I wear makeup and dye my hair. I really hate the pressure to look 'bookish' if you want to be taken seriously. Each to their own, but wearing make-up and nice clothes, and dyeing your hair do not mean you're thick. (@RebeccaRideal )

You know what they tell you – appearance doesn't matter. They lie. You knew that.

More here, and links to the rest.



Friday 11 November 2022

You Are What You Eat 17


I love sitting in caffs reading the paper and doing the crossword. In lockdown most closed their doors - would they survive? 

I returned to Chapel Market, Islington and found that two of them had re-opened but had gone upmarket. One, that used to be popular and packed, is now a tagine restaurant and almost empty. Perhaps it fills up in the evenings. 

Another refurbed its decor and put in a few armchairs and coffee tables, but despite that it is still a proper greasy spoon. The one opposite was unchanged and shabby, but in the past weeks it has acquired new tables, a glossy marble-effect tiled floor and new paint on the walls. Food is improved, but it's still a haven for old people and odds and sods.

In Stoke Newington the Flamingo is now the Floral, with a green wall – of plastic vegetation. Banquettes are chrome yellow and the place seems as busy as ever. Portions are generous.

Lou's in Dalston went too far upmarket, but has now come back down again. They really know how to make a sandwich – with thin white sliced bread fresh out of the plastic wrapping. Sadly the caff on the De Beauvoir Estate is re-opening as an organic veg shop. It was a haven, with a view of 60s tower blocks.

What they all have in common: Turkish cooks, staff and proprietors. Halal sausages are offered, along with falafel wraps, next to paninis, beans on toast and the all-day breakfast. None advertise themselves as Turkish restaurants, however, and they'll never be reviewed in the broadsheets. Meanwhile, visit and enjoy the excellent and inexpensive food.  

More pix here.

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Money-saving Tips for the New Austerity


In the current economic climate, the girls are deciding which luxuries they can give up.  

Samantha Upward: There was a funny piece in one of the papers with a couple arguing about which snacks they would give up.

Caroline Stow-Crat: Good grief, we never had “snacks”!

Sam: Bang would go sixpence.

Caro: Exactly.

Sam: And besides, they were common.

Caro: And vulgar.

Sam: I think we were allowed peanuts in their shells – you had to do a bit of work to get them out, and no nasty salt or chemical flavourings.

Caro: Do you ever eat unshelled peanuts now?

Sam: No. I eat prawn cocktail crisps wherever I can get them. We used to wash and dry pumpkin seeds, too, and shell and eat them. When we didn’t dye them with food dye and string them as necklaces.

Caro: So very not plarstic!

Sam: And people think the middle classes are privileged! Anyway, here's a list of money-saving tips:

Re-use printer paper (print on the back), or give old print-outs to your children to draw on.

Search online for printer ink deals.

Buy something half-price on Black Friday.

Buy pyjama tops and wear them as T shirts – they're cheaper.

Visit charity shops in richer areas like Hampstead and Notting Hill.

Mix and match colours and patterns from your local charity shop.

Buy a copy of Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire. (She recommends shopping in the school uniform sections of upmarket department stores for wool jerseys and white shirts. Or try workwear suppliers like Alexandra for plain basics.)

When writer Arthur Marshall was asked by a charity collector what he did with his old clothes, he replied: "I fold them neatly, put them on a chair, and put them on again in the morning." (But I think he lifted the joke from Punch.)

Cook at night when electricity is cheaper. 

Reheat cold coffee in the microwave.

Batch cook and freeze.

Use the microwave or a slow cooker. Even a stove-top pressure cooker saves fuel. Likewise a George Foreman grill or air fryer.

Haybox cookery. (Did anyone really do this?)

Take your lunch to work.

Go vegan or vegetarian.

In the supermarket, buy a few things from the “reduced” trolley. Go just before closing time. 

Buy the loss leaders – the “tuppence off baked beans this week”.

Forage. 

Religion hop – there’s usually a coffee-and-biscuits moment, or even a free meal.

Roam expensive food shops like Selfridges and browse the free samples.

Pick up dropped fruit and veg at the market. Again, just before it closes. Dressing like a bag lady optional.

Grow your own veg. If you don't have a garden, bag a council flowerbed or a bit of grass verge.

Combine pulses: rice, peas, beans. Use tinned or packet soup as a sauce.

Try savoury bread pudding with brown bread and courgettes (fry first).

Pasta/rice, cream cheese, sweet corn and finely chopped onion.

Dip leftover sandwiches in beaten egg and fry.

If growing your own veg, remember beet and turnip tops are edible.

Grow cress on a bit of old flannel. (Update with kitchen paper.)

Collect seeds from your own plants and sow them. (Gather seeds from your friends’ gardens or wherever you go.)

Throw apple cores onto motorway verges and return in 50 years to gather the fruit.

Collect firewood from skips, woods or commons.

Batch buy food such as jam or crackers from Amazon. Co-ordinate with a neighbour and swap half.

Use up stale bread – Mrs Beeton has recipes involving cream, sugar and eggs. Italian bread, tomato and basil soup is delicious.

Keep bread in the fridge or freezer, not a bread crock or bin. These look charmingly traditional, but the bread will go stale and mouldy. 

Save Saturday supplements and use the colourful pages as gift-wrap.

Put ends of soap in the small net bags some products come in. Or crochet your own bag out of string. Use the whole thing as soap. Some say you can grate and boil ends of soap to make new soap bars or shower gel.

What happened to the “freegans” who were going to live on others’ leftovers? Not advisable during a pandemic, and what would happen if everybody did it? But if you do eat out, take home leftovers. Even ends of bread can go in the soup, and the rest can go in a pita or tortilla.

Once again the middle-classes must resign themselves to being "the new poor" and live the "shabby-genteel" life.



You Are What You Eat 16


I hate the assumption that working-class people only eat English food, and cheap staples from other cuisines are dismissed as ‘pretentious and posh’ by others. (@STEMlorde) Except that spag bol and lasagne is “caff” food, not café food.

The parents are of the expensive, cocktail-party-and-chromium kind.
 (Edmund Crispin, Love Lies Bleeding, 1948)

M&S Food's Best Ever Mac & Cheese! With cave-aged Cheddar, Pecorino, Emmenthal and mozzarella, topped with roasted garlic oil and onion ciabatta breadcrumb. Need we say more? (@CostaCoffee) There's an upmarket version of everything.

I made home-made pesto and the ingredients cost about £800 and it’s not even that great so my life hack today is go to Lidl and just buy a jar for a quid and don’t be a twat like me. (@JaneSlavin)

The antiquated snobs will tell you you're wrong to say dessert rather than pudding, yet they will not hesitate to ask for a dessert spoon. (@AodhBC)

Latest Upward/Weybridge fad is sneering at anything imported, especially flowers – one must get behind Brexit/save food miles/save the planet.

Teales and Definitelies domesticate foreign tastes by adding sugar: Balsamic vinegar and sweet chilli sauce (that isn’t very hot). They domesticate “artisanal” bread by making a soft version.

Sam Upward would offer you “mashed potatoes”, because “mashed potato” sounds like something you’d read on a menu.

Who was refusing to go to a funeral because the choice of venue for the wake was “Beefeater or Harvester”? (At least you'd get enough to eat instead of a handful of polite nibbles.)

Most layers of the middle class love turning any subject into a rant about obesity (burden on the NHS, wasting our tax dollars). Starve the chavs! (Obesity can be a result of poverty.)

Upwards can never eat anything “creamed”: creamed corn, creamed potatoes. Especially when the word means “smothered in white sauce”. 

Dark brown meat in dark brown gravy is very downmarket. It’s hard to find except frozen in Iceland.

"Good food": consists of fresh ingredients, freshly cooked – but not deep fried. It is probably dished up in a style borrowed from a country where you can afford to go on holiday. If you want real British food you’ll have to sign up to meals on wheels from Wiltshire Farm Foods

Fizzy water comes in different strengths of fizz because everything comes in a “range” and there has to be a version we drink or eat and a version we look down on people for drinking or eating. Sodastreams are back, but Upwards are not allowed to add too many bubbles. Upward withholding again!

Whatever happened to those little paper chef’s hats for the ends of lamb joints or mutton chops? They were utterly beyond the pale in the 70s – but who eats mutton any more? (Damned by John Betjeman: "The frills round the cutlets can wait...")

Until the 50s, jam and pickles were decanted into cut-glass dishes. Only the lower classes put a jar of jam or pickles on the table, whether or not in a saucer or with a special silver jam spoon that hooked over the side. Of course silver jam spoons with a latched hook were utterly naff, as were asparagus tongs. Asparagus, melted butter and all, was eaten in the fingers. Those silver jam spoons come in handy for jars of instant coffee. (The Upwards faint.)

A 30s book of “cookery and household management” describes making, with a lot of time and trouble, a savoury custard which you cut into slices. You then punched shapes out of the slices, washed them in several changes of cold water, and added them to clear soup. The shapes were replaced by small pasta shapes like stelline before disappearing from our lives.

Why are the chairs in trendy upmarket cafés too low, and the tables too high? Makes eating difficult, makes reading difficult. Makes typing on a laptop harder, not easier. Typing chairs need to be high – you need to imitate a piano player, not a begging dog.

Upwards are allowed to like motorway services if they have a gloss of artisanal rusticity – a farm shop, some distressed wood, an absence of videogames and fruit machines, proper coffee. Someone on Twitter describes having a coffee at a services “in the middle of nowhere” as the ultimate in alienation. Very Bohemian Rowena Upward drives to motorway services on purpose to soak up the alienation. Local residents would be outraged to hear that they live “nowhere”. Would paintings of motorway services, or those “strange, sterile” Amazon supermarkets, have a Hopperish feel, asks an architectural journalist? 

There’s a tendency for institutions to replace an affordable canteen or café with a very upmarket restaurant which will get reviewed in the broadsheets and attract an impressive clientèle. Meanwhile ordinary visitors have nowhere to eat, avoid the museum/concert hall as a result, and the restaurant goes bust. When firms were no longer obliged by law to provide canteens the concept vanished from our minds. Was the wonderful BHS canteen in Oxford Street the last man standing? Ordinary grub, formica tables, and not a single pepper in anything. The National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, the V&A – they all had canteens and I remember them fondly.

Why do Upwards despise pickles? Because they need to show that they can afford fresh vegetables, and always have been able to. They also needed to show that they could afford a fridge. This taboo extends to despising anything vinegary apart from French dressing.

Ethelind Fearon in The Reluctant Hostess (50s) describes the dilemma of a woman when a friend unexpectedly drops in to lunch and all you have in the larder is six eggs. Solution: omelette, followed by zabaglione (a trendy 50s dessert of whipped up egg whites, sugar and sherry). Why didn’t she say “there’s nothing in the house, shall we go out?” Because there was nowhere they could go. Somewhere acceptable for two ladies is either too expensive or too far away, and her husband has taken the car. Upwards used to avoid cafés, even dainty tea shoppes, because “bang might go sixpence”. They were right – I’ve saved so much money not sitting in Costa’s for hours. Caffs and Macdonalds are cheaper, but this is /fast food/, and Upwards can’t be seen there. The tea shoppes were too lower middle class and the crustless sandwiches came with a sprinkle of mustard and cress and a handful of crisps.

When computers arrived in offices about 30 years ago, many Upwards recoiled from them. They all came in beige plastic. There wasn’t an organic, artisanal version. We got used to them, and now they come in sleek, stylish metal. But some Upwards still feel the same way about microwaves, now being recommended as they use less fuel. 

I fear I am not the only insufferable microwave snob. A woman I know admits she views microwaves as ‘anti-aspirational’. She reluctantly bought one years ago for £30, still doesn’t know how to use it properly, and only ever heats up porridge inside it. It is hidden from view in a cupboard. Another super-successful woman I work for won’t have one in her house. Her word for them is ‘common’. (Times, Candida Crewe, Aug 2022) And a friend didn’t like to use a microwave because “you have to use plastic dishes”.


Lady Behave
 by Drusilla Beyfus (1956) reveals a lost world of menu French and salad plates. It's like looking into Tutankhamun's tomb. Salad accompanied a main dish, but on a separate plate. The most naff were glass and crescent-shaped. When laying a table, don’t forget the ashtrays and cigarettes. Beyfus boldly suggests putting dishes of vegetables on the table so that guests can serve themselves. She describes the “cooking hostess” who has to provide a dinner on a grand scale – she no longer has servants, so she just does it all herself. Another thing she doesn’t have is a job. Beyfus frowns on finger bowls, though you are supposed to eat gulls’ eggs in your fingers, shell your own prawns and debone your own sole. The ladies would need to withdraw after that lot – to wash their hands. 

Beyfus uses the word “delicacy” frequently. Another striking aspect – the food is all European, meaning French or Italian. German and Swiss food have never been “gourmet” in the UK, apart from Scandinavian smorgasbord, and fondue in the 70s, which we will pass over in silence. There’s a complete absence of anything from the Far East or Indian subcontinent. Delicacies are snails and frogs’ legs, which are either Roman-style decadence or famine food. There’s a lot of garlic, but not a single pepper.