Last year we featured some Jots based on entries taken from the 1960 -1 edition of the Good Food Guide. Recently we were lucky to find among a run of the entertaining Leader magazine dated 20 May 1950 an article by the Guide’s founder, social historian Raymond Postgate, announcing the launching of ‘The Good Food Club’, as it was then known.
The tone of the article is a refreshing mixture of enthusiasm for the future of British eating-out and a denunciation of hospitality practices present and past. ‘We have been extremely patient ‘, Postgate complains, ‘but now the last excuses have ceased to be valid, Food is ill-cooked in hotels and restaurants, or it is insufficient, or it is badly and rudely served up—or all three ‘.
By 1950 much of the rationing to which much home produce had been subjected for ten years was gone, as had the 5s ( 25p) meal limit imposed by the Ministry of Food ( see a previous Jot). So, in Postgate’s opinion, hotels and restaurants now had no excuses not to serve up generous portions of good quality food with courtesy. But as Leonard P Thompson demonstrated in his account of poor hospitality in 1948 ( see recent jot) such experiences were the rule rather than the exception.
The article brings up some revealing points. We had no idea that back then drinks could not normally be served in hotels after 10 o’clock at night. That rule seems absurd today. However, we were aware that sixty odd years ago the Basil Fawlty style of hotelier cited by Postgate was more common than today—the reason possibly being that Cleese’s character acted as a corrective to poor service. It is also interesting to discover that in 1950 ‘ English law does not allow you to tell unkind truths about hotels and cafes, unless you are very rich and don’t care about libel actions ‘. Today, thanks to the excellent Trip Advisor, the angry recipient of poor accommodation and disgusting food can do just that with no fear of a letter from Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne landing on the doormat. Which is how it should be. Continue reading