Further Back in Time for Dinner is a sort of documentary series focusing mainly on food and featuring the culinary and gastronomic experiences of the Robshaws, a well-to-do middle class family living through the early decades of the 20th century. It starts in 1900 and proceeds at a rate of a year a day.
It’s interesting to see how much things change over a relatively short period of time. In the 1900s they’r eating vast amounts of meat, but things start to become much more familiar in the 1920s and ’30s with the advent of tinned food, health-conscious eating and mod-cons such as toasters. What’s also interesting is the reactions of the Robshaws, a real family, to living through these changing times.
Nothing like my family – we had a fire and a toasting fork. The Robshaws have a dining room – my grandparents ate in an all-purpose living room and my grandfather didn’t have electricity till the day he died in the 1960’s.
The series does touch on class – the Robshaws start out with a maid who, by the 1930s is a charwoman living on bread and soup in a hostel for “respectable working class women”. To be sure, there are brief interludes showing grainy film of working class poverty and hunger marches – but it is mainly about an essentially middle class experience. I think that we’re much more egalitarian about what we eat today, but there is still a class element to it – there’s a class element to everything in this country. Still, at least we don’t have soup kitchens. Just food banks.
Further Back in Time for Dinner is currently showing on BBC2 and is available on iplayer
Screen shots reproduced on the basis of fair comment