I recently looked back (and forward) on my food and wine career and as well as having a good laugh, wanted to share a snapshot of my findings.

Okay, so I was pretty young in the 60s and not of legal drinking age, but I still have fond memories of the food Mum cooked for Dad, my three siblings and me.  It was definitely the era of MTV (meat and three veg).  Chicken was for special occasions and birthdays.  Sunday lunch which was a roast, often lamb, went in the oven before the whole family went to church – and I can tell you it was very well done by the time we got home!  Sunday night was something simple like scrambled eggs as Mum and Dad would be outside until dark. Mum in the garden and Dad there or tinkering on his beloved boat. Leftover lamb was often served up in the form of sweet curry on Monday nights.  Banana tossed in desiccated coconut on the side was a permanent feature!  Speaking of curry, the 1960s also heralded other pan-Asian cuisine, albeit anglacised.  Who could forget Chinese chicken & almonds and bright orange Sweet & sour pork.  Italian cuisine also moved on from merely spaghetti to all sorts of fancy shapes like macaroni and rigatoni.

With greater access to overseas travel (I lived in London and travelled extensively in Europe during the late 1970s) our palates became much more adventurous. One of the popular wines (not with me) was Mateus Rose, with its stylish raffia bottle, served with skewered cabanosi, cheddar cheese and pickled onion.  Recycled Mateus bottles did double duty as recycled candle holders and decorations for many a restaurant rafter. Main dishes took their cues from Europe – Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Kiev and Veal Cordon Bleu as did desserts – Crème caramel, Oeufs a la neige and Black Forest cake. And don’t forget the fondue!

For me this was the decade of shoulder pads, babies and planning, cooking and hosting elaborate dinner parties as a corporate wife.  I also started running my own catering business and later bought and ran a café as well as beginning my media career.  Asian cuisine joined our predominantly Euro menus in a big way, not just Chinese but Thai and Japanese too.  This was also the decade of nouvelle cuisine – a tiny amount of food on a huuuugggge plate.  Serving fruit sauces with savoury dishes was thankfully short-lived; I recall avocado with strawberry vinagrette and deep fried camembert with cranberry sauce. (Mind you I spotted that on a menu recently!).  And for dessert, cheesecake.  In every guise – baked, unbaked, with fruit, with chocolate, New York. It was also the decade of chardonnay.  I don’t have terribly fond memories of those big oaky chardonnays, preferring the more restrained and lightly wooded styles of today. Several of the big champagne houses formed partnership with Australian wineries and planted grapes in Australia to begin making sparkling wine from the three champagne varieties: pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.

What are your memories? Are you cooking any retro-food right now?

Lyndey Milan, Australian home cook hero, combines a thirst for life and a sense of fun with a love of good food and sparkling shiraz. A familiar face on television and in print, she been instrumental in changing the way Australians think and feel about food and wine for over thirty years.