The 90s were a decade like no other. It combined 60s freedom, 70s political gloom mixed with serious distrust and 80s youth culture personified. The societal shifts in Britain acted like tectonic plates prompted by marginally tolerable leading figures at a stretch, in the form or John Major and Tony Blair.
There was a strong sense of eccentric hedonism, complimenting shared ideals of freedom and possibility. Technological advances of this decade maximised on the cultural renaissance Britain had been experiencing for the last 40 years and characterised the 90s as the decade that never truly ended, (just made better with the dawn of each passing decade).
Was this the beginning of excess? Ten years prior, Hollywood screamed ‘greed is good’, whilst MTV screened the latest band singing under the hot sun, sending ‘success postcards’ of their flourishing careers. ‘BritCulture’ dominated the streets. ‘Mods’, ‘skin heads’ and ‘perry boys’ declaring anarchy against mainstream Britain, abandoned faith in politics. Instead they unified to produce a flowering subculture towards all mediums of art.
While attitudes towards the evolving landscape of Britain were see-sawing, it’s incredible that Britain could still unite under one ideal of the decade, food.
The Future of Fusion Food
Global trade allowed us to try almost any type of food, making it more accessible than ever. People were out with a vengeance, ready to wreak havoc on their taste buds, from breakfast, lunch, elevenses and dinner.
Accessible foods from trade brought on a cause and consequent effect. Microwaves and fridges resulted in the increase of food for convenience and birthed the arrival of never-before-seen flavours from the farthest reaches of the world.
Combining elements of different culinary traditions, the practice of fusion food was constantly evolving and not bound to one particular cuisine style. The idea had been popular since the 70s; revolutionising the rarity of ‘eating out’ gourmet style from 1990. Fusion food represented the innovation of challenging regional stereo-typed food and acted as a bridge between boundaries of the unknown. It was a nod toward a vast and bountiful, multicultural Britain.
Immediately, the big company conglomerates zoned in on the endless possibilities toward the ready-meal market of fusion food. The growing range and size of supermarkets providing this produce consequently achieved rising concerns around packaging and waste towards the environment.
Fast food had really taken off in the 1980s. By 1990 it was on steroids and contributed to growing debates over health concerns, organic food and GMOs. Who could blame them?
With incredible snack inventions like Doritos, Monster Munch, Nik Naks, Discos, Wotsists and McCoy’s, to Cheesestrings, Fruit Winders, Panda Pop, Twizzlers, Turkey dinosaurs, potato smiley faces – all finding their way into our diets and hearts.
The golden wonder Sunny Delight in 1998, reportedly turned a four year old child, whose daily intake was 1.5 litres of Sunny Delight a day (twice the daily recommended adult intake), yellow from the beta carotene that gives carrots and oranges their lovely colour.
Even the etiquette towards the physical act of eating food had changed. Eating with our hands instead of knives and forks was a loved and hated trait, reflecting the nation’s divided love for junk food quick eats from McDonalds and KFC, and the experience of fine dining.
Celeb Favourite Eats
By the 90s, the rise of the celebrity culture was all encompassing and the culinary world was by no means an exception. With the WWW as the ultimate platform into the world of Hollywood lifestyles, celebrities and celeb chefs were featured throughout a variety of mediums from magazines and newspapers.
In the 1990s Cookbook from Newspapers, celebrity recipes acted as engaging alternatives to mass consumer foods. Not only were they introduced to hold reader’s interest against the enormous popularity of reading on the net, their recipes encouraged society’s awareness of healthier food. Recipes included variety with meat substitutes like Quorn and how to beat the cost of convenience food, using their status to combat the obsession of fast food.
The Diet Plan
The boom of creative, unhealthy foods walked hand in hand with rising health issues. They shared a sort of symbiotic relationship; a harsh circle incepted by the propaganda of big-time conglomerate companies. As Britain’s diet for junk food grew, so did the awareness of dieting.
Dieting wasn’t just a solution to fat foods, it became a fascination. Reverend Charlie Shedd released Prey Your Weight Away in 1957, claiming to have lost 100 pounds from (you guessed it), preying. The use of phenylpropanolamine, otherwise known as PPA became a master dieting drug of the 70s; the 80s were all about the Scarsdale Diet whilst carbs were the answer in the 90s due to red meat’s association with heart disease, ultimately dominating the headlines.
Companies relied on this two-way strategy and profited from people’s insecurities. In 2000 Danny Abraham, chemist and entrepreneur sold his Slimfast linage to Unilever, who also marketed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Walls sausages.
Consumers were wrapped up in constant battles of fad diets, crash diets, gym loading and feeding on goods labelled ‘low fat’, ‘low carb’ and ‘no sugar’, by the very companies responsible for the anxieties in the first place. Businesses were perpetuating multibillion pound weight loss schemes whilst shelling out the consumer goods to keep it in motion.
All Down Hill from Here
As of the 90s, our love affair with food was scandalously exhilarating. Flavours from far away worlds became the bedrock of our being. All types of food were within a short walk to the supermarket, as were takeaways and fast food. Where convenience was once a necessity, had become an explosion of tasty, never ending food. The 90s were the beginning of the glory days for food creativity.