A legacy food nostalgia trip

There were many things about the ValidPath 10th Anniversary Conference which made it special, but for me the amount of laughter and genuine interaction between our Members was symptomatic of the very positive shared culture across our Network.  At our dinner, on the evening of the 16th October, there was much mirth from folk of a particular age, as we remembered some of the 'legacy foods' which were enjoyed (I use the term loosely) during the 1970s.

There was Vendona Coffee, a new powdered, instant confection which arrived in the supermarkets out of nowhere.  It seems that most of us experimented with various ways of turning it into a hot drink, without ever being able to produce something that didn't strongly resemble gravy-browning.

There was Birds Instant Whip, which vanished mysteriously from the shelves in 2004, and the entirely separate product Angel Delight which is still available.  The ingredients list for the latter is a kind of smorgasbord of items which are almost entirely devoid of any useful nutritional content (see foot of page).

Some folks remembered something sinister called Cheese Flaps, a distinctly unappetising product that I have no recollection of.  I retain a very clear, almost graphic memory of Sainsbury's Breakfast Slices, a kind of meaty, reformed pap, designed to resemble bacon - but not bacon at all.  Interestingly, if you Google that one, you'll discover a significant community of perplexed individuals, all hellbent on discovering what happened to this stuff.  It appears that Sainsbury's themselves have no recollection of ever having sold the product, and I for one would prefer to forget that it ever had anything to do with my alimentary canal.

For me, the archetypal food product for this period was the Vesta Beef Curry.  One was never sure precisely what those oblong squares of meat protein actually were, and the whole meal was glued together with a gritty curry sauce which always tasted of powder and something else that one couldn't quite identify.  This stuff was regarded by my parents as a proxy for 'curry', something which it bore only the loosest resemblance to, and was served up as a special treat, or perhaps to clear cupboard space in the kitchen.  Amazingly, you can still order it from Amazon - as a kind of nutritional comfort-blanket for those of us who would prefer to retreat to the institutional brownness of the 1970s, and spend the weekends working under our Morris Marina.  In hundreds of years, they'll discover landfills composed entirely of Vesta Meals strata that have stubbornly refused to rot down.

After one's Beef Curry Moment, one needs a nice refreshing drink to wash it down, and perhaps rinse those strange gritty particles out of one's teeth.  And what better for this purpose than the sparkling drink, Cresta ("It's frothy, man")?  Strangely plastic in flavour, gloopy and chock-full of chemicals, this did at least live up to its strapline.  It certainly was frothy.

More recently, we have experienced the joys of a similar kind of culinary approach when it comes to financial products.  During the 1990's, IFAs were much taken with BES schemes which seemed to be designed for the sole purpose of implosion.  We had the engineered combinations of products such as the Henderson Guaranteed Payment Plan, or their Golden Future, neither of which seemed to deliver quite what was expected.  There were those enticing 'automatic' products such as the Johnson Fry Hy5 PEP, which left everybody involved very depressed - and probably contributed to the company's decision to morph into Legg Mason.  There was that apparently limitless appetite for M&A activity which moved Provident Mutual Pension Assured Fund investors into GA, then CGU, then NU and finally Aviva, so that the benefits of their chosen investment were ultimately lost.  And who can forget the widespread selling of EPPs and SSASs in order to confer upon companies the much-lauded benefits of loanbacks whilst simultaneously shooting their retirement provision through the foot?

The analogy is not entirely misplaced, although I acknowledge a tendency to stretch the connections at times.  Much of the food that we used to ingest was actually devoid of those qualities which would lead to a robust metabolism - and many of the financial products available exhibited such a pronounced tendency to undermine our financial capability, that the ideologically-committed IFA would naturally want to protect his or her client from such things.  I am not at all convinced that we have left that sorry state of affairs behind, judged by the marketplace's continued fascination for over-complex products stuffed full of the financial equivalent to 'Propane-1, 2-Diol Esters of Fatty Acids' and other exotic ingredients.  If food is there to grow healthy adults, then our financial ingredients should be chosen for their demonstrable ability to grow our clients' wealth, not waste it away.
ValidPath Members can access a digest of the 2013 Conference content, and associated resources, by clicking here.

Ingredients for Angel Delight:  Sugar, Vegetable Oil , Modified Starch , Emulsifiers (Propane-1, 2-Diol Esters of Fatty Acids, Sunflower Lecithin) , Gelling Agents (Tetrasodium Diphosphate, Disodium Phosphate) , Milk Lactose , Milk Proteins , Flavourings , Colours (Beetroot Red, Annatto, Mixed Carotenes) , Whey Powder from Milk , Anti-Caking Agent (Silicon Dioxide)


Kevin Moss, 21/10/2013