Vegetarian cooking 1972

1970’s school cookery textbooks make strange, outrageous claims about vegetarian cooking, which I have to teach to get my classes to pass the exam.  At a time when large areas of the developing world eat a vegetarian diet, the books have odd things to say.

A veggie question from one of my textbooks at the time!

The Battersea College of Technology has a book of tried and tested Cookery Recipes for teachers that we use. Tt says
Vegetarian recipes are suitable for V.E.M.s – Vegetarians who include in their diet Eggs, Milk and milk products, which is supposed to help us remember that vegetarians don’t eat meat.
It offers this vegan advice:

  • Replace milk with water in which vegetables have been cooked.
  • Replace cream with nut fat and butter with Nutter or Trex.
  • Cheese must be replaced with Marmite and eggs left out altogether.

So there. That’s clear. When in doubt, leave it out.
Nut cutlets are my vegan recipe demonstration, made from chopped nuts and breadcrumbs, shaped into cutlets and deep fat fried.

If vegetarians don’t  eat meat, why make chopped nuts into the shaped of a cutlet which comes from the ribs of a little lamb? The fried, nutty bits are so unappetising that even Bill, my food dustbin student, declines to taste.

O Level Cookery doesn’t help much on vegetarians either.

‘A vegetarian diet has limited choice and can be monotonous, bulky and unattractive.’
Well, to some people a bag of chips washed down with a can of cola might be considered unattractive too.
‘It is most difficult to supply protein as the protein in beans is of lower biological value so more must be eaten. This means the stomach is very full after each meal’.
Well good, isn’t that the point? Fill us up so we are not hungry?
‘This may lead to enlargements.’
Oh no! – enlargements of what?
And lastly
‘This vegetarian diet may be expensive.’
How so! Compared with rump steak or roast lamb? How much do they think a can of baked beans costs?
This textbook is written in 1971 and taught in cookery rooms throughout Britain, so how many children in our burgeoning multi ethnic society have to put up with this nonsense?

Is Cookery for Schools more helpful on the textbook front? No.

  • Meat and fish have distinctive flavours which stimulate the digestive juices and increase the appetite. In a vegetarian diet these flavours are sadly missing.

Well, isn’t that the point! A vegetarian doesn’t want to eat meat of fish so they would hate these ‘distinctive meaty, fishy flavours’.

  • Larger portions of vegetables should be served to vegetarians than to those eating a normal diet.

So there we have it. Vegetarians aren’t normal! They must eat platefuls of vegetables which fill them up and lead to enlargements. How am I going to teach that frippery?

At the end of most of my lessons, the class reads and answers the set textbook questions in their exercise books, with questions as mad as the text.

  1. Why are meatless dishes often unpopular? How can this be avoided?
  2. What are the difficulties in arranging and preparing meals for a vegetarian?

Cookery for Schools might get these answers from my students:

  1. Meatless dishes are often unpopular because they don’t have any meat in them and me dad says he always has to have meat and two veg for his supper.
  2. Meatless dishes can be avoided by not eating them.
  3. The difficulties in arranging and preparing meals for a vegetarian are that you need lots and lots of beans and vegetables because they have to eat so many to get their protein and this can be expensive. And then they get really full and enlarged.

My class love to torment me with silly answers to my questions.
When I ask a test question ‘What are oats?’
Mick has a clever reply followed by a smirk.

‘Depends if you mean getting your oats, having your oats or porridge. Have you got a boyfriend yet miss? Mr Smyth, the games teacher is free.’

Changes in vegetarian cuisine are on the way. By the mid seventies, the financial downturn in the UK means thrifty cooking kicks in.  One day a big bag of brown, dried bits arrives on my desk. The sender suggests I use the bits to make delicious high protein meals.  It seems TVP has jumped into our food chain and the  company wants me to persuade the nation’s children that it is a delicious, cheap substitute for meat, which we can no longer afford.

My TVP lesson goes  like this.
‘This food is called TVP – it stands for Textured Vegetable Protein.’
I hold out a handful of dried, beige lumps which smell of rotting, damp cardboard. Next I pass a pudding bowl with larger, softer lumps.
‘I’ve soaked these chunks in water and now we are ready to make a meatless stew.’
Bill mutters first.
‘Looks like dried dog turds, miss’
‘Or bits of  old dishcloth.’ Len likes plain food that he can recognise. TVP is not plain.
‘Len this lesson is learning about vegetarians and we are going to cook something modern for them.’
They mumble and grumble and shuffle off to cook up some carrots and onions in a thick Bisto gravy.
‘Now we stir in the lumps of TVP.’
They pass round the bowl and ladle a spoon of the soaked chunks into their saucepans.
I chivvy them along.
‘It’s very clever, this stuff. The soya  is extruded, texturised, then cut and dried. Come on class, what shall we call this new stew?’
‘Muck’ says Bill.
‘Brown muck’ adds Len.
They don’t want to eat it or take it home, and shamble out of the room clutching their out of date textbooks with the task of answering the impossible questions for homework.
That’s vegetarian cooking done for 1972.

History note

TVP® – Textured Vegetable Protein – is a byproduct from soya beans, made after the production of soya oil. After World War 11 there was a huge demand for food, and sales of soya foods and soybean meal increased massively. In the 1930s the soybean meal had been used for animal feed, but by the 1940s it was food grade and ready to use in soya products.

In the 1971 TVP was approved for the USA school lunch programme, and the product became an ingredient in many prepared foods, to reduce costs.

In 1973, in the UK, Cadbury’s launched Soya Choice which they claimed was a roaring success because it was nutritious and half the price of meat. The UK economy was in a downturn, the price of meat had soared, so shoppers were looking at ways to reduce their food costs.

How is TVP made? When the oil has been removed from the soya beans, the remaining dough is cooked under pressure with steam and extruded. The extrusion technology changes the structure of the soy protein, resulting in a fibrous spongy matrix that is similar in texture to meat which is made into textured, dried granules, flakes and chunks. Add water and it swells up and is used as a meat replacer to extend dishes such as minced beef for pies and bolognaise.  It is low in cost, low in fat and relatively high in fibre.

Vegetarian society

The Vegetarian Society was founded in 1847 and the first vegetarian hospital was opened in Ramsgate in 1846. It is amazing how little impact the society had on the things that were taught in school cookery lessons in the 1970s. The Vegetarian Society now has its own logo that goes on food labels and its extensive website ‘provides imaginative, creative and delicious vegetarian food.’

The Vegan Society

In 1944 a group of ‘non-dairy vegetarians’ formed a new society with a name to describe themselves – vegan derived from VEGetariAN. The Society wanted to show that ‘the use of animal products (such as meat, dairy, eggs, leather and wool) will be viewed as an inhumane and unsustainable practice from a much less enlightened age.’

Haldane Foods is one of the country’s oldest producers of meat and dairy-free produce. Their brands include names such as Realeat, Direct Foods and Granose which was established over 100 years ago. Some company products were invented by a Dr John Harvey Kellogg, famous for cornflakes.

Linda McCartney popularised a meat-free diet in Britain, and published ‘Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking’ in 1989 – a guide to vegetarian cookery. Her own range of ready-made vegetarian meals was launched in 1991. Wish she could have helped me out in the 1970s!


In the 1960s, there were fears that the world would run out of animal protein. In response to this, scientists set out to find an alternative protein source. The new protein was part of the fungi family and was called Mycoprotein after ‘myco’, the Greek for fungi and is produced as Quorn. I’ve written extensively about it in my textbooks.

Today food producers around the world manufacture and sell extruded textured soy protein under a range of trade names, including soya meat. The modern versions come in many flavours including bacon, chicken, sausage, beef, ham and taco. One company website says that TVP can create some gas after eating, so maybe my early textbooks were true – a vegetarian diet can cause enlargements.

Cranks was the most famous vegetarian restaurant that I knew in the 1970s, based in a side road off super trendy Carnaby Street. But when London was exploding with bistros and wine bars, the thrifty wooden interior, mung beans, brown rice and lentil salads were rather too worthy for my taste!

Teaching about vegetarianism is now a big topic in schools. Along with food allergies, e numbers and food labels, we have plenty of information and lots of delicious things to cook.

It is estimated that over 3 million people eat a vegetarian diet in the UK.


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2 responses to “Vegetarian cooking 1972

  1. I’d forgotten about those flats in the cookery rooms – my students had to clean them for housecraft lessons!


  2. Sue Goodchild

    In the early 1970s I was invited to a lunch specially prepared by pupils . The 2 cookery rooms had a little’ flat’ in the area between them, and the girls worked so hard to make everything perfect. They prepared a salad very carefully, being sure to serve up a meal more inspiring than the usual lettuce tomato and cucumber slices all doused in salad cream. They included orange slices, peanuts, crunchy celery and tangy onions. I believe we also had garlic bread. They were very pleased how much I enjoyed it! I think it was accompanying smoked mackerel so wasn’t a vegetarian meal as such, but did show more thought than usual towards the non meat element of the food. These lunches were a nice tradition and of course the studentswere assessed on their performance


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