“The costumes are retro now, but they weren’t retro then. They were ‘nowtro.'” (A Mighty Wind) (one of my favourite films.)

After a retro cooking challenge was issued by an online food forum I frequent (ooh, alliteration!) I had a think about what I consider to actually be retro food. There is the obvious stuff – cheese fondue (which I have made successfully, and yes, it is delicious) or prawn cocktail, Boef en Croute and black forest gateaux – the sort of thing one reads about in a Jilly Cooper novel. And I concluded that as a child of ’86, I was really too young to be thinking about foods as retro – the closest I can get is being snide about that period in the late nineties/early 2000’s, where if it wasn’t drowned in balsamic vinegar it was covered in sweet chilli sauce, and chicken, cranberry and brie was the height of haute cuisine.

So I decided to let what was in our cupboards decide for me, and ended up with two distinctly different ‘retro’ dishes – one being Ratatouille, a dish densely packed with vegetables and, I understand, a classic of the seventies. The other thing I made – little coffee flavoured cakes, inexplicably named “Crybabies,” came from an Aunt Daisy cookbook that belonged to my great grandmother. Its margins are scrawled with notes and it is a piece of family history – indeed, social history- which I am very happy to own. It’s not what I would necessarily call retro, since the book would have been published in the 30’s or 40’s, but still pleasingly seems to go with the notion of cooking from the past.

Above: Ratatouille! The recipe I found in Nigella’s seminal text, How To Eat. It is so easy to make and is, if one entertains friends this way inclined, both vegetarian and gluten free. I had bought most of the ingredients at the vege market, and the only thing I didn’t put in the eggplant-courguette-tomato mix was capsicum because they are really expensive at the moment. It turned out absolutely delicious, by the way, and was a breeze to make in the non-stick pan I got for a 21st birthday present from family friends. (More alliteration, brought to you by the letter F)

Above: The Crybabies (sounds like a bad, coat-tail riding sixties girl group, speaking of retro…) These little cakes were so delicious and easy to make, that I’m going to list the recipe. I halved the original, by the way, but if you have the patience and a ton of golden syrup- be my guest.


Mix together the following: 1/2 cup hot, very strong coffee, 125 g soft butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup golden syrup (or, 6 tablespoons if this helps) 1 t each ground ginger and nutmeg. Stir in enough plain flour till it has a thick, cake batter dropping consistency. Pour 1/2 a teaspoon vinegar over one teaspoon baking soda, let it foam up and stir thoroughly into the batter. Drop spoonfuls onto a baking tray and bake at 180 for 20-25 minutes.

These are so good – spicy and doughy and treacly and perfect for dipping into a hot drink, or, as we ate them, to accompany a good movie. In our case, the amazing animated film Spirited Away, which we watched last night.

So; that was my retro project. I have a small problem now – I am going to be cooking lots of presents for Christmas – if this makes sense – but I can’t blog about it because a large proportion of my readers (ie my family) are to be the recipients for said food-gifts and I don’t want to ruin the surprise. So, although I have a lot of exciting stuff planned for the rest of the fast-speeding away time before Christmas, you probably won’t hear about it!

4 thoughts on ““Nowtro.”

  1. violets says:

    Hi LauraYou definitely passed the challege, the ratatouille looks delicious, well done.I love the story behind your cakes, thank you for sharing the recipe, when I look through my old cookbooks it amazes me how much sugar and butter they used, I have one for lemon curd which asks for two lemons and 1kg of sugar!!!! Vi xx


  2. Linda F says:

    I know what you mean about the foodie gifts Laura, I am gagging to write about what I am making but it does kind of take the edge off it for those receiving it! Am still undecided as most of my friends know they will be getting goodies in some form!!!! The jury is out!Spirited away is indeed an excellent film, I love having children for the excuse to get those kinds of movies out!


  3. Kay says:

    Food looks yummy again. I hear Wellington had a power “outage” again today – hope it didn’t affect the baking…. (Would an “innage” be when the power WAS working?). Looking forward to the Christmas goodies – funny that Nana Dot’s cookbook is will being used after all these years. Can you see if you can locate the recipe for the yummy ginger snap biscuits she used to make with the biscuit forcing machine?


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