The Robshaws experience a thoroughly modern decade as they enter the 20s. They get a taste of the age's racy reputation as they host a jazz party with a menu of 14 cocktails.
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Meet the Robshaws -
Brandon, Rochelle, Miranda, Roz and Fred.
They've been back in time before...
and experienced the transformation in our diet from the 1950s to
That is just amazing. Look at them.
Now they're travelling further back in time,
to the first half of the 20th century,
to discover how changes in the food we ate...
Oh, my good gawd! They're brains.
..the way it was served and how it was cooked...
Yes. I'm cooking the pudding in the soup.
..helped change the course of history.
Starting in the 1900s...
Oh, my goodness.
..this Victorian house will be their time machine.
What is that? It looks like a giant hand grenade.
Fast forwarding them to a new year each day.
From strict etiquette...
I might practise my bowing.
..to new fads and flavours.
-It's not that bad. Dad!
From far too much...
I think I've got the meat sweats.
..to not enough.
It doesn't look like a fried egg.
No! Can you eat that?
As they discover how a revolution in our eating habits
helped create the modern family.
Last time, the Robshaws experienced the feast...
-We probably need a hacksaw.
..of the turbulent 1910s.
It feels like the war's really hitting home now.
Feels like it's starting to bite.
This time, the Robshaws enter a thoroughly modern decade...
I thought you might appreciate a buck's fizz.
Oh, thanks very much indeed.
That'll give you a bit of a lift.
..as they race through the roaring '20s.
It's a new decade for the Robshaws, the 1920s,
and the house has been brought right up to date.
The kitchen is leaner, brighter and more modern.
What was a parlour is now a stylish dining room.
And the formality of previous decades has been replaced by
a fashionable family sitting room, now at the front of the house.
Social historian Polly Russell and I are back to discover how
the 1920s quest for modernity has transformed the house.
So, it's not as cluttered as it was with pots and pans and mangles and
-bits and pieces, is it?
-Yeah, it's much more sort of streamlined.
An emphasis on hygiene, simplicity, ergonomically organised
and that's because this is the period where we see
the emergence of the modern housewife.
She's going to have to produce the food for the family and be in charge.
And there were new technologies coming in,
things that start to make managing the kitchen easier.
But there's one thing that really,
really helps the housewife in this period
and we're going to find that in the larder.
So... A lot of tinned food,
-is that what you're telling me?
-Yeah, we've had tinned food before,
but what you see through this decade is a huge increase in the volume of
tinned food consumed, but also the variety,
both imported from all around the world, but also produced in Britain.
And for the housewife, the housewife who now doesn't have a servant,
this is an absolute godsend.
This is a modern way of cooking.
In previous decades, Rochelle relied on Debbie,
the family's maid of all work, to do the cooking.
But the war brought her new opportunities and,
like many of the women who left domestic service at this time,
she won't be returning, leaving Rochelle in charge.
The impact of the war was felt elsewhere, too.
Keen to forget the horrors of the past,
Britain in 1920 was a nation focused on the future.
With rapidly advancing technology and a loosening of social attitudes,
a first for all that was new would define this decade.
And historical data shows that the food we ate was no exception.
What you start to see is much more variety coming into the diet
and we can see this in particular in this category of "other food",
which actually doubles from the beginning of the century to the end of this decade.
Things like canned food, ice cream, jarred food,
sort of prepared food,
manufactured food, because women are less likely to have servants,
of course it's no surprise, perhaps, that you see an increase
on reliance on manufactured goods.
And what about booze? We know this is the decade of the cocktail,
the decade of the party.
The Robshaws have got their own very impressive drinks trolley.
Is that reflected in the survey?
What you see straight after the war is this really quite extraordinary
spike in alcohol consumption for a few years,
as though people are somehow embracing something new.
A kind of loosening up of culture happens.
But then, afterwards, you do see a sort of trailing off of alcohol consumption.
Into a really bad period of hangover.
It's time for the Robshaws to step back to the 1920s.
From the 1920s, I'm looking for fun, I'm looking for social liberation.
You've got jazz and you've got cocktails, parties.
I would be very happy to accept domestic help,
but I imagine myself flapping about in the kitchen
rather than out at nightclubs.
-This is amazing.
-This is really nice, isn't it?
This is completely different vibe, isn't it?
-This is the best thing ever.
-This is so nice.
-And it's the first time we've had colour in the kitchen, look.
-There's Bisto down there.
Oh, yeah. And there's Bird's Custard.
Everything is packaged and branded.
There's loads of stuff that's going now, 100 years later,
it's still around, isn't there?
Look. It's addressed to us.
"Dear Robshaw family, welcome to the 1920s.
"Debbie, your maid,
"will not be returning."
Oh. I felt a little shiver when you said that.
So, Rochelle, you will be in charge of all cooking,
cleaning and maintaining the family home.
Well, enjoy yourselves(!)
All right, well, let's go and get on with it.
This is lovely.
-Oh, this is just fantastic.
This is gorgeous.
I can't believe it.
It does make you want to do that.
This is the first electric light.
This is fantastic.
You can just walk into a room, flick a switch,
and it's illuminated.
Marvellous. The only word I can think of is modern.
It looks so modern.
In 1920, thousands of British homes
were transformed by electric power and lighting.
By the end of the decade,
a fifth of all households were on the new National Grid.
While the rest of the family enjoy the comforts of their modern living
room, Rochelle is getting to grips with her new role.
Well, I think for the housewives sort of post-war,
they would need to go back to basics and they might be very good at
telling their staff what to do,
but actually doing it themselves might be sort of a different sort of
kettle of fish.
Luckily for middle-class women,
the 1920s saw the publication of a range of new practical guides.
Particularly popular was the Daily Mail Cookery Book by Mrs CS Peel,
which included special labour-saving recipes for servantless women.
These potatoes are going to go in the pot.
I'm now going to put the pot in the pot.
Rochelle's making a meal in which
all three courses are cooked together...
..vegetable soup, potatoes, steamed herrings and jam roly-poly.
The soup is made in the big pot,
then the other dishes are cooked in smaller pots
in the soup and the fish is steamed on top.
I like baking.
I just wish Debbie was here.
I might have to go off and find her, and beg her to come back.
No longer in service with the Robshaws,
Debbie is looking for a new job.
Businessman, book keeping, soldier, mechanic, motor driver.
As men returned from the First World War,
the Government had passed an act encouraging employers to dismiss
women from the jobs they'd taken up in wartime.
By 1920, unemployment was high.
But like many former maids,
Debbie doesn't want to return to domestic service.
Most of the jobs are just domestic help.
Obviously, all the rest is for men.
I mean, once you felt a bit of freedom, being a land girl,
you don't really want to go back to being a servant.
You want to carry on doing new things and, I don't know,
make life a bit better for yourself.
You don't want to, like, regress.
While Debbie's on the hunt for a new job,
Rochelle's getting used to hers -
as a housewife.
I actually have never made a jam roly-poly.
I think this looks absolutely horrible.
What's worrying me, if I roll it all the way through,
whether the tea towel gets caught up in the roll of it.
Oh, God, it's all just sticking to the...
I feel like crying.
Oh, God. It's just...
It's just a complete disaster.
I don't think I'm going to use a cloth because it's just like...
It's just more trouble than it's worth.
And the last part of Rochelle's one-pot meal - fresh herring.
Why would you want to spend your afternoon doing this?
There's like a drinks cabinet in the other room.
They're steamed on a lid on top of the pot.
In the unlikely event that that will cook,
we will have some supper.
And without a maid, middle-class daughters were expected to pitch in.
Miranda, Roz, come and help with the soup.
My God. Are you cooking the pudding in the soup?
Yes, I'm cooking the pudding in the soup.
-Won't the pudding smell of soup, or taste of soup?
-Well, that's horrible.
-I was really looking forward to that desert and now I'm not.
Well, you won't know it once it's out of the pot.
No, but it's in the same place as it.
-It will taste...
-It's like an oven, you can put two things in an oven,
-Anyway, shall we take that in?
..has been cooked in a pot.
It seems a little bit tasteless.
Thank you, darling.
Are you ready for your next course?
I certainly am.
That looks fantastic.
Was this in the pot, as well?
It was steamed on top of the pot.
-The fish was steamed on top of the pot?
Is it labour-saving or is it actually hard work?
I can't see how it's labour-saving.
Less washing-up at the end of it.
No, it's not less washing-up because within the pot
you have two more pots.
Last to come out of the pot is the roly-poly pudding.
I peep at this and it is actually looking kind of like a pudding.
It's possible that it's still inedible, but at least it looks like...
It looks like it's done something.
Here comes the pudding.
-That looks nice.
-Let's taste it.
Let's give it the taste test.
-Definitely doesn't taste of herring.
-It doesn't taste of herring.
It tastes of jam and pudding.
Well done, Rochelle, that was really nice.
-Well done, Mum.
Cheers. Here's to the '20s.
I feel disappointed that my mum is back in the kitchen.
I mean, it's not like I didn't expect it, but, you know,
Debbie's gone and somebody had to take that place and unfortunately
that fell solely to my mum.
Well, here we are in 1920
and my first impression is that this is really going to be
a happening decade.
I've got a real sense of movement and change and going forwards.
I think, in a way, the '20s, it feels like the first modern decade.
It's a new day for the Robshaws...
..and that means a new year.
While Rochelle cooks up boiled eggs and toast for breakfast...
Love that sound.
..Brandon's embracing a new invention.
Listen to this. That's another nice sound, isn't it, that?
Fizzing of the bubbles.
The 1920s saw a spike in alcohol consumption
after dropping off in the war due to restrictions on grain and sugar.
And, in 1921,
the bartender of London's glamorous Buck's Club came up with a brand-new
concoction for those who wanted to start their day with something stronger than tea.
All right. Would you like a buck's fizz?
Hello, darling. Look what I've got.
I thought you might appreciate a buck's fizz.
Oh, thanks very much indeed.
-That'll give you a little bit of a lift.
-Yeah, it certainly will.
-Lifting me off the floor.
-It's got a tiny amount of orange juice in it.
A little bit of orange juice.
-Oh, looks good to me.
It does. It seems ridiculously decadent, doesn't it?
We're actually having buck's fizz for breakfast.
Well, I'm enjoying this breakfast.
I think it's a massive treat to have buck's fizz for breakfast.
To really get them in the swing of the 1920s,
I've planned a special event for the Robshaws.
Got a little letter from Giles here.
"Dear Robshaw family,
"tonight we're bringing the 1920s jazz scene to your home."
"You'll be hosting a cocktail party with food and drinks typically
"served at the jazz clubs of the time."
Yeah, my heart's beating really fast.
-Sounds great, though.
-That sounds brilliant, doesn't it?
No '20s cocktail party would be complete without
a selection of canapes.
Rochelle is making egg mayonnaise sandwiches, tomato,
salmon paste and smoked mackerel canapes.
I think Miranda really, and her friends,
will probably skip the sandwiches
and go straight for the cocktails.
Hi. What are you making?
Oeufs a la creme sandwich.
Is that egg mayonnaise sandwich?
Yeah, that's it.
That is the food menu.
Yeah. There's four canapes.
And that is the cocktail menu?
Yeah. 14 cocktails.
It's like all drink and a few little nibbles, isn't it?
-I'm off to meet Giles.
-And I'm going to learn how to make cocktails.
Right, well, you better come back in time, then.
-I'll see you at the party.
In the 1920s, as Britain embraced all things modern,
alcohol was no exception.
And new American-style cocktails
became THE drinks for anyone keen to show they were up-to-the-minute.
So I'm meeting Brandon at the Bloomsbury Ballroom bar to research
-Good to see you.
-How are you?
# Jamaica rum
# I drink that stuff until the sun goes down. #
You're probably wondering why you're here.
-Because I'm going to teach you about cocktails.
It's 1921, the war is over and now there is nothing to do but drink.
OK. Well, let's drink.
'We're starting with a gimlet -
'one part lime juice to four parts gin -
'supposedly named after a British Navy doctor who gave it to sailors
'to prevent them from getting scurvy.'
-There we are.
-Here we go.
-Look at that, isn't it elegant?
You see, I think that's beautiful.
That is. That is.
Couldn't you just dive in?
It seems like a decadent thing to do, doesn't it?
Just be sitting around the bar drinking cocktail after cocktail.
-We could have something like a Between The Sheets?
'As new bars and gentlemen's clubs opened up in Britain's cities,
'and a simple whisky, wine or port became passe,
'instead it was all about mixed spirits and a racy name.'
Brandy and white rum, Cointreau and some sort of healthy fruit.
-Now, that's naughty.
Even the name of this cocktail, Between The Sheets,
that sounds a bit sort of saucy.
I mean, you wouldn't have had that in the Edwardian era.
-Gosh, absolutely not.
-People would have been shocked by that.
They would have been entirely shocked.
So, they go on crackers, so that's...
While Brandon brushes up on his cocktails,
Rochelle's finishing off the canapes -
often salty or spicy to encourage guests to consume more drinks.
Cocktails are the star attraction,
so basically the canapes meal
is kind of a little side act in the corner.
'Back in the bar, we're on our third cocktail...
'..a Bloody Mary.'
That's a salty Bloody Mary.
-So, Fabio, there are so many recipes for a Bloody Mary.
-Pinch of salt, pepper, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce,
and equal parts tomato juice and vodka.
Apparently, the really,
the true defining Bloody Mary has a slice of lemon
and the celery came later.
'Finally, the mint julep.
'Bourbon, sugar and mint.'
Thank you very much.
It's like brushing your teeth and then gargling with Jack Daniels.
-Do you think you could make one of these yourself?
-I might give it a try.
I like the fact that not only do you get lots of whisky inside it,
but it kind of freshens your breath at the same time.
I just drank the first one a bit too fast and I've got minor brain freeze.
This is how the history of cocktails gets written,
by people like you and me who don't know anything and have had a couple of drinks.
# I drink that stuff until the morning comes... #
After a long afternoon of complex research,
Brandon's picked up something special for Rochelle.
-Are you back?
-Guess what I've got.
-Well, yeah, put it behind your back.
Look, I've got chocolate.
That's very nice. What have you done?
Thanks to new manufacturing technology,
Cadbury's Milk Tray made individual chocolates affordable for any
middle-class husband who might feel he needed
to make things up to his wife.
But now it's party time.
And I've arranged a special surprise for tonight,
a live Dixieland trio to get the evening going with the very latest
American music - jazz.
Jazz was fast and furious,
nothing like the classical and musical favourites of previous decades.
It's quite a strong one, so do watch yourselves.
As well as Miranda and Roz's friends,
I've invited Leah Wood,
singer and daughter to rock and roll star Ronnie Wood,
to help the Robshaws understand how music fuelled
the modernism of the '20s.
People were like, whoa, this is such great, new music and it's so
expressive. There was nothing else like that until that came in.
So, really it's...
We've got them to thank.
Not you guys, personally, but you know what I mean.
We've got them to thank for bringing that over and creating a whole new
world of music,
and freedom and fashion and all of that.
It just feels I very kind of, like, freeing age.
Like, just thinking back to the previous decades,
where it's been very restricted and, if we had free time,
it would have been spent with family,
like my mum and my sister, kind of like in the parlour, knitting.
And now, like, to the soundtrack of jazz,
having friends round and drinking cocktails,
it just feels like a completely different vibe.
-Did you make these?
-I did make them. Well, yeah.
I did... That is mackerel. That is tomato and egg.
'We had this cocktail party and we didn't actually have...
'We didn't sit down to eat.
'Canapes being passed around, passing cocktails around.
'I mean, I suppose that, after the war, if you were'
fortunate enough to be able to afford it, you would...
You'd actually just want to drink and forget your cares.
You'd want to have a good time, you'd want to have parties,
you'd want to drink, want to let your hair down and it just seems to
have created such a completely different world from that rather
kind of stiff, buttoned-up world of the earlier couple of decades in the century.
'The '20s feels exciting.
'I feel like I'm moving very fast'
and this kind of dress, even,
this kind of behaviour,
would have been completely unthinkable in the Edwardian era.
and there's a new magazine on Britain's newsstands
aimed directly at middle-class women like Rochelle.
"The Model Housewife, Secrets Of Her Success,
"by Viscountess Gladstone."
"The best time to pluck poultry is when the bird is newly killed and
"before the flesh has time to stiffen."
Now, I wouldn't have known that.
It's really interesting to have a magazine like Good Housekeeping.
It's like somebody talking to you.
You know, the instruction,
especially from sort of a woman who is like a viscountess, would make
you think, "Oh, she's giving me her knowledge."
Like, on some level, we have a great deal of independence.
We can have cocktail parties, go to nightclubs, get a university degree,
but also an expectation that you will have to be a kind of wife and
mother and housekeeper.
As well as innovative publications,
there's also something new in Britain's shops,
and Rochelle's off to stock up.
The '20s saw an explosion in the variety of tinned produce,
sold as a safe and hygienic method of preserving almost any food.
At the start of the decade, Britain had three canning factories.
By 1929, there were 80.
-I think I know you from somewhere.
I think I know you as well.
-It's nice to see you.
You've got yourself a job.
I'm moving up in the world.
That's absolutely fantastic.
Debbie's found a job in a local shop,
earning much more than she could as a maid.
Do you want to come back?
-Oh, are you missing me?
-We're missing you very much.
You definitely don't want to come back?
OK. Two tins of potatoes,
two tins of marrowfat peas, six tins of salmon
and some Bird's Custard.
Thank you. I tell you what, Debbie,
if I manage to get home with all these tins,
I'll make a nice dinner and think of you.
-Oh, good luck.
I'm happy she's not back in service.
It would be lovely if she wanted to come back,
but she doesn't and that time has passed.
Rochelle's back with enough tins to make an entire meal -
all she has to do is open them.
It's actually quite hard work.
If you can open the can, you can open the world.
Dinner today is salmon with potatoes, peas and carrots.
And, for desert,
tinned peaches with powdered custard.
You have to kind of go out shopping early,
then start opening your cans early...
..if you want eat.
They fill me with a sense of anxiety because, if you can't get into it,
I think it's probably easier to peel a potato than to open a can.
While Rochelle grapples with cutting-edge 1920s technology,
Fred's found a convenience food that's a bit easier to open -
Smith's Salt 'n' Shake crisps.
Mr and Mrs Smith made and sold their new snack from a garage in
north London, selling 1,000 packets a week.
By the end of the decade, they'd opened seven factories and created
a nation of crisp lovers.
We now consume six billion bags a year.
Rochelle's '20s ready meal has taken minutes to cook.
Nothing like the hours Debbie spent preparing elaborate feasts in
their Edwardian kitchen.
It's fairly no frills.
It's supposed to make everything a lot easier,
that everything is ready peeled, prepared and all ready for you.
It's not exactly cookery, so it's kind of...
Here we go. Do you want some bread?
Yeah, love some bread.
So, this is all out of tins, is it?
Except for the bread, I suppose.
Yeah. Everything's out of a tin.
I have no fear of the can opener.
You're an expert at that now, aren't you?
Yeah. Well, I wouldn't say an expert, but I am proficient.
If it was on levels, I'm probably on level three now.
-What's the top level?
-Five would be advanced can opening.
But I suppose somebody getting this might have thought,
I'm going to have salmon, like what my maid made me.
But when it actually comes out, we've got this salmon that is...
is not fish-shaped.
Yeah, it's been in a tin.
Yeah. I don't know if the tinned vegetables work quite so well.
-So, this is all stuff you bought at the shops.
But you'll never guess who was over the counter.
-It was Debbie.
-Was it Debbie?
Was she surprised to see you?
She was surprised to see me.
-Were you surprised to see her?
-I was extremely surprised to see her.
-You should have invited her round for dinner.
-I think she's busy.
What do people think about having a meal all out of tins?
It's been quite nice.
But would you serve this to guests?
It's like sort of saying, "Oh,
"I really fancy noodles tonight,"
and then them giving you a Pot Noodle.
I suppose so.
I didn't dislike the canned dinner.
It's not the type of food that Debbie would have served and,
if she was still with us,
we probably wouldn't be eating an entirely canned meal.
Roz and Fred have come to the park to find a brand-new phenomenon,
the ice cream man.
In the early 1920s, Wall's was a small meat company.
They noticed that sales of pies and sausage rolls dropped dramatically
in the summer months, so, to help profits,
they expanded into ice cream.
And in 1923, they introduced the world's first-ever
ice cream tricycle,
allowing them to take freshly made blocks and tubs
directly to the people.
-Can I please have an ice cream?
-You certainly can.
-Are you enjoying your ice cream?
What do you like about it?
-I like that it's ice cream.
Back at the house, Rochelle's discovering a new phenomenon of her own.
"I've sent you a little something to help you learn a prized housewife skill - baking.
"Good luck, Giles."
To help the fledgling housewife get used to a kitchen without servants,
the Co-operative grocer published a series of recipe cards given away
in cigarette packets.
I would have taken out this little card
and it would have had a nice little recipe on the back,
and then I could have gone into the Co-op and bought all my produce.
It's quite a good idea.
Canny bit of advertising.
The recipe for coconut pyramids couldn't be more simple -
half a pound of desiccated coconut and condensed milk.
It's not too difficult,
so any housewife who was a little bit nervous
would be best starting off with this one, I reckon.
And then you have to get two forks together
and somehow create a pyramid using forks...
..which is obviously not what the ancient Egyptians did.
Now, that's not very good, is it?
I've forgotten what a pyramid looks like.
But everyone in the '20s would have known.
The discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 by British archaeologist
Howard Carter captured the world's imagination
and sparked a mania for all things Egyptian.
Music, art and culture all fell under the spell of Egyptomania
and baking was no exception.
It's very hot in the desert!
Yeah, they do look a bit well done.
I'm hoping my family will be polite and accept them for what they are.
Oh. What are these?
They're coconut pyramids.
-They're a bit burnt.
No, they are very sort of well done.
-Would you like one?
-Do you want to put them down?
Put them down and then people can just help themselves.
These are nice. They're good.
I think they're nicer with the caramelised topping.
-Good, thank you.
Tea really tastes good when you've just had a cake.
Have another one, then.
All right. Don't mind if I do.
They're delicious. They tasted great.
And, in fact, we all ate them and wanted more, didn't we?
-Unfortunately, the presentation is a 5.63.
This year saw the arrival of Kellogg's Corn Flakes from America.
The company opened its first factory in the UK and our love affair with
the convenience of breakfast cereals truly took off.
There's no preparation.
All I have to do is tip it out of the box and into the bowl.
At the time, it was probably cutting-edge cereal.
They would have seemed very different, wouldn't they,
from toast and marmalade, or boiled eggs?
I never eat corn flakes at home.
Never, ever eat them.
But if you've never had anything like this before,
it would feel like a completely different type of breakfast,
-Would this keep you going all day at the office?
Not sure about that.
Think it would get you to the station all right.
You'd have to do get like a butty or something.
Corn flakes aren't the only new arrival in the house.
Brandon's taken delivery of some state-of-the-art technology.
The 1920s was a decade of breakthroughs.
New radio technology meant that live broadcasts could be heard in
the homes of ordinary British families for the very first time.
And a brand-new corporation had been formed - the BBC.
It must have kind of helped British people
to think of themselves as more of a nation because everybody could be listening to the same thing at
the same time. It must have seemed that we were rushing into the future
at that time.
And Rochelle's got her hands on her own technological innovation -
"The experienced housekeeper or the young wife have only to become
"acquainted with the possibilities of Pyrex to refuse to return to
"the drudgery of old-fashioned methods."
Initially imported from the United States,
by 1924 it was being produced in Britain.
The ovenproof glassware was marketed directly at housewives keen to find
This is modern. In this, I can cook, I can put it in the oven,
take it out of the oven and then I can bring it to the table.
And it's transparent.
Imagine that, actually seeing your food
sort of cook all the way through.
Well, now you have no excuse if it goes wrong.
I will have an excuse if it goes wrong.
-What will it be? Can't cook.
Rochelle is preparing a three-course meal,
following recipes from the Pyrex Modern Cookery Book.
Ham and potato hotpot, celery hotpot and cabinet pudding.
The dishes spread heat more evenly, helping to reduce cooking time.
And Pyrex's modern,
forward-thinking design meant housewives could bring them straight
to the table, doing away with separate serving dishes altogether.
Now everything is visible,
it just gives a kind of like a wow factor to the hotpot.
They look a bit burnt now, so you can't even see it anyway.
It's not burnt. It is...
It is the lid of the Pyrex pot.
See? Look, it goes brown.
They don't tell you that, do they?
What big chunks of ham.
They look good to me.
People don't get rid of their Pyrex.
They don't. They don't.
-They absolutely don't.
-They keep them for decades.
Yeah, they do. Pyrex is not just sort of here today, gone tomorrow.
-It's not like a fad.
It's absolutely endured, hasn't it?
-Do you want some?
-I want some.
I can smell the kind of the custard-y smell.
Oh, it is hot, isn't it?
God, these Pyrex dishes really do hold the heat, don't they?
Do you remember that sweet sauce that Debbie made?
-That's what this needs.
-Raspberry and port.
I'm supposed to have jam sauce, I forgot.
-Oh, are you?
You've got to serve it with jam.
For lunch, we had these very nice casserole dishes that Rochelle made
using the new Pyrex cookware.
Life in the kitchen is getting a bit easier for Rochelle.
The equipment is getting more modern.
It still seems that she's...
she is somewhat confined to the kitchen.
The Robshaws are halfway through the decade and bars and nightclubs in
Britain's cities are thriving.
New licensing laws mean they can stay open later,
as long as they offer something to eat alongside
the dancing and champagne.
I'm sending Miranda and Roz to the Bloomsbury Ballroom
to sample a '20s night out with Strictly's James and Ola Jordan.
But James and Ola are here for one reason only.
OK, guys, let's go and Charleston.
When we do the Charleston step here,
the reason why the feet come in and out like this,
not only because it looks nice, but it's about the lady's modesty.
The skirts would be getting shorter and shorter in the '20s.
-A little bit more zhoosh like that.
-A bit more free.
-Yeah, bit more free.
Yeah, we're going to do the basic box step first of all,
when we cross over with our left leg.
OK, so we go one, two, three, four.
Keep doing that. One, two, three, step.
Tap. Step. Tap.
And now we start to add the swivel.
Now, you can start to put the arms in.
So, the arms go this way and then this way.
So, each time it goes there...
-It's hard, isn't it?
-It is hard.
The Charleston was as riotous,
modern and fast-paced as the young people doing it
and it certainly couldn't be done in a corset.
OK. Five, six, seven, eight.
But nightclubs weren't the only places to try something new.
Aspiring middle-class housewives had their own group of trendsetters to
follow in the '20s - Virginia Woolf and her Bloomsbury Set.
As well as transforming literature,
their cosmopolitan palates were also very influential.
Rochelle's preparing a dinner party
based on a menu cooked by fashionable painter Dora Carrington.
If Virginia Woolf and her Bloomsbury Set wanted to write a cookbook,
they would probably put in a recipe like this.
Today, we have that same fascination
with groups of people who we perceive
as being better than us, who have a better lifestyle than us.
Catering to the exotic tastes of the group,
she's making sardines on toast, chicken with fennel and tomato,
risotto with almonds and pimentos,
and creme brulee.
It's kind of an expensive menu.
I mean, you've got something like fennel and saffron,
which is like an expensive spice to add in.
It tastes different.
It doesn't taste like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
Meanwhile, the girls perfect their moves.
Guys, could you come up as partners, please?
Thank you. These are your partners.
We're going to try and lift.
Five, six, seven, eight.
One, two, in you come and jump.
Around the back. Kick the legs, we turn...
and put the girls down.
-There we go.
Five, six, seven, eight.
'I can't imagine our parents coming out to dance with us.
'Previously, you have been very kind of restricted in terms of morality,
'like, what you're allowed to do.
'It's kind of flirtatious.
'It's kind of got this, like, edge to it and this sort of cheekiness'
and, like, it's really easy to see why it appealed to young women.
-Here's to 1925.
Back at the house, the guests have arrived for Rochelle and Brendan's
Bloomsbury-inspired dinner party.
Oh, look at that. Isn't that beautiful?
Virginia Woolf had Nelly, her cook,
so Virginia didn't have to do any cooking,
so all she had to do was just sit about, writing her books.
Let's toast Nelly. Raise your glass, toast Nelly.
Yeah. And Rochelle, yes.
-Those are excellent carrots.
-I do really like it.
-It's really good.
Now it's possible to get saffron and garlic, and Parmesan.
Ooh-la-la. What have we got here?
This is a risotto.
I see, very Italian.
-Doesn't that look delicious?
It does feel like a very, very modern decade,
to be sitting about, having the luxury to sit and chat.
And would I give this up easily?
Well, we've got at least two, anyway.
-Creme brulee's there.
-I do like them.
-I like them well done.
-What do you think Virginia would say about this?
It's 1926 and Britain's economy is faltering.
Demand for British coal was falling
and miners were threatened with a cut in pay and longer working hours.
A miners' dispute escalated and Britain experienced its first and only general strike
as thousands of workers came out in solidarity.
So, the headline I've got here in the British Gazette is,
"First day of great strike."
This is May 5th, 1926.
The line they're taking is basically that people just carry on regardless
with true British determination.
"Londoners' treck to work.
"On foot, squeezed into cars, standing in vans, riding pillion,
"London came yesterday morning doggedly and cheerfully to work."
The printers were also on strike and for many the only news available was
an emergency newspaper published by the Government.
Not going to get a balanced picture if there's only one newspaper
publishing that's come out in defiance of the strike.
It is a sign of how divided the nation was.
The strike reflected Britain's weak economic position as it struggled to
emerge from post-war recession.
In an attempt to boost Britain's economy,
a new Government initiative
encouraged people to "Buy Empire".
Doing their patriotic bit,
Brandon and Rochelle are off out for a colonial lunch.
-Oh, so nice to see you.
-Nice to see you.
Thrilled you're here in 1926.
Take a seat, come and join me.
We here in this fabulous restaurant.
It was opened in 1926 by a man called Edward Palmer and an Indian
princess, so you have this Anglo-Indian heritage.
Edward Palmer brought over Indian cooks and Indian waiters,
so that the sort of look of this place would have been very authentic
so that it felt like you are having a taste of India.
You can imagine that you're in some kind of gentlemen's club in Calcutta
-I think that's why Veeraswamy,
you know, setting this up in 1926 is a really sort of savvy move,
capitalising on Britain's relationship with India,
and I think that people would have been curious
and also would have wanted to have shown their sort of sophistication,
Previously, Indian restaurants had mainly catered to their own immigrant community.
But Veeraswamy, with it's Anglo-Asian ownership,
was aimed at middle-class white Britons
keen to support Britain's empire and taste the flavours of the Raj.
What I've got here is this menu,
which is fantastic because this menu shows us what was being served
in this restaurant in 1926.
I've taken the liberty of ordering for you.
While Brandon tries a '20s-style curry,
Rochelle is having cod in parsley sauce.
Yours looks a lot more interesting
than my bit of fish and parsley sauce.
It's kind of like a gendered menu.
It's sort of like male, India, and female, fish.
For the ladies, yes.
What this reflects is actually that it was more likely that Brandon may
have spent time in India and might have been familiar with Indian food.
We, as ladies, may not have been out in India.
This may have been very new to us and our palates wouldn't be used to
Indian food, so that the menu had these European dishes, as well,
and so we're having cod and parsley sauce.
The hotter the curry you can eat, the more of a man you are
-and that is true.
'I think that curry must have seemed like a taste that
'was completely different for the middle classes
'and just this...'
this whole taste of the exotic.
Cheers to Indian food, then.
-Thanks a lot.
It's 1927 and Debbie's found a new job
in one of Britain's most successful industries,
employing over 200,000 people, fish and chips.
The expansion of trawler fishing,
rail connections from ports to cities and mechanised potato peeling
and frying kept 35,000 fish and chip shops going.
A working-class favourite, they weren't something
the middle classes would have eaten in public,
so Roz and Fred have been sent out to bring some back for the family.
Can I have five large cod and chips, please?
-That's it. Thanks.
Do you feel like, free, now?
Kind of freer, yeah.
Here I still get to cook and I kind of enjoyed that bit.
Like, when I was a servant, I liked to cook for you guys.
It was just... Like, before, I was just in your house all the time.
-Like on my own, when you guys went out.
I think that a girl in the 1920s would probably pick a job like this
-And you can feel like you're doing something like for
yourself. You've chosen to work in a fish and chip shop and it's not like
someone's said, "Now you have to cook this dinner," and you're like, "OK."
Yeah, yeah, it is a bit like that, actually.
-It was lovely to see you.
Yeah, and you. Say hello to the rest of the family.
Yeah, I will. Bye.
In the privacy of their own homes,
families like the Robshaws were happy to indulge in Britain's favourite takeaway.
I can imagine a middle-class family in 1927 having this would have...
They'd think it was a bit of a joke.
Aren't we a little bit bohemian?
-Do you think we would have closed the curtains?
Even in like... Like our modern lives,
you're slightly embarrassed about having a takeaway.
-Do you know what I mean?
-I like fish and chips.
-I love fish and chips.
-I suppose to have fish and chips would be great
because you think, "I don't have to cook this at all."
It also substantially cuts down on the washing up
because there's no pots and pans.
Guess who we met in the fish and chip shop?
- Giles. - No.
- Debbie. - Yes!
-How was she? How was she doing?
-She was good. She looked like she really enjoyed it.
-She looked really happy to see us.
-Does she want to come back?
Tell her I could improve her hours.
She doesn't want to come back, Mum.
And, for dessert, there's a new sweet treat, launched in 1927.
What's that? Jaffa Cakes?
It could be. It could well be.
Now, almost 2,000 Jaffa Cakes are made every minute,
but they've always had a controversial status.
I was always very firm in my belief that they were biscuits,
but I know that they're not.
- Shall I tell you how? - Yeah.
So, the definition of a cake is it goes hard when it's stale
and a biscuit goes soft when it's stale.
Those go hard when they're stale.
- So, they are cakes. - They are cakes.
In 1991, the matter was put to rest.
They were declared to be cakes and so free of VAT.
'Sweets and treats and fast food is now being more noticeable, definitely.
'We had the Jaffa Cakes,'
which were not a biscuit, but they weren't a cake.
It's a new day and the Robshaws are nearing the end of the decade.
1928 saw the passing of the Equal Franchise Act,
finally giving all women over 21 the right to vote.
And when you think, 1928, I mean that's not that long ago.
-Now, women were considered to be equal citizens.
many of them former activists, gathered at London's Cecil Hotel
to celebrate the event and eat a commemorative victory breakfast.
It's a women power breakfast at the start of what they hope would be
a sense of them being equal to men.
All right, now, go away and think about your freedom.
-And lay the table.
Rochelle is preparing the family their own victory breakfast -
based on the original surviving menu from 1928.
I didn't know they did Quaker Oats back...
You know, I was a bit surprised to see them in 1928.
I suppose it's another sort of quick thing to have for breakfast.
The lavish breakfast of porridge, kippers, bacon, eggs,
toast and marmalade recalled the hearty fare suffragettes served
those just released from prison.
Are they wheels? They could be wheels, couldn't they?
-While women's suffrage occupies the kitchen,
Brandon and Fred have something else on their minds -
-That's about two inches, isn't it?
As technology progressed through the '20s,
the toys of the time replicated new inventions, with miniature planes,
boats, cars and trains.
19 of these nuts.
I tell you what, this is driving me nuts.
-Can we eat that?
I tell you, this is a good, hearty breakfast.
Salad is a slightly unusual touch.
Is that what they had at the celebration breakfast?
-But I think it's great. I think it's a beautiful breakfast.
I love it. Not like those light breakfasts of corn flakes and so on.
Well, I want a kipper.
Well, you've got something to celebrate, haven't you?
You would have had the vote because you're over 30.
Only just, obviously. It makes a difference to these two, really.
I think it would have felt like a real triumph and a real step
forward for women.
Well, here's to the Equal Franchise Act.
-Well done, ladies.
Thanks very much.
So, 1928 was a big significant year for women.
At last, these big,
massive barriers in the way people thought about women
were finally being broken down.
'This was the year where women got the vote.'
Just years and years and years of petitioning and protesting.
I mean, the atmosphere across the country must have been, like, amazing.
It's 1929 and, to celebrate,
the Robshaws are preparing a party to mark the end of the decade.
As Brandon prepares the cocktails,
Miranda pours the perfect party snack, introduced just this year,
-It actually says here, "For cocktail parties."
Well, they're perfect, aren't they?
We've had Marmite for decades, haven't we? And it took until now
for somebody to hit on the idea of putting Marmite on these little wheaty sticks.
Rochelle's in the kitchen,
making a vanilla slice for tonight's party.
It's food that is fun, rather than food that is for nutrition, or purpose.
They've kind of perfected the food that goes with the cocktail.
On a special occasion like this, as many middle-class housewives did,
she's hired in some help.
What I'm constructing are banana sandwiches.
-So, yeah, bit unusual for a cocktail party.
I just think that maybe people who'd had a few drinks
might fancy a banana sandwich.
It actually sounds like something you'd have after a few drinks,
-Do you think so?
-Yeah, a banana sandwich.
But as the Robshaws prepare for their party,
a seismic economic event this year will have wide repercussions.
The Wall Street Crash wiped millions off the American stock market
and plunged the world into recession.
Its effects wouldn't be felt yet by middle-class British families
who were able to carry on regardless in true 1920s-style.
# Have you seen the well-to-do
# Up on Lenox Avenue...? #
# On that famous thoroughfare
# With their noses in the air? #
Would you like a Singapore Sling?
'Polly and I are back to join the party and find out all about
'the Robshaws' roaring '20s.'
-Nice to see you. How are you?
-This all looks very exciting.
I'm just pouring out Singapore Slings here.
So, what can I get you two?
I've mixed up a dry martini already and this Singapore Sling.
-Dry martini - that sounds great.
There you go.
Thank you very much.
How have you found the '20s, Rochelle?
Well, the beginning of the decade, I was sort of slightly anxious
because Debbie had gone and I did think,
"What am I going to be doing in that kitchen?"
But as I sort of found out, there were cookbooks,
there was sort of Good Housekeeping magazines.
It was simplified, so it was for the new housewife.
Basically, the '20s was a chap's decade.
Yes, I've got that lovely drinks trolley,
all these gleaming bottles on it.
I can mix things up and add different quantities and shake it up.
It's a lovely, lovely ritual when six o'clock rolls around.
It's basically quite a simple life, really, isn't it?
Coming into the kitchen at the beginning of the decade,
I was quite daunted.
But because of the introduction of new convenience foods,
the whole process was that much simpler.
It sort of spins into a modern take on easier eating.
'As a middle-class woman in the '20s,
'I'd probably feel quite exhilarated'
by the rate of change,
but at the same time I would feel kind of, like, perplexed by it.
Maybe possibly find sanctuary in the kitchen.
It might be moving too fast for me.
I found the '20s a massive amount of fun.
There have been quite a few evenings where the main focus of the event is
different types of drinks and the food is kind of like an afterthought
and I've just had a whale of a time.
I really enjoyed the jazz party.
The music of this era, it's been like the soundtrack to our freedom.
I think if I actually had been my age in the '20s,
it would have been a really exciting decade.
Learning how to Charleston, that was just so brilliant,
I think, it was just so much fun.
I've got to say, I've enjoyed the '20s immensely.
You know, I love the greater variety of the food,
the cooking has got more diverse.
We've got a radio set, we've got a modern record player.
We have electric light.
It really does feel as if we've...
we've come into the modern age.
The Robshaws began the decade drinking and partying
to forget the horrors of war.
They're drinking again, but this time it's to get over the woes of economic slump.
Along the way, Rochelle's found that social upheaval has deprived her of her staff
and she's had to become a housekeeper for the first time.
But luckily for Miranda and Roz,
there is hope, it seems, of a more exciting future.
What I can't help feeling about the '20s,
and this of course is with hindsight,
because we know it's a period of calm in-between two wars,
I sometimes get a sense that it's something almost slightly panicky,
a bit feverish about all this pleasure seeking.
It's almost as if people knew what awful clouds lay on the horizon and
they were just determined to enjoy themselves while they could.
Next time, the Robshaws experience the 1930s.
A decade of opportunities...
Let me see if I can hear them snap, crackle and pop.
..that was stopped in its tracks.
That looks like something out of a nightmare.
The Robshaw family are experienced time travellers, but this time they are going further back than they have ever been before - to the turn of the 20th century, to discover how the food we ate and the way we ate it helped shape the modern family. An ordinary house in south London is their time machine, transporting them through five decades and two world wars. Guided by presenters Giles Coren and social historian Polly Russell, they trace the incredible changes to Britain's diet and the extraordinary social transformation they reveal.
This time, the Robshaws experience a thoroughly modern decade as they enter the 1920s. They get their first taste of the racy reputation of the age as they host a jazz age party fuelled by a menu of 14 different cocktails. The decade has something new for everyone, with sweet treats for Fred, spicy food for Brandon in a 1920s curry house, and the kicks and tricks of the charleston for Miranda and Ros with Strictly's James and Ola Jordan. Rochelle has a new role too - as a modern housewife, no longer a lady of leisure, there is a lot of work to do in the kitchen now that Debbie has found new work in a grocers and a fish and chip shop.
In this decade of rapid changes, corsets are gone, hemlines are raised and at the dinner table, there are plenty of modern conveniences, with a completely tinned dinner, the wonder of Pyrex and the launch of some very familiar brands.