How have tastes in food altered in the last 50 years?

We tend to take for granted the foods and flavours that we love today, but if we went back in time to 50 years ago we would find many differences in the meals that were enjoyed in our home country. Wherever in the world we live, many of the foods that we ate 50 years ago were very different five decades ago; here are some of the places that have seen the most change in tastes.

The UK

Probably the biggest change in food tastes in the United Kingdom is the love of foreign flavours and ingredients. If we went back 50 years, foods such as pasta, pizza and curry, which are now staples of the British diet, were eaten by very few people in the UK. It was not until package holidays abroad became popular and cheap that large numbers of the British began to taste foreign meals and tastes changed. Before that, simple home cooking involving meat, fish and fresh vegetables, with an occasional fish and chip takeaway, was what most people ate and enjoyed.

The Middle East

There is currently an epidemic of obesity and related diseases such as diabetes in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where over half the population is classified as obese. One of the reasons is the sudden change in diet that has occurred in the last 50 years. Before the discovery of oil, citizens of Kuwait, the UAE and other Gulf countries enjoyed a healthy diet of rice, vegetables and fruit supplemented by occasional meat and fish. Wealth and urbanisation has introduced fast food and rich, calorie-laden meals and many people in this region see the conspicuous consumption of food as a sign of social status, meaning that more food is wasted in the GCC countries than anywhere in the world.

The USA

Today, one in four people in the USA eat some kind of fast food every day; a habit that had already started fifty years ago. Restaurant chains such as McDonalds and KFC offered cheap, ready-made food like hamburgers and fried chicken. To improve the taste of lower-cost ingredients, fast food outlets used large amounts of salt and sugar to improve the taste of the food and over time, the American palate grew used to higher and higher amounts. While many Americans fifty years ago still enjoyed regular home-cooked meals using fresh vegetables, meat and fish, the 1950s had seen the introduction of TV dinners and other pre-prepared food, which was embraced for its convenience and time-saving. Today, Americans eat more packaged food than fresh food and spend 10 per cent of their disposable income on fast food. As with the UK, the taste for foreign food was gradually increasing, particularly the French cooking that was made popular in the 1960s by Julia Childs. Today, Americans enjoy food from all over the world, including sushi, tacos and ramen.

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