Alison Holst, New Zealand food legend, serves up a taste of 1985 in this historic video

Publish Date
Monday, 25 March 2024, 8:46AM
Alison Holst, pictured in the 1960s, helped to shape New Zealand food habits. Now, an old video has resurfaced, providing a trip down memory lane.

Alison Holst, pictured in the 1960s, helped to shape New Zealand food habits. Now, an old video has resurfaced, providing a trip down memory lane.

What were we eating in 1985? This nostalgic video from Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision national archives might jog your memory.

Resurfacing recently, and dishing up a trip down memory lane, it stars legendary New Zealand chef and food writer Alison Holst, who takes the viewer through some very of-the-era menu items from Cobb & Co - including an “exciting new dish” of deep-fried chicken wings.

For a child of the '80s, there was nothing quite like the thrill of a traffic light drink from Cobb & Co. That tri-coloured slushy held magic in its sugary depths. But if you’re curious about what else was on the menu back in those “old days”, wonder no more.

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A 1985 video from the national archives has resurfaced of Kiwi culinary legend Alison Holst introducing the chain restaurant’s 12 newly released menu items and with it a large dose of nostalgia.

This blast from the past does raise a few questions though: Why did they speak so slowly in 1985? Who decided that a garnish of curly parsley looked incredible with absolutely everything? And why didn’t food have any flavour back then?

The gentle demeanour of Alison Holst, however, is soul-soothing. We’d still eat that “exciting new dish” of deep-fried chicken wings, curly parsley garnish and all, if she was the one putting it in front of us. The barbecue sauce in an onion cup is inspired.

Among the other 12 menu items, there’s a beef and mushroom pie “made to order in the microwave”, spooned into a vol au vent case. “And don’t forget your garnish of parsley and tomato beside it”; and frozen pre-portioned, pre-seasoned chicken, thawed, roasted and “reheated to order in the deep-fryer”. All are accompanied by chips and boiled veg.

There’s also a Seafood Crispy Pie containing “one diced sea leg” (a Google search reveals this is an imitation crab stick and not a motion-sickness tablet). The microwave gets another workout with the traditional plum pudding “reheated to order” (a shell wafer replaces the parsley sprig).

We were quite excited to see what the cheese platter entailed - and were not disappointed. Customers were offered the choice of a wedge of “mild or tasty cheese”, which comes with iceberg lettuce, four crackers, a butter portion still in its branded packaging and, you guessed it, a parsley garnish.

It’s a joy to watch - there’s a magical use of a xylophone to signify a time-lapse. Instantly transporting. And there’s definite gratitude that our food scene has come such a long way. Right, we’re off to buy some steak knives and cocktail forks.

- Video / F23303 COBB & CO NEW MENU (1985) published by Coast via the New Zealand Herald courtesy of Cobb Group Ltd and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

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