Saturday, December 05, 2009

Birthday party food

A while ago Parent Hacks website posted a 'wonderful' idea one of their readers had come up with: serving jello (jelly) in individual serving sized paper cups. Hmm - we were doing that years ago in the UK for birthday parties. I've never seen jelly (jello) served at a birthday party in the US. Over here, the food at kids' birthday parties is usually pizza followed by cake served with ice cream.

When I was a kid in the UK, we had sandwiches (cut into little triangles), jelly in little paper cups with whipped cream on top , and 'fairy cakes':
(Picture from citybumpkin's blog.)

I remember chocolate blancmange rabbits on lime jelly grass too. I don't think they sell blancmage in the US, not that I've ever looked for it. (No Angel Delight either, which I remember we often had for dessert - I loved the butterscotch flavour!) Here's a picture of a blancmange rabbit, though the red jelly looks weird to me - it really should have been green!

(Photo from howarew's photostream at Flickr.)

The actual birthday cake might or might not have been eaten at the party, but guests were usually sent home with a slice wrapped up in a paper serviette. Americans I've mentioned this too all think that is really weird!

What do you remember about the food served at children's birthday parties when you were growing up? Has kids' birthday party food in the UK changed?


iwi said...

Kids' birthday party food in the UK has not changed much. It's still sandwiches (as you recall, often cut into triangles, with the crusts cut off), sausage rolls, crisps (chips to you), pizza slices, chicken nuggets, chips (fries to you).

Usual pudding fare is Jelly, icecream or trifle for pudding.

Most parents try to put out slices of cucumber, carrot and various fruit too which I don't recall from my childhood.

And the slice of birthday cake in the paper serviette to take home? Still going strong. You'd be most surprised to not get a bit of cake to take away.

kenandbelly said...

That rabbit thing is... wow. Wow. I have never seen that dish... I'm unsettled by it's appearance, frankly. Then again, when you said pizza, cake, ice cream I said check, check and check.

Where I come from, anything containing Jello is deemed to be a salad. Yep.

sablonneuse said...

Your description of childhood parties rang all the bells for me. that's exactly how I remember them and it was much the same when I did parties for my own children.
Here, in France, I've only been to one party for a two year old and it was completely different: didn't start till 7.30; very grown-up food including large sandwiches, hot and cold canapés; the birthday girl was left to play with the half doezen older children while the adults sat around eating and talking and she was called at about 11 o'clock to blow out her candles before the cake was cut and served. I'm not sure if this is typical!

Beth said...

You get to take cake home with you? If that's the case, I need to find some more UK friends with small children.

Clippy Mat said...

only a few kids had birthday parties in our neighbourhood but jelly and custard was IT. if they had that then it was as good as caviar. triangular sandwiches and 'crisps' and of course fairy cakes were also standard party fare. the birthday cake was a fruit cake with marzipan and icing.
we didn't take birthday presents for the birthday girl/boy either.
couldn't afford it. maybe a nice card with a 1/6d postal order. if they were lucky.
we were just there to eat the goodies and play pass the parcel.

nappy valley girl said...

Funnily enough the only time I remember a blancmange rabbit in my childhood was when it was served by some Americans we knew!

Kids' parties in Nappy Valley always included lots of carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes in a desperate attempt by parents to show their kids eat healthily....

Almost American said...

Ah yes, thanks everyone - now I'm thinking I should rewrite this post as I forgot so much: the crusts cut off the sandwiches, sausage rolls and crisps, of course! Trifle, jelly and custard. There were probably chocolate biscuits too at many of the parties.

I have a photo somewhere of DD aged 3 at a 50th birthday party for one of my friends. There was lots of different kinds of food on offer. She made herself a beautiful plate of M&Ms and broccoli!

That rabbit really was unsettling wasn't it? Looked like someone had done it a serious injury and it had bled to death! My father-in-law thinks jello is a salad too - preferably with things like grated cabbage in it!

Pass-the-parcel - I've never seen that played over here, or the games of musical statues or musical bumps that we used to play at birthday parties. Some parties have a piñata. A lot of the parties seem to be organised around an event like bowling or roller skating, so there's no need for organized games.

Sablonneuse - wow, definitely a different approach to a kids party there! A colleague of mine was invited to a Russian neighbour's party for her kid's birthday and was surprised that the adults basically paid no attention to the kids all afternoon.

NFAH said...

I simply do not understand how and why sandwiches are the food of choice in the UK!

The only time I recall ever seeing Jello in individual portions like you describe, is when it was mixed with vodka and was "Jello shots" in college. But we did have a type of Jello as a kid that was stiffer and firmer, and was cut into blocks or pieces and that was really popular when I was a kid in the US.

Almost American said...

Ah yes, jello shots - DH used to make those, though I only ever had them once. Not my favorite thing. Sherry trifle, OTOH, I would eat several servings of!

Expat mum said...

Pin the tail on the donkey? I can't think of a single child here who has had a birthday party in their own home. I have to admit, it would be an awful lot of work, but a heck of a lot cheaper than renting somewhere out and paying $25 per child for slimey pizza and dangerous kids drinks.

Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

The fairy cakes look delicious, but I have to admit I find the rabbit kind of creepy. I doubt I would eat it. You can have my portion :-)

siobhan said...

This is such a coincidence, today I was racking my brains as to what to serve at my daughter's first birthday party. I thought, wouldn't it be easier if I could just do what we used to, cubes of cheese and pineapple chunks on cocktail sticks, stuck onto a potato covered in tinfoil :)

Almost American said...

Expatmum - ah yes, the vileness of Chuck E. Cheese! (I tricked DH into going to the only party at Chuck E. Cheese either of my kids has been invited to - it took him weeks to forgive me!) The best location party the kids have been to recently was at the local ice rink - the whole rink for the party for an hour, watch the Zamboni, eat cake, and then join the public skate. It was apparently a very reasonable price - and flat rate so they could have invited twice as many people as they did for the same cost.

Pin the tail on the donkey - of course - another classic!

I remember the cubes of cheese and pineapple chunks on cocktail sticks, (always stuck onto a potato or half an orange covered in tinfoil!) We served fruit kabobs at DD's 6th birthday and every parent there commented "You couldn't serve this at a birthday party with boys - they'd be using the wooden skewers as weapons!" (The girls LOVED the fruit kabobs!)

Canoez said...

I repeat : Chuck E. Cheese is evil.

Rachel said...

My English sweetie swore that he and his siblings invented the "best way to eat jelly EVER" when they were growing up. Apprently there wasn't enough room in the fridge for all the bowls of jelly, so they made it in old milk bottles and then ate it by sucking it through straws on Christmas day. He had my whole family (American) try it next year and I have to say we were rolling on the floor laughing at the "rude" noises it made! :)

AliBlahBlah said...

Much more interesting 'crisps', all different flavours and shapes, not just 'ranch' or 'BBQ'.

OMG butterscotch Angel Delight. I'm not joking that I it was on my list of things to do when we went home in July!!!

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