Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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A Takeaway Memory Test
I've been trying to remember (without looking it up) at what point in my lifetime certain kinds of takeaway restaurant became commonplace in the UK. By "commonplace" I don't mean "available somewhere in the country" but "available in a typical mid-sized city" - say, a Derby, a Southampton or a Swansea.

This is my impression (but remember I lived my first 18 years in a small market town, so my knowledge is limited):

Common from before I was born: Fish and Chip shops, Chinese takeaways

1960s on: Indian takeaways and other curry houses

Around 1975-80: American-style hamburger and pizza places (Wimpys had been around longer than that, but seems a bit different in my mind, and not that commonly encountered)

1980s: Kebab houses

1990s on - everything else.


Is that reasonable? Have I left anything out, or got anything badly wrong? Remember, I'm not talking about London or the other really big cities - and of course cities with large immigrant populations from a particular country would probably have that country's food ready in takeaway form earlier.

Also, when did people start saying "to go" instead of "to take away" in this country? My impression is that this Americanism started in coffee shops like Starbucks and spread from there, which would put it the early years of this century. Do you agree?

And, on a different topic, have you noticed that "tsunami" has now almost entirely replaced "tidal wave" in common usage? It was not always so! On the other hand, I sense that "rickshaw" is being edged out by "tuk tuk", so the tide of Japanese-origin words is not entirely unchecked.

I remember Wimpys was all I could afford in 1971-2. Yegods that was awful, but eating once a day does a lot for appetite.

It was a very occasional thing for me around that time, when we went to a big city; a treat, officially, but somehow not a particularly enjoyable one. What I really wanted on such occasions was knickerbocker glory (with a long spoon suitable for eating with Satan) - but one seldom sees those nowadays.

I don't even know what that is. I was on a strict budget of fifty cents a day, and if I bought a book, well, there was always tomorrow for food, if I couldn't scavenge any.


We still have |Wimpy's here too. I still use KFC occasionally and sometimes Burger King.

I forgot KFC (or Kentucky Fried Chicken as it was back in the day). I'm not sure I can place its first appearance very easily, as I never ate there.

I'd put burger and pizza places a bit later, but that may be because I clearly remember McDonalds opening in Doncaster in the mid-1980s. We had Wimpy in the same place before that. And I don't remember seeing kebab houses unti the early 1990s.

I have never heard anyone British use "to go" instead of "takeaway", in coffee shops or anywhere else.

You may well be right about the burger places: I was taking off a few years to compensate for my sheltered and semi-rural upbringing.

Really? No one says (if you order a coffee) "Is that to go?" I think I hear that more often that the other these days. How interesting!

Really, I have never heard that in this country. Though I don't go to coffee shops all that often.

I saw a non-chain pizza takeaway today that was advertising its "carry out deals". I had always thought "carry out" (pronounced "kerry oot" by my late grandfather-in-law) was the Scottish version of "takeaway", so wouldn't have expected to see it in Farnborough.

I would have said you had Chinese takeaways opening too early. I don't remember the first Chinese restaurants opening in Manchester until the mid to late 60s. Though of course that may have varied from place to place.

It may well have varied, as you say. I always heard (with what truth I don't know) that many were opened by retired navy cooks from Hong Kong, and if that right I suppose one might expect a greater concentration near naval ports. Growing up in Hampshire - i.e. not too far from Portsmouth - I suppose it's not surprising that there was one even in my small town around that time.

I would expect ports to have a well-established Chinese community well before inland towns did. I know that Liverpool certainly did and though Manchester is now famed for its Chinese quarter, it wasn't there when I left home in 1970, or, if it was there, it was small and to all intents and purposes, invisible.

I was in Oxford in the fall of 1983, and "to go" was not said then. We American students all joked about "take away," as to us the phrase had an overtone of "Get this horrible stuff out of here." I first encountered doner kebab in Oxford (there was no Turkish food in Seattle then that I recall, and while we did have several Greek restaurants -- my sister and ex-SIL worked in one for years -- gyros hadn't taken off there either).

I remember McDonalds seeming very new and exciting in what was probably the mid-80s. But we were a bit behind the times and I was young. Wimpy before that, but it was more like a cafe that happened to serve burgers. I seem to remember you got a knife and fork to eat it with. Fish & chips was really the only takeaway food we had as a family.

I thought tuk tuks and rickshaws were different things.

I would, too. To me, a rickshaw is pulled by hand from in front of the passenger's seat (and a pedi-cab is pedalled from behind) while a tuk-tuk is motorised.

I think it depends where you're from, whether "rickshaw" implies a motor or not: usage in Pakistan and India differs. Of course, originally none of them had motors, as reflected in the etymology of the Japanese "jin-riku-sha" = human-power-vehicle. That said, I've never used any of these things, and may well be confused.

I think tsunami was strongly and consciously adopted by governments, under advice from meteorologists etc, and hence all official announcements, and after that, news broadcasts, adopted that usage.

That would explain it. I can see that it's good to get consistency of meaning for potentially international events (which makes me wonder about the difference between hurricanes and typhoons - is that merely geographical or are they actually different things?). I don't see that tsunami (harbour wave) is a particularly scientific name, but perhaps "tidal wave" is rather inaccurate, as it has nothing to do with tides...

I pretty much lived on Chinese takeaway on my first trip to Britain in 1979. They were often the only places I could find to eat in the evenings. The fast food places like Wimpy's (I think McDonald's and KFC had also already been imported) that existed in the bigger cities didn't exist in smaller towns. I was too intimidated to check out hotel dining rooms (of whose existence as an option for non-guests I was basically unaware, anyway), and while pubs would serve dinners, nobody was ever eating it. The couple times I tried it, I felt creepy being the only person there eating.

Over subsequent decades things became easier, but they still can be tough. The kind of casual dining roadside restaurant that's ubiquitous in the US is still basically unknown in Britain. On our drives back and forth between London and Wales, my brother and I found ourselves stymied in where to have lunch. If we got off the motorway, we couldn't find anything, even in big towns, outside of the impossible-to-get-into (because of traffic, and bad road signage) central cities, and were forced into the truly vile options at the motorway rest stops, where at least we had a lot of company.

I suppose Little Chefs are the nearest to the kind of off-motorway roadside restaurant chain, though I can't recommend them wholeheartedly from a culinary point of view. But I think you're right about that culture not (or barely) existing: I suppose the idea is that most people would find a pub for lunch. That said, in Wales in particular I've sometimes found roadside cafes (invariably with homemade bara brith) that have been pretty good.

Durham had a Chinese restaurant, and - I think - a takeaway when I arrived as an undergraduate in 1969; also a chippie. The first Indian restaurant was some time later. But we are a very small city, and the northeast lags behind in many ways.

Coffee is 'to go', I think, but food is still 'to take away' (unless you're in Scotland, obviously, when it's a 'carry out').

Happy Birthday 2017!

Thank you!

The late 50's - coffee bars. Happy Birthday.

Oh, did coffee bars do takeway? Before my time, I'm afraid. And thank you!

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