Sunday, April 3, 2011

An evocation of hearty, down-to-earth English workingman's food:

However gross it might be in reality, he makes it sound like the most heavenly meal in the world:

"On my own once again, I found a snug little room over an eating-house in the Lower Richmond Road - a shambling second-floor back which overhung the railway and rocked all day to the passing trains, while the hot meaty steam of boiling pies filtered up through cracks in the floor.

The café downstairs was a shadowy tunnel lined with high-backed wooden pews, carbolic-scrubbed and exclusively male, with all the comforts of a medieval refectory. My rent of twenty-five shillings a week included the furnished room and three café meals a day - a carte blanche arrangement which I exploited fully and which introduced me to new ways of eating. The blackboard menu, propped on the pavement outside, offered a list as immutable as the elements: 'Bubble. Squeak. Liver and B. Toad-in-the-Hole. Meat Pudding or Pie.' My favourite was the pie – a little basin of meat wrapped in a caul of suety dough which was kept boiling all day in a copper cauldron in a cupboard under the stairs. Turned out on the plate, it steamed like a sodden napkin, emitting a mournful odour of laundries; but once pricked with the fork it exploded magnificently with a rich lava of beefy juices. There must have been over a pound of meat in each separate pie - a complete working-man's meal, for sixpence. And remembering the thin days at home, when meat was only for Sundays, I ate at least one of them every day. Otherwise I was encouraged to ring the changes on the house's limited permutations - Squeak, Toad, Liver and B; or as a privilege, an occasional herring. A mug of tea at each meal was of course served without asking, and was so strong you could trot a mouse on it. As for afters, there was a postscript at the foot of the menu which seemed to be painted in permanent enamel: ´During the Present Hot Spell Why Not Try a Cold Sweet?´ Winter and summer, it was custard and prunes."
From As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee (1914 – 1997)

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