A trip back to Burrs Country Park in the caravan, to visit family just before Christmas, opened my eyes to some of the northern delicacies our taste buds have been missing since we moved South twelve years ago. Not necessarily healthy foods but definitely tasty foods. One thing to note about the majority of the delicacies mentioned, they are all beige, not an ounce of colour in them, heart warming or heart attack foods, you decide. To aid and abet my nostalgic trip down memory lane a trip to Bury Market and a couple of other foodie places was in order.
A trip to the chippy saw us order my favourite, chips, pudding, peas, scraps and gravy. Something I miss in southern chippies, gravy. The odd chippy that does gravy doesn’t do it well. Thin runny gravy doesn’t hit the mark. Curry sauce is their replacement, not quite the same but it’s wet. Scraps, the bits of batter that come off the fish in the frying process, added on top for that extra crunch. Maybe it’s a good job we moved south, I’m sure every portion takes five years off your life but by gum it’s tasty.
Meat and potato pies. A pie eaten best with brown sauce, again a lovely shade of beige. We get pies in the South but they are normally a specialty pie, beef and Guinness, sweet potato and some other vegetable. Meat and potato are a different league. It’s innards almost requires no chewing, slightly short of puréed but damn good within a tasty pastry.
My pie of choice, hotpot. Meat and potato again with whatever vegetables were available chucked in. Predominantly a dish containing lamb so very brown again in appearance. Back in the day it would have been potato topped, some bakers now add a crust on top of the potato, just for extra heart attack measure. Best eaten again with brown sauce.
Always something to start an argument but a barm is a good old staple part of the Bolton/Bury diet. We can put anything on a barm, chips, a pastie even black pudding. With loads of real butter that starts to melt and drip down your fingers, just another step closer to that heart attack, with the only colour being a bit of ketchup or English mustard.
On this particular day in December, whilst trying to ignore the torrent rain and gale force winds, we chose a festive turkey, stuffing and cranberry. A steal at just £1.99 each. Where down South can you get such a big butty, with a bit of colour and feed two people for less than fiver?
That takes me to black pudding, a locally made and prized dish to which the town of Bury is proud of. Made of pork blood, pork fat and cereal, best served with English mustard is a great addition to any full English fry up. Grilled, boiled or fried you decide.
A good school dinner dessert as we were growing up, Manchester Tart. A dessert, afters, that nobody turned down. A thin shortcrust pastry, topped with jam and custard, sprinkled with shavings of coconut. A dessert all children of the 70s and early 80s dined upon in those school dinner halls. It tastes just as good to our palette of today as it did way back in the day.
A good tasty treat to look forward to, Black Peas. In our house when we were growing up, black peas were generally scoffed with gusto on Bonfire night with jacket potatoes, cooked on the fire, and homemade treacle toffee. Visiting fairs to the town sometimes came with stalls that sold black peas. Eaten on a cold evening whilst watching the Waltzer whizzing by, nothing better. Discussing Black Peas at work recently with our very southern colleagues, they just couldn’t get their heads round what they were. Bought dried and soaked overnight, then slowly simmered. Normally served in a cup and eaten with lashing of vinegar from a spoon. Heaven in a cup.
Butter Pies. A good old northern vegetarian pie. As kids whilst we had meat and potato pies and pasties, my Dad, having been a veggie for most of his life tucked into a butter pie. Consisting of potatoes and onions, best served hot with copious amounts of brown sauce.
A favourite of ‘The Boss,’ a Whist Pie. No idea at all where the name comes from and something I was never really bothered about. A small pie, only a couple of mouthfuls, a lovely, somehow glazed pastry containing either beef or pork with jelly. Not the jelly you eat with ice cream. Sold in butchers, bakers, corner shops and chippies all across Bolton. ‘The Boss’ would get one to eat on the way home from the chippy when it was chippy tea night.
Another good old staple part of our diet as kids was Corned Beef Hash, or as we knew it ‘Tata Hash.’ A huge pot would sit on top of the stove bubbling away filling the house with the most amazing smell. It’s another of those meals that the Jellybeans call ‘slop’ again, completely beige and void of any colour. Corned beef, sliced potatoes, carrots and onions all bubbling away. Best served again with brown sauce and a big dollop of red cabbage, just to add a bit of colour, of course.
What struck me most about my foods of yester year were the prices. Everything seemed so cheap. It almost seemed a shame not to buy an abundance of everything. Where else can you feed five people at the chippy for less than £15 or grab a tasty lunch on the go for less than £5?
That’s it. A trip down my northern memory food lane. My taste buds are back in the north but my waist line is telling me to start heading south again.