|Three and three, one and one at Kelly's, Roman Road|
When my dear cousin Paulette comes to visit from some corner of the world or other, she has to have pie and mash. For the uninitiated reader, this local dish is made up of a meat pie and a wodge of potato, plastered onto the plate from the side of a large wooden spoon, then drenched in "liquor", a variation on parsley sauce, more liquid and salty than any gastro-cook might let pass.
I suspect that the taste for pie and mash has to be acquired either through genes, upbringing, sheer fortitude or desperate hunger. I suffered none of these as a child other than the genes, and I managed not to inherit this particular one. While bossy aunts and cousins used to line up in the local pie and mash shop on Saturday mornings - Govers, Watney Street (I hope you are reading, Joan) - I would watch snootily as giant trays of pies were carried aloft by brawny pie-men to be served up by a crew of tiny women wearing grease-spotted overalls and round NHS specs. The proprietors would turn a blind eye while I waited for the feast to end, eating chips from the fish and chip shop along the street. Then, one day last year, I relented. I was in Walthamstow Market, and walked past Manzies, pie and mash aristocracy, and thought what a shameful thing it would be if I died without experiencing the local delicacy. It was better than OK, as most things are when you give them a whirl. And the ambience of Manzies was wonderful - Victorian splendour, sawdust on the floor, spotlessly clean.
Kelly's, at our end of Roman Road, is less posh, though more upmarket than the teaspoon-on-a-chain tradition of the Hoxton Street pie and mash shop John recalls. Paulette ordered three and three. I balked, with my measly one and one. "Are you sure about that?" "Watch me" said Paulette.
Half an hour later when the young Kelly heiress came to clear up she congratulated her personally. "I didn't think you'd manage all that. You looked too lady-like."
Ha! If only she knew.