29 March 2012

eating local

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.

11 comments:

Joanna said...

Oh well done you! I was 17 years in Newham and never plucked up the courage. Now I feel ashamed, for I fear I will indeed die without experiencing pie and mash, and I think that is silly!

jill said...

Only rivaled by our Northern tradition of hot pork pie covered in mint sauce!

monix said...

Tripe was the local delicacy when I was growing up in Lancashire. I never brought myself to the point where I could put it in my mouth. Now I'm wondering if I missed something after all. On second thoughts, I think I would still hurry past the tripe stall in the market!

rachel said...

What a fabulous story! The food must taste better than it looks, I guess, and as I love both mash and pie, maybe next time I'm in London.....

Kirsten said...

As an anglophile Dane I find it tremendously interesting and fun to read your stories about your life in London. It is a London that you know little of as a tourist. I was not aware of the tradition of pie and mash (could the dish be considered Terroir:-)), but will certainly give it a try next time I come to London. As a young student I lived with a wonderful family in Suffolk, where I had the local specialty, Suffolk sinkers. Not my favourite dish, bur interesting.

Liz said...

It looks more edible than the one this town is currently associated with.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmo

knit nurse said...

Three pies, that is impressive! Even the geezer can't manage that, and I'm not keen on them at all. We have Manze's and Goddard's in Deptford but the geezer still travels to Peckham or Bermondsey for his, he maintains that they are superior pie shops.

@monix tripe tastes much better than it looks, although the stuff we buy in the UK is usually bleached. If you see it on the tripe stalls in places like Napoli, it's unbleached and looks even less appetising although I guess it's whatever you are brought up with.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I remember the polite disbelief when I HAD to eat some whelks when I was on a trip to Hastings with some young French students .
One young woman , no doubt gently reared on Moules À La Normande , gamely tried one and blenched .

By the way , the only pie worthy of the name is a Mutton pie from Glasgow. Cholesterol dynamite !

Val + the Girls- BK +CK said...

Gosh I've never heard of that...the mash makes me long for bangers and mash though..decent sausages being impossible to find here..I have to much them on my annual family visit!

colleen said...

These comments really tickled me. All those regional pies! Who'd have thought it. Tripe, pork pie and mint sauce, Suffolk sinkers (!), whelks, the parmo. Where will it end?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the mention, Colleen - made my day. Yes that was 'our' pie and mash shop. I often wonder why I stopped eating meat (actually I know why - it was the early 80s and I got the cropped hair and Doc Martens too) but I have to admit that I'm glad that it stops me from trying pie and mash again. Whatever it tastes like it won't be as good as I remember it to be!

Best wishes,

Joan