Friday, 2 November 2012

Territorial food wars

a saveloy moment
This weekend I've been up North to visit my Dad. While I was there I got it into my head that it would be sweetly nostalgic to revisit my childhood by buying some of the foodstuffs I regularly ate back in the day. And I thought the rest of the family might enjoy joining me on this little trip back in time.
first few Google images for 'Richmond Yorkshire'
Some background filling-in is necessary. I grew up in Richmond in Yorkshire, where my family on my Mum's side had lived for several generations. Above are the first few images that pop up on Google when you search for Richmond -- beautiful, I hope you'll agree. My Dad, on the other hand, grew up in Darlington, some thirteen (long) miles away, across the county line in Co. Durham.
first few Google images for 'Darlington, County Durham'
Darlington is also a nice place -- I'm fond of it -- but not quite so idyllic as Richmond. For my Dad, being made to live over the line in Yorkshire was a kind of constant punishment and perhaps that's one reason why, every Saturday, for my entire childhood, we returned to Darlington to spend the day at his Mum's.
 My granny on my Dad's side was a bit of a phenomenon. She was a food machine. She worked in the bakery of a high street bakers and even though she spent all week turning out commercial quantities of cake, she also spent her weekends doing the same. Her seed cake was famous.
seed cake
And she didn't stop at cake. She made beef tea, pancakes, suet puddings plus other things you don't see so much these days: rollmop herrings and tripe and onions. She would make my Mum, my Dad and me three separate meals to eat each Saturday tea time. It was very strange. She was, I think, trying to give us something that each of us would especially like but all three of us hated our dish. My Mum had once said she liked watercress so she would get a huge bunch of watercress and a plate of bread and butter -- every week. I got a plate salad with sliced hard-boiled egg and slices of beetroot. No no no. My Dad got a plate of tripe and onions which he hated so much he could hardly bear to put it in his mouth.
tripe and onions in white sauce
But such was the esteem -- or fear -- in which he held his mother that he ate the tripe every week without demur. I remember him hissing at me (often), 'Don't say anything! Just eat it...' or some such. It was very strange. My granny was a true North-Easterner and embodied ways of eating that must have gone back generations. I truly believe that the rollmops were a throwback to Viking times.
saveloy, savoury duck and pease pudding (modern versions -- not quite the same)
Each Saturday, when it was time for us to return across the border to Yorkshire for another week -- after we had watched The Generation Game but in good time to be home in front of our own telly for the start of Starsky and Hutch or Kojak -- it would be time to pack up the car with the trayloads of cakes that Granny had made for us that week. My Dad used to despair at them. He used to take them to work and hand them out in the staff room in an effort to cope with them. And as well as the cakes there'd be packets of saveloys, savoury ducks and perhaps a dab of pease pudding in a bit of greaseproof paper from Taylor's the butchers in Darlington town centre. And sometimes polony too. Or smoked sausages that we called 'joeys'.
Starsky and Hutch
It was the 1970s but we still lived according to Victorian rhythms -- at least my Dad did. His natural time to eat his evening meal was about 4pm. Then, at around 9pm, he liked to have his 'supper' -- some sort of fried snack, usually. And that's where the saveloys et al came in. After we had thrilled to Starsky and Hutch (I always watched it, never could follow the plots), he would get the frying pan out and fry up whatever his mother had sent in the way of butcher's products. Was it only us, or was it taboo to wash the frying pan in those days? I can't bear to think about it... The saveloys were sliced in two lengthways, peeled and fried. A large, fatty sandwich was the usual end product. Brown sauce was essential. I remember enjoying it all mightily.
     So... all this is leading up to our pilgrimage, on Monday, to the long-established butchers in Stockton, which is nearer to where my Dad now lives than Darlington. When he and my Mum got divorced he was back into the 'proper' North East faster than Roadrunner. I bought saveloys, ducks and pease pudding and I thought it would be fun to cook them all up when we got back home and for my children to enjoy the food their Mum had as a kid. Well, you can't imagine the deep suspicion and disdain my husband and kids displayed: noses wrinkled, lips curled, eyes narrowed. Not wanting to force the issue, I made a kind of fry-up buffet so they could help themselves. And there were baked beans, toast and so on to make it all less alienating. What a fuss! Tiny mouthfuls were reluctantly nibbled. Most of it was left then thrown away.
     And the worst thing of all was that even I didn't enjoy it very much. I didn't get the Proustian memory I was hoping for. The saveloys didn't seem to have the soft, granular texture I remembered. The duck just tasted ... wrong. The pease pudding was ... nothing special. It was very sad. That will teach me to try to recreate the past.
This will cheer me up -- a Gallery Five cat. Gallery Five decorated my childhood


Jane said...

My rather old-fashioned Bristol childhood contained many of the things you mention - saveloys and polony, and the dreaded tripe! My mother was brought up in a huge family where money was very short and was used to every kind of economy dish - we regularly had pigs trotters, stuffed hearts, faggots and chitterlings. We weren't made to eat anything though! Seed cake was my Father's pet hate as it was the only cake my Grandmother could make - she couldn't read so other recipes were useless. None of it tastes the same these days though - probably just as well as some of it was terribly unhealthy.

LAC EMP 2020 said...

Jane, you've sent me back to the 1970's big time! I remember everyone knitting a Starsky cardigan at the time...I made rollmops in my domestic science class much to my Dad's disgust. I think they ended up in the bin. I can't say we had many of your other chosen delicacies but my husband loves saveloys to this day. I sometimes buy a couple as a treat but I don't like the look of them much . Food of our childhood never tastes the same does it? Maybe our tastebuds have become too refined. If I could recreate the taste of one childhood food it would be Farley's Rusks but we really are going back into the dark ages here and shows why I grew up with such a sweet tooth. Great memories.

menopausalmusing said...

This was a wonderful post. I revisited Campbells Meatballs and they were NOT as I remembered. Fray Bentos pies did not have the same appeal they had as a child either. However Spam (YES, REALLY!) still tastes the same (I actually have always liked it) and the best ever to revisit were the sausages in Heinz Baked Beans. My husband sat looking in disgust as I ate those recently.

Joanna said...

What a great post!

Whenever we have proper fish and chips from the fish and chip shop, my teenagers Luke and Hope always have a saveloy too. I don't know how they decided they liked them - we never had them before!

As a child I remember having toast and beef dripping for breakfast or tea- yes, thick beef fat and a little scrape of the jelly/gravy and a liberal shake of salt. How am I still alive today?

I too had a Starsky and Hutch cardigan. There was a plot to follow? I was too busy swooning over Paul Michael Glasier!

Jill said...

I agree on a great post - my childhood food memories in the 50s-60's are fried (in lard) suet pastry rounds with golden syrup, individual Yorkshire puddings with golden syrup, half-peeled oranges with sugar cubes jammed down the centre to suck the juice through, banana dipped in sugar, sugar sprinkled on sliced tomatoes on bread and butter, and sugar, vinegar and lettuce sandwiches!!! I'm surprised I have a tooth left. But we were always skinny kids.

menopausalmusing said...

I have hunted high and low for a "spam moment" photo, but 'twas not to be......


JKW said...

OMGosh you bring back memories. Mom use to make Spam with raisin sauce, but at Church Camp, they just fried it, whew! Got so sick of pretend ham, that's what I thought of it!! Love your sight, I'm a new follower. Blessings, Janet