THE morning after a fairly heavy Saturday night, a brisk walk with the dog through the heather in the rain failed to lift my spirits. There was only one thing for it – a proper fry-up. Bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding, potato cake, lamb kidneys, mushrooms, tomatoes and of course fried bread to soak up the juices.
The thick-cut, treacle-cured bacon comes from Tom’s Cooked Meats on Clitheroe market. A friend who used to edit a foodie magazine described it as probably the best in the world, and who am I to disagree with her?
The free-range eggs, six for £1, are from a neighbour who leaves them outside his cottage with an honesty box for the cash. Lovely, bright-yellow yolks and clearly from contented birds.
The Cumberland sausage comes from Grahame Gordon, a butcher in Carlisle. My mother spent her latter years in the city and whenever she came to visit would bring a couple of pounds. Now she is no longer with us I buy it in bulk, shrink-wrapped, have it delivered and keep it in the freezer. Firm, peppery and utterly delicious. It comes in one long tube but I cut it into three-inch pieces for easy cooking – about 20 minutes of gentle frying after which, as Grahame insists, it must be left for a few minutes ‘for the juices to settle’.
The black pudding comes from Bury Market, where several stalls are devoted to this rustic delicacy. These days I tend to buy it in slices for ease of serving although I do still enjoy an individual pud, halved and smothered in vinegar and English mustard.
The potato cake, done in the toaster and served with a smear of butter, is Warburton’s. The kidneys, mushrooms and tomatoes are all from Clitheroe market. What a feast! I could eat it all again.
Which reminds me of a visit more than 30 years ago to the Barley Mow, a restaurant in the Pendleside village of Barley. It was renowned for its mixed grill, a truly formidable array of meat guaranteed to send vegans heading screaming for the hills.
It arrived on two massive plates, cost north of £20 and so far as I can remember comprised the following: Sirloin steak, pork chop, huge slice of gammon, smoked bacon, two pork sausages, lamb kidneys, chicken breast, two lamb chops, two fried eggs, black pudding and fried bread. Reader, I ate the lot and was awarded a car sticker which read: ‘I finished the mixed grill at the Barley Mow’. Those who fell slightly short received one with the message ‘I NEARLY finished the mixed grill at the Barley Mow’.
My gluttony paled into insignificance months later when some colleagues from the Daily Mail in Manchester visited the restaurant after a hard day’s hiking in the Yorkshire Dales. One of them, Jon Whitaker, not only polished off his own mixed grill but also helped out another chap who could manage only half of his. What a trencherman.
These days the joint still offers a mixed grill priced at £29.95 comprising: ‘Mini Barley Mow pie, sirloin steak (served pink), gammon, chicken breast, lamb chops, sausages, garlic & chilli king prawns, black pudding, spicy chorizo, grilled mushroom & tomato, hand cut chips, onion rings, peppercorn sauce & rich gravy.’
I asked if they still do the car stickers and was told: ‘No, but it’s a project that’s in the pipeline.’ Shouldn’t think I could earn one these days. I find food far more filling than I used to, although sadly my capacity for wine remains undiminished.
Heroes of Fleet Street – Jack Tinker
THE great theatre critic Jack Tinker was only 58 when he died, causing lights in the West End to be dimmed in his honour – a tribute usually reserved for great actors such as Olivier and Gielgud.
After making his name on the Brighton Argus, Jack was hired as a feature writer on the Daily Sketch and in 1972 was made drama critic of the Daily Mail.
In a piece for the Independent, Sheridan Morley said that Jack ‘originally wrote both gossip and television columns, but the theatre was where he always belonged: tiny, starry and fearless, he would himself take to the stage in amazing cabaret and lecture performances, singing “Alice Blue Gown” to an audience of professionals who came to mock and stayed to cheer his blatant courage.
‘Unlike many of his contemporaries he never hid behind his typewriter or his byline; he stood up on innumerable radio and television programmes to defend his opinions, challenge those actors and producers who thought he had got it wrong, and in the process unashamedly made himself as much of a star turn as many of those he reviewed.
‘Even actors and dramatists whom he regularly attacked would credit him with a passion for the theatre theatrical which was almost unique among his colleagues.
‘Jack Tinker saw himself as in and of the theatre, a critic from inside the boundary who could be as savage as any of the outsiders but who always knew precisely what he was being savage about.’
So far as I was concerned, Jack was always a pleasure to deal with; charming, courteous and camp as a row of tents. Our friend and colleague Irene Mulley recalled: ‘He used to do petit point on the train late at night after the theatre on his way home to Brighton. I thought that this tiny person, in his extravagant long coat, doing embroidery on a train late at night all those years ago was an example of courage – what I regard as a real man.’
Great headlines of our time
LAST week’s mention by our friend Tom of his favourite headline, ‘Jason and the arrgh gonads’, prompted reader Andy Marshall to comment: ‘One of the best newspaper headlines I ever saw concerned a group of neighbours whose houses had been dwarfed by a newly built, and massive, Ikea store. The view from each of their back windows was filled with the enormous yellow “Ikea” sign, illuminated all night. The headline (I can’t remember which paper it was): WHAT’S THE BIG IKEA?’
I’m sure other readers will have your own favourites. If you email them to me at the address below I’ll enjoy compiling the best.
A PS from PG:
‘Aunt Agatha, the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth.’
PG Wodehouse: Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit