As a son of the White Rose and a citizen of the Dales the time has come to spread a little culture and buttery wisdom among the generic well fed masses of these United States.
Far from stone walled utopian villages where the ovine population exceeds that of the indigenous, the considered clarity of a country lad is a welcome and necessary perspective when pondering these difficult times; a veritable litany of half-truths and fireside wisdoms to calm the soul and warm the cockles of the heart. Repeat after televised repeat of James Heriot and his veterinary practices are not enough to quell the ache of home sickened depression and occasionally one has to dig a little deeper in order tap the root of malaise and restore sanity to the distress of ex-patria.
The cock and bull stories of backbreaking agrarian husbandry and the carnards of subterranean coalfaces told and retold around parlour room fires, remind us that there is more to life than chasing the Yankee dollar. The Way of the Wolds is innate, and once beaten into you by the loving hands of grandparents, uncles, aunties,neighbors etc. can never be forgotten. Complemented by the familial thrashings of father, they only serve to make the recollections fonder. Clarity and sentimentality flaring where once there was only the dull sheen of blued-blackened skin.
Illusions of happier times in bright sun lit dales, besides crystal clear burbling Yorkshire becks. Vistas of sheep as far as the eye could see; the yellow swath of oil-seed- rape bending to the will of coastal gales. Funny how one forgets the freezing chill of Northern mornings and the loss of innocence during communal ablutions at the village baths – horizontal rain soaking through fur trimmed parkas – penny bags of teeth breaking boiled sweets – salt and vinegar crisps – dandelion and burdock pop.
Aye, fond recollections.
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Yorkshire.
God it was shite!
Abject depression, where one grey day washed into the next. An opaque recollection of the seventies and eighties as one long, drab, cloud-covered, dreary weekend. Long hours for poor wages, closing pits and padlocked ship yard gates. King coal reduced to the ranks and Sheffield Steel merely an anachronism of an industrial past. The pit wheels, those monuments to industry, that used to stand tall next to slag heaps and deprived council neighborhoods are now silent and choked in the their own soot soaked brick work. Workers dispersed to gale force winds, their derelict houses refurbished for Polish speaking immigrants.
Aye the North- that forgotten quarter of this sceptered isle.
The place that the M1 passes through on its way to Scotland. The largest county in England and yet the least respected. Ask any Southerner for an immediate three word response to Yorkshire and you’ll hear wellies, sheep and rain which actually, although highly derogatory and fighting talk from where I hale, isn’t far from the truth.
But enough of the morose, lets discuss the saving grace of what it is was that made the Riding’s great, that which echoed from Wold to Wold and Berg to Berg. The all illuminating fantasy of Mothers cooking !
We remember it well! Condensed kitchen windows and the smell of cake and scones emanating from behind double bolted front doors. Where the majesty of the white apron ruled supreme and the swat of the wooden spoon was as scathing as the sway of scepter. What mother said went, and like it or lump it that’s just the way it was. The bounty of the Yorkshire kitchen was cornucopian as evidenced by the shelved plastic Tupperware filled with lard laden desserts. A catalogue of working class consumption; copious calories to ward off damp and keep the cold at bay. There was no room for fussy eaters, and the only vegetarians were the ones grazing in the field across the fence. In a house where a cleaned plate was evidence of suburban starvation and a plate left with barely-edibles the crime of the century, food was taken seriously!
Unable to feel love, farmer John simply tossed his conquests aside…
Waste not want not- wasn’t that what they used to say?
Yorkshire folk are the only people in the world who can open a can of peas, feed a family of four and still have leftovers for the next day. With a couple of lumps of bread and a good dosing of ketchup the crumbling pyramid of nutrition is scaffolded and all the food groups met.
Along with family favorites such as canned corn-beef, fish fingers, spuds and cabbages – fried, boiled, or in sandwiches- there was always bread and marg with lashings of homemade, handpicked bramble jam for seconds (or afters as we liked to call it!) Flashbacks to flesh tearing branches and thorn-stuck purple fingers immortalized in glass-jarred canned perfection-labeled in mothers best handwriting – hidden in darkness until Christmas, Easter, birthdays, or god forbid visitors.
Hadrian’s first attempt, using Polish bricklayers, was crap…
The pinnacle of this lavish assortment of gourmet dining was all too frequently Toad-in-the-Hole. When there’s nothing else, the pantry is bare and pay day isn’t until a week on Friday then its Toad for dinner. Images of slimy amphibians peeking out of boggy crevices no doubt spring to the reader’s mind however, if culinary perversion goes that deep, what does the dear reader think of when spotted dick is mentioned? That’s what I thought you nasty bastards!!
Instead of delicious jam rolly-polly covered in Birds custard-just add water and boil until thick and then pour liberally over everything- the reader is probably imagining swollen members with incurable disease?
As is the case with the Toad, or Yorkshire Pizza as we use to call it. Thick batter baked in the oven and covered in gluttonous artery clogging gravy (homemade of course, never out of a jar.) If there was one thing mother did well, it was boil meat juices. Our own kitchen princess following in the great tradition of Mrs. Beaton; the demure Victorian who would have kicked Betty Crocker’s arse, killed her, drained her blood, and served her up as something unappetizing to the tribe!
In the earlier days Vlad used to simply cut the prisoners knackers off and cook them…
Sometimes the Toad actually contained meat, not just a whiff of spam waved in its general direction, but actual meat; genuine 40% meat sausages or European offal tubes as our masters in Maastricht have decided to call them.
1. First fry sausages. (substitute fry or boil for any method of Yorkshire cookery) Once perfectly charcoaled place in baking dish.
2. Take batter mix and pour liberally over sausages and then place dish in the oven with as few “bloody hells- that bastards hot!” as possible, and wait till crisp, blackened and unappealing to the eye.
3. Remove from oven and divide into 27 pieces (all pieces to contain at least the essence of sausage) and serve to starving hoards sitting anxiously in what father grandly terms the dining room.
4. Stand back, fold arms, and wait for any sign of gratitude.(Often followed by the sound of grunting pigs at the trough.)
5. Mission completed, return to kitchen and pour oneself a large tumbler of cooking sherry-wine-vodka or whatever can be found.
Aye, this is the North and we don’t need any of that soppy American shite you call pizza. You can ram it up your arse and call it macaroni. But before you do, please cut off a slice and send it to us, because believe in you and me, up here in Yorkshire we could use it!!
George was gob-smacked when the genie granted his last wish for a butt-load of coke…