Friday, 9 May 2008

Black Puddings and Pork Pies

One of the highlights of the Yorkshire year is The Dales Festival of Food and Drink held annually in Leyburn. An attractive town in Richmondshire it is an event not to be missed by ignorant 'townies' like ourselves. A three day event, we visited on a glorious spring day; those who came the following day were not so lucky. I am inclined to think of the maxim, 'The sun shines on the righteous.' Alas, it is more lightly the adage 'The devil looks after his own' that is more apt.
The event pays homage to all things rural and a good time is had by all. There are demonstrations galore: sheep shearing and dry stone walling; bee keeping, soup making and cheese making evidently 'before your very eyes'. Doesn't that bring back memories of the late, great Arthur Askey. There are bands, brass, silver and jazz and when the music stops, talks by experts on every conceivable country pursuit. And boy, can these people talk. Yorkshire writer Gervase Phinn, the programme tells us, 'Is even funnier in person' whilst the head of Bettys Cookery School talks about her latest book 'A Year of Family Recipes'. The most intreguing for me was a rather serious looking gentleman who is evidently 'a passionate angler'. I just couldn't get this obviously amorous gentleman's exploits out of my mind. It presented fishing to me in a new light. I should have attended his book signing, there are so many things I would have liked to have asked him.
The festival offers something for all but as its name implies, food and drink are the very reasons for its existence. Thus the 'Farming for Food' marquee is not to be missed. The 'drool factor' is off the Richler scale. I walked round with my wife and viewed an unending array of savouries and soups; meat from boars and ostriches; puddings and pastries and every conceivable type of egg.
We were at Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire last week. A cookery demonstration was under way involving schoolchildren. The cook held up an egg and enquired, "Does anyone know where eggs come from?" Hands shot up from children eager to impress. Cook pointed to one who was particularly keen to share his juvenile knowledge. "From the shop, miss" came the confident reply. I wish he had been with me on this gastronomic gallivant.
I turned in the packed tent and she was no longer there. My wife of thirty eight years gone. Momentarily I pictured lonely years ahead, washing and ironing, ironing and washing to eternity. A sea of backsides stretched before me, my five feet four was totally inadequate in such circumstances. Admitting defeat, some would say far too easily I made for the exit and possibly a life of lonely solitary celibacy. As you can imagine I am sometimes accused of having an overworked imagination but it was a hot day and life was beginning to get to me.
I sat on the grass outside the marquee and pondered my next move. Families scurried by, eager for bargains and even more food. Is it my imagination or are the people 'up north' bigger than average? My, there were some whoppers. And tattoos, in every conceivable uncovered region; and undoubtedly some covered to be viewed by only a chosen few. Come to think of it, there were tattooed men about as well!
Quite fascinating really, time passed quickly and I had all but forgotten why I sat there, thirty eight years gone in the blink of an eye. Suddenly there she was beside me and literally speaking, beside herself. I can reluctantly think of no occasion when I have seen my wife so excited, in a complete state of ecstasy. So much for my efforts over the years!
Laden down with purchases my wife's joy was wondrous to behold. "Look what I've got" she shouted for all to hear, "Bakewell Tart, coffee and walnut cake, steak pies and minced beef pies,
and", she added triumphantly, "black puddings and pork pies!"
Now you may think, good though the food at the show was, my wife's reaction was over the top, so to speak. Not so, for a very good reason. My wife is a coeliac, a fact that has been mentioned before. It is a condition that causes its sufferers many problems, not least in finding pallatable food that can be eaten by people with the condition. Their diet always must be gluten free. A fact that rules out so many foods you and I take for granted. Chips, yes, fish in batter, no French bread sticks and normal cakes and pastries, off the menu. Most breakfast cereals a no no and normally no sausages or burgers. Do you really fancy a Big Mac minus the bun? The list is endless, the choices left depressing in the extreme. Enter firms like The Gluten-Free Kitchen of Hawes in Wensleydale discovered in the food tent and the reason for my wifes sheer delight.
A great day out and for my wife in particular one that she will never forget. If you think I'm exaggerating let me leave you with one thought. My wife can eat for England and sadly so much of the food she loves is out of her reach. She loved black pudding and pork pies but it is twenty one years since she has had either. What is it in life you love most? Anything at all, you've no need to tell me what it is! Now imagine the next time you are allowed to have it, so to speak is in the year 2029. Quite a while, I hope you enjoy the wait !


Pig in the Kitchen said...

hello grumpyoldken, I did come and read this the last time you visited me, and how very rude I was not to leave a comment! I'm so happy your wife got to eat pie again, I love it when I can feed my littlest food that looks 'normal'.

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