My Week

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Ja­son Good­win Ja­son Good­win is the au­thor of the ‘Yashim’ de­tec­tive se­ries, which now has its own cook­book, Yashim Cooks Is­tan­bul (Arg­onaut). He lives in Dorset

Ja­son Good­win bakes his first pie

LAST week, I sat on the top deck of a Lon­don bus, cheer­fully peer­ing into the mez­za­nine win­dows of fa­mous shops and anony­mous of­fice build­ings, un­trou­bled by the dic­tum that a man over 30 who takes a bus is a fail­ure. It seems a stupid way of think­ing about all the in­ter­est­ing peo­ple you see. Pro­vided you get on the right one to start with, the whole en­ter­prise is a re­sound­ing suc­cess.

Mine took me very near my des­ti­na­tion (un­like Mar­got Asquith, who, on her first bus jour­ney, fa­mously told the con­duc­tor to drop her at 5, Ea­ton Square) and gave me an en­joy­able ur­ban drama, seen fleet­ingly through glass, rather like watch­ing TV in a for­eign ho­tel.

It did, how­ever, prompt me to re­flect on my am­bi­tions in life. Long-held am­bi­tions I have ful­filled in­clude writ­ing a book and vis­it­ing Big Sur, be­sides oth­ers I for­mu­lated only mo­ments be­fore they oc­curred, such as meet­ing Lau­ren Ba­call.

Some—train driver, cock­tail in­ven­tor, maker of world peace —have, sadly, passed me by but, un­til last week, I had never so much as at­tempted to ful­fil the one that has haunted me ever since I learned to read. I refer to mak­ing a raised pie.

Read­ing and pies go to­gether like eggs and ba­con. Pies in­tro­duce us to our let­ters: A is ap­ple pie, B bought it, C caught it and so on—and they fig­ure large in chil­dren’s books. The pie on the shelf is a handy plot de­vice. In­tro­duce a greedy boy, bring on the pie and the Fates are set in mo­tion.

For read­ers, it’s a short step from The Pie and The Patty-pan via Just William to Mr Pick­wick re­gal­ing his friends with pie and ale. By then, you may have chil­dren of your own and, once more, you en­ter the world of pie, but in all those years, I had never ac­tu­ally made one.

I was prompted to do so by my son Isaac, who’s not only a great cook, but also the pub­lisher-de­signer of a small pub­lish­ing com­pany of which I am the di­rec­tor. Not to men­tion pub­li­cist, tea boy, mar­ket­ing man­ager, dis­tri­bu­tion li­ai­son of­fi­cer and party or­gan­iser. Our third pub­li­ca­tion, af­ter an Ot­toman cook­book and a guide to sa­cred Lon­don, is a reis­sue of my mother Jo­casta Innes’s cook­book, The

Coun­try Kitchen. It was al­ways her favourite book, well re­searched and per­fectly lived, an af­fec­tion­ate sum­ma­tion of and farewell to her own coun­try life in Swan­age in the 1970s. The

Pau­per’s Cook­book (1971) made her a name, but The Coun­try Kitchen (1979) sat­is­fied an am­bi­tion.

IWAS de­lighted to re­dis­cover the fam­ily recipe for chorizo. My grand­mother, Eileen, was born and bred on the Ar­gen­tine pam­pas in an age in which it was a proper hot Span­ish sausage and not just some lazy gar­nish that you can toss into a paella at the drop of a hat. The fam­ily chorizo is made of beef, pa­prika and a lit­tle pork with wine and gar­lic. It dries be­hind the Aga bet­ter than pet­ti­coats on a Patag­o­nian wash­ing line.

My mother’s Mel­ton Mow­bray raised pork pie re­quired more plan­ning. The butcher gave us a pair of trot­ters for stock. Boiled lard and wa­ter made the pas­try. We chopped the pork— gam­mon and fresh—and added pep­per and salt. We smoothed out the cas­ing in a cake tin, packed in the fill­ing, clapped on a lid, put it in the oven and went for a long, long walk to lis­ten for birds.

Learn­ing to recog­nise ev­ery bird in the coun­try from its song be­came my new am­bi­tion at the week­end, af­ter a visit from the com­poser Peter Cow­drey. Stand­ing in the gar­den in a wel­ter of trilling and flut­ing, Peter ef­fort­lessly ex­tracted robin and black­bird, jay and blue tit, green­finch and song thrush from this cas­cade of joy­ful sound. A spe­cial look came over his face with the song thrush: ‘He al­ways re­peats the phrase. Al­ways does it twice.’ Af­ter a few min­utes, I could al­most dis­cern it my­self.

Home again, we took out the pie, let it cool, poured in the hot stock through a lit­tle hole in the lid and set it aside in the larder. When it came out to the ta­ble, it looked su­perb—a wheel of pie, crimped edges and all. It didn’t collapse, it didn’t look grey in­side and the pas­try wasn’t too thick or too crumbly.

It wasn’t so much the sense of a sat­is­fied am­bi­tion that made my first slice a solemn one. It was an un­ex­pected sense of a chain of con­nec­tion, tak­ing me back beyond even pie, to a hot Span­ish sausage and girls in Ed­war­dian hats, pic­nick­ing on the end­less Ar­gen­tine pam­pas.

Next week: Jonathan Self

In­tro­duce a greedy boy, bring on the pie and the Fates are set in mo­tion

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