IT’S A FULL ENGLISH OVER SNAIL POR­RIDGE FOR ME

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Food Special Lifestyle -

Ilove my food. The chance to eat three times a day is one of life’s great­est plea­sures and, I sup­pose, the rea­son why cook­ery pro­grammes are so pop­u­lar. But chefs seem to spend most of their time nowa­days com­ing up with out­landish food com­bi­na­tions. Re­luc­tant as I am to be branded an un­ad­ven­tur­ous North­erner, I sim­ply can­not sum­mon up any en­thu­si­asm for the likes of snail por­ridge. Yes, I may be­gin ev­ery day with in­stant Scot­tish oat­meal (two min­utes in the mi­crowave) and I can­not deny that I have an am­ple sup­ply of the afore­men­tioned mol­luscs on my hostas, but that said I have no burn­ing de­sire to com­bine the two and in­flict them upon my in­testines. You could brand me a clas­sic “meat and two veg and none of your for­eign muck” York­shire­man thanks to the ap­par­ent ab­sence of any spirit of ad­ven­ture where food is con­cerned but that would, I feel, be un­fair. I am as happy as the next man to tuck into a prawn biryani or a chicken tikka masala, which, we are told, is now the cur­rent favourite Bri­tish dish. Oh yes, I re­ally am cos­mopoli­tan when it comes to food – leap­ing eas­ily and will­ingly from the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent to coun­tries closer to home. Spaghetti bolog­nese is one of my sig­na­ture dishes. It will as­ton­ish Mrs T to hear me talk­ing in the plu­ral, since she will claim she has yet to taste my other sig­na­ture dish. But she has en­joyed it on many oc­ca­sions. I call it a full English. Well, to be hon­est, not full. Not one of those that comes with hash browns, mush­rooms, sausage, black pud­ding, white pud­ding, dev­illed kid­neys, Old Un­cle Tom Cob­ley and all – the sort you find gen­tly con­geal­ing un­der one of those heat lamps in ho­tel break­fast buf­fets. That’s cheat­ing any­way. My spe­cial­ity is a home-laid egg or two (prefer­ably fried but some­times scram­bled), two rash­ers of dry-cured back ba­con, two small pieces of fried bread and a mod­est por­tion of baked beans (with­out all the runny juice). Add to this toast and but­ter (not mar­garine or low-fat spread), mar­malade, a fresh pot of tea or freshly ground cof­fee in a china cup and you have, for me, the per­fect start to the week­end. There are those who will scoff at my pro­fessed ex­per­tise, but I reckon that to pro­duce all of the above at the same mo­ment (with­out keep­ing any­thing warm on a hot­plate or in the oven) takes a de­gree of skill. Toast not too brown, ba­con not burned, eggs not over­done, tea and cof­fee fresh and not stewed. The tech­nique of si­mul­ta­ne­ous pro­duc­tion has taken me years to per­fect and is not some­thing that can be achieved in ill­fit­ting slip­pers. Snails and por­ridge might ex­cite some, but ba­con, eggs, toast and tea or cof­fee are one of those com­bi­na­tions made in heaven. An­other is spaghetti bolog­nese, gar­lic bread and a large glass of rioja or chi­anti – ei­ther will do. With the chicken tikka masala it has to be beer – prefer­ably Co­bra or Tiger, and if not then San Miguel. Our lo­cal pub serves roast beef in­side a large York­shire pud­ding, lib­er­ally doused with de­li­cious gravy. Then it has to be a pint of hand-pulled lo­cal beer. If you are sali­vat­ing I make no apol­ogy – I doubt that the men­tion of snail por­ridge had the same ef­fect. Per­haps it re­ally is my York­shire up­bring­ing that has made me a mite sus­pi­cious, not only of weird com­bi­na­tions of in­gre­di­ents, but also of overly flow­ery lan­guage used to de­scribe what I am eat­ing. I do not want my piece of cod “en­robed” in mor­nay sauce. I am happy for it just to be poured over it. Some restau­rants are so out­landish in their de­scrip­tions that the fish dish re­ally does be­come the “piece of cod which pas­seth all un­der­stand­ing”. I am de­lighted with gravy, not “jus”, with olive oil that is sprin­kled rather than “driz­zled” and I’d be happy to be told that my cour­gette flow­ers were “deep fried in bat­ter” rather than be­ing of­fered as a beignet. (My fa­ther was a plumber and the lat­ter sounds like a posh bath­room ap­pli­ance that I would not know how to use.) Any thing that “nes­tles” in a “bed” of any­thing should be left to sleep, and there is noth­ing re­motely at­trac­tive or tempt­ing about the word “com­pote” – we are still talk­ing about stewed fruit, what­ever fancy name you dress it up in. The de­scrip­tions: a) crusty b) suc­cu­lent and c) ten­der should be taken for granted when it comes to a) bread b) chicken and c) beef. If they are any­thing else I would not want them, so why use those words to de­scribe them? Re­as­sur­ance? But then such lan­guage is what one has come to ex­pect in the sort of restau­rant that stuffs ev­ery ori­fice – all too of­ten, one sus­pects, with the in­ten­tion of dis­guis­ing the lack of flavour in the cho­sen cut of meat. All I ask for is qual­ity pro­duce, lo­cally sourced, prop­erly cooked and neatly served in por­tions that are nei­ther mi­cro­scopic nor gar­gan­tuan, with fresh veg­eta­bles that are not boiled to within an inch of their lives. What’s more I like my menus in English. Since when did the French have a monopoly on de­scrib­ing food? And, any­way, it has re­cently been proved that many Bri­tish restau­rants now leave their Euro­pean coun­ter­parts stand­ing. With the de­li­cious roast pork – and crispy crack­ling – that I en­joyed in our lo­cal pub last week­end I slaked my thirst with a pint of lo­cal ale whose name would put off the sort of folk who like their meat en­robed and their poussin nestling. It was called “Pigswill”. It was de­li­cious. Pre­ten­tious­ness? Stuff that for a lark. Or should I say, “farci cela pour une alou­ette”?

My spe­cial­ity: A home-laid egg or two, prefer­ably fried, two rash­ers of dry-cured ba­con and a mod­est por­tion of baked beans takes a de­gree of skill to pro­duce

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