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Sunday, April 20, 2003

Food for Thought
I recently ran into a former co-worker in a grocery store—someone I’ve seen only a couple of times since I left that job about seven years ago. She has two kids now, and when I told her we were on our way to get some pho, she told me it was her 3-year-old son’s favorite food. Obviously her boy’s growing up in a more cosmopolitan place than I did (not hard; there was a Scottish family, an Irish family, an Indian family, and the Afro-Caribbean doctor—everyone else in the village had been there for several generations, or so it seemed), but it still blows my mind. I had no “foreign” food until I went away to university—that includes Italian food, even pizza! (Well, I did go on school trips to France and Italy, so I suppose I must’ve had something non-English there.)

Of course, I suppose some of the Northern specialties we snacked on were pretty exotic: tripe (which I remember eating raw, but when I think about it, you buy it cooked, so it must just’ve been cold and served absolutely swimming in vinegar); faggots, aka “ducks,” a jolly tasty blended meat product that’s served with gravy; “Scotch scallops,” which has nothing to do with shellfish or Scotland—it’s bacon and potatoes cooked in the same pan with water (and a lot of Daddy’s sauce) added to make a sort of not very wet bacon soup (there was also a version using corned beef known, rather unappealingly, as "lobby"); black peas (peas cooked in a vinegary sauce—they were only available at the “wakes” or traveling fair); black pudding (and not that namby Southern version that you have for breafast either—the real bladder-stuffed version) served with lashings of piccalilli; and lots of other nosh that I don’t want to bring to mind right now lest I get such a craving that I’m forced to cajole someone into driving me to Ye Olde Britishe Pantrye. (Funnily enough, we never had Lancashire hot pot, even though, judging from Coronation Street, it’s the only food Northerners ever eat.)