Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Some like it hot

Every religion has its own ritual, the whetted knife slicing through the unlucky chicken's throat spilling hot, garnet blood onto white feathers and a stamped earth floor; the pyramid of sweet rice dumplings piled under a sacred tree; the simple breaking of bread and sharing of new-pressed wine. Yesterday, I broke my own bread in communion with Northumberland. I drove to a favorite grassy headland overlooking the brooding Bamburgh Castle; carefully, I unwrapped the slightly greasy paper and gently held the ham and pease pudding sandwich in my hands. I raised it to the skies for the old North gods to bless and brought it down again, sanctified. Slowly, my hands trembling slightly as the chill wind swirled round the wooden bench ("In memory of Len, who loved this spot"), I pressed it to my mouth and bit down, hard.

As a stranger in this land, I was braced for something horrid - not least because of how it looks. It badly needs a makeover - what it most resembles is the fat at the bottom of a pan when you have roasted and eaten fragrant lamb, moved onto burgundy and bed. Then morning comes and head thickened by the traitor glass, you look into the red enamelled pan and think "Uurgh". Pease pudding looks like "Uurgh" in a pot. It does not taste like that though, it tastes more of peas without an "e" and has a consistency similar to hummus. It is made from split peas boiled in ham stock and then mashed to infinity and beyond. According to my scar-fingered butcher, who scooped spoonfuls of the dull yellow mash into a plastic dish for me, it is best eaten with ham. I took his advice. My butcher wears a white coat and I always trust what the men in white coats say. So that is it, I have arrived. I have looked into the heart of darkness and I have held my own and eaten it. Not bad actually.

My "shut your eyes and you might even think you lived here" day carried on into the evening. I had agreed to go to a pub quiz, my very first. The quiz was in aid of the Glendale Agricultural Show which is a big deal up here. Last year 15,000 people went and did whatever it is people do when they go to an agricultural show. Probably looked at tractors and admired cows. That sort of thing. I went to the quiz with three of the other mothers from school and we scored somewhere between genius and moppet, but I did not do well in the questions on farming. "What two breeds of sheep created the Suffolk breed?"Err. "When are you allowed to cut your hedges under the stewardship scheme?" Umm. "What is the newest english breed of cattle?" Wife in the North, you are the weakest link. Goodbye. But I did take the opportunity to join the Glendale agricultural show society which means that I can exhibit in the livestock and equine classes at reduced rates. That's good, isn't it? I tell you, if this experiment in country living does not work, my record is going to be squeaky clean. "You cannot blame me," I shall tell a fuming husband as we grind back down the A1 back to the dirty smoke. "I tried to make it work. I ate pease pudding and placed third in the pedigree sheep."


Anonymous said...

Pease pudding is fab - and so is coming third at the Glendale in the sheep department

Anonymous said...

'Probably looked at tractors and admired cows. ' Do me a favour !!

These shows are for totty-spotting, boozing, people-watching and finding out the 'who's zooming who' gossip.

Puuuhhleeeasee...You do need to drop this faintly patronising tone about country life - You've been listening to the Archers too much, methinks,

Trust me, honey, it is NOTHING like that programme, thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

Get that date in your diary NOW !

You may scoff in your city, slightly supercilious tone, babe, but your cynicism and scepticism will be shot down when you attend.

It has the JCB 'Dancing Diggers' and those fantastic 'Scottish Border Collies'. Plus lots of hunky boys for you to admire. Lots of dreadful fashion disasters. Car stands and four wheel drive vehicles where you don't have to add the mud from a big bag to make it look like you have a pad outside the city.

Suicidal eejits on quad bikes - and for your hubby, gorgeous girlies in their riding jodhpurs, complete with whips... Lost children. Guess the weight of the baby contests.

Glamorous grandmother contests - [hmm.. less of them these days when the likes of Helen Mirren are so bloody sexy].

And you get to buy the 'competing' cakes when the judging has been completed. And those huge veggies - have you actually watched 'The Curse of the Were-Rabbit' ???

I think a 'countdown to Glendale' needs to be a weekly feature of the site - it is not for nothing that the WI 'calendar girls' came from up that neck of the woods.

wife in the north said...

re anonymous 1 and 2 : I stopped listening to The Archers when I started living it. As for the Glendale, I hear what you say and the date is in my diary.

wife in the north said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
harry bell said...

I tend to forget that ham and pease pudding sandwiches are unknown in the benighted south. Glad you enjoyed it, but I hope you made it in a stottie.

Next stop: the saveloy dip.

Whispering Walls said...

You can exhibit some of your mice

Anonymous said...

I hope you are asking the 'Glendale' for a free upgrade, or at least a day pass, in exchange for the publicity.

By the way, aren't you following the rugby yet ? If not, why not ?

Anonymous said...

Just out of interest, and because my Geography is rubbish, how far are you from Harrogate ? You seem to make out you are in the 'back of beyond' or the 'arse end of England', but you can't be all that far from this fine town which has the added benefit of not having a Tesco ! Hooray ! And it is the home of 'Taylor's of Harrogate' [clue in the title, folks] purveyors of scrummy tea and, sadly, diversifying into coffee.

By the way, if you are thinking of writing a book, please, please don't go down the naffsville route of, as Boris Johnson calls him, 'bloody Hugh Fearnley bloody Whittingstall' and his nettle soup or whatever, or the twee nonsense churned out by James Herriott.

You may think are an ocean away from 'Sex and the City' and the 'Desperate Housewives' - trust me, they are just behind those lace curtains, if you know where to look..

Anonymous said...

Ah the saveloy dip! - it needs to be a Dickson's one, make sure you have stuffing and mustard too, as well as getting the top dipped. Why not drive down to South Shields and I'll point out the best places to procure the lauded saveloy dip!

Pease pudding also makes a decent lunch when warmed through and served with a large chunk of smoked pork sausage and buttered stottie.

wife in the north said...

re anon: I am nowhere near Harrogate. Harrogate is in Yorkshire which is down a bit.
re winchester whisperer: i like that idea - very funny
re mr zip and curly: saveloy dip: is that a north-east thing then?

harry bell said...

The north-east is certainly the spiritual home of the saveloy dip. Alex Kapranos is very fond of them, I hear. For what that's worth.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...further north than Harrogate, eh.? Your husband clearly understands the 'bride to far' concept - in this case the one over the Humber estuary.

But surely with the 'Flying Scotsman' line, you are only a short train journey from York ? Or Leeds and 'Harvey Nicks', darling, if you are feeling decadent ?

p.s. there is a very good 'Mulberry' shop in York. You might think it is 'old fogey' clothing & too expensive,but dear, it comes to us all in the end...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my earlier comment should have read 'a BRIDGE too far'. I'm sure you worked that out, as there is no such thing as a 'Humber Bride'. Or is there?

Anyway, perhaps you could write a screenplay for 'A Bride too far..'