Saturday, April 08, 2006

Englishmen and Pies


First up, I have to blow my own trumpet a bit, so you’ll forgive me a moment of gleeful self promotion. The May issue of the BBC Olive magazine, in its Blogwatch section has noted Jamfaced as one of their picks of British food blogs. My first press mention and I have Anna at Baking for Britain to thank for pointing it out to me. It’s only two lines in a tiny box on page 16 (if you’re interested) but feels like a three page spread!

Secondly, I have to recommend “Watching the English” by Kate Fox. This is an anthropological study of English behaviour, basically a dissection of “Englishness” from talking about the weather as displacement activity and establishment of tribal values to the ways men and women gossip and the importance of the chip, this is a comical and often embarrassing read. To see in print your own learnt behaviour picked apart and analysed is quite the eye opener. One section involves the class radar that is the naming of our daily meals. Call your evening meal “Dinner” and your middle class unless you are referring to a formal evening meal as opposed to the less formal “Supper” and your upper middle class. Call it your “tea” and you obviously picking coal dust from under your fingernails. She also points out that it is the English working classes and upper classes share a common certainty in the food they eat, not for them the vagaries of middle class food faddism and fashion:

“The upper middle chattering classes are the most receptive and suggestive adherents of the health-correctness cults. Among the females of this class particular, food taboos have become the primary means of defining one’s social identity. You are what you do not eat” (p307)

I’ve said in the past that the food revolution in this country in essentially a middle class pursuit. As Fox points out, the English are pretty ambivalent about their food, they are actually ambivalent about most things that give us pleasure. Any kind of excessive eulogising about the pleasures of the flesh or the pleasures of the plate is seen as embarrassing or frankly a bit dubious. Especially if it comes from a bloke. Any man professing his love for the kitchen or of eating using language outside of the linguistic space occupied by “quite nice” or “filling” is a quiche eating shirt lifter. Watch Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey, with their manly swagger and geezerish manner. Basically, over compensating for the fact they wear aprons to work.

Change comes slowly. Especially in England. Hopefully we’ll get to a point when liking your food and caring about it are just things that everyone does, like in most of the rest of the world. It’ll happen. We’ll stop getting over excited when a new food fusion hits the magazines and restaurants, stop stressing about what we serve up to our friends at dinner and just kick back, relax and enjoy our food. When that happens I’ll probably stop feeling the need to write this blog!

I will now wax lyrical about Pies, so forget everything I just said. Pokeno Pies in Brighton was voted one of the best cheap eats in the recent 2006 Observer Food Monthly Awards. Being in Brighton pretty regularly I have had the opportunity to stuff my face with their excellent pies for a while now, so it was nice to see that my stomach and the national press were in agreement. They make beautiful pies, they really do. Now, most pies I have eaten recently have been a football matches (see, over compensating!) and whilst these are hot and filling and just the right thing to stop you freezing to death over the next hour and a half as you watch 22 men hoof a pigs bladder about, the guys at Pokeno’s have taken pie to a higher level. In fact, there are seemingly dozens of pie type operations springing up in London and her environs. I like to see it as a long suppressed desire finally rising up blinking into the sunlight. A sudden realisation that whilst a bowl of hummus and quinoa might be attractive to us in a certain light, a well made pie is something deeply moving and necessary.

Pokeno Pies make light crisp tasty pastry but that has body, the crispness yielding to a softly chewy ness. The fillings do exactly what they say on the tin. They actually fill the pie. Beef Chorizo and Onion. Steak Stilton and Port. Smoked Haddock. Simple strong flavours. To accompany these marvels a pile of fluffy mash and some mushy peas. The only thing they don’t do is traditional parsley liquor. By hey, that’s progress for you. Things get left behind.
Pokeno Pies: 52 Gardner Street, North Laine, Brighton, BN1 1UN, United Kingdom


Andrew said...

Congrats on the Olive mention. Me last month, you this... stage one of world domination!

tejal said...

I'm very happy for your mention in Olive--would you believe I can get Olive, along with Waitrose food and Good Food, at my tiny bookstore here in California! I'll check it out.

cookiecrumb said...

Hey, Monkey Gland. Congratulations. Quite nice. Filling!

anna said...

Hi MG. What is the luscious filling in the pie illustrated. I can imagine my teeth sinking into it, but it would be lovely to know what succulent centre will be flooding the tastebuds of my imagination.

Feeling hungry, so hurry...

Hageltoast said...

congrats on getting into olive! I've certainly been enjoying the blog.

Alexandra said...

Congrats on the press mention! I just happened across your blog...keep up the good work!

drbiggles said...

Whoa congrats! It's fun, huh?

Well, if you keep on doing what you're doing, you'll be getting far more than a mention. You've got quite a following already and this is only the beginning.
I love meat pies.

gastrochick said...

Congratulations on your mention in Olive magazine.
It looks like I might be appearing in their provpunter feature in the July edition. Fingers crossed.

Jasmine said...

Congratulations on your media mention--well deserved :)


shaz said...

that looks excellent! yummy