“What’s that, hummus?” asked the gentleman, indicating the vat of gurgling liquid I was serving from. “Mushy peas”, I bluntly responded, silently and cruelly judging the man as a both a southerner and an imbecile.
I supported my student days working at a chip shop in North Yorkshire, which received passing trade from parents visiting their Masters and Misses at the nearby boarding school. We weren’t completely closed off from civilisation. The introduction to mushy peas was a first for me. The conversation made me appreciate that I could proudly serve my county’s Friday night comfort food, knowing that to some, it was exotic.
Comfort food is Yorkshire’s gift to the British menu. Fish and chips and mushy peas and two slices of white bread and butter. No need to scrimp on the salt and vinegar, please and thank you very much. Sunday roasts with Yorkshire puddings. Fat rascals and rhubarb crumble. Real Ale and Wensleydale. Parkin and it’s less syrupy brother, gingerbread. Spanish and kayli (liquorice and sherbert, as it’s more commonly known). Curd tarts and ginger beer. Yorkshire also did well out of its confectionary factories. Rowntrees, Terry’s, Thornton’s, Mackintosh’s Quality Street. Quality stuff. You’ve got to die of something after all.
The colder weather excuses us ditching our diets and eating to insulate. The shorter days encourage us to stay at home and get round to all that cooking and baking we’d been promising ourselves all summer. Advent is here and many look to celebrating Christmas, a guilt-free fortnight comfort food, washed down with comfort wine.
Comfort food is also the most fun to make. Because you’re a grown up, you can lick the spoon without anyone telling you off. They say that a good story never began with someone eating a salad, whoever made that salad was certainly as miserable as sin too. Favourite dishes provide the greatest scope for experimenting with recipes. Throw a mug of coffee into your chilli (à la Jamie)? A dash of gin in cake batter? What’s the worst that could happen? All I’m saying is that a quiche probably won’t benefit being topped with a bag of M&Ms.
Comfort food is simple. Beans on toast or bacon sandwiches are easy to make. Life’s little treats which don’t require a wad of cash to enjoy. But if you do want to leave the living room sometime this season, Sutlers do Spam Fritters while Bill’s offer a Fish Finger sandwich.
This winter, don’t worry about your waistline. Do eat, drink and be merry. Experiment with cooking and share it with loved ones. Without the sunshine, food is all we’ve got. So make the most of it, knowing that somewhere in Kent, some poor soul is smothering hummus on their chips.