"The greatest Indian cook in Britain"Jay Rayner "The Observer"
"Cook with love. Love your cooking" Gita Mistry

Sunday, 20 May 2012

My love of pork pies - or until I knew better

Even though I have heard horror stories about what goes in em’ and eat very little meat these days they still cross my mind with delight in moments of needing comfort. Maybe, because I loved them as a child so much.

Not long ago I visited a place in Yorkshire called Morley which has a famous pie shop.   Apparently folk come from miles away making special journeys for these pies,   They have queues forming outside the shops most mornings.   So I thought I would try one!    It was hot. I dont really like eating  hot pork pies, pastry excellent I recall but a pork pie is almost a different pie eaten hot. I loved them cold. And I was rather disappointed as my attempt in trying it hot.

Now some may argue that the pork in a pork pie is as far away from meat as a good Hindu is away from beef steak. Others will tell me of their delightful ingredients of eye lashes and eye balls all died pink congealed in jelly that makes them irresistible but best not to dwell on it too much and enjoy the pies for how they taste and make you feel.  For me it was always the pastry that I fell in love with, quite like something I had never tasted before. Crispy case, crumbly and salty and if one was quiet enough when cutting into one you could hear the crunch of it being sliced. A girl at church called Catherine would ask me at our Sunday afternoon tea after service if I would swap her pastry for my jelly and pork which I gladly did, our delight at fair swap made us the "bestest friends". Well…. we never got pork pies at the temple God for bid! 

Fancy that… a pork pie bringing us together! Now Auntie Mary - well she wasn’t really my Auntie but that’s what all the elders were referred to at church - would quiz me about Indian food and why I loved the pork pie so much? She also quizzed me about my gold earrings which did not meet with her approval.   So along with my pork pie she sat me down and sent me to the prayer room so that I could ask Jesus if it was acceptable for me to wear them at church.   Thinking “My mum will kill me if these gold earring are removed.” I prayed and holding a pork pie in one hand and my tiny little gold earring in the other I asked Jesus if it was OK to wear them??? I also felt terribly guilty about the pork pie so asked the Indian Gods to forgive me.  After my ten minutes to reflect about it all she asked me what conclusion I had come to and what Jesus had said to me.   My response was “I really don’t know as I could not hear him!”

She did not understand that most Indian girls - including me although British by birth but Indian by descent - had our ears pierced before our 1st birthday.   It was a disgrace and indecent to have bare holes in your ears - "undressed and undignified." Most of the English girls wore very little jewelry at church if any and had never eaten Indian food.   Auntie Mary had yet to try one of my curries to really understand why I loved them so much.   Pork pies were the one food I never spiced up, nothing but some HP sauce would do for me. HP sauce stands for Houses of Parliament after the sauce was being served in the restaurant over 150 years ago.

 It was though I knew what Heaven was like when I bit into one.  Which led to the old saying in our home, “When are we having English?” As 95% of the food we ate was Indian.

Auntie Mary, by the way, did let me have a tune on my other love: the piano.   My parents could simply not afford lessons for me so I used to sit on the fence/hedge of our piano teacher's house, watching others learn, in hope that some of the teaching would rub off onto me..

Anyway, later, my friend, Catherine, asked to have her hears pierced too.

I decided that neither the church nor the temple were for me. But remained friends with Catherine.  So at the age of 12 I went back to my skateboard and enjoyed the rest of the summer.   Much to my mother’s disapproval for several reasons..   First, I had given up both church and temple.   Secondly, skateboarding was very unladylike indeed.   It was not something she ever dreamt of for her  Indian daughter.   Thirdly she worried about what our relations would think.   Most of my extended family lived abroad but for my poor mum they lived in her head.   She often could not understand why I was into skateboarding.   She knew of no other Indian girl skateboraders in Bradford. She really did  not understand the scene.

  But for me it was a fearless freeing fantastic sport than help me think and focus on so many things.   For instance, why my parents were the only two members of our family who had left India in early 1950's out of 14 brothers and sisters between them . What India must have been like.   And what my folks back there must have been like.  

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