The Past As I Remember

Our new foodie blogger Helen Davies introduces Pickled Pair.

No way could I write about our thriving food scene in Sheffield without first sharing some of the things that fig-rolled my formative years.

I grew up in a pub. Not some fancy gastropub affair but a proper local that just served beer. There was a snug for my granddad and his friends. You couldn’t see them through the fog of smoke but you could hear the dominos tapping on the tables. There was no food. Except on a games night. Then I’d be drafted into the kitchen to help with potted meat sandwiches , pork pie and black pudding. As an eight year old I loved that black pudding. I’ve never eaten it since.

Roasts were big in our family. Two or three times a week and always with Yorkshire Puddings. Apple crumble on Sunday, that was my job. My granddad had a little allotment and I have fond memories of my nan’s freshly picked rhubarb which we’d dunk raw into a tiny bag of sugar.

I was a latch-key kid. We all were back then. School holidays were ours to do as we wanted, which invariably meant jam sandwiches to see us through ‘til teatime. The day my mum came home from Asda with a Vesta Chow Mein changed my school-holiday life. Boil-in-the-Bag and crispy fried noodles came with the risk of 2nd degree burns. I loved it, nonetheless. Though I’ve never eaten it since.

The food used to come to us long before Ocado got in on the act. We had the pop-man, the egg-man, the milk-man, potato-man, fish-man. They called every week. I remember their faces, friendly in the summer, bit grumpy come winter, proper seasonal.

My mum was overjoyed when she got her first microwave. At last, something to replace the pressure cooker she never really got the hang of. Unfortunately, father was extremely suspicious and refused to eat anything that ended with a ping. My job was to watch it like a hawk and catch the door just in time. I once got distracted. He’s never eaten anything out of one since.

Bonfire night was always a home-made affair. It started weeks in advance, collecting old bits of wood and building it up. I loved it. The best bonfire was in my friends nan’s garden. A bonfire to rival Chatsworth, we thought. Potatoes were wrapped in foil and put in the fire. Sausages were charred and black. Bonfire toffee so hard it gave every kid life lessons in perseverance and resilience. I’ve never tasted anything so good since.

That was all quite some time ago and Sheffield’s food scene has grown up faster than me – it is full of makers, finders, creators, thinkers and comforters. Exposed is a great way for us to share the best of all this. Buon Appetito, Children of the North.

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