Monday, July 27, 2009

Divided by a Common Cuisine

Naturally, there's a certain amount of interpreting necessary when I go to the North with R, and it came to the fore when we visited the biggest fish and chip shop I've ever seen, in Bolton, Lancs. It's so big it's taken over the shop next door.

I explained, for instance, that a 'scallop' in Lancashire-speak isn't a shellfish but a thick slice of potato dipped in batter and then fried.

The 'scallop' , I imagine, derives from 'escallope' or 'slice', as in French 'escallope de veau', but there's no reason it has to be meat.

Butties he knows about, but 'barm', short for barm cake, was a puzzler. As with 'scallop', I knew what it was, but had to scratch my head to remember I was told as a child that 'barm' means 'balm' or 'yeast'. It's a kind of non-sweet teacake, but flatter and crustier.

I felt at home in a town with a statue of an engineer in a flat cap and a model engine in the main shopping street - nearby was a carved stone frieze to show stages in cotton manufacture, from picking to weaving.
Bolton's town hall is a building of such Victorian splendour it almost equalled, with it columns and pediment, the Harris Library in my home town

The dining potential of Northern towns is dire, although cheap enough. Bolton is a vast improvement on Blackburn, the town in the other direction from the Travelodge on the M65 where we spent three nights. The fish and chips were excellent but there was no room for fancy grills or salads in the Olympus .

After a week of cheap eating in the North, I
cancelled the cholesterol test I had slated for this morning. I hope a week or so of southern food will restore the level to more or less what it was before I left.

Our new lodger suggested he take us out to dinner this week. He's from the North, on three months' probation in his new job. I suggested 'Zero Degrees' in Backheath Village. There's no ambiguity when it comes to mussels, but I think I'll steer clear of the frites. I've had it with chips for a while.

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