Years ago I made a radio series about pies. I wanted to call it Crust Almighty but because it went out on a Sunday they said I couldn’t, so I said we’d call it Of Mince and Men but they said that was too obscure, so in the end we called it Who Ate All The Pies which was a kind of successful compromise, I guess, but I still like Crust Almighty best.
Being paid to eat pies was one of the high points of my career to date, I have to say. I went to Melton Mowbray and sampled their pies with the oddly greasy crust; I travelled up to Dundee and had a macaroni pie, which I had to learn to call, the Dundee way, a ‘peh’; I munched on a rediscovery in the South of England called the Sussex Churdle, a winning combination of liver and apple (trust me); I ate pie and mash with liquor in an authentic East End caff, and I had a Stargazy Pie in Mousehole in Cornwall.
And when I came home I craved a proper Yorkshire pie; a nice pork pie with a bit of brown sauce that knocked all the rest into the long grass. The producer said we’d save the Yorkshire Pork Pie for the second series but we never got a second series.
At that time, a few years ago, I’d celebrate Saturday night with an episode of Casualty, a few glasses of red wine and a pork pie. Then I caught sight of myself in a mirror and decided that the wine and the pies would have to go or I’d be on an episode of Casualty myself; a comedy episode featuring a fat, pie-shaped bloke winched out his bedroom by a specially strengthened helicopter.
To be honest I don’t miss the wine. But I miss the pies, oh I miss the pies so much! And, to be honest, I do allow myself the odd one every now and then as a treat. Just the one. Christmas and birthdays. Barnsley home wins.
So, imagine my joy the other day when my grandson Thomas came into the house with a present for me in a little white paper bag. “It’s a combination of your two favourite foods” he said. “Pork pie and black pudding!” And it was: an individual pork pie with a layer of black pudding in the middle, like a coal seam in a drift mine. I glanced at the mirror, trying to hold my head up so that at least some of my chins faded away and trying to hold my stomach as far in as it would go.
I decided to delay the gratification, which isn’t like me. I thanked Thomas almost too profusely (I may have hugged him. I may have had to wipe a tear from my eye) and put the pie in the fridge to have for my supper.
Suppertime came. I opened the fridge door and got the pie out of its bag. It sat there, perfect, glowing with pie-ness. Some fools say sunsets are perfect or a piece of music is perfect or new love is perfect but what do they know? I looked at the pie. I lifted the pie and felt the perfect weight of it in my hand. I stroked the pie and the crust was a little rough, in a perfect way. I sniffed the pie and the aroma was sheer perfection.
Then I opened my mouth as wide as I could and ate it in one bite.