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Monday, 15 June 2015

Pig’s trotters and red herrings

Her shop subsisted in its corner by reason of the conservatism of poor neighbourhoods. She sold penny yellow and black tea mugs that came from a pottery down Bristol way — tea mugs of a pattern one hundred and fifty years old. She sold brown moist sugar that was nearly black, and had something the flavour of liquorice, such as none of the new stores sold or would have known where to buy.

She sold red herrings from a factory on the east coast that had been established two hundred and fifty years, and that had only three or four customers. She sold medicinal herbs in packets and cooked pig’s-trotters — which she boiled herself — as well as penny broad-sheet ballads that were hung up all over the shop, and onions from Brittany that depended in long ropes all down the window.

Her profits from the establishment, except at Christmas and about the fifth of November, when she sold fireworks, were seldom more than seventeen and six, and never less than nine shillings a week. In return she was the dictatress of opinions and the wise woman of Henry Street, James Street, and Charles and Augusta Mews, Westminster.
Ford Madox Ford – Mr Fleight (1913)

We may deplore the ubiquity of supermarkets and the consequent change in our high streets, but the alternatives were not always quite so quaint as popular sentiment would have us believe. The pig’s trotters and red herrings might have been tasty though.

8 comments:

Roger said...

A special treat were the cheese rind offcuts, good for macaroni cheese - take the roof off your mouth.

A K Haart said...

Roger - I like macaroni cheese but haven't eaten it for years.

Demetrius said...

It is difficult to get hold of pig's trotters these days, all sorts of things could be made notably real gelatine. The lady is presently on the sausage making machine and so not available to advise further.

Michael said...

Oh yes, macaroni cheese which actually hurts!

Marvelous recall, Roger, and I'm now going to negotiate with Mrs Scroblene for a change in the menu for Friday, or maybe Saturday!

Sunday?...

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - home made sausages? You lucky man.

Michael - we tend to forget menus we once enjoyed. I've no idea why unless age has something to do with it.

Sam Vega said...

A similar point was made by an old chap we once met in a Norfolk pub. Some real ale enthusiasts in our party were questioning him about the myriad ancient brews they used to make in Norwich, and how it was all more interesting before the days of homogenised gassy keg beer.

He conceded they had a point, but said that the beer had often tasted disgusting and could give you the shits for a week if you got a "bad pint". For him, mass production and homogeneity were the marks of progress.

James Higham said...

And Ford Madox Ford is a great name.

A K Haart said...

Sam - there was an old Derby brewery called Offilers which closed in the sixties as the big breweries expanded their fizz operations. My father said their brew was often called "Offilers straight-through".

James - it is, even though he made it up of course.