Thursday, November 29, 2007

With the foxhounds.

November 29 ...

Yesterday’s post reminded me of a great lady and a little gem of a book that I met while I was in Norfolk, England, in September. I stayed for a few days with my cousin, who – knowing my interest in all things to do with food – invited her neighbour over one day for a cuppa. This lady is of fine Norfolk stock, and the local cooking guru it seems. She was a fund of knowledge about Norfolk specialties, and brought a bundle of little old local cookbooks which she loaned to me for my stay.

One of the books was “The West Norfolk Foxhounds Cookery Book”, and it was quite amusing. Most of us don’t tend to associate foxhunters with humour, but I assure you this book is quite funny, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. It starts by describing fox-hunting as “… Not unlike adultery. Hours of hanging around punctuated by moments of high passion. Both highly immoral and very expensive.”

I learned that provisioning for a fox-hunt is quite a different thing from that of shooting parties, which we learned about yesterday. There are no picnic niceties like folding chairs and brass centrepieces full of fruit, because fox-hunters are serious about hunting - refreshment is for sustenance only and is taken on the run (or should that be on horseback?) so to speak. The repast consists solely of sandwiches.

“Hunting sandwiches are eaten under vigorous conditions and they should be prepared with that in view. They should be cut, formed, and packed so that they can be eaten on the back of a runaway mustang in a hurricane of wind and cold rain by a man who has recently broken his right wing.

In cut, the repast should favour the practical rather than the aesthetic. Too small a sandwich involves too many incursions of the gloved hand into the pocket: too large a sandwich may involve the jettisoning of the major part of the unconsumed portion of the day’s ration should the pack be so inconsiderate as to find a fox while the meal is in progress. … the sandwich should be packed with more thought for accessibility than for hygiene …. the ideal package should be capable of being opened by one numbed, gloved, hand withoug being removed from the pockets.”

Naturally there was a list of suggested fillings for robust sandwiches in the book. They are to be made “after breakfast” – which explains the ingredients of my favourite idea:

Bacon and Marmalade Sandwiches.
Excellent to stuff your pocket for Cub Hunting.
Fry bacon until crisp and cut to bits. Toast two thick slices of bread and then split horizontally. Spread marmalade on the untoasted side, put bacon on top and place the other piece [of toast] on top. Squash down and cut off crusts and repeat with other slices.

Stomach not up to it? “For those whose digestions sneer at solid food taken during strenuous exercise, the only solution may be egg beaten up in port, carried in a flask of vast dimensions.”

Tomorrow’s Story …

Tamarinds, by Twain.

Quotation for the Day …

Bread that must be sliced with an axe is bread that is too nourishing. Fran Lebowitz


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Maybe I should spend more time fox hunting in an effort to improve my social life ... Clearly, it would not be for the food, though.

Rapid Iq said...

Congratulations Old Foodie
for writing such a wonderful blog on food history. Wish you could spare some of your pages for the cuisines in Indian subcontinent! Thanks
Abhishek Avtans

Rachel Laudan said...

Total trivia from one who once lived this life. Cubhunting happened in September and October prior to the real hunting season. The aim was to keep the cub population down and teach them to run not hide when hunted.

A cub hunt started early, say six in the morning. Hence a breakfast type sandwich. Regular hunting started at ten or eleven. You took a couple of tiny meat sandwiches to see you through until about three when the hunt ended.

Did I really live that life?


The Old Foodie said...

Hello rapid iq - I dont have enough background knowledge to write about the Indian subcontinent (and not the language skills!) One topic that does fascinate me is Anglo-Indian cuisine, which is so adapted that to me it is a cuisine in its own right.
Rachel - how fascinating! Please tell me that you have actually had bacon and marmalade sandwiches!