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Backwords: Cordon-Bleu Style

“…the nearest we came to dining out was scoffing a fish and three penn’orth on the way home from the pictures…’’ Mike Shaw says a helping in the open air is still the best way of eating out.

Dining out is all the rage these days.

Some people, so I am reliably informed, even have all their Sunday dinners in pubs and restaurants.

That would have been considered sacrilege in the Colne Valley when I was a lad.

In those days the nearest we came to dining out was scoffing a fish and three penn’orth on the way home from the pictures.

The supper in a newspaper came well-seasoned with salt and vinegar - and topped off with a sprinkling of batter bits.

Occasionally - and that means about two or three times a year - we splashed out and went in the supper room at Jack Hirst’s chippy in Peel Street, Marsden.

Everything was dearer, of course, and it usually meant queuing for half an hour to get a seat.

Still, it was worth it if you felt really hungry because you could have a couple of slices of bread and butter for a copper or two.

The only time I ever remember my father eating out was at a funeral or a wedding, when it was all free.

Not that money was the sole consideration. He preferred to cook things himself.

One of his favourites was a good old-fashioned stew - with just about everything thrown in from left-overs of the weekend joint to a handful of butter beans.

Another of his winter treats was potatoes baked on a tin underneath the grate of the coal fire.

But his real piece de resistance was cordon-bleu cooking at its best. Best steak tossed on the glowing embers of the fire last thing at night.

It came off the coals blood red inside but charred black on the outside, with the odd cinder still hanging on. Get rid of the cinder and pop it on a plate, ready for eating with a big chunk of butter.

When his stomach was playing up and he couldn’t manage some steak, he settled for a huge bowl of bread and milk instead. Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, you might say, but he seemed to down both with equal enjoyment.

Pobs - as the bread and milk was called - used to be a popular nightcap or invalid diet in many ColneValley homes.

I’m told by somebody who ought to know that the word “pobs’’ has been handed down from Roman times, when soldiers on the march used to take with them pieces of bread which they dipped in water before eating.

Now, I’ll bet nine out of ten of our younger generation have never even heard of pobs, let alone eaten them.

But, while pobs have virtually disappeared, fish and chips seem to go on for ever.

And in my book, a helping in the open air is still the best way of eating out.

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