When we worked Saturday morning Overtime John “China” Buckby would get up a Pie and Pasty list for Morning Tea.
I was given the list and money and told by Buckby, “Go and get the Pies from the Railway Station Cafeteria and the pastys from the Bank Street Deli.”
“Get f**ked” I would say. “I’m getting everything from the Railway Station Cafeteria.”
After arguing for five minutes or so, Buckby went and got Merv “Nobby” Clarke (Supervisor) to come down and tell me where to go and what to do
“Oh, for God’s sake Warren.” Merv sighed, “Just go and get everything from the Railway Station Cafeteria and tell that bloody Buckby you got the pastys from Bank Street and the pies from the Station,” Merv said.
After Morning Tea was over, Bucko gets up pats his tummy and says,
“See Warren, I told you aren’t those Pastys from the Bank Street Deli just so much better?”
The word “pizza” is thought to have come from the Latin word pinsa, meaning flatbread (although there is much debate about the origin of the word). A legend suggests that Roman soldiers gained a taste for Jewish Matzoth while stationed in Roman occupied Palestine and developed a similar food after returning home.
However a recent archeological discovery has found a preserved Bronze Age pizza in the Veneto region.
By the Middle Ages these early pizzas started to take on a more modern look and taste. The peasantry of the time used what few ingredients they could get their hands on to produce the modern pizza dough and topped it with olive oil and herbs.
The introduction of the Indian Water Buffalo gave pizza another dimension with the production of mozzarella cheese. Even today, the use of fresh mozzarella di buffalo in Italian pizza cannot be substituted.
While other cheeses have made their way onto pizza (usually in conjunction with fresh mozzarella), no Italian Pizzeria would ever use the dried shredded type used on so many American pizzas.
The introduction of tomatoes to Italian cuisine in the 18th and early 19th centuries finally gave us the true modern Italian pizza. Even though tomatoes reached Italy by the 1530s it was widely thought that they were poisonous and were grown only for decoration.
However the innovative (and probably starving) peasants of Naples started using the supposedly deadly fruit in many of their foods, including their early pizzas.
Since that fateful day the world of Italian cuisine would never be the same, however it took some time for the rest of society to accept this crude peasant food.
Once members of the local aristocracy tried pizza they couldn’t get enough of it, which by this time was being sold on the streets of Naples for every meal. As pizza popularity increased, street vendors gave way to actual shops where people could order a custom pizza with many different toppings.
By 1830 the “Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba” of Naples had become the first true pizzeria and this venerable institution is still producing masterpieces.
The popular pizza Margherita owes its name to Italy’s Queen Margherita who in 1889 visited the Pizzeria Brandi in Naples.
The Pizzaioli (pizza maker) on duty that day, Rafaele Esposito created a pizza for the Queen that contained the three colors of the new Italian flag.
The red of tomato, white of the mozzarella and fresh green basil was a hit with the Queen and the rest of the world. Neapolitan style pizza had now spread throughout Italy and each region started designing their own versions based on the Italian culinary rule of fresh, local ingredients.
The word tiffin is also used as a name for a lunchbox. Tiffins (or dhabbas) come in all shapes and sizes, but traditionally they are round, with three or four stacking stainless steel compartments firmly sealed with a tight-fitting lid and a side clip to avoid any nasty spillages and a handle for carrying on top.
In India food cooked at home with care and love is considered to deliver not only healthy (and relatively cheap) food but also divine contentment.
Lunch is usually eaten thali-style, with a tantalising selection of regional delicacies that may include any combination of spicy vegetables, dhal, rice, yoghurt, pickles, bread and pudding served on a big steel plate or a banana leaf. The separate compartments in the tiffin lunchbox accommodate thali lunches perfectly.
Tiffin culture is now to be found all over India. Everyone – from women in brightly coloured saris working in the fields to giggling families on long train journeys – carries a tiffin to provide a compact, portable, homemade lunch.
Every weekday without fail something rather extraordinary is to be seen around midday on the chaotic streets of Bombay (or Mumbai). This is the sight of hundreds of stainless steel tiered tiffin boxes or dhabbas piled high on handcarts and bicycles being pushed through the streets by dhoti-wearing, white-capped tiffin wallahs.
Expertly run by the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers’ Association, armies of these tiffin wallahs provide the invaluable daily service of speedily delivering piping hot home-cooked lunches to more than 200,000 busy office workers.
Many workers live 50 kilometres or more from their workplace, a long commute on a packed train. There is certainly not time for the cook of the house to prepare a full meal before they leave home.
So the lunch-filled tiffin boxes are picked up later in the morning, colour-coded and transported to the station, where they are collected by the tiffin wallahs, whose mission is to deliver each box to its corresponding workplace still hot from the pan – and to return the empty tiffin to the home before the end of the working day.
With the essential core values of punctuality, teamwork, honesty and sincerity providing the backbone to the business, they have a staggering 99.99% success rate.
The tiffin wallahs have become so revered that they are now called on to lecture to big businesses, and have been honoured guests at British royal weddings.
They are considered so trustworthy that workers often place their wages inside the clean tiffin box on its return journey rather than risk carrying money on the commuter train.
It is not necessary to buy a Yorkshire-pudding tin to make an authentic Yorkshire pudding.
What you actually need is a 30cm by 20cm rectangular tray, the kind now sold as tray-bake tins for things such as Mary Berry’s millionaire’s shortbread or lemon-drizzle squares.
The true Yorkshire pudding, says Peter Brears, “is always made in a rectangular dripping tin and cut into squares just before it reaches the plate”.
Brears is the author of Traditional Food in Yorkshire (Prospect Books) – less a cookbook (though it does include recipes) than a brilliant social history of how they ate in Yorkshire in the 19th century.
The perfect pudding, according to Brears, has a high crisp rim and a “deeply rippled centre”.
The round puddings that are now deemed the classic version were originally called “Yorkshire puffs” and were a way to save on oven space, as cooks dropped spoonfuls of batter into the hot fat around the roasting meat.
Quite why batter pudding – which was made in various forms all over Britain – should be so closely associated with Yorkshire isn’t clear. The first written recipe is by Hannah Glasse in 1747, who seasoned the batter with grated nutmeg and ginger and cooked it under a joint of “beef, mutton or a loin of veal” as it spit-roasted before the fire.
Yorkshire pudding remains one of the glories of a Sunday lunch: crispy outside and custardy inside.
It’s one of the few dishes – soufflé being another – that elicits a gasp when it arrives at the table.
Authentic or not, I like to make them in a muffin tin (three eggs, 120g flour, 300ml milk and a pinch of salt for 15 minutes in a hot oven), preheated with oil for maximum puff.
Some serve the pudding as a sweet course, with golden syrup and cream, but I see the battery crevices as the perfect vehicle for meaty juices.
Traditionally, the pudding and gravy were served as a first course, like pasta, with the meat and vegetables to follow.
A roast dinner that includes Yorkshires as well as roast potatoes is a double-carbohydrate feast.