My husband Mark from chicanepictures.com has been begging me to let him guest post on my blog, because apparently he has all this stuff about food that he wants to get out and it’s just not appropriate for his blog. So, here he is.
What better place to be bowled over by the best pies in Blighty than at one of its most celebrated cricket grounds – The Oval, (or as it is currently known, the Kia Oval for sponsorship reasons) in the Borough of Lambeth in South London.
Oval by name, design, location and the shape of its famed pies that ellipse… I mean eclipse all the others. Landmarked by the iconic Victorian gasometer which has dominated the view from the ground forever, it’s the pies that score big time for me on the gastrometer.
While I had been to the Oval on previous occasions, I was prevented from partaking in the pie due to its popularity, sold out before the day of reckoning finally arrived.
My good friend and fellow cricket / pie aficionado Dan is also, more importantly, a member of the Surrey County Cricket Club, which has been based at the Oval since self raising flour was invented by Bristol baker Henry Jones. In other words, 1845.
The landlord, by the way, is one Charles Philip Arthur George Wales, otherwise known as the heir apparent to the British Monarchy, whose heraldic badge consists of three white ostrich feathers and has been adopted as the Club’s emblem.
On a fresh Sunday afternoon in April I joined Dan as his guest, gratis, for my Oval pie inauguration. What one saves at the gate one can spend on the plate (and glass) for a day of conversation, conviviality, choice cuisine, and of course, cricket.
Now, the important stuff first. After sorting the beer necessities, I quickly located the “Oval Pie Office” to a ascertain stock numbers. It is placed, from the players point of view, in the direct fire of a thumping straight-ish drive from the Vauxhall End or if you’re batting at the opposite end a delft glance of a lightening quick, over third man. Both shots would hit the pie cabinet.
It’s much simpler for us patrons. The pie servery is next to the members’ lounge, on the ground floor of the illustrious Pavilion, which we parked ourselves in front of for prime pie positioning.
After some tasty play out in the middle involving the homeside’s finest, including the world’s premium batsman, Sri Lankan maestro Kumar Sangakkara and English maverick Kevin Pietersen, the tea adjournment was fast approaching. The time was nigh… for you know what.
I moved early to avoid disappointment. Until the resumption of play, it was the consumption of pie, or pie-squared, if you were a bit famished. Even if you were completely, disorientated by the one or three bevys consumed prior, just use the power of Nostril-damus and follow the aroma that will lead you to the prize.. pies!
Dan is a chicken and mushroom fan, I’m more of a steak and ale man. But, if meat’s not your treat, a very nutritious veggie version is available. I personally follow the maxim, “I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain just to eat broccoli”. My status was secured and I at last managed to purchase my prefered choice.
The aforementioned self-raising flour comes in handy here. It’s an essential ingredient for these gourmet delights, but in measured amounts. The Oval Pie consists of 25% pastry and 75% filling. Oh yes, connoisseurs, this is succulence central for less than a fiver. The emphasis on ‘filling’ is just as much a verb as a noun.
With the Prince of Wales feathers and the filling “crest ” placed in the lid of each pie they are served in their own presentation box, cushioned by printed newspaper articles reflecting on the Surrey side of life.
Plastic silver cutlery gives that sense of occasion. The customary condiments were also available, but I preferred to embrace the purity of the masterPIEce without the sauces. Nourishment nirvana.
If the devil had visited me that night and wanted to know what I would want to exchange for my soul, I would have been able to give him and an immediate answer.