"It's not much but it's ours"

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Imagine, if you will, the picture. A man whose life’s mission has been to convert human matter to pie form from the inside out by eating as many of them as he possibly can in one life time is invited to be a judge at the Great British Pie Awards.

It should be the greatest event of his life, a dream fulfilled, and he arrives in Melton Mowbray, arguably the spiritual home of the pie, having warmed up nicely with a little gentle pie and ice cream eating the day before in beautiful Harrogate, full of expectation, but empty of stomach in anticipation of being presented with tray after tray of meaty goodness.

How then could a day that held such golden promise turn into a marathon of horror matched only by the thought of watching six back-to-back episodes of The Gilmore Girls? A day that not only almost brought me to the point of breaking the UK projectile vomiting record, or indeed setting one if no one has yet had the good sense to measure such things, but almost put me off pies for life.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

Monday was a good day. I had travelled up to Rotherham the night before, which meant I could start at a civilised time for my trip to Harrogate where I had arranged to meet Yorkshire food P.R guru, Jennifer Middleton and my chum, Mr Jay Rayner. Our task was to aid and abet the good folk of Yorkshire Fodder in deciding which pies and ice cream would be the ones they would stock.

Yorkshire Fodder will be a rather impressive new food shop and café run by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and our fellow judges, Heather and Ian had spent the last few months visiting over 300 producers in the relevant counties looking for potential lines for the shop. To drum up a little publicity, Jennifer had invited Jay to come along to draw interest from the press and me to come along and Hoover up the crumbs from his celebrity table.

It was all good fun as we tasted our way through thirty pies and as many ice cream before all heading off for a slap up lunch at Betty’s of Harrogate where I treated myself to a Fat Rascal, their own uniquely Yorkshire take on the humble scone. A gentle drive back to Rotherham and an early night had me all set up for the main event, The Great British Pie Awards to be held the next day in Melton Mowbray.

My place on the panel of some thirty judges had been arranged by Ian Hartland of Mrs King’s Pork Pies, so when I arrived, at the Parish Church, which was being used as HQ for the event, I understood that this association and the fact that this key category would probably be assigned to one of the celebrity judges, meant I would not be judging pies of a porcine nature. I did trust however, that a few animals would have given their last bleat, moo or oink for my benefit and settled myself in with a cup of tea to await the call to pontificate.

One of the organisers handed me the briefing notes along with a list of all of my fellow judges. I glimpsed through and then looked again and again and again. Enough times in fact to convince myself that what I was seeing was not some horrible mistake. The page simply read



Oh yes, you read correctly, someone’s idea of a clever joke was to put Rotherham’s most carnivorous son in charge of tasting pies made with the fruits of the earth. My fellow judge, Tony Spencer, a retired master baker, did not seem at all perturbed and was waving his baker’s knife around with an expectant air as, after a quick blessing of the pies from the local vicar, we were ushered into our side room, away from the glamour of the meat pies, to taste a procession of pies, each more grim than the last.

The simple truth is, that fruit aside, things unslaughtered have no place in a pie unless they are there as a willing sidekick to flesh. The scoring system was weighted towards the technicalities of the pastry and baking (something they must revisit for next year) which meant some shocking abominations had to be marked quite well because the casing that hid their vile interiors had been well made.

A case in point is the second to last picture which is for, and I am not kidding here, a “wholemeal pastry sweet & sour vegetable pie” quite easily one of the nastiest things I have ever eaten and remember, EAT MY GLOBE fans, I have eaten stuff that came out of a cod’s dick.

In the end, for myself and Tony, it was not a case of choosing the best pie, it was a case of choosing the least lousy. Our two fellow losers, I mean judges of vegetarian pies, had better luck and managed to find some entries that were not bad at all and after some deliberations we came up with a clear winner, a pie from Pieminster called “Heidi”

After judging had finished, we assembled again in the church to await the final results. As we waited, I took the opportunity to look at the other categories and the table of champions, which presented some superb looking specimens, none of which, of course I had been given chance to sample

Sheila Dillon from Radio 4’s The Food Programme read out the list of winners and I was delighted to hear that Adam Hartland of Mrs King’s had come in first place for his Steak & Kidney Pie. The Grand Champion was, believe it or not a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie made for Sainsbury’s by Walker’s Charnwood Bakery and they were generous enough donated their £1000 winner’s cheque to the parish church’s restoration fund.

Me? After all those really rather horrible pies, I was in need of a stiff drink and joined Ian Hartland and many of the other pie makers in the local pub for as many pints of beer as it took to take the taste of that sweet & sour pie out of my mouth (about five for the record) and then snored loudly in the back of the car as we were driven back to his house where he had not only offered to put me up for the night, but also persuaded his lovely wife Nicola to make supper.

She, being a saint amongst women had made something delicious and meaty. It was just what I needed. Slow cooked beef with vegetables taking their rightful place, topped with soft scones with a shiny glaze. As if to make a symbolic statement about my thoughts on the notion of pies containing only vegetables, I filled my plate with a load of cobbler.

What could be more appropriate?

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Blogger unclehunty said...

As I worked in a home brew shop, I was once asked to judge a home brew beer competition. There were 118 beers and 2 ciders.

One of the ciders was passable and I would have had a single glass of it. The rest were vile. F*cking horrible liquid that was mostly reminiscent of methylated spirits mixed with rancid pineapple juice.

I don't envy you having to taste so many veterinarian pies.

Saturday, May 02, 2009 5:54:00 pm  
Blogger Melanie Tait said...

What a massive disappointment... to come so close to paradise and have it wrenched from you!

I hope you were at least able to put yourself in a happy place by recalling more satisfying times at Harry's Cafe de Wheels - surely the spiritual home of the meat pie.

Sunday, May 03, 2009 2:16:00 am  
Blogger goodshoeday said...

Here's hoping you've made a good recovery from this traumatic event. Vegetarian pies - so disappointing!

Monday, May 04, 2009 6:35:00 pm  
Blogger Andy K said...

Hard to believe that eating pies could be anything other than fun - I even enjoyed this ( - but you seem to have found one of the few ways.

It must have been heartbreaking!

Monday, May 04, 2009 8:26:00 pm  
Anonymous Oliver G. said...

Karma finally got you-you must have done something truly evil in the past for the vegementalists to extract this horrible revenge .And that Sheila Dillon from R4 is a fine example of eveything that is wrong with the BBC-am surprised any MEN were allowed as judges-but no doubt she had something to do with the vegementalist category of pie.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009 10:10:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hilarious - your initial horror and then developing vegetarian pie overload was also very amusing to follow on twitter

Tuesday, May 05, 2009 11:08:00 am  
Blogger Simon said...

Bad pies in Yorkshire?! Must have come from Lancashire, surely? And Harrogate is in NORTH Yorkshire, accuracy fans. Good to see thee up this way, though, 'appen!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009 1:40:00 pm  
Blogger Simon said...

You made the local paper:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009 7:24:00 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

your traumatic pie judging experiences did make us laugh here at pieminister.....and we were relieved to see that our heidi pie sort of helped you and your fellow judges get through your ordeal. You'll be relieved to hear that out of our pie range, only two are of the veggie variety. Let us know if you'd like to try sample some of our meatier ones.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 2:10:00 pm  

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