LIVING THE PIE LIFE (13-11-2014)
I’ve just finished reading a book I’d been looking forward to for ages. It’s called Life of Pies, a labour of love by Wigan Athletic fan and top chap Martin Tarbuck, Jimmy to his mates. As one of the hundred who pre-paid for copies in a nifty bit of crowdfunding, my name’s even in the back – bonus!
We’ve all got pie stories haven’t we? (he says, hopefully). A few years ago, my pal Nigel Hughes treated me to a night in the posh seats when his team (Tranmere) played my team (Oldham). I’m not sure whether the highlight was Craig Davies’ 94th minute winner, or the veritable pie orgy at halftime. Honestly, I only went back up twice – you don’t like to take the piss, do you? Nige told me that a few weeks previously, famed ex-Rovers goalie Eric Nixon had tried to use his status to push in at the pie queue, only to be loudly bollocked by the old dear behind the counter. “Get to the bloody back Eric, these people have paid!” No favours for stars in THIS pie-rarchy.
Jimmy’s reviewed over 300 pies here, sampled over the course of a couple of years – old favourites, opportunist holiday grabs, lunchtime ventures from work, and of course recommendations from mates and Twitter. “Not to be read on an empty stomach” is one of the early warnings and you should pay heed.
I love how Saturday mornings (the best shops often run out by noon, see) are taken up with the author hurtling towards towns previously unknown, just because some herbert on Twitter reckons there’s an ace pie shop there. Jimmy’s clearly a bit mad, and his wife Emma must have the patience of a thousand saints. All of this took place while having a small child to contend with and some unforgiving work hours, not to mention editing Wigan fanzine The Mudhutter.
The book’s a Godsend for the pie-curious, those of us who can’t resist a nosey at a local bakery on our travels or who leap on trips to non-league grounds partly because you get pies provided by small bakers priced at a quid, rather than Hollands or Pukka hoiked up to three quid-plus just because big football clubs are greedy gets. Nowt wrong with those brands at the right price, of course.
It got me thinking of old favourites. Altrincham FC, up the road when I was a lad, always had belting pies. Peter Herd’s, near my mum and dad’s old shop, also did superb meat and potato pies – they’ve altered them now, as I found to my horror recently. I fear change, frankly.
One of the highlights of an event my old employer used to run at Ewood Park was the chance to visit nearby Lever’s Pies, eccentric opening hours notwithstanding. My mate Dougal Paver, a shooting nut, once arranged for delivery of a stonking game pie to our office. And I got my neck in on a Hollands/real ale sampling session once, which was cool (Stuart Maconie in the house? Check!).
Pies used to get our magazine readers engaged more than any number of leveraged buyouts and misselling scandals. A diary story on the chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association being a vegetarian (YEARS before this was on QI) elicited a weary response from the man himself, while I was once rightly chastised by the Cornish Pasty Association’s top man for illustrating a story about the pasty World Championship with a picture of a Devon-style pasty – the crimp’s in a different place, of course. What was I thinking?!