A hymn to a steak and ale pie…

In the shade yesterday, just around from where a busking juggler busked and juggled, I sat and ate a steak and ale pie from the sausage shop in York.

In that moment it was the most perfect food I had ever eaten; the pastry light and short, the filling tender from long cooking in an ale sauce. Best news of all, that pie was still warm.

This set me thinking about how the simplest of foods can sometimes be just perfect. But it also set me thinking that I don’t eat anything like enough steak and ale pies.

For two pounds it was pretty good value too – tastier and cheaper than a world full of street food, and I love street food, even if it is a middle-class swerve away from takeaways. Oh, no, we don’t eat takeaways, but we do love a bit of street food.

Perhaps that pie hit the spot because it’s not the sort of thing I usually buy. Normally you would be following me for a long time before you saw me sitting on a wall in York, eating a meat pie.

To be honest, perhaps 70% of what I eat is vegetarian, and some of that is vegan too, although more by accident than design. With a vegetarian for a wife, meat isn’t on the menu unless I put it there. My wife wasn’t a vegetarian when first we sat at the same table, although she has been for a long time now, so I should be used to the dietary dilemmas.

“That’s your decision,” she will say if I mention not having eaten meat in a while. By this she means that I could just go and cook myself something meaty, and sometimes I do, although mostly it just seems easier to eat whatever my wife is eating. And I like veggie food and will happily cook meat-free meals.

Much of the flesh I eat is fish, as in my cookbook you can rarely beat a piece of fish simply cooked, trout fillets quickly fried in butter and sprinkled with lemon juice, or fat salmon wedges topped with pesto and parmesan, and baked in the oven.

It’s good not to eat meat too often, especially processed meat, so bacon and sausages are rationed, although I love both, so long as the quality is good.

Sometimes I add fish to whatever veggie food we are eating; or crisp strips of streaky bacon (placed in a large frying pan that is cold and heated gently till the fat runs, flipped over, then dried on kitchen paper – a tip from watching MasterChef).

We ate lightly last night, scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, with a new salad leaves grown in plastic pots by the garage door. No meat at all, but then I had sinned already, and what a delightful act of straying that was.

Perhaps that is the answer: if you are married to a vegetarian, sometimes you just need to eat a steak and ale pie.

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