The Leibig Extract of Meat Company, Friar Benedict and me

Fray bentos.jpg

I recently enjoyed a rather splendid weekend in Dorset with some jolly fine chums, I think there are some pics in the photo gallery on the other page. Monday just gone I had one of those wonderful days that crop up every so often that make me think what a lucky fellow am I. Both events are united by steak and kidney...

Friday of last week I was due to film a 1930’s Bentley but by the time we arrived, the Peak District was covered in snow and the roads in salt, both a death knell for such a car; and as the owner was wanted to fetch somewhere in the vacinity of an awful lot of money for his car, he decided he’d rather not risk it and kept it warm and snug in its commodious garage.

Understandable. But irritating.

My colleague and fellow adventurer Richard must have felt somewhat guilty about this as it was a last minute arrangement which really did waste a day. So when we were filming a rather-more-my-cup-of-tea 1934 Aston Martin I was treated to a lunch of oysters followed by steak and kidney pudding at the French Horne in Sonning.

And delicious it was indeed.

The rest of the day flew by in a whirl of exhaust, petrol fumes, shakes, rattles and bangs and admiring glances from Euro-box travelers.

Back to the famous five going mad in Dorset. Over the dinner table I mentioned that during one of my interminable periods of unemployment, I’d managed to convince a very large (though not so large now) telecoms company to pay for me to retrain as a Yacht skipper and so every other weekend for 6 months I’d disappear to the sunny south coast for adventures on the high seas.

The boats, Sigma 36’s, housed nine people and were accordingly victualed, even though the pub was the favoured food stop, especially in the winter. This meant that at the end of each weekend, the entire contents of the galley were emptied into the boot of my car, the other eight salty sea dogs taking pity on this unemployed chap, working hard to retrain...

... the sail training company didn’t have much of a budget for food, being run by ex-para’s, so Michelin star wouldn’t be the first rating you might come up with, but nonetheless when you’re out of work such a bounty is most welcome.

The most popular unused item from the galley were Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies. I wouldn’t want to impute anything viz a viz the good Friar’s name, for Fray Bentos was indeed named after a reclusive priest in the area of Uraguay, a port no less on the river Uraguay itself. The pies themselves, manufactured by the tastily-named Leibig Extract of Meat Company,  were a damn nuisance on a yacht, being in an impenetrable tin, there never being a working tin opener to hand, and they took vast quantities of calor gaz and time to cook... well, a third of a pie got cooked, a third was always raw, and a third provided a surfeit of carbon...

On land, however, things are a different kettle of fish as it were and as long as you don’t inspect the ingredients too closely, these pies are... well with chips and ketchup (Heinz natch), well they fill you up... but they aren’t perhaps quite to the melt-in-the-mouth quality of the Pudding version served up at the French Horne in Sonning.

And that was thetail I told the assemble quintet in Dorset which presumably was the inspiration for them to present a gift to me (for map reading services I believe) later that weekend of a freshly made, still within best-by date, 475gm Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie.

The memories of that career retraining period of my live come flooding back in waves of nostalgia... or is it nausea...