I’m not usually a beer drinker. I’ll blame it on a West Country heritage if it needs explanation, but my tipple of choice (back in the days when I could tipple; pregnancy and nursing having rather stemmed the flow of anything interesting on the grounds that the Health Visitors frown if you get the baby drunk by proxy) was a good scrumpy cider.
I do however appreciate a good real ale in either of the two places I consider to be its natural element; a pie or a hunk of bread.
This time, the bottle of Tribute (brewed in Cornwall but I won’t hold that against it) was destined for loaf #7, the imaginatively titled Beer Bread on page 28 (of 100 Great Breads if you’ve somehow avoided all the other bread round ups).
This bread is wonderful. The Tribute has quite a lot to do with that, but I’m sure equally delicious results could be achieved with something else. Warwickshire has quite a few local real ales so I shall have to repeat the experiment.
To be frank it tastes like a pub. A proper pub, none of your swanky wine bars or chain superpubs with slightly sticky floors and a rather repetitive menu masquerading as classic British cuisine. We’re talking dark beams, wooden furniture whose antiquity is only matched by the prevalence of odd knots and scrolls of carving to dig into the small of your back, with worn red plush upholstery, horse brasses if at all possible, a roaring fire in winter or the tang of the sea through open windows in summer, and it tastes as if droplets of the landlord’s finest (Otter, or Tribute at a pinch) have become suspended in a delicious beery fog around the bar.
It’s my childhood ‘local’ in a mouthful. With added salty butter to fill in for the sea. All I need is a gigantic portion of the best fish and chips and half a cider to go with it and I’m 18 again, tucked into a corner table with the family and whoever else had come to stay, with the smell of suntan lotion still rising from warm salt-tightened skin after a long day in the surf as the staff manoeuvred laden plates around a dining room and bar packed to the gunnels.
Unsurprisingly I’ve become rather addicted (and subscribed) to Simple Things magazine since its launch in the autumn; so full of beautiful pictures, pretty things and lovely recipes. My participation in the suggested long walks or bike rides or other so very English adventures may be limited to wistful sighs as I turn the pages in the bath but that doesn’t lessen my enjoyment or hinder the memories of those kind of expeditions with my family or the anticipation of taking the girls exploring when they’re a bit older.
I think we might just manage a Simple Things style picnic or two when the weather’s a bit less like a perpetual version of the trudge back to school after you fell in the river in your rugby shirt during the ‘introduction to rowing’ session in the third form, and I know I’ve found the bread for it. If the Milk Loaf was the bread of Enid Blyton’s heroes, this is the bread for all those cheerily pink cheeked welly wearers; Simple Things, in loaf format.
* the man who invented beer