Pie, mash and liquor

One of the newspapers I like to read on the Web is The Guardian. Today I came across a blog entry about pie and mash. I’ve mentioned this subject before but I was always intending to write a more detailed entry and this looks like the right moment. I found the following historical information on the BBC website:

“In the 18th and 19th Centuries, east and south London were largely populated by working class people. With the spread of heavy industry across London came a lot of air pollution; due to the prevailing westerly winds from the Atlantic, the smog was almost always blown towards the east, resulting in it becoming a home for the working class, while the upper classes settled in the smog-free West End. Not being able to afford the delicacies offered ‘up West’, the workers strove to create their own special dishes. At the time the River Thames was filthy and the only creature known to be able to survive in it was the eel, making it a cheap source of food when boiled in gelatine. Potatoes were another source of cheap food and were mashed up as a side dish to the main meat: cheap mince without onions or any other ingredients, served in a pie. To add a bit of flavour a parsley sauce, known as liquor, was added.”

Now that I’ve whetted your appetites, a personal note. When I was a kid, it was something of a Saturday morning ritual to go the children’s matinee at the Trocadero cinema at the Elephant & Castle (named after a famous pub that became a landmark). If my memory serves me right, there was a chemist’s shop nearby that sold glasses of homemade sarsparilla. After the show, we’d wend our way to culinary heaven – Manze’s, in Tower Bridge Rd. I have never been able to eat the stewed or jellied eels and always stick to the pie and mash. After the main course, it was off to the baker’s a few doors down where you could watch the donuts frying before you bought them.

I took my wife to Manze’s a few years ago and to say she was underwhelmed is putting it mildly. The blog writer in the Guardian was not too impressed either (link here).

I came across this great photo of two guys eating jellied eels in the 1920s.


Wikipedia has a pie and mash page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pie_and_mash). There is also a pie and mash club (http://www.pie-n-mash.com/), whose members make regular outings to the various shops in London. Traditionally, the dish was unique to dockland (perhaps because of the availability of eels?). Now there is even one in suburban Orpington. Though Stogs tried to get away from them, the barrow boys joined the exodus…

This gives you some idea of why foreigners are so disparaging about British food! A few years ago I read an article stating that tandoori chicken was now the official national dish (instead of roast beef). I shall be eating all three next time I’m there.

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16 Responses to Pie, mash and liquor

  1. Hello Peter:

    I thought that the British national dish was lamb.



  2. thebarrowboy says:

    Hi, Omar. Not really. Lamb has traditionally been cheaper, and therefore more accessible, but roast beef and Yorkshire pudding has always been held up as the defining dish.

  3. Steve says:

    Hi, Off Manze’s myself today! Going to the Monument (great fire of London) then walk over Tower Bridge to get some top nosh, and introduce a Filipino girlfriend to this great London tradition. Costa Rica sounds fab no pie and mash though!!!


  4. thebarrowboy says:

    A great way to spend the day! The pie and mash near my parents’ house in Orpington isn’t bad. And quite popular-

  5. Madeleine Berks says:

    Is there a postal service so’s I can get Pie’n mash delivered please? Madeleine

  6. thebarrowboy says:

    LOL! I wish there were!

  7. Alan Worrow says:

    Have a look at Manze’s website…they do mail order pie and mash. http://www.manze.co.uk/index.htm

  8. Mal says:

    There’s a new website dedicated to all things Pie and Mash at http://www.pie-and-mash.com . Check it out.

  9. thebarrowboy says:

    I shall indeed and I look forward to eating some again in the spring.

  10. mytea@om says:

    Came across your post while surfing about pie & mash…Was looking for recipes for Eel pie which was a delicacy back in the day as well…Made me chuckle, cause i must be a decade younger than yourself BB and being brought up round kings cross in the 6t’s, it was a ritual for us to visit Cookes on Exmouth Mrkt every Saturday after mum had done the laundry and us kids had a good scrub up at the Merlin Street Baths…I now live in Japan have been making my own PnM, the secret to that original liquor flavor is to use eel stock…..still enjoyed your post.

    Strange i’ve also got friends out in CR @ punta banco.

  11. Alan says:

    I had p & m Saturday Manze’s in Shepherd market (£3.95.). First time for ages – I must get out more.

  12. Ray Toomey says:

    I remember Manze’s and the bakers well. We used to by the doughnuts before and after the Troc. I was at Stogs 59-65 and lived in Devon Mansions almost opposite the school!

  13. thebarrowboy says:

    I still go for pie and mash whenever I get a chance. There’s even one in Orpington. That shows you where a lot of people from Inner London went to live.

  14. Chrissy Lewis says:

    So glad to have stumbled on your page. I was trying to explain to one of my work mates why I missed pie and mash so much. Born and bred in Clapham, I’ve been living in Seattle for almost 14 years but each time I go back if I don’t get to have pie and mash I go into a decline! The Brixton shop closed years ago and that was my Saturday treat with my Mum. Sawdust on the floor, marble tables, high backed church pews for seating – oh my – it’s almost like I am right there…. At least Tooting still has one… Bugger, I need to change the subject before my slobbering snarls up the keyboard.
    Thanks for the memories….

  15. Hi,

    The bakers along from Manzies was called Edwards and they also had another branch in the Blue (Southwark Park Road).

    Apart from the very good hot doughnuts, they also sold delicious jam slices.

  16. thebarrowboy says:

    I remember Edwards as being very spacious, not like all the tiny Greggs there are now.

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