A slice of humble pie, served with a side of tripe

It has been some time since I last posted, so let me begin by wishing everyone a happy new year, and the hope that you are coping with the vagaries and turmoil of these Omicron days. My New Year Resolution is to try to write a blog post each month this year. I hope this survives better than the ‘lose 25 pounds’ and ‘train to run a half-marathon’ resolutions of years past.

This first post starts with an example of humble pie. I was congratulating myself on my novel, which seems to be almost at the one-sale-a-day average now and so I was giving myself a proverbial pat on the back.

[If you haven’t got yours yet, please do so immediately! I need to keep this momentum going.]

Anyway, basking in my success, I then saw this:

I read this and thought, proudly, how brilliant that my daughter’s work is getting such recognition.
I did, honest.

No, really, what I thought was: “mmfph.”

No-one, as far as I’m aware, and I’m pretty confident about this, has EVER given any of my work – academic or creative – such a review. Talk about setting a high bar!

I have just finished the draft of my second novel, and I’m now editing that to see if I can get someone to experience a small moment of serendipity [that] slams into you like a lightning strike and a clap of thunder. Please, if anyone gets there, let me know!

[As a sidebar: If you don’t find such serendipity from my creative efforts, you might try the new academic book from one of my doctoral students, which examines some of the pressing issues of the day in the field of school leadership. Turbulence: Leaders, Educators, and Students Responding to Rapid Change, by Lyle Hamm, is now available from Rowman and Littlefield [www.rowman.com]. Well done, Lyle – congratulations on this achievement.]

All that aside, I’m not sure why we say we’re “eating humble pie” as a sort of apologetic response, an admission of guilt or failure. After all, in his famous diary, on 8 July 1663 Samuel Pepys wrote: “Mrs Turner came in and did bring us an Umble-pie hot out of her oven, extraordinarily good.”

Traditionally, and recorded back into the 1330s, the noumble pie was made from the heart, liver, entrails, and so forth, of deer, the stuff left when you’ve carved out the steaks and the joints. What we sometimes call offal. Linguists think that by the 1500s ‘a noumble’ had evolved into ‘an umble’ and so humble pie was born. Perhaps it’s something to do with eating the lesser valued ingredients, rather than the top end steaks, but I really don’t know.

I think it’s a shame if that is the case. After all, there’s nothing wrong with offal! When I was at teacher’s college, back in the early 1970s, I lived in residence for my first year. Every Thursday the dining room would serve roasted calf heart. I will confess, the novelty wore off quite quickly. After the first two weeks, every Thursday my friends and I would buy fish and chips for dinner.

That said, chicken livers are wonderful when sauteed in olive oil with garlic or onions. Devilled kidneys are a traditional English breakfast delicacy, and Tom Noest has a good recipe at https://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/devilled-lamb-kidneys-recipe. But for me a nice steak and kidney pie in a flaky pastry crust is a wonderful meal. With or without oysters. With chips on the side*. And gravy. And a pint of beer. And a dollop of brown sauce. Heaven.

And I do like tripe, another great food that has been in totally dismissed in literature. A load of tripe indeed.

Whenever I visit France, my friend Robert and I go to the local market and buy tripe sausage, much to the disgust of our wives. We grill them on the BBQ and then spend the evening deciding which grand cru goes best with tripe. The answer, determined after hours of experimentation over many evenings, is: all of them!

My grandma used to make a lovely tripe and onion stew, where the tripe was boiled in milk for some hours, until it was digestible. Hmm-umm. I guess tastes evolve.

Perhaps that might be a theme for a future blog – delectable dishes I have enjoyed but that you won’t find on the menu for Skip the Dishes or similar food delivery services. After all, if our supply chains continue to deteriorate, and food prices continue to increase, we might well have to relearn some of those old recipes and try to make the most out of what we have available.
Oxtail soup, anyone?


*By this I mean ‘proper chips’, in the English recipe sense – not French Fries, which are too thin and salty. And certainly not Canadian ‘chips’, which are actually crisps. And should only come in plain, cheese and onion, or salt and vinegar flavours.

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