Guest post by Andy Keet, Maggy’s husband.
I’m an Earl Grey drinking, crustless cucumber sandwich eating, pass the Port and Stilton to your left, Brit. True to the stereotype, I’d happily eat some instance of our national dish, Indian curry, at any opportunity, but the drizzly New York weather of the past few weeks has made me homesick for my favorite slice of English culinary heritage, Toad in the Hole.
Nobody really knows how it got the name. Starving serfs from a failed feudal society forced to wrap toads in batter before cooking to protect the meat from the fire? Or is it the indentation left by the sausage in the batter which looks like the warm mud bed left by a toad after a heavy rain? Probably just a name some inebriated heir to the throne came up with that got a few nervous laughs from the court and stuck. What’s certain is that it’s been a staple English meal for generations. It’s cheap and cheerful: sausages (Cumberland or Lincolnshire, not Italian) cooked in a blanket of batter, or Yorkshire Pudding, swimming in rich, onion gravy (with a spoonful of Marmite to boost the flavor – thanks Nanny). Served with mashed potato and steamed veg, it’s nourishing, warming and comforting.
Smells are the strongest triggers for our memories. Coming home to the apartment when Maggy had this finishing in the oven, I was once again walking though the door of my childhood home after a bike ride by the canal with my brother, limping through the same door as a teenager after three days of camping at a music festival, falling into a cavernous red sofa with a pint of ale at my local pub after handing in a last-minute university assignment. Ah, Toad’s in the Hole, all’s right with the world.
Of course the world doesn’t think much of English food. But next the time the family are rained in with an extra layer on for warmth, or whenever life is beastly and you feel vaguely like a starving serf from a failed feudal society, it’s British cuisine to the rescue: Toad in the Hole, mate.