Deck Chair

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As the Summer swelter continues, up goes an impassioned plea “Lead me to my deck chair!!”.

The humble deck chair ….Perhaps? Or the well travelled ship’s “deck chair” – if this linen and teak could talk imagine the gossip it holds – from a Golden Era of luxury transatlantic ocean liner travel. Or the End of The Pier, seagull serenaded, fish and chips frying, spearmint rock munching of Brighton, Cromer or Southend – the World’s longest.

Called a Lawn Chair in the US, the Deck Chair has an illustrious history. It was the victim of some on board snobbery. Around the turn of the 20th century, first class passengers would typically enjoy the padded loveliness of a “Steamer” deck chair -Port Out Starboard Home – their legs raised and clad in a woolen rug, invariably sipping broth, if the climate demanded, whilst more lowly passengers would enjoy their trip on a slung hammock canvas and teak deck chair that could be positioned to follow the sun around the deck and be folded for easy stowage.

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The origins of the folding chair has its history in Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. More recently, patents were obtained in the 1880’s in the US and UK for the classic steamer chair. R Holman & Co of Boston (Mass) were the manufactures of the Steamer Deck Chairs that graced the deck of the SS Titanic. Of the 600 supplied only six survived – below is a shot of one.

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There is some debate as to the precise origins of the more rudimentary wooden framed version. Primarily it comprises two rectangualar wooden frames, hinged, with an adjustable back piece and a single length of canvas forming the seat and backrest. Some sources  attribute it to a British inventor, Atkins, in the late 19th Century whereas others credit its design to being similar to “The Yankee Hammock Chair” as advertised in 1882.  The name “Brighton Beach Chair” also seems to predate our currently understood use of “Deck Chair”.

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In my Grandmother’s house in Hertfordshire – I think it was 1976 – she had a row of Edwardian faded green canvas chairs which not only had arms and a footrest but also a large sun canopy that flapped in whatever pathetic excuse for a breeze we had that summer. I recall that the covers perished quite frequently and the local nurseryman supplied rolls of 18” wide canvass to restring your chair. The look was completed by a white parasol, two Lloyd Loom chairs – see our previous post here – Lloyd Loom Chairs – and a bentwood table covered in a circular linen tablecloth with a jug of iced lemonade and tall glasses covered in weighted net – to avoid the flies.

Similar products are still made today by people such as Southsea Deckchairs Southsea Deckchairs

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Images used with grateful thanks – Southsea Dechairs and The V&A Museum

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Melton Mowbray pork pies

My next sentence is likely to cause a furore. In my view there are not more than ten regional dishes – even if you count “cheese” as one dish – coming from the UK that are worthy of export and promotion on an international scale. Somewhere high in the ranking of my top 10 you’ll find the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie.

As we approach Christmas I am on the hunt for a large Melton Mowbray pork pie that we have along with other cold meats, turkey ham and beef on Boxing Day with salads and heaps of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and Maille Dijon Mustard (see our previous posts on these two iconic dressings)

Melton Mowbray sounds like a mythical town from an Enid Blyton novel but its a charming town in Leicestershire where in 1998 a local association of pork pie manufactures was set up to help to protect the town’s eponymous pork pie recipe. With an application to the European Union in 1999 under the Protected Geographical Indication rules protection was sought to ensure that products only from the immediate area could benefit from carrying this iconic brand.

After some legal wrangling with a competitor who sought to muddy the waters PGI status was granted and came into effect in July 2009 with the Melton Mowbray name now only being available for pork pies made within 10.8 square miles of the town. With the PGI denomination, Melton Mowbray pork pies join the ranks of other great European foods including Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Feta, Camembert, Herefordshire Cider, Cognac, Champagne and the Mustards of Burgundy (that includes Dijon mustard).

Why did Melton Mowbray become home to world’s the best pork pies? As a bi-product of the Stilton cheese making business that had dominated the Melton Mowbray economy for several centuries “whey” was great pig fodder ensuring that pork was a regular meat for the local consumers. Developed over many years from its original of a pastry topped clay pot, the wrapped pastry case was originally merely intended as packaging and was not eaten.

Spending some time in a local hardware store – an Aladdin’s cave of fantastically antiquated but all still newly available kitchen utensils – I came across a sort of door stopper device with a turned handle on top and a solid cylindrical body about 12 cms high and with a girth of  8 cms – it was called “a dolly” and in researching this review I have now discovered that it was designed to take the now familiar hot water crust pastry that is used as the case of the Melton Mowbray pork pie.

The dolly is covered by pastry that is hand worked until it covers most of the body of the dolly. Once the dolly is removed the deep pie casing is ready for filling with the pork-pie mixture. The completed and baked pie warm and fresh from the oven – with its distinctive bowed sides – is topped up with bone-stock jelly to fill the air gaps in the pies and increase the preservative quality of the pastry.

How do you know the pie you are eating is truly a Melton Mowbray pork pie? The pie must consist of at least 30% fresh pork, shortening (usually lard), pork gelatine or stock, wheat flour, water, salt and spices (primarily pepper). The use of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives is prohibited.

Image by http://www.MMPA.co.uk

Hellmann’s Mayonnaise

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Now we all really like turkey – particularly at Christmas – right? However, we all know that when we buy a turkey we tend to buy one that is just too big even for our large family to finish in one meal.

There are endless “left overs” recipes but my particular favourite way to enjoy a great slice of turkey breast is in a sandwich. In addition to soft – preferably white – bread essential ingredients are a dollop of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Maille Dijon mustard (see our earlier review).

Why Hellmann’s – known as “Best Foods” in certain Western areas of the USA, Australia and New Zealand? Why – because as the Hellmann’s logo assures us their mayo will “Bring out the best” – a confident but accurate claim when combined in a turkey sandwich!

In 1903 Richard Hellmann left German for New York City, where a year later he met and married Margaret Vossberg, whose parents owned a delicatessen. In 1905 Richard opened his own delicatessen at 490 Columbus Avenue where he developed and constantly improved his mayonnaise to huge acclaim.

By 1913 he had a factory producing his Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise – with a trademark acquired in 1914 – the iconic US brand went from strength to strength with licenses for regional production and factories were opened in Toronto and San Francisco.

By 1927 Hellman was selling around $15m worth of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise with $1 million in profits. Later the same year Possum Foods (later to become Best Foods) a dominant West Coast mayonnaise seller bought the Hellmann’s brand – which was always more dominant on America’s East Coast – effectively dividing the US that continues to this day.

In 1961 Hellmann’s mayonnaise arrived in the United Kingdom and by the late 1980s Hellmann’s had more than half the market share.

In 2000 Best Foods was acquired by Unilever in 2000.

A rather nice quote I was given recently was fromMiriam Clegg’s (the Spanish born wife of UK politician Nick Clegg) who is said to have commented of Samantha Cameron (the wife of ex-Prime Minister, David) that she is “the kind of woman who serves mayonnaise from a Hellman’s Jar”.

Image from Unilever