Monday, 23 February 2015

Fuel for birding

It is said that an army marches on its stomach and the same can be said of the humble birder. I can trace certain foods to certain periods of my birding time, so much so that the smell or taste of them can send me careering back there...

The Early Years
My schoolboy birding expeditions were always accompanied by a packed lunch. If I went to Beddington SF then it would be a Breakfast Sausage sandwich (a circular processed meat that I haven't seen around for years) with Branston Pickle (other pickles are available). This would be followed by a Tunnock's Caramel Wafer. On a cold winters day these would be hard and brittle to bite into, but come the summer they would melt to the point of becoming a liquid. And talking of liquid, my flask would always be filled with coffee - unless I went to Epsom Common, when, for whatever reason, I would take soup.

Dungeness
When I first stayed at the observatory any food preparation had to be quick and simple - I wanted to be out birding, plus I didn't want to be bothered with washing up. So anything tinned that could be heated up was embraced, and rather shamefully I became a user of Smash, that instant mashed potato mix advertised by robots. As I grew older (and more discerning) any visit to the shingle would mean a shopping trip to Lydd, which then boasted an excellent butchers (pork chops and hand made sausages) plus the legendary bakery, where the baked-on-the -premises bread, Cornish pasties and the mouthwatering selection of cakes turned my lithe 11-and-a-half stone frame into one that saw the north end of 13 stones. I have seen men demolish a warm loaf of bread, eat two pasties and then devour a fabled Rocky Road cake in one sitting. The Bard of Littlestone may well remember such days...

Days out
Dave Eland used to ferry me around the south-east hot spots and he was a great believer in the patronage of public houses (dry roasted peanuts) and any Happy Eater or Little Chef that we might come across (he seemed to know exactly where they were). On one occasion I watched him shake a bottle of tomato sauce in such an establishment that had a lose top and spray himself from head to waist in red gloop. Bob Hibbert was a believer in the packed lunch, but these were of a superior quality. I seem to remember rustic bread rolls, pate, grapes and chicken, game pies, although my memory may be playing tricks on me. At the end of a very full day with Bob, he would often insist that I go back to his home where his wife had cooked a gargantuan meal. He would then drop me off at my parents house, where I would waddle up the driveway, fit to burst, to be told that my "dinner was in the oven".  Another birder who wasn't happy with 'just a cheese sarnie' was Michael McDonnell. Every time I went out with him he brought along a giant thermos flask that was filled with pork chops, chicken wings and sausages. My humble sandwich was a poor competitor and, feeling sorry for me, would let me dip into his meat feast.

And now...
I generally don't bother with a packed lunch. I'll go through a day without so much as a Mars Bar. If I stay at Dungeness then I'll start with a relatively healthy mix of pasta, couscous, tomatoes, mackerel and fruit, but then get lazy and start on the microwave Chicken Korma and Chocolate Digestive diet. The habitual haunting of pubs has also died away - any stay at Dungeness meant an evening in the Britannia, that was a given. Although food was never on the agenda, during the summer of 1979 I went through a ridiculous phase of drinking Southern Comfort accompanied by a KitKat. I have no idea why.

6 comments:

  1. Ok, now you`ve kicked off something here. Howz about the early years, on YOC group trips to Staines Res and the likes, with a packed lunch including Smiths crisps (with a blue twist of salt), banana and brown sugar sandwiches and Mars bars, all washed down with Tizer. Into the 1970`s and trips to Cley with Mutley Clarke when one autumn we lived on light and bitter, fig rolls and road kill! The 1980`s on Scilly we lived on pasties from the Kavorna, but you had to get there early as they soon run out. By the way Lydd still has a good butcher, but the bakers is long gone of course. As for those banana and sugar sarnies, I tried some recently and they were disgusting, I guess they were, `of a time`. Happy days!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are dating yourself with that reference to the blue twist of salt Paul!

      Delete
  2. Another great post. I basically eat crap all day long when out birding, so may I please cast a vote for the humble yet magical Double Decker, chocolate of champions and confectionery-that-works-in-mysterious-ways?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, the Double Decker bar Jono... Soft fluffy nougat on a firm biscuit base, smothered in a generous amount of chocolate... A good call.

      Delete
  3. Don't knock Smash. It saves many a holiday meal for us and the Portuguese/Spanish version comes in a flakier format and in a mini sack.

    I used the stuff a few days ago to rustle up some mean cheesy cod fishcakes.

    As for Tunnocks Caramel bars, they still do it for me. So light to carry and packed full of calories when you need it. Delicious too whatever hardness it is in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Smash and Tunnocks mash on a bed of Baked Beans? I'd try it...

      Delete