I remember our old kitchen in the Sixties and early seventies.
It was long and narrow, what they called a galley kitchen. The back door of the house came off it and the rest of the house was reached through the kitchen. Everyone who walked through that door came away smelling of fried food.
Yes, we loved fried food in those days and regularly ate a whole bar of lard like a choc-ice. If it wasn't dripping with fat it can't have been food. Even the dripping fat was saved and called, well, yes, dripping! Full of dried offal and carrion, dripping was to the North what Beluga caviar was to Tsars and spread on white Mothers' Pride bread it went perfectly with a large pint mug of tea.
Another fatty favourite was potted beef. The fat on this particular delicacy was yellow and always congealed at the top of the pot like skin on paint. Mixed with a generous scoop of beef it was sheer ambrosia when smeared once more on fresh white bread.
Further lipids were to be had from tinned ham, a regal delicacy adopted from Christmas and enjoyed all year round in our house. "Champion" my Dad would have said. "Grand" said my Mum, both describing the salty amber jelly, which festooned the canned meat. The most seductive of aspics, adults would fight over it like brine junkies.
Many more cans where to be found in the cupboards arranged along the main wall, together with countless dried foods and packets of Smash. The boxes were a source of constant delight as designers tried to out-do themselves in the battle for our Parents' pennies. Some of my favourite brand names were Atora, Dreft, Instant Whip, Vesta, Trex and Spry Crisp and Dry.
One strange brand was Nimble bread. It was advertised on the telly with a catchy tune and a gorgeous lady rising into the sky in a large colourful hot air balloon. The tune began with 'She flies like a bird....' I think. The trouble with Nimble was that it wasn't really bread.
Aimed at slimming Mum's, Nimble was really snow or cobwebs or confetti or some other substance which broke apart when you so much as looked at it. I must have tried a million times to butter a slice of Nimble without success. Its secret as a diet aid was obvious since, like ectoplasm, it didn't really exist.
Getting back to the fat, the very backbone of Northern cooking back then, the biggest collection of grease was to be found in the ubiquitous chip pan, a sight so common that a kitchen without one was condemned as Communist. Chips with everything was the regional motto and the pan was never moved from its chosen ring on the stove. As revered as a Church's Tabernacle, the pan was never cleaned and bore the tanned flows of prior boilings like an artist's palette.
To create the finest of chips the very choicest of fresh spuds were procured, then roughly peeled [but not always], thickly sliced into fat planks before being dropped into the venerable depths of the pan.
The chip pan itself was essentially a large metal vessel containing an equally large metal-handled basket, into which the chips were placed. This basket of chips sat in a golden pool of sun-hot liquid beef fat, which burbled and spat like your Grandma's ancient terrier. An occasional shake of the basket was required to garnish the chips with the right amount of bits.
The bits were all the crisped remains of a thousand previous chip pan fry-ups and as valuable as Kryptonite. The caviar of the North and the domestic rellie of chip shop scraps, the bits deposited themselves allover the latest batch of chips like scree and tasted utterly divine. For a more posher look the spuds were cut with a crinkle-cut slicer, but I preferred the simple roughness of the straight chip.
Chip-pan chips made at home were the culinary pinnacle of my childhood and when salted and doused in Sarson's malt vinegar were simply the best food going. I could have eaten them every day and in point of fact, I did.
It always fascinated me what happened to the cooling chip fat. It would slowly solidify and turn white, all the millions of charred bits poking though the surface. In order to keep dust off it, which always struck me as odd given the sheer amount of detritus already in there, the pan was covered overnight with a lid under which the fat invisibly clotted. Pure lardy magic.
What was your childhood kitchen like readers?