Thinking Strange Thoughts - The Greatest Meal I Ever Ate

When I was about 14 years old, I had a mate called Tony, he was a bit overweight, of course nowadays 99% of 14 year olds seem overweight, but in those days it was more unusual. One day he invited me around to his house for tea and I began to see why he was on the large size. His mom opened the door, and when I say Tony was a bit overweight, his mom was the size of a small hot air balloon, I doubt if she could have left the house if she’d wanted to, well not without removing part of the roof anyway. She had a big, round, red face with a hairnet on the top, she was wearing a large apron and was covered in flour, she led us through to the kitchen. After I had visited several times, I realized that she lived mainly in the kitchen where she spent her time cooking things, when she wasn’t cooking things she was baking things, but this first time I could not believe the amount of food that was lying about, and the heat, it was like a sauna bath in there. I asked Tony if anyone else was coming for tea, but he said “no, mom just likes cooking” She was frying some chips in a big pan, fat was flying everywhere, when I looked up, there was fat dripping from the ceiling. Tony’s mom leaned over the chip fryer not seeming to mind the fat splashing all over her, meanwhile sweat was dripping from her into the chip fryer. She told us to go and watch telly until tea was ready, so off we went and Tony put on his favourite show The Lone Ranger.

Now personally, I had always had a bit of a problem with The Lone Ranger, I mean if you see something called The Lone Ranger, then you assume it is about a Ranger who is on his own, but no, The Lone Ranger was not on his own, he was with his mate Tonto. So really the show should have been called The Ranger and his mate Tonto. Of course, he was never referred to as his mate, they always used to say “his trusty companion” . Nowadays, if a bloke went off into the wilds with his “trusty companion, you might assume that there was a bit of a “Brokeback Mountain” situation going on, but these were much more innocent times, so nothing was assumed. Actually, when you watched the show, Tonto seemed to do most of the work, so strictly speaking, it really should have been called “Tonto and his mate Ranger”, anyway, suddenly, whilst I was worrying about all this, the kitchen door flew open and Tony’s mom’s beaming, sweating, face appeared with the news that tea was ready, next thing she staggered in with a huge plate in each hand and placed them on the lounge table. The plates were piled high with a mountain of greasy chips, there were also three fried eggs and three sausages, and when I say sausages, I don’t mean those little things you buy nowadays, these were the size of a policeman’s truncheon. The whole lot was floating in a sea of fat and covered in what looked like several bottles of tomato sauce. The chips were piled so high that I had to stand up to reach one from the top.. I was living near Stafford at the time and there were not many hills around, certainly no mountains, so I should imagine that for a while that plate of chips would have been the highest point in the area. Next came a big plate of bread and butter, the bread was cut so thick that I thought several pieces had stuck together. I struggled through the vast meal, halfway through Tony’s mom asked if we wanted anymore, I shook my head but Tony put his hand up. Just when I thought that i finished my tea, Tony’s mom came in with a complete apple pie each and a large jug of custard, it was beautiful but I must admit I was struggling a bit and had to decline when Tony went off for seconds.

I only lived just down the street but it took me quite a while to stagger home, I felt like I had doubled in size and did not eat again for a couple of days.
Not long after this, we moved north to Manchester, I lost touch with Tony and never saw him again, though I should imagine Tony and his mother are long gone, probably exploded.

Over the years I’ve had some fancy meals, in fancy places, but I always remember that as the finest meal I ever had, I was just lucky it happened before the words, cholesterol and healthy eating had been invented.

Steve Ainley....with a carrot in his hand but a pie in his heart.


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