Monday, 10 November 2008

LONDON LEG: Supper #45 - SW16 (Mystery Meat)

Well last Wednesday was a bit of an eye opener. I was invited to join a group of twenty-something Trowbridge transplants on their regular 'Mystery Meat' meet. Gwen, Anna, Ella, Annabel and Jemima started up this weekly supper club when Anna returned from her family's farm one weekend with three braces of pigeon. Being the game bunch that they are they decided that from then on they would take it in turns to surprise one another with a different beast or cut, with the winner having to head for the corner shop with £1 to buy the pudding. So far they've had snout, heart, tongue, cheek, testicles, rabbit, turkey and that old favourite, chicken. How quirky and retro I thought and leapt at the chance to join them.

THE SET UP: I turned up with Gwen, sans Jimmy (bad parking round there). We picked our way along the dingy streets of Streatham and filtered up a hill to a house. It was like entering studentdom again - just wall to wall momentos of good, cheap times. Anna was prone on the sofa underneath layers of duvet. In fact most of the floor space in the TV room was occupied by some kind of bedding; it was like it was set up for a permanent slumber party. We went through to the kitchen so Gwen could prep her mystery meat whilst Anabel's dad wandered about applying liberal amounts of Deep Heat to some shoulder ailment. More stuff - a cacophony of it, occupying every work surface, every wall, every shelf. I found it reassuring and cosy and happily headed off to the utility room to wedge the night's pudding into a packed fridge.

WHO CAME: As well as Gwen, me, Anna and Annabel's dad, Dave, one by one fresh faced girls would enter the scenario: Ella, just back from the Embankment cafe she worked at, Jemima, returning from a day of textiles, the sweet French girl and Annabel who hadn't been home since the previous morning and who'd still managed to squeeze in a date with someone else before arriving home.

WHAT WE ATE: Gwen thought it would be amusing to recreate one of the dishes from Jemima's mum's WHSmith exercise book, circa 1982 - Tasty McBrides. She carefully pottered away in the background while everyone else ploughed merrily through the two bottles of red wine on the table. The plate arrived to a fanfare and was accompanied by a special 'Mystery Meat lamp' in order to show it off properly. We all sank our teeth in to these odd little bites. Yum! said everyone reaching for more. I gagged a bit and barely finished one piece. The truth was that the mystery meat in this scenario was Spam. Ever since Spam fritters at school I've never been able to cope with it. It flooded my gag reflexes still further as Gwen explained the recipe; of fried Smash, onion powder, grilled Spam and other horror stories. These girls were insatiable for the stuff though and soon the plate was empty.

Then came the main attraction - a great, hearty robustness of a stew, it was lousy with bone marrow streaming through the sauce. Soon the guessing began and in moments the real meat revealed itself - Oxtail, bought from William Rose on Lordship Lane. I asked why she didn't get it from Brixon market but Gwen thought it best to keep it super legit in matters of tail.

DINNER TABLE TOPICS: The talking was non-stop, from Dave's move to Thailand to the Trowbridge Pump festival that happens on Anna and Ella's farm in Wiltshire. Annabel kept on coming out with whacked-out stuff like how she feels like she morphs into Angel Delight when she's having sex. Dave would turn a blind eye and concentrate on his electrode machine which he decided to hook me up to. I sat there clutching onto Ella as he delivered mini-electric shocks into my arm. I'm not sure why. I learnt about the only male lap-dancing club in Europe which just happens to be there on Streatham High Street (they've all been). Then Jemima taught us Cumbrian - who knew? There's a whole damn dialect of it and I want in on the action (she said she'd hook me up with some Lake District folk). Games began - starting with everyone having to describe someone with just one word. From a table full of people I'd never met I got calm, still, serene, curious and alert - I think I might just have been a bit stunned post-electro probing.

THE PUD: I pulled the pud out of the fridge, turned it out and showered it with glass-like shards of amber caramel - a chilled pralined truffle terrine. It was slight hell to cut up but once apportioned was nyammed up quickly. They all seemed to like it a lot, but to be honest I think the £1 option from the corner shop might have been just as warmly received - they're just those kind of girls and as I left that night I felt a small pang for living a life of cosy chaos, surrounded by your best friends, up to the eyeballs in clutter and debauchery.

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