It is funny when you think about the origin of things and how some places have become synonymous with a certain product, food being a good example. And if you are ever short of a Christmas party game, just see how many you can think of.
For me, the starting point was Branston pickle because we had just run out. Branston is a village just outside Burton upon Trent, not far from where I live. It was here that the pickle was invented in 1922 by Crosse and Blackwell.
Then in the heart of the town you will come across the Marmite factory. You used to be able to smell it before you could see it, a true off-shoot of the brewing industry on which the town was founded. Bass and Marston’s Pedigree each have their roots here.
A short drive along the A50 will take you into Stoke-on-Trent where Staffordshire oatcakes rule supreme, served hot and plump from small takeaway outlets throughout the Potteries. I like mine with cheese but the choice is yours.
Head further north and you will come across Eccles cakes, and regional variations Chorley cakes, Blackburn cakes and Sad cakes. Then there’s Blackpool rock, Shrewsbury cakes and Yorkshire pudding. As a child, toad-in-the-hole (a variation on Yorkshire pudding) was my favourite dish and I would even have it for Christmas dinner.
Back to Derbyshire and another favourite of mine, Bakewell tart – except locals of the pretty Peak District town will soon point out that it is a pudding, not a tart. Neighbouring Leicestershire, and Melton Mowbray in particular, is home to a famous pork pie with the best water pastry. Visitors flock to Dickinson and Morris to try their hand at making the time-honoured recipe, proving food tourism is alive and well in the UK.
Another original gem is the Bath bun, but again locals will prefer their Sally Lunn bun. Sally was a Huguenot baker and created the first Bath bun during the Georgian era, from premises that date back to 1680 and are still operational today. Make sure you go with a big appetite. These buns are huge!
Now what savoury dish would be complete without a splash of Lea and Perrins? Yes, we are talking about Worcestershire sauce, a secret blend of fermented anchovies, vinegar, molasses, spices, garlic, shallots and tamarind. And like the Bakewell tart, it came about by accident, when a failed fish sauce was left for 18 months in 1837 only to emerge as the Worcestershire sauce we know today. Within 10 years, pharmacists Lea and Perrins were exporting it around the empire.
Almost every butcher will have their own sausage recipe but a coil of Cumberland sausage stands out for obvious reasons. Named after the now extinct Cumberland pig, it is believed we have the Germans to thank for this regional delicacy. Miners working in Cumbria in the 16th century made the sausages to remind them of home, while the seasoning is a result of the influx of exotic spices into the port of Whitehaven in the 18th century, says Alex Lloyd of loveFOOD.
With Wimbledon fast approaching and the prospect of lazy, hazy days of summer, what could be better than a bowl of Eton mess. It’s a dish I conjure up when my pavlova has gone wrong, but it was famously served at the tuck shop at Eton College with a recipe appearing in print in 1893.
And what about Brum? Well, I have long associated HP Sauce with the city, but it is also home to groaty pudding and of course the balti. Yorkshire has the Rhubarb Triangle, we have the Balti Triangle, a reflection of our rich and diverse history. Grab your passport and head over into the Black Country and you will find pub grub like no other – try faggots and peas (pronounced “pays”), a mainstay of the Peaky Blinders cast, or try pork scratchings for a light snack… and a trip to the dentist.
There are dozens more regional foods so I challenge you to name them, and we haven’t even started on the cheese.