Thursday, 1 May 2008

Yorkshire Terroir

I've been reading Stuart Maconie's northern English travelogue Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North. Maconie is a Lancastrian so I can't be too nice about it. Actually, to quote a joke from the Yorkshire chapter, it were alreet for them as likes laffin,' by which I mean it was very funny.

The pies and black pudding appear in the Lancashire chapters, of course (do I sound chippy?) but in Harrogate, Maconie goes to Betty's.

'I once knew a girl who worked at Betty's for a summer,' he tells us, 'and she
said that there was something about the starchy, lacy white uniform that drove
men wild. She was forever fending off amorous middle-aged punters in cardies and her boyfriends were always asking her to wear it at home.'

There is a whole chapter on Yorkshire, 'Cardboard box? You were lucky', and here Maconie says something rather interesting. He visits Slaithwaite (pronounced Slawitt),

'what the French might call Le Yorshire Profonde: Deepest Yorkshire.
The comparison here, at first ridiculous, between the rough-hewn,
hail-hardened tykes of Yorkshire and the indolent gastronomes of the sun-kissed
Dordogne, actually makes sense. Yorkshiremen and Frenchmen alike share a
stubbornly unreasoning pride in simply being a Yorkie or Frenchie. They believe
they have the best food, the best rugby teams, the most beautiful women
[Really?]. They share an almost mystical attachment to their native land. Just
as the wine-growers and peasants of the Languedoc believe no-one is their equal
in the cultivation of the grape, so Yorkshiremen think their beer has no equal
but is similarly, mystically, bound to the soil, like the friend of my editor
who loves Tetley's bitter of Leeds but says that 'it dunt travel'. In other
words, it only really tastes right in Yorkshire. The French call it 'terroir',
the sacred, inexplicable union of weather, ambience, landscape and history that
imbue a region and its drink. Yorkshire calls it things being 'proper'.'

I like the idea of Yorkshire terroir. It's true. You do need to have walked four miles across damp moorland to really appreciate a proper tea.

By the way, the beer in the photo is Yorkshire Terrier, from the York Brewery as recommended by my beer guru Lynn. I'm going to drink it and post about it soon.