In Competition No. 2912 you were invited to submit a tribute in verse to a once-popular foodstuff that has fallen out of favour.
Bill Greenwell’s entry (Spangles!) brought to mind childhood pleasures, as did Sid Field’s (Creamola) and Jayne Osborn’s (Angel Delight). But I still shudder at the memory of spam fritters, and Alan Millard’s attempt to make them sound appealing fell on stony ground:
More fit to nibble than to gnaw
But no less tasty, cooked or raw
Both Brian Allgar and Dorothy Pope mourned the passing of Fuller’s Walnut Cake, and Richard McCarthy submitted a rousing tribute to mutton in the style of Swinburne. All three deserve a commendation as do David Silverman, Philip Machin, Alanna Blake, Sylvia Fairley and Barbara Smoker.
The prize-winners, printed below, are rewarded with £30 apiece. This week’s bonus fiver belongs to Basil Ransome-Davies.
We shook our fists at Hitler when the Nazi bombers came
Like an airborne twentieth-century armada
To blast some of our cities to a hell of smoke and flame,
But we had a secret weapon in our larder.
It was a taste sensation. Churchill couldn’t get enough.
He wolfed it down with gourmandising passion.
Their Majesties announced that, though
they both adored the stuff,
They properly observed their wartime ration.
You could slice it like salami; you could stuff it in a roll;
You could fry it as a batter-coated rissole;
You could fill a pie-crust with it; there was so much to extol
In a meatloaf that was free of bone and gristle.
Our thanks for it went to the Yanks — yes,
good old Uncle Sam
Supplied the food that lifted hearts in Blighty.
Let’s hear it for the breakfast/dinner/tea of champions — Spam,
So versatile, and pink as auntie’s nightie.
I sing the joys of bloater paste
On dripping rounds of buttered toast.
Let not a morsel go to waste
For you’re the spread I love the most.
In wet and windy days of yore
I sought a place around the fire
I sought your comfort more and more
Of bloater taste I’d never tire.
Bring me my shards of buttered bliss
And greasy little paws to grip ’em
Let unbelievers take the piss.
We are the acolytes of Shippam,
I burn my nightlight at both ends.
What better bliss than this, the taste
Of fish among my childhood friends,
Of sterling Shippam’s bloater paste?
One summer, in our gang, the must-have sweets
Were long white cylinders with bright red tips
Held in (we thought) sophisticated grips,
Or hanging Bogart-style from tough-guy lips,
Or waved near mouths shaped like a showy kiss.
To us they seemed necessities, not treats.
Sweet cigarettes! There was a sort of bliss
In having them, not eating (though you’d munch
The chalky stuff before going home to lunch).
The things are not for sale, I’d guess, today,
When smoking’s universally abhorred.
Well, did they take us to the cancer ward?
For others in the gang, I cannot say.
But I’d a grandfather who puffed and gasped
And wheezed and coughed incessantly and rasped
And croaked. I’ve never smoked.
Yes, I remember sandwich spread,
That instant butty filling
Designed to partner white sliced bread,
A bargain at a shilling.
What were those multicoloured bits
That made it look like vomit?
I didn’t care. It blew my wits.
It hit me like a comet.
The jar sat on a kitchen shelf,
A little yellow idol.
I’d raid it like a wicked elf.
My appetite was tidal.
A pound is now the least you’ll pay;
It’s still worth every penny.
I hoard it wholesale, come the day
When grocers haven’t any.
A calf’s foot simmers. Rich, dark beef-broth scent
Portends a treat compounded equally
Of jiggly fun and robust nourishment,
A dainty whose distinctive recipe
Blends bovine collagen, which cools to gel,
With citrus brightness (lemon juice and zest),
Sugar and spices, egg white, crushed eggshell
And wine — although some cooks say brandy’s best.
The taste buds quiver in anticipation
As calf’s foot jelly quivers in the bowl,
A glistening, translucent combination
Of unlike parts in an ambrosial whole,
A Manichean savoury-sweet treasure
Of wobbly substance fraught with solid pleasure.
No 2915: Arty limerick
Robert Conquest wrote a limerick that begins: ‘When Gauguin was visiting Fiji’. You are invited to submit a limerick featuring an artist and destination of your choice. Please email entries (up to three each) to email@example.com by midday on 9 September.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free