Courtesy of My Generation. Article By Maurice Smyth
If you feel the temptation of an “empty nest” OE coming on, Maurice Smyth has discovered ways to keep spending under control while roving around Britain, sustained by cheap local fare.
This is no la-de-da fork-fest. There'll be no flutes of bubbly or salvers of amuse bouche swanning around in Blighty. It's belt-and-braces stuff with the trouser legs rolled up – although the naffy knotted handkerchief on the head is optional.
You've touched down at Heathrow, hired a rental and you're on your way to see what used to be known by many as ‘the old country’.
Use the street map in the glove box – yes, they wear gloves where you are now and not just in winter – and make your way to the capital's rhyming slang-side, the East End, to sample a potato mash served with bright green gravy, its origins going back to the 1800s. Pick the right diner and it could be quite a knees-up, even if only first thing next morning.
Be warned. Resist the nearby temptation of ‘putting on the Ritz’ at the iconic hotel to hear the chink of fine bone china and tinkling ivories over a plate of fresh scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam and English breakfast tea. That way you won't have to take out a second mortgage when you get home!
Prepare for some serious driving to the fabled West Country and the coves of Cornwall with its swashbuckling tales of contraband days in search of the eulogised Cornish pasty. Back home you can dine out on its legends as you explain that the thick crust was not meant to be eaten but thrown away when the savoury meat, onion, potato and carrot filling had gone.
You could well be pressed to another liqueur as you recount that traditionally it was made as a hearty meal for local tin miners with a beefy filling at one end and a sweet finish at the other.
Now what's that you sniff wafting from the direction of the New Forest over Hampshire way? This was the hunting ground of monarchs in centuries past so it should be special.
At local restaurants you can chomp your way through all the pheasant, venison and partridge you can eat. They're common as kiwifruit at the gates of Te Puke and priced accordingly.
Here at home we donate surplus citrus to charity, unlike Milton-under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire. Their speciality is a sausage stuffed with pork, chives and…yes, lemons. That's one sharp suck of the sav …. cheap as chips too.
West to Wales to check the claim their lamb is among the most tender and tasty in the world and, of course, to discuss why, over a stoup of local ale, they used to be good at rugby.
Swing down yet another country road to fill up on Welshcakes. They're similar to pancakes, made with mixed spices and currants and available everywhere in the Principality.
A typical Welsh breakfast is panfried cockles with bacon, breadcrumbs and chopped spring onions.
Brace yourself for a long haul to Colchester in Essex, one of the best spots in the UK for oysters but a shuck away from Leigh-on-Sea and Southend, both renowned for cockles and jellied eels at backpack prices.
But enough of this southern comfort. It's off to check out one of Europe's largest covered malls in Leicester, hub of the Midllands with more than 400 stalls touting everything from the basic to the exotic. Never again can you say you've never sampled the unique red Leicester cheese.
Room for a pork pie? Change gears for Melton Mowbray where you can watch staff making this classic of English picnic fare. The closer you buy to the source, the cheaper it comes.
Don't go baring your sweet tooth, it's not necessary. Just bowl north to Yorkshire where the fudges and toffees have a world-wide reputation. Harrowgate toffee is still cooked in open copper kettles and stirred by hand as it was in 1840. And plum breads and gingerbread have been baked in Whitby, birthplace of Captain Cook, since around the same time.
There's much more of course. Scotland is just over the border with its porridge and haggis, and there's Ireland just a short ferry boat ride away with its heaped fry-ups served with baked-on-site soda bread.
They may have to wait. After all those miles and hearty meals, there's a digestive twinge. You may just have overdone it. A guilty feeling hints at a balance to be redressed. At the airport duty free on the way home, you look for a tape of Jane Fonda's workout routine. After a quick reality check, you ask for Henry's instead.