Trendy cafes are no match for Britain’s big greasy spoon


Hunger? Hangover? Overwhelmed by a craving for bacon, egg, baked beans, sausage and a fried slice? There was a time when the remedy was easily found with the local greasy spoon. Steamy windows, Formica-covered tables, a cozy flake of fried bacon, strong tea and damp work clothes – these humble establishments were so dear to a British institution that in 2013 the American magazine Food and wine published a roundup of “London’s Best Grease Spoons”.

This was unfamiliar territory to readers of the publication that introduced American foodies to “Perrier, the Peruvian Purple Potato, and Patagonian Toothfish,” and the article began with a bewildered attempt to define the spoon’s eerie charm. greasy: “Roughly analogous to an American dinner – but without the free refills … most customers just call them caffs – that is, coffee without saying the ‘e’.” The reckless transatlantic visitor “might see dishes you thought were gone in the 1950s, like boiled bacon or liver and onions.” You won’t get salad… ”The British, he added, were strangers to crispy bacon:“ A lot of Brits like a soggy rasher. “

So warned, it seems unlikely that even the most intrepid of American tourists would have braved a soggy rasher, let alone the black pudding, dripping toast and the cup of Camp Coffee that were George’s specialties, the coffee that sustained my years. student.

Now, however, even those looking for an alternative to an Egg McMuffin may have a hard time finding it, as the Oily Spoon has become an endangered species.

The hammer blow of the foreclosure, combined with rising rents, the relentless advance of chain cafes and a health-conscious aversion to old-fashioned fries, saw an extended list of fat spoons shut their doors or reinvent themselves as hipster hangouts.

Given the cyclical nature of fashion, the fat spoon is likely to rise again, but with organic sausages, craft beers, and matching prices. But something irreplaceable will have been lost with the disappearance of these cheap, nourishing and infinitely democratic establishments: the original caffs without “e”.

No more sherry vases

In one of my favorite TV shows, Friday night lights, the long-suffering wife of a high school football coach in Texas, is to be seen pushing back ever larger goblets of wine. Her chardonnay cornucopias reminded her of Auberon Waugh’s memory of her mother, Laura, a devout Catholic, who allowed herself only one glass of sherry a day during Lent, sipped from “a vessel that others would have.” could identify as an exceptionally large flower vase ”.

But for wine time, as for French fries, the future looks uncertain. In 2017, the British Medical Journal reported that the size of wine glasses had increased sevenfold over the past three centuries, from 66ml in 1700 to 449ml in 2017. Now a late hangover has set in. Installed: Sales of small wine glasses (250 ml or less) at John Lewis have increased 13% in the past year.

For years, as I scrupulously followed Rowley Leigh’s foolproof schedule for making the tearless Christmas lunch, I obeyed her command to “treat myself another drink.” As we approach what the BMJ has gleefully described as “the culturally legitimized deviance of the party drink,” I wait with dismay to compete for the turkey in a state of impeccable sobriety.

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