I asked for memories of potted meat at a meeting some time ago and found many more remembered it than I expected. But then I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years, so I suppose I could be behind the potted meat zeitgeist!
It seems there were two brands – Bowlers and Binghams (which may still exist). I don’t know which I remember.
What I do remember is shopping with my mother at Hunters Bar in Sheffield in the 50s and 60s, before supermarkets. Everything was ordered over the counter. My mother would ask for 2 ounces of potted meat.
Potted meat came in what looked like a white earthenware dessert bowl. The meat paste was found beneath a layer of hard fat. The shopkeeper used a spoon to break the fat and place fat and meat on greaseproof paper on the scales. Once my mother had agreed the amount, the paste was wrapped and pushed into a white paper bag. (The fat was not universally popular it seems!)
Local Economy – Then
It was a teatime treat and very much expected at children’s parties, as a prelude to the main event of jelly and blancmange. I’m fairly sure I liked potted meat not because I remember liking it but because my mother pointed out the building where it was made.
I was delighted as she explained the bowls were returned and reused from the local shops. The building is still there!
Local Economy – Now
This is possibly my earliest memory of what I now call The Local Economy. The small business that supplies a few local shops. Some do well and today we have big local brands in Sheffield, notably Henderson’s Relish and Our Cow Molly ice cream. But what about the really small producers?
Perhaps in these days of the quick dash to the supermarket, we fail to notice small producers. They may produce food but perhaps more often they are artists or craftspeople. Can you think of examples in your own shopping centre (or region)?
My contemporary example is Sheffield Bakery. A very small shop where a surly man, takes a lump of dough, whirls it around until he has a disc that he fastens to the wall of a tandoori oven. His bread is sold in shops around Ellesmere Green and most likely nowhere else. He sells them at 30p each or the irresistible bargain price of 3 for £1!
POSTSCRIPT – Memories
This is 1/21 of stories about the local economy. They were all written inside of a day. I received a prompt in the morning, and posted my story in a Facebook group by the end of the day. Now I’m revisiting them in the shadow of the Coronavirus lockdown.
Does this story evoke memories for you? Perhaps of shopping with a parent, children’s parties or food you liked to eat. This story paints a picture. I show you a simple memory. To what extent does its success depend on your memories of childhood?
Notice how towards the end, I move into a simple teaching point about small producers and encourage you to notice them in your place. And then I finish with a short contemporary story. Sadly, I’ve noticed, the special offer no longer applies!
Remembering in the Lockdown
I wonder how many will take the opportunity afforded by the lockdown to reminisce? I wrote this story about 15 months ago. Re-reading it, I’m struck by what is not said. I can’t say it because I didn’t know it back then. As a child I knew about the War but I didn’t comprehend the destruction, the immense changes. The world I describe was in recovery. Things could not go back to the way they were and no-one anticipated the coming changes in the 60s. As a child, I remember the building site next to the building I mention. I didn’t know it was a bomb site. Now its the Berkeley Centre on Ecclesall Road.
Perhaps if we look back on the aftermath of big changes, we’ll make out the shape of things to come. I ask for contemporary echoes of potted meat in the story, perhaps there are other echoes to discern. If so, we should turn them into stories, to pre-form the new world we’re heading towards,
I value your feedback whether it’s about the local economy, the lockdown or storytelling. Or tell your own story!