Comic capers…and other food

What do parents do to give their kids a culinary treat these days, I wonder?

Take them for a burger and a free toy to compensate for the disappointment of the burger?

Take them to a pizza place where they can choose from a dozen different sickly sweety toppings for their ice-creams?

With my own kids, I used to cook a Beano supper. It was straight from the Dennis the Menace comic strip and consisted of a large platter heaped with buttery mashed potato, stuck all over with fresh-cooked little sausages and surrounded by a moat of baked beans. Everyone tucked in and used as much tomato ketchup as they liked to go with it.

Somehow, you never forget cartoon food. The dish that gets my uncles’ taste-buds twanging today is still the dish they enjoyed in their childhood.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s when they were growing up in a terraced red-brick house in a small mining village in a Welsh valley, there was nothing in the way of posh nosh. But there was one family treat which came straight from the pages of their Dandy comics… Desperate Dan’s cow pie.

My nan’s cow pie didn’t require much cow, to be honest. It was mostly boiled onions and potatoes in stock, which made it nice and cheap with the addition of  sliced corned beef, all encased in shortcrust pastry and baked in one of the ovens of her range.

I don’t ever remember tasting nan’s version but I do remember my mother’s version – generally made in a steamy kitchen on a Saturday with flour all over the worktop and a pan of onions and potatoes boiling on the stove. Two pies would be created – one for the three of us and another for my cycling racing brother which he’d devour on his return from one of his big 110 mile weekend rides.

So, with vague memories and a considerable amount of guesswork, I attempted to make one recently. It weighed an absolute ton, containing almost a full bag of Maris Pipers. I took it to a family get-together as part of the lunch

My youngest uncle, aged 72, had brought a cut-out Desperate Dan figure and a pair of horns as a comic pie garnish.

But the best thing of all was when my older uncle, aged 88 who has severe memory problems, was told that corned beef pie was on the menu, he exclaimed with delight “Cow Pie!” and promptly ate two servings.


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