My childhood memories of pie are tightly bound up in Saturdays’ usual lunch-time treat of pie and beans. A freshly-baked meaty Scotch pie bought that morning from the baker’s van, oven-warmed and eaten with tinned baked beans – lovely! Growing up in rural Scotland, with no easy transport to the ‘local’ shops in the nearest village several miles away, we had a succession of vans – basically miniature shops on wheels – that came round door to door every week.
The grocer’s van was the largest, with the most variety of produce on board, and he came twice a week – what fun we had during the school holidays, carefully choosing which sweets to spend our pocket-money on. Racing to the big blue van, jostling each other good-naturedly to see who could clamber up the steep metal-covered steps inside the rear door and reach the temporary plywood ‘counter’ placed across the gangway before anyone else, and so be served first. Selected sweets duly paid for and clutched in small paper bags, we would then spend the rest of the day guarding our own haul, whilst surreptitiously coveting everyone else’s. Ah, those were the days!
The white fish van was far smaller, more compact, and came every Thursday, filled with beautiful fish bought fresh from the harbour that morning, laid out in white polystyrene boxes packed with crushed ice. The fish-man, dressed smartly in his white coat and hat, would serve from behind the van, standing outside in all weathers, opening wide the back door to reveal his set of white enamel scales and little tin money-box, square polythene wrappings hung diagonally on a hook on the inside of the door. The smell of truly fresh fish, fish that had still been swimming in the sea the night before, is far less strong than you might imagine – still recognisably fishy but somehow cleaner, a salty ozone odour I rarely smell anywhere any more.
The baker’s van, like the grocer, came twice a week, once at some point during the week and again at the weekend, but my strongest memories are of Saturday mornings – the simple joy of no school, a morning of watching our favourite cartoons on TV, then eating pie and beans for lunch. The baker’s van was smaller than the grocer’s, but bigger than the fish van. Steep narrow steps took you up into the tiny serving area, where the tantalising smell of sausage rolls and pies and cakes and fancies laid out behind in tilted trays to best display their tempting wares always filled our nostrils with such promise.
I absolutely loved Scotch pies – individual cylindrical short-crust pastry pies with meat filling and a small round hole in the middle of the pastry lid. The funny thing is, I remember every Saturday standing in the baker’s van choosing with such care which particular sweet treat I would have that week, but yet I would always choose the same savoury Scotch pie for lunch, mouth-wateringly fat and juicy, always eaten hot with baked beans, and always devoured with such unrestrained pleasure… 🙂