Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Pie and Mash Shop.

Markets and Pie and Mash shops seem to go together, and it's not without reason that this is so.

The two pie and mash shops that predominated in Lambeth and Waterloo were Burroughs at 146 Lambeth Walk and R Cooke's at 84 The Cut, both, sadly now gone.

Previous to shops selling produce, pies and live eels were sold in the street to passers-by; the piemen were a regular site on London's streets, even being included in a nursery rhyme “Simple Simon”.

Much of the meat and eels that were used was of dubious quality, the eels sometimes being dead a long time before being prepared and these were mixed in with live eel meat . In those days the resulting food poisoning could be fatal. In order to sometimes get rid of old stock, the piemen would indulge in the game of 'tossing the pieman' in which people, usually boys, would toss a coin and if the pieman won he took the money but if the person won he got a pie for free, if the piemen gave them dubious pies, it was a win/win situation for them.

The first recorded Eel and Pie shop was at 101 Union Street, Southwark, just a slip and a slither away from the New Cut Market; Henry Blanchard is listed in Kelly's street directories in 1844 as selling a variety of pies offering fillings such as Eels, meats or fruits, these were sold for a penny each. In addition to this, live Eels, pea soup and mashed potato were also sold.
Freshly prepared eels in a clean-looking environment (tiled walls and floors) meant many people gravitated to these places rather than run the risk of food poisoning with the pieman.
The rise of the Eel and pie shop heralded the end of the pieman and their counterparts in the Eel trade; the damage that was done to their trade was so dramatic that it was noted in Henry Mayhew's “London Labour and London Poor”.

Thirty years after Blanchard opened his first shop, Kelly's Directory listed 33 eel and pie shops in London. This began the growth of what Londoners came to know as the “Pie and Mash shop”.
Helped, in part, by immigrants from Italy and Ireland, many of the shops that opened are still around today.

Robert Cooke is first recorded as opening his shop on Bakers Row in Clerkenwell in 1889 with his second wife Martha and his children: Robert, Amy and Fred. The shop was situated near the market in Clerkenwell. The long term success of the firm is attributed to hard, work, sharp business accumen and the training of the family within the trade. Cooke's opened a shop in The Cut at number 84 in 1938.

Michaele Manze (Mike) was an Italian from Ravello, his Mother, father and three brothers came to England in 1878 after walking from Ravello to Naples to catch a boat. Primarily the family worked in the Ice business; Mike met and befriended Robert Cooke, who introduced him to his daughter from his first marriage: Ada. Mike and Ada married and opened up their first shop in Bermondsey.

The reason, apparently, for Pie and Mash shops having only a fork and a spoon comes from either of two origins: one being that during the First World War, there were a shortage of knives and the people going into the pie and mash shops would take the knives they had home with them; another story goes that the knives were withdrawn from being served after people used them as weapons when they fought.

The last forty plus years have seen a demise in the pie and mash shop owing to culinary cultural changes plus the migration of large numbers of the working class out of London to areas such as Kent and Essex. These movements can be traced as many of the known remaining names in pie and mash Such as Cooke and Manze (as well as newer names) have opened up shops to cater for them as this directory of the various shops on the website “Pie and Mash Club” shows.

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