Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 8: Smoked in the Lakes, Penrith

Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

Having come across the storefront of Smoked, where the sandwiches looked tempting, after hours, I crossed my fingers that it just might be open the next day, which was a Sunday.  After all, I had a picnic lunch to score before setting off on a six-mile stroll around the lovely English countryside.

Well, this time I lucked out.  The door was open Sunday morning, but I wasn’t sure the shop was.  The owner hailed me, and said he was going to open today just so he could take Monday off. However, the trade laws said he had to wait till 10 in the morning, could I come back?  Indeed I could.  I wandered a bit, listening to the church bells.

I went back at 10, and had a lovely chat with Greg Forbes, the proprietor of this fine establishment.  He’s a former caterer who got the bug while smoking fish he’d caught on an outing.  He says he smokes with beech, so it’s a light smoke.  I told him about my kin in Texas, where smoke and barbecue means beef.  Greg said he once got a custom order for a brisket, on which he put a rub and vacuum sealed the cut for two days.  Another satisfied customer.  In his shop, he smokes about anything.  In addition to meats, fish and cheeses, there are olives (and olive oil) and the like.  He’s a nice guy, too!

So, for my picnic lunch, I bought a smoked duck breast sandwich with Cumberland relish and a packet of crisps.  For any of you reading this on a mobile device while in line at the Bi-Rite Market take-out, hold it tight so you don’t drop it when I tell you the sandwich was £2.95.  $4.75, tops.  Ah, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth! The smoked duck breast sandwich? Sho 'nuff boss chow.
And where did I savour this delight?  Here, at Brougham Castle, a mile and change outside Penrith.  This is up in the Border Country, now Scotland, now England, with each side raiding the other on a fairly regular basis.  Brougham (“Broom”) Castle was a Vieuxpont/Veteripont (and even spelled Vipont in places) stronghold.  Some of the men died young.  Robert rebelled against Henry III and died of wounds in a 1164 battle, leaving daughters Isabel and Idonea.  They came out smelling like roses, marrying into the families of their guardians.  For Isabel, it was Roger de Clifford, a marriage that really created a powerhouse family.  Roger was the Sheriff of Westmorland, and when he died, Isabel took over as Sheriffess (yee haw!).  She shared the financial proceeds that came along with her sister.  And, yes, they’re on a Sandford maternal line.

The big kahuna of the Clifford castles, though, was Lady Anne Clifford.  She had trouble inheriting because she was a woman, and fought uncles and brothers for a long time, in the mid-17th century.  Fortunately, she was successful, restored her castles, and moved about from one to the other.  She was stylin’ while my Sanfords were in considerably more Spartan accommodations in colonial Virginia.  Unfortunately, a grandson moved elsewhere and salvaged the roofing materials for his own new pad, and Brougham Castle became a ruin.  English Heritage keeps it a splendid ruin, though, and I got to eat my smoked duck sandwich where ancestors may have eaten smoked duck, too.  With something other than crisps.