Black Country Faggots

An unwitting and/or politically correct American could be forgiven for gasping aloud upon entering my local butcher shop. There on the counter a handsome wicker basket brimming with Black Country Pork Scratchin’s sits by the cash register, inviting you to indulge in an impulse purchase. In the case below faggots are also on offer. But this is not the most bigoted butcher shop in England. The Black Country is an area in the British Midlands named for its history of iron forging and coal-related industry. That it happens to have a brand association with fried lard and is credited with the invention of faggots—meatballs made of pig heart, liver, and belly fat—is just a coincidence.

R. the barman tells me these faggots are exceptional. (He also favors the deviled kidneys at the Wheatsheaf Inn.) Having a weakness for chicken liver mousse and sweetbreads myself, I suspect I too would find the faggots exceptional and plan to try them soon. The pork scratchin’s are less tempting. As much as I am a fan of lard, there is something just a little too disconcerting about the wild-eyed, red pig grinning at me from the label.

Even more upsetting is the fact that Black Country Pork Scratchin’s seem to be making in-roads at local pubs as the down-market bar snack of choice, edging out my two traditional favorites in this category, Scampi Fries and Cheese Flavoured Moments. These are without doubt the most processed food stuffs ever to have passed my lips, but there is something undeniably British and wonderful about a shrimp flavored cereal snack. Regardless, the Brits seem to have fallen out of love with this particular form of poison, leaving me with only crisped up pig fat or posh potato chips to choose from.

Like Black Country Pork Scratchin’s, the upscale potato chips make a virtue of their provenance. The primary color, block print design of Burt’s Hand Fried tells you they come from Devon, while Tyrrell’s of Herefordshire feature black and white pictures to make you feel like what you are eating is somehow old fashioned and wholesome. Scampi Fries and Cheese Flavoured Moments are more vague. Their packaging is similar to eachother, with one showing a picture of a boat through a window, the other a cow. Much like the snack, the taste of real seafood or real cheese is evoked rather than delivered. Call me an overly sensitive American, but I think there’s a lesson in subtlety here for the Black Country Pork Scratchin’s marketing department.

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