September 16, 2019

In memory of Joe’s artisanal truck stop – By Stephen Hickmore


I love to visit those home-grown markets that have sprung up in recent years. Overall, they’re very cheery and showcase wonderful local crafts and industry.

Along with the craft gins, crushed linen, recycled designer handbags and handmade shoes, there’s a myriad of food trucks and stalls.  Artisan Burgers, Vegan specialities, Crusty craft bread, Hand-tossed pizza (that one concerns me, much) and organically farmed bacon. Anyhow, the stands, trucks and converted Venter trailers are festooned with attractive adornments reigned over by their tattooed, bearded, skinny-jeaned, man bun-ed foodie blog-friendly occupants – stylishly basting, turning, grilling and farm buttering. The air filled with tempting aromas and the sound of champagne and designer gin-infused soccer Moms tucking into falafel and paella. A blissful Saturday scene of the sustainable, home-made, artisanal and rudely overpriced.

I’m a sucker for a good breakfast me.  So, I generally make a beeline for the nearest artisanal food truck proclaiming ‘Best Bacon Butty in Jozi’ featuring a millennial bacon butty chef. Ahh, that nose-seducing draw of grilled bacon. Some aromas are particularly nostalgic, don’t you think?

Befitting my age, I often reminisce about my childhood in England. Yes, where the summer days were long, and we rode our push bikes along the blackberry hedged country lanes without danger of being accosted. Yep, that old chestnut.

Imagine it’s 1975. In a quiet spot just off the A46 road somewhere in England between Lincoln and Newark there once was an old caravan the destination for our bike rides. Not any old caravan, this was Joe’s truck stop, and he made the best bacon baps by far. For 20p we could wrap our spotty teenage chops around a fresh made bap filled with thick cut back bacon, a fried egg, a bit of lettuce and a bright red slice of tomato.  De-lish-ous. And, of course, there was Joe. A world war two veteran, regimental tattoo on his left arm, stained white apron. He was a grumpy guy. But, by gosh, he could rock a bacon butty! His ingredients were, no doubt, organic, free-range and artisan. After all, Joe had the pick of Lincolnshire’s farms to procure his food, it was cheaper than the supermarkets and tastier. All rather unceremoniously put together by our veterans’ own calloused hands (no HACCP, but us 1970’s British kids didn’t care much for hygiene)

Flash forward 44 years to Neighbourgoods market Jozi or the Old Biscuit Mill Cape Town on a regular Saturday morning. The markets are vibey, trendy, cosmopolitan and clean. Though, to be honest the bacon butty is much the same as my childhood memory, as artisanal, as handmade, as organic, just far more expensive. It’s served more lovingly by a checked shirted hipster chef with a kitchen knife tattoo or a tatt of a surreal cheese board, rather than a gruff old codger with a faded regimental tattoo.

Somewhere along the line we’ve managed to gentrify the humble bacon sarmie don’t you think? We’ve made it Instagram friendly, food blog quotable, celebrity chef indorsed. People, please?

I wonder what Joe would think if he were around to tuck into his breakfast at a 2019 hippy market. A nostalgic grin slowly spreading across his weathered face. “Aye” he would say “’tis a bit o’ awe-rite this in’t it?” as he wiped Kayty’s sundried tomato concasse from his chin.

RECIPE: Joe’s Truck Stop Bacon & Egg Sarnie

1970’s style truck stop delight. Makes two traditional sarnies

INGREDIENTS

8 rashers of organically farmed back bacon with a decent amount of fat

2 large free-range eggs

100g farm butter (softened)

1 large organic tomato, sliced

4 thick slices crusty white bread, fresh from a local baker

DIRECTIONS
  1. Put bacon into a cold frying pan or skillet, turn up the heat
  2. While the bacon is sizzling nicely turn the rashers and add a knob of butter to the pan
  3. Chuck in the sliced tomatoes and cook until the bacon fat is a bit crispy at the edges and the tomatoes are softened
  4. Splodge the butter on the thick slices of bread, don’t be shy.
  5. Place the Tomato on the buttered side of one slice of bread and the bacon on top
  6. Break the eggs into the warm pan with the lovely fatty juices and cook until the centre of the egg is still a bit runny
  7. Put the egg on top of the bacon. Place t’other slice of bread on top and press down slightly
  8. Place the whole sarnie back in the pan with the sizzling juices and allow it to absorb the yumminess as you toast. Press down slightly with the palm of your hand and flip and toast t’other side.
  9. Slap the sarnie onto a plate, cut in ‘alf and watch the egg yolk drip through the bread

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