To whet your appetite, here's a little taster of our new book We Ate All the Pies by football-mad John Nicholson. (Sorry for the food puns, couldn't help ourselves!)
"Pies have become a legendary football ritual that many feel obliged, compelled or delighted to indulge in. Recently, it was claimed on the BBC news website that one in three people who went to watch Scottish football had a pie on match day. That’d be over 20,000 just at Celtic Park! A volume of pies so huge it would need to be transported in the sort of big trucks normally reserved for Emerson, Lake and Palmer in their seventies pomp.
The first pie I ever ate at Ayresome Park was memorable. It was a freezing cold afternoon in 1974 – it always seemed to be freezing at the Boro; I don’t recall one warm day in the whole of the 1970s. As I bit into it, a belch of hot air was released in a steamy cloud into the smog-filled grey afternoon. It smelled fantastically savoury and meaty but it tasted somewhat different. First, the filling was bouncy, as though partly comprised of rubber bands. This is because it was padded out with gristle: eyes, lungs and arseholes. The flavour was peculiarly tangy and unlike anything I had ever tasted previously. It was salty but oddly perfumed. Looking back, this was probably because it was past its sell-by date – not that such a thing as a sell-by date existed back then. But I was used to vaguely unpleasant food at home so I ate it all.
It left me with a sore throat! I’m no doctor but I’m sure a pie shouldn’t make your throat sore. God knows what was in that thing but whatever it was it wasn’t in me long as it had exited out of my arse at speed a couple of hours later. <!--more-->
So that wasn’t a good start and it put me off the whole football pie experience for many years. Indeed, I’m fairly sure I’ve not actually eaten a pie inside a football ground since! But as usual I was very much in the minority in this regard. I did have an especially good curried pasty at Boston United once though and a vegetable samosa at Leicester City too. Both highly recommended.
Eating a pie full of thick, viscous gravy and a few pieces of undefined protein while standing on a terrace surrounded by thousands of people is actually a tricky business. The tendency is for pie innards to burst and pour down your arm, giving you third degree burns in the process, rendering your lips numb and blistered, as though you had just witnessed a nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll. Then the whole thing falls apart and you are compelled to cram the last half of the now fractured miasma into your mouth, all in one go, to prevent losing the whole lot on the ground.
These days a TV camera will inevitably be trained on you as you inhale the bloody thing and you will briefly be the laughing stock of the watching football nation.
But this has not diminished pies’ desirability – quite the opposite.
Go to any ground and you’ll hear the chant ‘Who ate all the pies?’ directed by fans, ironically often on the chubby side themselves, towards a ‘husky’-sized player. It is the only foodstuff to regularly feature in such mantras in any sporting venue, so deeply entrenched has the humble pie become."