To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.
Thereafter my life was one of hardship and misery, characterized by the deaths of all the women I ever loved or who loved me, and the abandonment and imprisonment of anyone who could be said to be a father figure. I was beaten, starved, and sent to work on cruel gulags full of child wretches similar to myself, unwanted by society except as beasts of burden. I wore rags, slept on the dirt floor, shivered in winter, ate scraps I wrestled from the greedy clutches of rats, and bore the scars from such a number of flea bites as cannot be counted. I fairly crawled with lice and weeping sores, my young teeth either knocked out or blackened, snot and tears having carved permanent rivulets down my face. I reeked of urine and cabbage, a stench my vocabulary is not broad enough to describe.
Nevertheless I was once served this splendid pie made from the leftover bits from a Sunday chicken along with some vegetables that had been stolen from the kitchen of a banker, whose cook had carelessly left the door open. She was duly whipped and let go on the spot. As you can see, it is baked in a crude pastry shell fashioned by a one-armed prostitute who took pity on me. It was the first meal I had ever been served.
I am sad to report that it lacked the toothsome mélange of flavor I expected, having heard on the street so much about this fabled dish. The crust was a tad too thick and undercooked in places, and the peas and carrots were singularly unimaginative additions. As for the sauce, it suffered an excess of salt, and I detected beneath its floury notes a surfeit of nutmeg to balance the heavy-handed use of marjoram. Not to bemoan a point, or be too critical of my erstwhile savior’s meager resources, but I feel compelled to add that the choice of metal dish in which this delicacy was baked and served set entirely the wrong tone for the tenor of the occasion.
In short, it was the most disappointing event of my life to date. I may never recover from the shock to my sensibilities this pie occasioned, and find that I am now forced to re-evaluate my whole misguided and sentimental appreciation for the cooking of what can only be described as the urban peasantry of Victorian England.
Dear Reader: do not make the mistake I have made. If someone offers you this pie, refuse gently but firmly, and return to take comfort in your stale crust of bread.
Low-Cost Main Dishes, Family Circle, 1978