Ted Jones is a retired pork butcher from Sheffield and a spokesman on black pudding-related matters for the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders. He was telling me last week about how he had been driving home from an abattoir on the outskirts of Sheffield with, precariously balanced on the back seat of his car, a metal churn with an ill-fitting lid. The churn contained ten gallons of pig's blood.
Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that this week's column will probably not be enjoyed by vegetarians . . .
Mr Jones was en route to a good session of black pudding-making, which involves, when carried out in the traditional manner, funnelling fresh pig's blood into a cow's intestine, followed by fat, barley, flour and seasoning. The pudding is then cooked, causing the blood to coagulate and the whole thing to solidify to the degree that, in the early Seventies, the Goodies were able to stage a parody of martial arts in which Yorkshiremen wearing flat caps the size of dustbin lids hit each other over the head with black puddings while crying, in strangulated tones, "Ecky-thump!"
Now, mindful of the looseness of the churn lid, Mr Jones was driving very carefully, but when another driver suddenly pulled out in front of him, he had to brake sharply, causing the churn to topple over and . . . Well, the lid held. Had it not done so, the interior of Mr Jones's car and probably the whole road would have had the appearance of something styled by Quentin Tarantino, and the country would have been denied a large quantity of black puddings.
Many southerners, I suspect, would rather say that the country would have been spared a large number of black puddings. In the past week, two London butchers have quite disdainfully told me that they do not stock black puddings. This is partly because the EU is tightening up regulations on the selling of cooked meats, but mainly because black puddings are deemed not only northern but "out of fashion" - two very grave sins indeed, in the eyes of Londoners. Mr Jones denies that they are out of fashion, but certainly, all the food histories connect the black pudding to the north of England, especially Lancashire, where the Bury and Bolton puddings compete for eminence. (The Lancastrian Gracie Fields also once sang a song about, or at least mentioning, black pudding.)
I found one eventually in Tesco and took it home for my sons' tea along with some parsnip and apple mash with Dijon mustard. As my children sat down at the table, I explained that I had always loved black puddings, and then told them what they contained. On reflection, I should have done that just as they were scraping their plates clean. Or possibly not at all.