Chicken in a basket

 

The Story

Chicken in a basket was a thing of the seventies – typical pub food. In the pub my parents ran for a couple of years at the beginning of the seventies, I was seven at the time, it was  served, too. I would often help to bring the meals to the tables in the small dining area on Sundays. This meant I was in the kitchen a lot and able to taste a few bits here and there. Chicken in a basket was one of my favourites.

Chicken in a basket

What went on

At the time of Mum’s roast chicken, my parents had been separated. They got back together again when I was six and became Landlords of a pub in Yapton in West Sussex called: The Shoulder of Mutton and Cucumbers. It had the longest pub name in Britain and was featured in the Guinness Book of Records for that reason.

This meant that crisps in all flavours and soft drinks were in good supply for my friends and I. I at least saw it that way. My dad wasn´t so happy about my generosity. He enjoyed standing behind the bar and chatting with everybody. It was also during this time that I met my half brothers Mark and Phillip for the first time.

Chicken or scampi in a basket was typical “pub grub” of the time. My mum was in her element doing the catering for the pub. She recently told me that people came a long way for her ham sandwiches which she pepped up with a bit of chili and a squirt of lemon juice.

It was then that I learned to fold serviettes into water lilies. They have adorned my festive tables ever since. Back to the chicken. Our baskets were little wicker ones. It was my job to prepare them by placing serviettes inside and stacking them.

The joy of anything in a basket was that you could eat it with your fingers. Customers didn´t expect and had little hope of getting gourmet food in pubs in those days.

On the contrary, customers would sit in comfortable chairs near wood-paneled walls with beer foam around their noses.

Back then parents did not seem to be strict about children having a sip of alcohol now and then. On celebrations, I was allowed to drink Babysham, a fizzy perry. It was very popular.

There was always something going on. So many characters coming in and out. Workman in their clad enjoying their lunch break, groups of elderly folk chatting about the good old days with a pint, and the locals that came in regularly to pass time and have company. On weekends customers would apparently come from afar.

I can still remember the sounds of the clinking glasses and the chatter in the background.

 

This is a picture of the pub in 2007 after it had closed down. Pubs have centuries-old traditions in Britain. They are usually named after Royalty – The Crown, The Prince of ……; Animals: The Black Rabbit, or with reference to their locality. Where the idea of the Shoulder of Mutton… came from, is apparently unknown.

The land around the Yapton area was arable land not farming land. So I assume there were no sheep grazing in the fields.  I found an early mention of cooking a shoulder of mutton in cookery book named so:  A New System of Domestic Cookery formed upon principles of Economy and adapted to the use of private families by a Lady. 1812.  How’s that for a title? No mention of cucumber!

By the way, the quality of chicken to be bought in the seventies was almost certainly better, because it was after then, that they had all sorts of ideas about how to keep chickens, none of them to the benefit of the chicken.

Here´s a video on what to look for when buying chicken. It’s about the US but I am sure similar is valid in the UK.  Under this link you will find the UK labels explained: Understanding the labels

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Pictures:

Pub-The shoulder of Mutton and Cucumbers

© Copyright Basher Eyre and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence