A Lovely Bit of Crumpet

Writers slave over their work. From choosing the perfect word for the cadence of a sentence, to placing every comma and semi-colon with precision, they lovingly hone their craft in order to paint beautiful and profound images with their lyrical prose. And while some put in all that effort and are justly rewarded, others toil away only to see their output ignored.

But that's life, and finding your audience is a black art. Talent and hard work usually prevail, but sometimes dumb luck is all you need. Being clear on what you want to communicate, and to whom, is a prerequisite, which is why after fifteen years of writing about any number of subjects, it's only the last few years when I've made real progress. I've written good stuff, bad stuff, pointless stuff, silly stuff, honest stuff, stuff that has upset people, stuff that has inspired people, and now I share my passion for cinema and pursuing what you want in life.

It's refreshing to still embrace randomness from time to time though, and during this week's Comic Relief-themed Great British Bake Off I wrote one of those silly observations that constitutes 95% of the noise of social media:

It was a throwaway comment, but I shared it on Facebook as well as Twitter because it was the sort of inane thing that should occupy as many platforms as possible. And in the relative privacy of a discussion among Facebook friends, the response went bananas.

Support for jam, support for butter, support for cheese - all opinions were expressed, positive and negative. Even my friend Helen, who only joined Facebook to organise a hen do and has barely used it since, felt moved to say something on the subject. A decade and a half of trying to share my art with those nearest and dearest to me, and finally I'd hit on the hot topic that had eluded me for so long!


So it's time to blog about crumpets. As a clearly inexperienced crumpet eater, there was only one thing for it - to sample the various toppings under debate. The few times I have eaten crumpets has been with butter, so it only seemed right to try some of the other suggestions.

An 8-pack of Morrison's crumpets (photo by Paul Forrester)

To my local supermarket I journeyed, and the clearance bread shelf immediately sweetened the deal by offering eight crumpets for a measly 49p. For that price I knew Paul Hollywood levels of perfection were unlikely - rather than a soft texture in the middle, it's fair to say they offered a consistent level of gluey stodge throughout - but I had grand lunch plans, so the crumpet didn't need to aspire to anything beyond being a carrier for tastier treats.

If you look closely, you'll see that the packet proclaims the crumpets to be:

"perfect with butter and jam".

Well, I wasn't about to take any notice of that. We live in a world where packets of tortilla wraps come with illustrated instructions for how to fold them. Is it any wonder that Britain no longer rules the world? No, it isn't. So lunch was going to be on my terms, and I started by keeping it simple:

The original discussion witnessed some vehement opposition to cheese, but also some passionate support. I don't like melted cheese usually (it makes me gag), but a crumpet-sized portion was perfectly tolerable. The cheese:stodge ratio was more satisfying than bog-standard cheese-on-toast made with ordinary white bread and, even with the sort of mundane cheddar that supermarkets specialise in selling, it left me wanting more.

So it was time to turn things up to eleven (metaphorically. The grill operates on a standard temperature scale, so I left it at a medium setting). Out of the fridge came some spinach and some already-cooked bacon...

...and the result was a tasty-looking plateful that, in all honesty, remained dominated by cheese and bread. Still perfectly enjoyable to eat, but it was a bit like the time I tried curry on Staffordshire oatcakes - a good idea in theory, but the curry overwhelmed the oatcake and left it floundering like a duck wearing roller skates.

Ooohh-oh-oh, Sweet Crumpet of Mine

Any good crumpet-based lunch naturally demands a third course (the things were near their use by date, don't forget), so it was time to move to something sweet. A jar of strawberry jam had been in the fridge since a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, but it was good until October 2016 and it knew its time had finally come:

Unfortunately, the calibre of the chef played a part here - both in a lack of skill and a lack of quality produce. I'd already turned the grill off, and relied on the residual heat to satisfactorily warm the crumpet. Lukewarm bread, combined with thin, unloved jam, sadly resulted in a tiresome 'dessert' that offered little pleasure in its consumption.

Demoralised, I knew I'd let myself down and all the people who praised jam so highly.

All of which was leading to one inevitable conclusion: butter can be considered the gold standard, and long may it reign, but savoury crumpets are a worthwhile contender for your consideration. And that was fine ... until my phone beeped with a Facebook notification. Somebody had continued the discussion.

With one simple photograph, my cinema-visiting partner-in-crime, James, ensured that this crumpet episode is not over. Not by a long way.

Malteser chocolate spread? YES PLEASE (photo by James Lander)

Malteser chocolate spread? YES PLEASE (photo by James Lander)

Crumpets will return in:

From Crumpets With Love