In memory of Joe’s artisanal truck stop

A reminiscence by Stephen Hickmore – I love to visit those home-grown markets that have sprung up in recent years. Overall, they’re very cheery and showcase wonderful local crafts and industry. Along with the craft gins, crushed linen, recycled designer handbags and handmade shoes there’s a myriad of food trucks and stalls.  Artisan burgers, Vegan specialities, Crusty craft bread, Hand tossed pizza (that one concerns me, much) and organically farmed bacon. Anyhow, the stands, trucks and converted Venter trailers are festooned with attractive adornments reigned over by their tattooed, bearded, skinny jeaned, man bun-ed foodie blog friendly occupants – stylishly basting, turning, grilling and farm buttering. The air filled with tempting aromas and the sound of champagne and designer gin infused soccer Moms tucking into falafel and paella. A blissful Saturday scene of the sustainable, home-made, artisanal and rudely overpriced.

I’m a sucker for a good breakfast me.  So, I generally make a beeline for the nearest artisanal food truck proclaiming ‘Best Bacon Butty in Jozi’ featuring a millennial ‘bacon butty chef’. Ahh, that nose-seducing draw of grilled bacon. Some aromas are particularly nostalgic, don’t you think?

Befitting my age, I often reminisce about my childhood in England. Yes, where the summer days were long, and we rode our push bikes along the blackberry hedged country lanes without danger of being accosted. Yep, that old chestnut.

Imagine it’s 1975. In a quiet spot just off the A46 road somewhere in England between Lincoln and Newark there once was an old caravan the destination for our bike rides. Not any old caravan, this was Joe’s truck stop, and he made the best bacon baps by far. For 20p we could wrap our spotty teenage chops around a fresh made bap filled with thick cut back bacon, a fried egg, a bit of lettuce and a bright red slice of tomato. De-lish-ous. And, of course there was Joe. A world war two veteran, regimental tattoo on his left arm, stained white apron. He was a grumpy guy. But, by gosh, he could rock a bacon butty! His ingredients were, no doubt, organic, free range and artisan. After all, Joe had the pick of Lincolnshire’s farms to procure his food, it was cheaper than the supermarkets and tastier. All rather unceremoniously put together by our veterans’ own calloused hands (no HACCP, but us 1970’s British kids didn’t care much for hygiene)

Flash forward 44 years to Neighbourgoods market Jozi or the Old Biscuit Mill Cape Town on a regular Saturday morning. The markets are vibey, trendy, cosmopolitan and clean. Though, to be honest the bacon butty is much the same as my childhood memory, as artisanal, as handmade, as organic, just far more expensive. It’s served more lovingly by a checked shirted hipster chef with a kitchen knife or surreal cheese board tattoo, rather than a gruff old codger with faded regimental ink.

Somewhere along the line we’ve managed to gentrify the humble bacon sarmie don’t you think? We’ve made it Instagram friendly, food blog quotable, celebrity chef indorsed. People please?

I wonder what Joe would think if he were around to tuck into his breakfast at a 2019 hippy market. A nostalgic grin slowly spreading across his weathered face. “Aye” he would say “’tis a bit o’ awe-rite this in’t it?” as he wiped Kayty’s sundried tomato concasse from his chin.

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