Two large bowls of jellied eels - FUNERAL
That's what I like about the Essex Road (one of my earliest posts was in praise of it): it keeps it real, bruv.
Jellied eels somehow seem a more appropriate accompaniment to a funeral than baked meats. I can see the mourners exchanging regretful comments between lugubrious spoonfuls of silvery eel and golden jelly, turning away occasionally to suck on the odd piece of protuberant cartilage. Disgusting.
I like seafood and I like pies so it pains me to say how much I dislike traditional Cockney delicacies. I think it's fairly self-evident what's not to like about eels, even though they are very popular with some (all of them too: my old Pop - my London-born step-grandfather - used to scoff even the cartilage). But with pie and mash, what seems promising is let down by poor execution.
The last time I tried a portion was at Clarke's, down on Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell. Gritty mince, leathery pastry, insipid liquor and watery mashed potato. The application of lots of malt vinegar and white pepper got me through it. It was very cheap, mind, and they were quite busy.
It pains me to be so critical - I really would like to enjoy Cockney grub. It corresponds to what otherwise I've always understood to be good and true in the world. In fact, I can't think of another instance where I haven't liked the local, traditional, everyday food of a place (unless it's featured tripe): pelmeni, wurstl, pizza, croque monsieur, balti, burgers, gallettes, chips and mayo, waffles, herring (pickled and smoked), tapas, salt beef, stovies, noodles, fish and chips, tacos, kebabs, knishes, dosas, phô, pasties. And so on. No, I really would like to enjoy Cockney grub. But I just can't.
P.S. Poached cods roe, dipped in beaten egg, rolled in seasoned flour, then shallow-fried and eaten with chopped parsley and a squirt of lemon. Words fail me.