HAfter reading Red Sauce Brown Sauce, I cycled 4 miles to a fishmonger in an industrial area, between a Hertz car rental and a T-shirt printer, to buy a can of Laverbread. What can I say? i am vulnerable Felicity Cloake’s description of the Falmouth to Gowerton bike ride – from Hog’s Pudding headquarters in Cornwall to an algal estuary in South West Wales – made me envious. Not that her journey was entirely painless. Early on, Cloake falls awkwardly into a stream near Bath, and so undertakes much of her odyssey with a ruptured hamstring as well as the usual fatigue, saddle soreness and frustrating detours on thunderous roads familiar to anyone who’s ever driven fairly long distances in britain.
Your book is, quite simply, a quest for the great British breakfast. At a time when too many full-grown adults are munching on instant microwave oatmeal, munching overpackaged cookies, or simply skipping food altogether, Cloake advocates a cooked, local, high-calorie starter as both a treat for your senses and a way to to support smaller, traditional food producers. Like One More Croissant for the Road before it, in which Cloake rode his bike across France, Red Sauce Brown Sauce is both a travel book and a piece of food description. The descriptions of driving through open fields in search of a mustard factory, visiting the unlikely Baked Bean Museum in a Port Talbot apartment block, and crossing the causeway to Holy Island in the Stottie Cake chapter are by turns funny, insightful, and evocative.
Inevitably, Covid hangs over the book like the smell of kippers; Restrictions prevent her from visiting some of the larger and more obvious breakfast destinations such as the Heinz and Marmite factories and would have curtailed her trip to the Isle of Man altogether had she received the email in time. But the result is that Cloake is forced to get a little more creative. She visits tiny butcher shops to try black pudding, made with fresh – rather than dried – blood; she eats honey in a garden in Ceredigion next to a whippet; She visits the house of the Golden Spurtle porridge champions and we accompany her every step of the way.
Whilst the book leans heavily towards the meaty end of the breakfast table – sausages, hog’s pudding, bacon, white pudding, black pudding and haggis – there is still plenty of local delights for vegetarians and vegans, from soda farls and potato bread in Northern Ireland to jam in East Anglia and to Tea and Pikelets in Yorkshire. The chapters are structured by recipes and fact files on everything from the different dialect names for buns, the possible ingredients of an authentic Ulster Fry and the things sold in Scotland, from Callander to roadside Auchtermuchty.
As a greedy woman who loves to cycle across the country in search of a double and even triple breakfast, I was enthralled by this book about a greedy woman who cycles across the countryside and after several decent meals a day seeks. Oh, and the laverbread? Of course it was delicious. I had mine spread on a homemade crust with a glittery base layer of salted butter. Twice.