Ever since pies shot to fame following their appearance on the 1961 episode of “Big Fat Quiz of the Year” (I didn’t know Jimmy Carr was that old either), other food items have been vying to get a slice of the action. Chefs across the globe knew that if they could get their signature dish on the plate with a Friday pie, they would be set for life – and so began the most hotly contested food pairing championship since the Bread Trials of ’36 (‘and butter’ won, with ‘garlic’, the concept of crustlessness, and ‘tiger’ not far behind).
Indeed, modern day pie eaters, so used to seeing their favourite dish accompanied by mash or chips, might not know that it was not always so. In those first, heady days when pie had just rocketed onto the Friday schedule, it was perfectly usual to see a pie paired with spaghetti or shoe leather – two combinations that would raise eyebrows today.
So how did mash and chips come to share the spotlight with pie? Well, not without considerable difficulty.
In order to determine which side dish was most worthy of sitting alongside the Friday pie, the Pionic Elders devised a complex system of tests, scored out of ten, for all the likely candidates. As these tests were carried out in secret, no member of the public has ever been privy to the selection process – until now.
The Council of Pionic Elders, as a part of the transparency requirements intended to alleviate the public’s concerns about corruption, has graciously allowed me to describe the process, in full, for the people of the Internet.
- Swede fritters
- Soft boiled eggs
- Lemon curd biscuits
- Candied raisins
These contenders were chosen based on a public vote facilitated by the newly founded polling organisation, PiePoll. It’s worth noting that the poll did not specify whether the pie in question was sweet or savoury, hence the somewhat jarring popularity of candidates three and four.
Mash and chips were very much the underdogs in the race, since both had just won high profile pairings, with sausage and fish respectively. Reports suggest that the bookies offered odds of 25:1 for mash and 18:1 for chips to win, and the suggestion that there would be a tie, as was indeed the case, was laughable.
Eggs were the favourites to win, as it was speculated that the soft yolks would mingle with the gravy very pleasingly.
Outside the Houses of Pieliament, an anxious crowd looked on, waiting for the Council’s verdict to be presented.
Round One: Durability.
Method: Prospective sides were flung at a brick wall from a distance of 10yds. Their structural integrity was then rated out of ten, with the highest score going to the candidate which most resembled its pre-flung form.
Rationale: Pionic Elders that if pie was to be widely consumed on a Friday, it risked getting caught up in TGI Friday revelry. Therefore any dish hoping to accompany the pie would need to be able to hold its own despite rough treatment.
- Swede fritters: 9/10. Those firm bastards barely batted an eye at being flung at a wall.
- Soft boiled eggs: 2/10. Carnage. Yolk everywhere, even over the Head Piester’s new robes.
- Lemon curd biscuits: 7/10. Lemon curd smeared; a few crumbs. Biscuits largely unscathed (possibly had been overbaked).
- Candied raisins: 0/10. Scattered.
- Mash: 3/10. Splattered.
- Chips: 4/10. Smushed.
Round Two: Healthiness.
Method: The Council members dined exclusively on one candidate for a week; the least poorly member was deemed to have consumed the most healthy option.
Rationale: The Council believed it had a duty of care to the general public, and were willing to sacrifice their own peak physical condition for the good of the nation.
- Swede fritters: 8/10. Although the Council member vomited at every meal from swede-induced disgust, she had a lovely rosy glow.
- Soft boiled eggs: 7/10. Protein-rich diet meant massive gains.
- Lemon curd biscuits: 1/10. No teeth.
- Candied raisins: -1/10. Dead.
- Mash: 0/10. Butter-based artery congestion.
- Chips: 0/10. Heart disease.
Round Three: Deliciousness.
Method: Council members partook in each contesting dish, rating the flavoursomeness out of ten. The dishes were sampled alongside a pie of the members’ choosing, in order to inject an element of authenticity into the precedings.
Rationale: Tastiness is next to goodliness.
Things were pretty dire for mash and chips, trailing Swede Fritters by thirteen (chips) and fourteen (mash) points. They needed a miracle – and luckily it came in the shape of an over-enthusiastic and very hungry Council member.
- Swede fritters: 0/10. Awful.
- Soft boiled eggs: 4/10. Nothing to write home about.
- Lemon curd biscuits: 3/10. Not to be eaten with pie.
- Candied raisins: 0/10. Clashed terribly with the gravy.
- Mash: 15/10. Fabulous!!!
- Chips: 14/10. Delicious!!! (After a stern glance from the Pionic Elder, the over-enthusiastic council member amended his scores from 58/10 and 34/10 to a more respectable 24 and 19).
And so it was decided – pie was married to chips and mash forever. Potato had triumphed!