Proof of the pudding?
Moving on from my gastronomic experience yesterday which made brief mention of a ploughman's lunch, here is the real thing - an excellent example that I have enjoyed on several visits to Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, seat of the Duke of Devonshire. I have often wondered why the English aristocracy with county names can't live in their own counties, but that's not important right now, so I'll continue with what I really wanted to say:
The stable block of this stately home offers a choice of culinary styles for all tastes: fast food, (bare hands); self service cafeteria, (knives, forks and plastic-topped tables), and a finely furnished restaurant with liveried waiters in attendance. It is the latter which offers the superb ploughman's lunch (ironically once the food of the poorest!) with estate grown or bred comestibles piled high on oaken platters accompanied by fine wines (not home produced) or ale, which is!
Another thing I have often wondered is whether the food eaten in such comfortable and relaxed surroundings really tastes so much better than the rest, or if the small premium paid for the privilege merely creates an incentive to enjoy, but enjoy it I certainly do, especially if followed by a slice of home made Bakewell pudding - not the mass produced over-sweet tart of that name, but something entirely different!
Originally made in the 1860s by a new cook at an hotel just along the road from here who, misreading the recipe for a strawberry tart, created an accidental result so greatly enjoyed by the customers that her 'secret recipe' became the foundation of a business which thrives to this day in the pretty little Peak District town where several bakeries bearing variants of the names Bakewell Tart or Bakewell Pudding now do a roaring trade selling their wares to tourists as well as by mail order.
I have been visiting Chatsworth on and off since the early 1950s and have seen it grow from early attempts to cover maintenance and running costs by charging a visitors to visit and admire the buildings and artworks, to a full-blown and highly commercialised visitor attraction. I still go there whenever I am in the area - but now only for the food.
Today's extra - "The secret recipe" (See background story above)