A meal brings people together and a good meal warms and nourishes our connectionsby Wendell Steavenson / May 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Over Easter weekend I went up to Norfolk to stay with my friends, Vaughan and Pranvera Smith. Vaughan was a Grenadier Guards officer and then a journalist who ran an agency of cameramen covering the Balkan and Caucasus wars of the 1990s. In 2003, he set up the Frontline Club in Paddington as a hub for foreign correspondents. “Like the hotel bars where we would gather in the evening on assignment,” as he likes to describe it, “the kind of place where you can get a good bottle of wine and talk, discuss, share ideas, vent, put the world to rights again.”
Norfolk was sunny but cold and blustery. The fields were striped with chrome yellow rape and blue-green sugar beet leaves; the green grass flowed in the wind and everywhere were rabbits and handsome pheasants promenading as proudly as lords at the Derby. We walked down lanes banked with primroses, wrapping our scarves tightly around our necks against the nipping breeze. Vaughan inherited several hundred acres of farmland and although most of it is rented out, the 50 acres around the house contain asparagus beds, fruit orchards, chickens and Norfolk Horn sheep. Much of the produce finds its way onto the menu at the Frontline Club restaurant; lamb and root-veg pie, rabbit with leeks.
Norfolk Horn sheep have white fleeces, black stocking legs, black faces and great curling horns. Their wool underpinned the wealth of East Anglia in the Middle Ages, when Norwich was the one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the land. It was lambing season. The lambs are born with black baby fuzz, until the white wool grows through, and with long tails which the shepherdess docks with an elastic band to cut off circulation. Their short horn-buds make them look like little devils. At feeding time the mothers stampeded across the field, leaving behind their lambs who ran off in a great pack like children in the playground.