Bangers and mash could be called the British meatloaf and mashed potatoes; the same comfortable, homey thoughts come to mind at the mention of both. It is the cheap, quick, satisfying meal that Mums served up, and continue to serve up on a Saturday, or mid-week, or when the grown-up children come round for a meal.
Bangers are pork sausages made from pork pieces that are ground more finely than American sausage, mildly seasoned, and are stuffed into sheep’s intestine, twisted into links. As with much of British food, it is best to draw a veil over the actual ingredients, at least as far as our squeamish American sensibilities are concerned. Suffice to say, it is a staple of British cuisine.
British men, in recalling bangers and mash, have been known to go dreamy-eyed in remembering what has been referred to as “the best place to have them”; the beach. English beaches are not for the American used to Panama City Beach in Florida; the water is gray and tossed in white-caps, the wind bursts in chilly hustles with sand in its wake. A few hardy souls brave the water, then scamper to the safe windbreak provided by the sand dunes. Wrapped in towels, they hover around the fire where Mum is cooking the picnic dinner of bangers and mash.
Here, in the banked coals of the fire, whole potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil are tucked until, when done, they are unwrapped and broken open, steaming in the too-cool air. The bangers are skewered on long sticks, like the Americans do hot dogs, and roasted in the flames until the skin of the intestine begins to pop open-hence the name. A plate held on bare knees loaded with fire-baked potato, split open and pooling with butter, salt and pepper, together with a couple of bangers drizzled with ketchup (or tomato sauce, as the British call it), and a day at the beach is complete.
Bangers and mash can be served with onion gravy, is called “pub grub”, and if truth be told, is really for the common man. The fact that the name “banger” goes back at least as far as 1919 says to us that it has stood the test of time. A large, slightly over-roasted banger, the skin curling back just a bit to reveal the juices beneath has been making mouths water for probably more than a century.
You could say it might even be fit for a queen.