One of my most vivid childhood memories is being at home from school with the flu, and Dad bringing me a steaming meat pie from the local bakery. In the Stephenson household, pies were obviously the comfort food equivalent of chicken soup. Needless to say, the culinary landscape of my youth and early adulthood is littered with the carcasses of dodgy pies (remember the horrific slabs of mince and cheese from Georgie Pie, anyone?)
The pie, however, was one of the earliest casualties of my decision to ditch meat nine years ago. Vegetarian options were obviously a concept too far for most manufacturers, and so began my fatwa against the pasty-encased delights.
Until this week, that is, when I stumbled across Pieminister, a cute wee cafe in Bristol's St Nicholas's Market. Along with the usual meaty suspects, I discovered possibly the world's most delectable veggie pies, crammed full of mushrooms and asparagus, studded with hunks of sweet potato and goats cheese, and nestled under a soft, buttery duvet. Hitching a ride was a mountain of mashed spuds, mushy peas and delicious vegetarian gravy.
The carb fest is served on the sort of enamel plates I remember from Girl Guides, and diners chow down at communal tables – so old skool cool it hurts. I Googled them as soon as I and my straining belly got home: apparently the company was born here in Bristol in the early 90s by two young blokes who wanted to change the way the world looked at pies. They now have several outlets around the UK, sell to pubs and cafes all over the shop, and are stocked by numerous supermarkets.
Truly a red-letter week: not only did I end my pie drought, I also supported a local business and got to scoff some of the best food to pass my lips in a long time.
Probably best to blot out all thoughts of cholesterol count and diet fallout, though.