Keele Icons – Navarin of Lamb
I had lunch at Munch, the cafe in the Students’ Union, yesterday. The extensive menu (pictured) was supplemented by deli type shelves that wouldn’t have been out of place at Waitrose, and a salad bar. Fresh coffee, still ans sparkling water, a range of soft drinks, it was all there and pretty reasonably priced too
If that wasn’t enough there was a set of stall outside the union selling things like beef jerky, Staffordshire eggs (which, on closer inspection, turned out to be scotch eggs with six different fillings), noodles and so on
There’s also a cafe called ST5 which offers ‘fresh fast food’ and Street Food at the Atrium in the Chancellor’s building
All in all a far cry from the days of eating in refectories in the seventies where the catering manager, the legendary A.J.Murden, the renowned pioneer of freeze-dried whole meals, who’d implemented a blast freezing system in every refectory. Among the advertised benefits of blast freezing is reduced food wastage, increased kitchen efficiency and that damaging bacteria is rendered dormant, minimising food spoilage. All music to Murden’s ears, no doubt but the output was never really able to please his customers. The claim that ‘colour, texture, flavour, structure and nutritional value is locked in’ by blast freezing is likely to be met with hoots of derision from seventies graduates
I hope that some of you will contribute more culinary delights, but among those I remember best are Saute Chicken Chasseur, Pan Haggerty (the name is much better than the reality – potato gloop with a bit of cheese on top), and, possibly with a nod to non blast freeze catering, Glenryck’s Tinned Pilchards in Tomato Sauce
But the king of them all, the big beast in the Murden jungle, was undoubtedly Navarin of Lamb. According to Wikipedia, Navarin is a French ragout (stew) of lamb or mutton. If made with lamb and vegetables available fresh in the spring, it is called navarin printanier (spring stew). While some claim the name comes from the 1827 Battle of Navarino, more probably it refers to the stew’s traditional inclusion of turnips – navet, in French. Delicious!
Sadly, whatever the origin, in reality Murden’s version was pretty dire and to be avoided at all costs unless there really was no other choice on the menu (see Tinned Pilchards, above – Hobson’s choice indeed). Happily the Queen Mother visited Keele in April 1972 to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the University. What she had to eat and drink will probably never be known, but Cygnet, edited by the fearless Brian Stewart, effectively ended Navarin’s reign of terror, with the headline students of the time will instantly recall
Murden never quite had the courage to but it back on the menu after that!