If you walk down the lovely high street that traverses the centre of Maldon in Mid Essex, you come across something that has become pretty rare in England: a pie and mash shop (and a good one to boot). Being the purveyors of traditional East London food stuffs that they are, they also do stewed and jellied eels, but a) not particularly liking fish and b) never understanding the local connection, I so far stayed clear of this local delicacy.
Well, ‘local’ in this case is probably -in the true sense of the word – far fetched. Until a few days ago I wouldn’t have had a clue about the provenance of the eels sold in mid – Essex, but then I wasn’t aware of a charming little book called ‘Maldon and the Tidal Blackwater, Volume 1’ that I acquired for a mere two quid from a misleading titled second hand book store called ‘Simply The Best Frames’ (conveniently located just a few yards away from the pie shop). I was under the impression that I bought a quick recap of the local history, but after opening it I realised that I actually bought the ‘History of the Heybridge Basin Eel Industry 1928’. Maybe the picture of four sturdy men with a large net full of eels – instead of one of the East – Saxons that founded the place – should have made me suspicious. As it is a rather slim volume that somehow made it into my holiday reading pile, I took it for an afternoon on the beach and read it in one go. It beautifully details the history of Maldon as the capital of eel distribution in the South-East over the last seventy years.
I have been there plenty of times, happily munching away at my pie with mash and baked beans, but last week a friend of mine ventured in there and brought some eels home. I didn’t particularly wanted to come close to them, but I have been reassured that they are amazing.
So, before you venture to Maldon, read up on its Eel related history and if you’re so inclined, have some. Just another reason to visit this little jewel.