Since next week sees the start of 'Fed Blogs - a rugby mum's guide to food at away matches' I thought I'd better set the scene by telling you about the 'control' sample. The benchmark for the fare will be, of course, the great grub served by Ms L and her kitchen elves at our local rugby club.
SBOTH currently plays for the under-10s team. At this stage they don't play in fixed positions and there's no scrums or line-outs, but enough contact to make me stock up on comfrey and calpol. It's a great little club, really friendly and welcoming with teams ranging from Tag to pre-Teens. Unfortunately, there's then a big gap from under-13s to the First and Second 15 Senior teams, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
All the coaches are really encouraging, especially when SBOTH first joined and all he knew about rugby was that it made me shout rude words at the telly. Now just starting his second season, he's a more confident, outgoing boy with a great bunch of mates. They may have been underdogs last year (as they had so few players there were none spare to substitute, meaning very tired little legs) but we've had a few new additions over the summer which means they get a chance to rest - or at least skip up and down the touchline to keep warm.
Not that that was even a remote possibility at Congleton earlier this year. Mention Congleton to any of the other parents and they will shudder with a faraway look of horror in their eyes usually reserved for apocalypse survivors. It was a horrible, hellish day. Up early to travel there. Twenty minutes trying to find the place. Temperature below freezing, pitch a mire of thick clay-ey mud that clung to the boys' boots making them heavy and play slow, s the sky unleashing a mix of sleet, snow and biting wind. Never mind the kids, when the ref suggested 'another quick five minutes each way' the parents were in tears. Luckily the ref must have caught the scent of lynch mob and decided to call it a day just before the revolt. I was so cold I can't even remember the result of the match - but let's say we won, eh? We still talk about it in hushed tones and use it as a threat to make the children behave - 'Any more of that and we'll take you back to Congleton, young man!!'
So, back to the food at our club. It's the usual tasty breakfast choices of bacon butty or sausage butty (or be daring and sausage AND bacon) but it's among the nicest I've had. Ms L does the bacon just how YOU like it - just done, medium or crispy. I commit utter sacrilege and take all the fat off mine (bleurgh, bleurgh, bleurgh) but HOTH snaffles it up contentedly. The sausages are plump and juicy and tasty, cooked to perfection and the butties are served on soft white <insert regional word for soft bread roll here>, piping hot and just what you need to set you up for a morning hollering encouragement at small - and some not so small - boys in all weathers when you'd much rather be tucked up in bed nursing a hangover. Whoever decided rugby should be an autumn / winter game needs their heads looking at! Everyone looks forward to the scent of grilling goodies on a Sunday morning. There's also after-match food - burgers, pies & chips - everything you need to grow a budding Chris Robshaw or Mako Vunipola. The lads have trained really hard on the pitch for nearly two hours so the occasional calorific treat won't hurt.
Bearing all this in mind, Fed Blogs will be awarding points on a balls basis. Rugby balls that is. Five balls is perfection, three balls average and so on. Quality & value for money will count towards the score and the judge's (that is, my) decision is final. I will be throwing myself on that sword of sausages purely for research purposes, you understand. I am so dedicated to my craft. The rest of the week will have to be salads and lemon water! Our club is a solid four and a half balls, so the bar is high and there's a lot to live up to. There's no actual prize and I promise not to turn into the next Jay Wallace or Gregg Rayner - it's all in fun.
Right, I'm off to get into training. That ketchup won't squirt itself. Tune in next week for the first instalment of Fed Blogs AND the first Strictly round up of the season! I spoil you, you know!