In a new series, chef, food writer and Borough Market blogger Luke Mackay talks about his life-long relationship with food, cooking and the Market
Words: Luke Mackay
Image: John Holdship
Three years ago, I stopped doing cookery demos and writing for Borough Market in order to set up my own businesses and have babies. Both of these are equally demanding, fun, exhausting and occasionally awful, and in that three-year hiatus, I only visited the Market once and a bit like my 30th birthday, we only really played in the outskirts. My business partner and I had a ‘meeting’ with my wine supplier that involved most of the pubs in Southwark and ended at The Rake with a pint of incredibly strong, incredibly expensive and incredibly delicious beer that sent us all immediately to bed.
I just didn’t have time to visit more—for the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t a regular visitor. And I missed it terribly. I had a lot of contact with various traders and I heard all of the gossip through the grapevine, but it wasn’t the same as breathing in the Market mist and smelling the heady mix of coffee, comte and chorizo on a regular basis. Most of all, I missed my Monmouth coffee and sausage roll breakfast combo, enjoyed as the Market whirs into life. If I had to pick a treasured moment—when I’m at my most content—that would be it.
But then things, as they always do, changed, and for a variety of reasons that I won’t bore you with now, I suddenly had a bit of time on my hands. The first call I made was to my friends in the Market office and after a coffee and a chat, I was back in the fold. Walking around after that meeting, I was quietly amazed at what they had done in three years. I couldn’t put my finger on it (which is entirely to the Market’s credit)—it was just…. better. Cleaner, livelier, more ‘relevant’ somehow, but without sacrificing anything that had made it so special for so many people, for so many years.
The demo saddle
I wrote a few bits and pieces on some Borough community events which were great fun to attend and got back in the demo saddle with some oily fish recipes that seemed to go down well. Thankfully it was like riding a bike, but it was incredibly nerve-wracking—the Market matters to me, and I didn’t want to balls it up after so much time away.
This series of six posts for the Borough website has felt embarrassingly self-indulgent to write at times and reading back all six I cringed in and outwardly, but I hope what comes across is my genuine love and enthusiasm for the place (I never say ‘passionate’—most over-used word in food writing). It’s an old friend now—it’s not and never will be perfect, like me, like all of us but it’s the best at what it does and it works because passionate (DAMN IT) people get up in the dark and make it so.
If you’ve never visited, do. If I’m there, say hello and I’ll show you the best bits and the secret toilets. I treasure the Market like I do my closest friends, and I couldn’t be prouder of what has been and will continue to be A Borough Life.