The old saying goes, “You are what you eat”. Which perhaps explains why the French are known to insultingly refer to the English as “the roast beef,” who contributed to the cross-Channel slang match with the term “frogs,” while denigrating the Germans with the nickname of “krauts”. ‘, for good measure. So, it follows that the Liverpudlians are “Scousers”. Although in this case the nickname was much more favorably received – even adopted.
Scouse – in case you didn’t know – is a stew. In fact, it’s traditionally Liverpool’s most popular dish. The Scouse can contain potatoes, carrots, onions and, depending on the chef’s desire, beef or lamb. The bon scouse has a side of red cabbage or beetroot; “Blind scouse” is the usual stew minus the meat. The more you learn about scouse, the more you realize that it is less of a defined dish and more of a loose philosophy of throwing holes in a pot.
“There’s no right or wrong with the scouse,” says Carly Lea, of Maggie May’s Cafe Bar in the downtown area. “You can use whatever you have. According to Carly regulars, Maggie May’s serves as the definitive scouse. The flat in front of me is thick, hot: fuel for the sailors battling the Atlantic rigging. Most of the cafe’s patrons are locals, Carly tells me; she has many widowers who order the stew, perhaps remembering home-cooked scous dinners in the past. The walls are covered with maps and photos of Liverpool through the ages, its incarnation in the 19th century as one of the busiest port cities in the world. Outside the tall windows, afternoon crowds flock along Bold Street – the artery where ship ropes were once made. Today, it is full of independent boutiques: large design stores, vintage clothing stores, small galleries. A few doors down is the radical News from Nowhere community bookstore, which has sections titled “Anti-Capitalism” and “Dirty Thieving Bastards” and shelves full of scou stories.