I grew up in the north East of England. Bits of it are lovely. There is gorgeous moorland, there are lakes, the odd vibrant city, or historic cathedral town.
Then there’s Middlesbrough.
It has a population of around 130,000, a fairly mundane 19th century industrial centre, and a credible modern art museum featuring a very large Claues Oldenberg sculpture. It was the birthplace of the explorer James Cook, and is about as pleasant to spend time in as an industrial wood-chipper.
In fact, it is one of the very few places I less enjoy spending time than my nearby home town of Darlington.
But where Darlington has made precisely no contribution to the culinary field, Middlesbrough has, in an odd way, distinguished itself. For Middlesbrough has given us the Parmo.
Think of it as a gnarled and diseased branch of the Parmigiana family tree; one that’s moved up north in some nameless disgrace, and opened a takeaway. It’s some of the dirtiest fast food you can hope to put in your face, and this weekend I have been re-creating this regional delicacy for some of the good folk of Cambridge and Ely.