Market Place: Bury

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The Independent Culture
Anyone grieving over the demise of regional British food should take a trip to Bury market. Though lily-livered southerners might balk at some of the raw materials - cow's heels, pigs' feet, and Bradshaw of Padiham's quality tripe ('eat it cold with salads, or hot stewed with milk') - the experience is an antidote to hypermarket uniformity. And few will turn their noses up at Chorley cakes, ginger parkin and oven-bottom muffins.

Heels, feet and tripe are all stocked at Mary Chadwick's stall, but her business is more renowned for its hoard of Bury's most famous delicacy. Black pudding has been sold on this market since at least 1865 when Joshua Thompson, a Cumberland wrestler, set up stall. December is its high season. Punters pay their 37p, ask for 'fatty' or 'lean' and collect a bulbous package of hot, cooked blood, fresh from the vat. The fatty pud is a smashing specimen: plump, taut and full of flavour, yet the lean brand is a dryish, thin thing - black pudding without fat is like Pinky without Perky.

People descend on Bury from all over the North-west on market days. Recently they were entertained by a busking bagpiper, lurking in the subway like a bronchitic octopus. Last week a gang of old women from Bolton were out on the razzle. Piping-hot pudding in hand ('We like a bit of fat'), they joined a crowd drooling over some roasted ham shanks. Nearby, a health-food stall with its clinical arrangement of vitamins, lotions and tablets lay deserted. If Edwina Currie were still food minister, she'd be turning in her gravy. But thankfully, her mission to scrape clean the arteries of the North failed - and the proof is in the pudding. Phil Harriss

Market: Wed, Fri, Sat; Hall: Mon, Wed, Sat