World Tripe Day: An interview with Sir Norman Wrassle

Today is World Tripe Day and I must admit, I have only just recently cottoned on to this marvelous campaign that seeks to promote the inherent beauty of tripe. Tripe is a quality ingredient and is understated in this country and does not get the recognition it deserves and it should. Personally, I will never forget the day Mum brought back some fresh tripe from the market for our Labrador 'Lucky'. The smell was unforgivable and unforgettable in equal measure and my faithful hound always used to wolf it down with great aplomb.

He died too young that dog and I still miss him but if it wasn't for my dear companion,  I don't think I would ever have tried tripe. And that would have been a crime because there is nothing better than the soft, velvet texture of a feathery, honeycombed stomach that has been left boiling in a stock pot for 56 hours.

Anyway, this whole colonic drive has been orchestrated by none other than the Tripe Marketing Board and in an effort to help spread the word, I decided to get in touch with Sir Norman Wrassel, the inspirational and enigmatic chairman of the TMB (Tripe Marketing Board for short) for an exclusive interview.

Contacting Sir Norman was tricky at first. I kept getting through to a taxi firm in Burnley. But eventually I got through to the man himself and had a brief chat as he went for a double birdie on the golf course at Lytham.

The transcript of the interview is as follows. Although it might not be entirely accurate as there was quite a gale blowing at the time and we couldn't hear each other very well.
Sir Norman Wrassle
Hello Sir Norman, thank you for taking the time out to talk to me, you must be very busy at the moment.

It's fine, it's fine but it's raining pitchforks and hammer handles out here and I've left my galoshes in the Bentley so if you don't mind getting a move on.

OK, great, so where were you born and did you have a pleasant upbringing?

I was born in Wigan in 1940. It was a mixed marriage. My father was a carnivore and my mother was a vegetarian. They both worked in the local tripe factory. My father went on to become a meatball salesman. As a result, I have always been torn between tripe and meatballs. But one thing is certain. I’ll never become a vegetarian. I’ve always been loyal to meat.

It was a traditional working class childhood. Times were hard but no one complained. Apart from my parents.

I remember on one occasion during the War, some German planes on a bombing raid flew over our street. They must have thought it had already been bombed because they turned back

Tell me, what sparked your very first interest in tripe?

Tripe is in my blood. Generations of Wrassles have worked in the tripe industry. In fact, there’s very little blood in my veins. It’s mainly liquid tripe. I’m speaking figuratively, of course. But tripe was a very important part of my diet. You must remember that I grew up during the War when many foods were rationed. But there were plentiful supplies of tripe. In fact I ate little else apart from tripe and meatballs. Not together, of course. Tripe was for weekdays and meatballs were a special treat for Sundays and Bank Holidays.

My mother used to leave me outside the tripe factory in a pram whilst she went to work. When we went home she would have raw tripe hidden in her clothes. Bits of tripe which had been discarded or had been left over. We were always followed by packs of dogs. When she got home she’d start to clean and prepare it. It’s called tripe dressing. One week later it would be ready to eat. I think it was the preparation which turned her into a vegetarian.

And where were you educated and can you give me a brief overview of your career in trade and commerce? I mean, have you always worked in tripe?

I didn’t have much of an education. I bunked off school as much as I could and by the age of six I was grafting on Wigan market at weekends selling pickled cucumbers. I left school at 14 and went full time. I spotted a gap in the market so I opened a second stall. At the age of 18 I was seriously injured when I fell off the back of a lorry. That’s how I got into surgical appliances which is how I made my first fortune.

So what was the driving force behind setting up the Tripe Marketing Board? And how is the campaign going? Can you give me any real figures for rising or dipping sales in tripe?

I didn’t set up the Tripe Marketing Board. It was set up by the government back in the 1970s in order to promote sales of tripe. I have been its chairman since 1997. We’re good at promoting tripe but you can’t force it down people’s throats. That’s no longer part of our strategy. But despite our best efforts, sales of tripe continue to decline. According to our latest research, sales of tripe are at their lowest ever levels at around 0.0002g per person per year. But we look on this as a positive. Because if lots of tripe was being sold there’d be no need for the Tripe Marketing Board and I’d be out of a job!

And we can't be having that now can we Sir Norman! I see that you have many celebrities on board including Jessica Ennis (a gold-medal winning athlete and star of a TV advert for Santander), Norman Whiteside (former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer) and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson (Paralympic gold medallist who incidentally follows you on Twitter), all self confessed lovers of tripe. Do you have any other famous fans waiting in the wings?

David Lloyd has outed himself as being partial to a bit of elder. We know of lots more celebrities who are partial to tripe but they’re afraid to admit it in public because they think it will damage their reputation. That’s because tripe has an old fashioned image and that’s why we’re trying to give it a makeover and make it sexy. I know that at least two of the stars of The Only Way Is Essex are partial to tripe and we understand from our colleagues at US Tripe that Miley Cyrus is a big fan of tripe, too. But that’s strictly off the record.
Former tripe dressers
I reckon you should get Great British Bake Off winner Frances Quinn involved, as there are persistent rumours on Twitter that she continually used desiccated tripe as one of her secret ingredients to win Mary Berry over.

I’m afraid I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. Sorry.

OK, well ......are there any plans to publish a cookery book proper? I know there are some recipes on your website. Lancashire Calamari is a certainly smash hit in our house on a Tuesday night. Actually, whenever I ask "What night is it tonight kids?" they always cheer back "TRIPE NIGHT!", what's your favourite tripe recipe by the way?

We did have plans but I’m afraid my autobiography got in the way. It’s provisionally called A Life Of Tripe and I’ve nearly finished writing it. It spills the beans on what life is really like in the tripe industry. It covers everything from my childhood in the back streets of Wigan to my meteoric rise to successful businessman and chairman of the TMB. It definitely pulls no punches and will be well worth reading. My favourite recipe is definitely old fashioned stewed tripe and onions.
Dog tripe
Here's an idea, have you thought about pitching the BBC about formulating a new(ish) cookery show format called the Great British Tripe Off?

Did you say Jewish cookery show? No. We have no plans to do that. Tripe is for everybody.

It definitely is. Whatever happened to Tripe Hut, your chain of fast food restaurants?

Tripe Hut was a franchise which operated back in the early 70s for about two weeks. It was privately owned and had nothing to do with the Tripe Marketing Board. The history of Tripe Hut is told in a chapter called ‘Tripe - Food Of The Gods’ in a very good book entitled Forgotten Lancashire And Parts Of Cheshire And The Wirral by Dr Derek J Ripley which I can recommend highly.

More importantly, whatever happened to Timothy Tripe, the mascot of the Tripe Hut chain of fast food restaurants who was attacked by a Jack Russell whilst promoting tripe in Wigan in 1979?

Are you referring to the mascot or the person who wore the mascot costume? The man who wore the costume was traumatised by the attack and became a vegan. I believe the costume was recycled and became Marvin the Moose, the mascot of Cambridge United FC.

The Tripe Girls
You have a 10 step programme for people who suffer from reticulumophobia* which advises people to look at pictures of tripe. And then advises them to try and touch pictures of tripe. And then advises them to buy tripe in cling flim (but not touching). And then advises people to have a stiff drink before touching the tripe in cling film. To finally opening the cling film and physically touching the tripe. Do you have a good success rate through this method and what is the worst case of reticulumophobia* you've encountered?

I’m afraid I can’t claim credit for the programme. It’s the brainchild of Dr. BF Skynyrd of the Department of Psychology, Philosophy and Home Economics at the University of Wigan. You’ll have to contact him. A summary of his research is published in The Tripe Marketing Board 2014 Diary as How To Overcome Your Fear of Tripe In 10 Easy Steps.

And finally, where do we go from here with tripe?

Tripe is what you make it. I’m sure you will understand that I am extremely busy preparing for the inaugural celebration of World Tripe Day tomorrow and will have to leave it there as I have an appointment for a manicure and full body massage in Blackpool in 20 minutes.

Thank you Sir Norman, it was a pleasure talking to you.
Love life. Love tripe
And there you have it. A somewhat illuminating and rigorous interview, I am sure you will agree. Right up there with Frost and Nixon, getting to the heart of the matter and hopefully debunking some myths about tripe.

However, if you would like some more information regarding this glorious, effervescent offal, I would urge you to go out and buy the Tripe Marketing Board's Diary for 2014. Which not only contains a whole range of tips, recipes and some very interesting facts about the tripe industry but by doing so, you will be helping the Snowdon Trust who will benefit enormously in the run up to Christmas. It may well help finance further activity by the TMB (Tripe Marketing Board) as well.

So it's down to you folks, the future of tripe is in your hands.

*I patented this phobia by the way, a fear of tripe in 1995 and I am still waiting to hear back from the Oxford English Dictionary for its insertion into the nation's lexicon.

Disgruntled after being mis-sold pluck disguised as tripe by The Ginger Pig. A predatory and illegal activity that the TMB (Tripe Marketing Board) is keen to stamp out


Unknown said…
you have WAY too much time on your hands... thankfully for us all or your genius would be squandered on actually earning money...
kerstin said…
Food on the radio would be enormously improved if they got you to write the scripts!

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