My first kebab

We never saw Dad much when we were really young. He worked in London, left in his Capri (“Bodie and Doyle have one like this”) and was at the end of the M11 well before we got up for school. He came home late, after dark when we were in bed, usually after a few pints on route. It suited everyone that way, myself Ben and Chris got used to living Mum’s fairly laid back routine and we got to help Dad with his outboard motor or old motorbikes on the weekend. This would have been the very early 80s, the sun always seemed to be shining, myself and Ben where at the local primary school. Genuinely happy days all round.

From left to right, Chris, Ben and myself. Suburban Essex, 1981

One night he came home and woke us up, his bald bird like head appearing round the door next to the nightmare inducing Snoopy poster that mum painted one of us for a birthday. Sat in front of our bunk beds on a small chair, on his lap lay a small paper parcel emitting a strange and pleasant aroma.

“Boys, I’ve got something unbelievably nice to share with you. It’s called a Donner Kebab, it’s from that place the Parish Council tried to put a stop to, run by some Turkish guys, I know them, they’re calling it the Geezlegun Kebab House, but there isn’t a sign up yet”.

We sat and stared as he carefully opened the parcel and displayed it steaming contents. Life would never be the same again.

The meaty stuff was hot, salty and unimaginably tasty. The flat toasted Pitta bread underneath was deliciously soggy and greasy, and there was this hot chilli sauce, the fiery taste that I would come to yearn for the rest of my life. The chilli heat was tempered perfectly with crunchy lettuce and a soothing yoghurt and garlic sauce. This was an initiation into adulthood like no other, the ultimate midnight feast. It brings tears to my eyes and makes my mouth water even thinking about it. I’m glad he never took us fishing or did any of that other contrived “Dad and son” bollocks, it would never have lived up to sharing a Donner Kebab on bunk beds.

The next day at school I sat in front of my lunch with the inevitable disappointment that Shippam’s Fish Paste on sliced brown bread would bring. I looked at the equally revolting contents of my friends lunch boxes, a small part of me had grown up – overnight.

I don’t eat meat anymore so the Donner is off the menu. A bit of a shame, but nothing ever lasts for ever does it?