Cambridge Characters: Uncle Frank
This week’s Cambridge character quite possibly revived you from near death with a fistfull of chips and a can of cold Rio just last week. LAURA GRAYLING and POPPY MORRIS speak to the infamous Uncle Frank…
After squandering our precious student loans on countless cheesy chips, the man in the Van (of Life) still can’t correctly scribble Laura’s name. He called her Stacey, Mary-Jo-Lisa…actually he didn’t… he called her Cora. How many people do you know called Cora outside Downton Abbey?
Of course there is an alternative to our beloved trailer. We might not have met him yet but we all have an Uncle Frank. The Van of Death is as much a part of Cambridge as porters and punts and it was high time we paid this culinary critter a visit.
In the interests of scientific research, we abstained from our customary 2am homeward stagger, sauntering over to Market Squareat 9.04pm. Sober as the clergy, we weren’t the Van of Death’s usual clientele. Lola Lo’s wasn’t even open yet.
We were quickly introduced to the big cheese in the Van of Death pond. His name was Zaza and he meant business. He was quick to downplay the hostility between him and the Van of the Life but admitted he would ‘never’ eat there.
Our questions ranged from the commonplace to the frankly obscure including such gems as ‘What came first the kebab or the kebab van?’ and ‘If you could batter any object what would it be?’ When we were hit with the answers ‘what?!’ and ‘sausage’, we knew we were in for a rough ride.
Undeterred, we changed tack. Stirring up the age-old college rivalry, we asked him to name his favourite. A pensive pause. ‘Cambridge Regional College’ came the response. That’s controversial.
Perhaps we can forgive this slip.Cambridge students, much as he likes them, are not his target audience. Believe it or not he claims his main clientele are those he distracts away from the charms of Yo Sushi! next door. Quite a radical change of dinner plans but he assured us it works for him. The charms of his battered sausage must be quite overwhelming.
Have you ever eaten an egg burger? Or indeed ever heard of one? We were woefully unaware of this culinary masterpiece, the headstone if you will on the Van of Death’s menu. Zaza swore it was the best thing this side of Hades. We weren’t convinced by this ovine offering, sticking with a classic chicken kebab. You know where you stand with chicken on a stick.
Just four months into the job, Zaza wielded the ketchup bottle over our carton of delights as if he were destined for the Masterchef final. And you know what, it wasn’t bad. With a herby subtlety and enough salad to keep Gillian McKeith at bay, Zaza could make a kebab even a sober person would eat. I’d definitely ask him for his coleslaw recipe.
But one thing is left unsaid. Zaza is a Cambridge character in a great man’s shadow. We never got to the bottom of the ‘Who is Uncle Frank?’ mystery. Some say he clocks on at 10:30 every night. Others swear he hasn’t graced the Van of Death for years. Or as Zaza suggested, he might just be in the car.
All we know is that he is a Cambridge Character who would rather remain unknown. But in the meantime Zaza, his apprentice and their crispy chippy goodness were enough to steal our hearts. See you after Lola’s. And yes, we too noticed that there was no apostrophe…