Monday, March 17, 2008

British Delicacies

Nostalgia is creeping in as my time in England comes to an end. I’m looking at everyday occurrences in new lights- knowing that this part of my life, yet another unforgettable segment, will soon be over. There are so many minute differences between American culture and English culture that a regular tourist would never be exposed to. Most of all- cuisine.

I’ve always considered cuisine to be one of the most interesting differences to note between cultures. A population is generally tied to their food and in some cases, is defined by it. What do we think when we hear “Italy”? Pasta, of course. France? Cheese and Baguettes. India? Naan and spicy colorful unidentifiables. Australia? Shrimp on the Barbie! America? McDonalds…unfortunately.
England, as I have come to see it, is a fish and chips, meat and potatoes, beer culture. That being said, living with two British men has enlightened me to a status of British culinary expertise. The eating habits of these individuals never cease to amaze me. Almost every day, someone comes up with a new concoction or recipe that causes me to look twice. In fact, I spend a large portion of my meals discussing the merits of two of my favorites: noodle sandwiches and beans on toast.

Pasta sandwiches: eaten on a regular basis around the flat at varying mealtimes. Originally, I thought “chip baps” (fries stuck in between a buttered bun) were bad, until I witnessed the roommate shoving ramen noodles between two pieces of bread and actually enjoying it. After speaking to a few more individuals about this incident, I have been educated about the merits of this apparently normal and accepted practice. Evidently, pasta sandwiches are “lovely” and I should really “crack on and try one sometime.” A carbohydrate sandwich…thanks, but no thanks.

Beans on toast: a great mystery to me and a dietary staple to Brits- at least the Brits that I know. Without fail, once a day, I witness someone eating beans on toast: two pieces of toasted white bread and half a can of baked beans- and if we are being particular here, the beans must generally come from a turquoise Heinz can available in all supermarkets across the U.K.. The entire meal costs far less than a pound and is apparently very filling covering two of the basic food groups- protein and grain. I’ve also seen fancy versions of beans on toast with accompaniments of foods ranging from scrambled eggs to cheese- therefore making beans on toast quite a versatile dish as well. I have indeed sampled this delicacy and although I wasn’t blown away, I didn't gag.

The oddities are endless when it comes to the diets of British citizens. Below is a list of the top ten discoveries I've made. Most I refuse to try but others I have come to love;

1. Yorkshire Pudding: Made from flour, eggs and milk. It’s a batter baked in the oven and usually moistened with gravy. Rarely used as a desert and more frequently eaten as a starter or with meat at a Sunday roast.

2. Toad In The Hole: Similar to Yorkshire Pudding but with sausages (toads) placed in the batter before cooking. One thing I learned the hard way- it is imperative to not open the oven while cooking or the batter will fall and you will end up with dead toads on a board.

3. Fish and Chips: Deep fried fish (usually cod or haddock) in a flour or beer batter with thick-cut French fries drenched in malt vinegar. Fish and Chips are typically bought at a chip shop (or “Chippie”) and either eaten on the premises or taken home. Rarely are Fish and Chips cooked in a residential kitchen.

4. Ploughman’s Lunch: A plate consisting of a piece of cheese (usually a variation of cheddar), a bit of pickled onion, and a chunk of bread, and a bit of lettuce. Ploughman’s sandwiches are also available pre-packaged at all gas stations and food stops around England.

5. Shepherds’ Pie: A thick and buttery pie crust filled with minced lamb and vegetables in gravy topped with mashed potato.

6. Bubble and Squeak: The name is a description of the action and sound made while cooking this meal. The chief ingredients are potato and cabbage, but any other vegetables can be added- usually whatever is left over from yesterday’s dinner. The ingredients are thrown into an incredibly greasy pan and fried together with mashed potatoes until the concoction is completely matted and brown.

7. Bangers and Mash: Mashed potatoes and sausages. Served for breakfast.

8. Black Pudding: This is by far the most disturbing of all the dishes I have encountered. Black pudding is blood pudding. It looks like black sausage and is made from dried pigs blood and fat.

9. Mushy Peas: Literally, mushy peas. Available across England in chip shops and most kebab shops as well. Mushy peas can serve as a side to chips (French fries) or Faggots (meatballs, believe it or not), and have even been known to operate as a base for fried eggs. I have heard whisperings about mushy pea fritters and I'd be more than willing to sample those as well.

10. Of course, last but not least, the illustrious- BEANS ON TOAST!

1 comment:

Major Tom said...

Every single listed dish made want to throw up...specially #10!