Sunday, 19 October 2008

Two pints of lager, and a packet of crisps, please.

I never thought how much I was reliant on traditional British fare until I landed on these shores. You see, the English live on very different foods to you lot over here. At least, so it seems at first glance. Take, for example, the humble bacon sandwich. This is the staple of workman's caf├ęs up and down the country, as well as railway stations and motorway service stations. It consists of bread, and bacon. You might get the choice of butter or HP Sauce, but that's your lot. It's basic, filling and no-nonsense. Some of my American friends have asked me how to make a bacon sandwich, and I have to describe it as "a BLT without the LT". To say the least, British food is simpler.

Davis, where I find myself living, is a university town. In England, the equivalent town would have at the very least five fish-and-chip shops, a scattering of sandwich bars and maybe a workman-style caff where you can get a cheese sammidge and a cuppa tea. No such luck here. David Sedaris wrote about the simple ham sandwich transformed into the gourmet delight complete with four types of heirloom lettuce, two rare handmade cheeses, before finally being spritzed with rancid musk-ox oil. I,like Mr Sedaris, prefer the old-fashioned version, but can I get that here? No, Sir, I cannot. And we are all the poorer for it.

Then there's the pork pie. This is (wait for it!) a pie containing pork. Simple, you think? Not worthy of consideration in overstuffed gourmet America? You have to be kidding. Along with the Cornish pasty, this is a true delight of British cuisine. Tender pork, cooked with a few herbs and spices (notably pepper) and finally encased in a hot water pastry and topped off with pork jelly (aspic). Served cold with salads, pickles and good bread, it knocks the socks off any fancy sushi.

Last, but not least, the humble pub snack. There's nothing like the British pub anywhere else in the world. With apologies to everyone in the American hospitality industry, you need to do more than serve your beer slightly warmer, in a 20-ounce glass. You need real crisps. Crisps, not "potato chips". Crisps with character, flavour, attitude. You need roast chicken, beef and mustard, and ham and pickle. Sea-salt and cracked pepper, indeed.


sam said...

What's a "hot water pastry"?? --I was always taught to make pie crust with a very small amount of ice water.

oakling said...

well now i am drooling! damn you!