Food Glorious Food

posted in: British, Food | 0

In the thirty plus years I’ve lived in the USA, I’ve long heard Americans joke about British food. There are two predominant comments.

  1. British food is ‘bland’ and ‘has no seasoning/flavour
  2. How can you eat kidney pie? (This is a misconception. Small pieces of kidney are mixed with tons of steak to add flavor, and it is called a STEAK & Kidney pie)

But as a British transplant, I have to say that I find some of the American food options a tad bit weird….yes, my parents ate kidneys, but I don’t believe testicles were ever on the menu…oh, I mean Rocky Mountain Oysters, and what about chicken livers….oh and gizzards? As for the bland food – apparently some of my friends have never eaten a curry (an Indian import) or a very beefy shepherd’s/cottage pie (no kidneys). Cornish pasties are to die for, and we have the best flavours of crisps (chips) in the world (Smoky Bacon, Cheese & Onion, Roast Chicken, Beef etc) loads of yummy soups too that have NO chicken in them….and don’t even get me started on the chocolate…….

I remember when I first came to America (it was just after Columbus) and someone offered me an iced tea. I had never heard of anyone wanting to drink tea cold, especially when I was raised to ensure that it was always scalding hot. It sounded revolting to me, and to this day I have never consumed iced tea, although I think it is popular in the UK these days (traitors).

And then I saw the most shocking thing I’d ever seen…….white gravy. What? I’d seen white SAUCE – usually with parsley or cheese in it, dolloped on fish, but white GRAVY….on meat….ugh! A marriage of milk and meat to me is like Donald Trump and Mother Teresa. It just doesn’t work! And then to put it on bread….I mean biscuits….yuck! Biscuits in the UK are what you refer to here as Cookies. American biscuits are what we refer to as rolls. You’ll never see me eating biscuits and gravy washed down with an iced tea…..no sirree Bob! Hot tea and crumpets mate – that’s me! Well it was before the whole gluten thing.

Cooking for my ‘new’ and American family over here is tricky for me at times. No one wants to cuddle up to Roast Lamb, mintsauce, mashed potoatoes and BROWN gravy. Nope – they want Southern food……So for Father’s Day, I decided to make loads of things that Gump likes to eat – but I drew the line at anything creepy crawly. See the Gumpmeister is from Louisiana. Where he lived, eating testicles and kidneys was for sissies….he grew up eating things with more than four legs, things with eyeballs and other things you sucked heads off. He gets hungry thinking about things you de-vein (gag) (he’s a vampire) and most everything he likes to eat looks like some form of muddy red soup.

I digress, so it’s Father’s Day Eve, and I have to get busy. Here in Oklahoma, people eat loads of salads, understandable due to the hot climate. I get the whole Cobb Salad, Caesar’s, Green Salad, but I do find it odd that they eat salads which have a lot of cold vegetables in them. I don’t like vegetables when they are warm or hot, so it is beyond me why anyone would want to eat them icy cold. But when in Rome…….so I made a COLD corn salad, a COLD cucumber salad, a COLD Strawberry fields salad (I don’t think the Beatles were singing about a salad were they?) and then a PEA salad.

Mixing cold peas with a bunch of ingredients just looked wrong. Peas need to be hot, they just look uncomfortable cold. Then the pièce de résistance …..red beans and ryce….I know it’s a typo, but I say ryce and not rahse. This dish alone is why Gump loves me. I have accidentally mastered the art of making it, and he absolutely, unequivocally can’t get enough of it! The secret is simple, take everything you have out of the fridge and put it in a large pot. Then get all the old cans of stuff you don’t need anymore, open them and add contents to the pot. Stir. **Do not accidentally put family pet or anyone’s dirty sneakers in pot. Cook all day.

It is tough cooking when you dislike all the above dishes that I had to make. It’s tricky, especially when determining if things have enough spice (spahse)….so Grump has to be my official taste-tester – that in itself is a bit dicey…(he’s from Louisiana remember, and he’s a Gump.)

Surprisingly though, everything passed with flying colours, well except for the peas. Apparently all the ingredients in the bowl (American peas, American onions, American parsley, American mayonaisse and vinegar) , were overwhelmed by my use of IRISH cheddar – well hellsbells….what do you expect…have you ever known the Irish to be quiet and understated?

But he was sure ‘we’ could fix it. Gump suggested I add salt – so I did – that didn’t help, he said add more mayonnaise – I did – that didn’t help either, add some lime juice – I did – Gump frowned and sadly told me that something was still missing, that he just needed more time to figure it out. Bollocks I declared (not meaning the rocky mtn type) ….I told him what was missing was his taste buds, and I threw the bloody lot away. Gump was devastated and almost had a seizure – saving the peas must have been like saving hundreds of tiny souls to him – but I didn’t care, I had a Key Lime pie to make. In the mood I was in, I’d have thrown a couple of kidneys in it for good measure if they’d been lying around. Wait…Gump only needs one kidney to live right? We made it through Father’s Day and no one got food-poisoning.

Later this year I am going home to England – this will be my first trip home since my mum died three years ago. This is also the first time the Gumpmeister has

  • Remembered I’m going somewhere
  • Been worried about my safety

In light of all the atrocities going on in the world, and lately in the UK, Gump fears for me, and is concerned that I might fall victim to a terror attack. He has not however, offered to accompany me……….In truth, I am more concerned about my fear of flying than becoming a victim of some nutter’s attempt to destroy our society. But I appreciate his concern, although I am checking his computer to see if he’s got a policy on me that I don’t know about.

Whenever I do get to go home I eat a lot of things that are not healthy. Pastries, thick crusty bread, roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding (and that’s before I get to the baggage claim), bangers and mash and the best thing of all….Fish and Chips.

Oh God is there anything as amazing and wonderful as fish and chips? In all the years I have lived in America, I have only had decent fish and chips twice. The first time was at the Epcot Centre in Disneyworld, where we ate lunch at a ‘pub’ in ‘England’. They were wonderful and I don’t think I even inhaled until I’d finished the lot. The second time was in Phoenix, yes that would be land-locked Phoenix Arizona, at THE CODFATHER!!!!! Bloody delicious. But I have yet to find anywhere else that can make good fish and chips (and spare me the catfish advice – it’s gross). What is so complicated about recreating a simple British dish?

When I was eleven, we lived next door but one to a Chippie (This is English slang for a fish and chip shop- note SHOP, not STORE) (see all these free tips you get in case you ever go to England?). The chippie was bought by a Chinese family (as many of them were back in the 70’s) and then they introduced Chinese take-away food as well as serving traditional English fare.

I was never tempted by the call of sweet n’sour – oh no…..but the sultry fragrance of chips frying……Do you know what it’s like living that close to something you love? It’s like living next door to an off-license (liquor store) when you’re an alcoholic. I could smell the food wafting through my window, just enough to make me salivate……there was no need to make a sandwich when I was peckish. I’d bother my Dad until he’d give me some money and I was in the queue at the chippy in two shakes of the vinegar bottle.

Cor, they’d always gave you such a generous amount of food (they still do to this day.) They’d plonk a shovel full of chips on the grease proof paper, and then lay a fat slab of fish on top, wrap it all up in paper, and off you went. When you got home and unrolled it, there’d be a piece of cod about 9 inches long by 4 inches wide and about 1.5 inches thick. You could break a piece off and see how perfectly cooked it was, steaming with heat and fresh off the trawler that morning. The chips were as fat as your fingers and tasted of freshly peeled potatoes that had never seen the inside of a freezer. And today, it is all every bit as good (although a lot more expensive.) I can barely write as I’m drooling all over my keyboard.

Nothing I have had to eat in Tulsa can come even close to that. And I’m not just being a food snob, all my Brit friends would agree. So when I go on my hols (that means vacation) I am going to find out how to make authentic fish and chips. And once I figure it out, I shall gorge myself until I explode.

Please don’t think me too harsh on American cuisine folks. When it comes to steaks – well you rascals have us beaten there. Burgers too, definitely an American win on those counts. BBQ as well – hands down!

I’ll enjoy my food while I’m home, I’ll have to take some pictures to show all of you what it looks like! Gump survived okay eating over there on his one and only trip. He found the food ‘bland’ (what a shock) but he ate his weight in fish and chips, bread and pastries. I even caught him eyeing a few creepy crawly things on the ground, but told him that he wasn’t allowed to eat them in England.

Have a lovely Fourth everyone – full of Apple pies, Hot Dogs and burgers galore. We’ll be doing the same thing. I’ll have to listen to a bunch of Boston Harbour comments, and how you got rid of the damned English – I’ll politely listen and pour you some more iced tea…… made with my imported British Tea Bags….Hah!

jude the avenger