Saturday, April 18, 2009

Those Crazy Brits and their "Cuisine"

So, British food. Cue the groans. Yes, British food has gotten so much abuse lately. As soon as England became a fashionable and popular place to visit, everyone was struck by their odd, unappetizing, or poisonous-looking foods.

Blood Pudding?
Spotted Dick?
Bubble and Squeak?
Bangers and Mash?

Honestly, as a former resident of London, and as a recent attendee at Cornell’s Harry Potter Night (where British food was delectably served up), I cringe at the criticism of British food. All one needs is an open mind. Haggis is sheep's heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and boiled in the sheep’s stomach. Does that really sound so bad? Well yes. But consider, the French – exemplary for their gourmet food – adore Andouillette sausages, which are pretty much just intestines. And Americans’ beloved chitterlings are likewise the same thing. So it’s nothing too scary.

Blood pudding is animal blood that is cooked with various tasty fillers such as meat, bread, or oatmeal, along with spices, until it congeals, and basically it tastes like the fillers. It’s usually soft in consistency, and is very nice to spread on bread. And seeing as England, Scotland, Germany, Spain, France, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and a slew of Eastern European countries have their own specialties, it really can’t be all bad.

Spotted Dick is in fact a delicious dessert. Well, delicious for British standards anyway. It is a steamed dough with currants (or other dried fruit) served with warm vanilla custard. Nothing dirty or venereal about it. No worries.

Bubble and Squeak is scarier in name than anything else. It is basically a dish of leftovers, where vegetables, such as cabbage, onion, carrots, Brussels sprouts, etc, are fried up with mashed potatoes to make a cohesive patty. It’s nothing too fancy, but it certainly isn’t scary.

As for bangers and mash, it is just sausage served with mashed potatoes. And British sausages are quite a bit better than their American counterparts. Just so you know.

Now another famous British “delicacy” – one that’s found on at least every street corner – is fish and chips. You find this in local joints, the greasier and seedier the better. And not the sad and soggy specimens of some establishments, but thickly battered and crisply friend cod, with thick, golden fries. It’s a cardiac arrest waiting for you, but at least you’ll go out in glorified grease.

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