The Olympics of British Food: A User's Guide from a British Guy
When the Observer emailed me with the offer to, and I quote, "continue our gross exploitation of your heritage" by somehow shoehorning together the two subjects of the Olympics and food, how could I possibly resist? I suppose this allows me to tackle that thorniest of subjects, British "cuisine".
Nick Rallo Beans and toast at the Jones Wood Foundry in New York
While I have much greater knowledge of this subject than I do of BBQ, this blog will still be badly researched and contain factual errors, so, if you're British, try not to get too upset. I am also, and I will be up front about this, just going to put some plain lies in to see if I get called on them, because that is the sort of exercise I find amusing, and we can dedicate at least one of these columns to me being amused, rather than the usual result of no-one being amused.
So, British cuisine.
The Olympics are in Britain and the readers of this blog like food. Fine. But I will require more Olympics references than that to pass muster, so, here we go with the Olympics of British food. There are three categories, and medals Bronze through Gold. I know, but seriously, they want me to write about the Olympics and food. What would you do? Far less clichéd suggestions on a postcard, please.
The Most Commonly Misunderstood British Food
Bronze -- Gravy
Flickr user Gene Hunt
I can't tell you how confused I was by the appearance of white gravy when I first got over here. It's thick, it's like sort of savoury double cream, and I am scared of it. It shouldn't taste how it looks. British gravy -- always made of meat fat and chicken/beef stock, almost always with onions in, and much, much thinner than any I've encountered in the U.S., is delicious. Will improve any meal apart from cheese-based ones, at which point the whole dish becomes confusing.
Silver -- Spotted Dick
Flickr user cote
Hah! He said dick! In reality, a delicious spongy dessert with raisins in, sponge puddings being another thing that has passed America by. Usually features custard. More on custard later.
Gold -- Fish and Chips
Scott Reitz The Fish and Chippers at the Londoner
I have lost count of the places I have seen over here (I'm looking squarely at you, The Londoner) that will serve fish and chips delectably battered, with thin, crispy fries for $12. No. No no no. This is not fish and chips. Fish and chips are obtained down "the chippy," a feature of every British high street, they cost about $5 at most, and are served in newspaper, by a man who's not working for tips, and therefore could not care less (note the proper use of this phrase, could care less is entirely nonsensical) about you or your food.
It is poorly battered, often hotter than the sun, the chips are soggy and the size of potato wedges, and it is invariably accompanied by mushy peas, a pickled onion, or some other side you would shrink in horror from. I like mine with Brown Sauce. It is literally called Brown Sauce. No, I can't describe it. It tastes like Brown Sauce. If I opened a proper chippy over here, I would be out of business before you can say "small ex-pat community."
Up next: the British food that sounds disgusting but is totally delicious.