Taste for foods doesn't always translate across different countries
I have a confession to make. Here it is -- despite the fact that it is very popular here I do not like peanut butter and jelly.
Peanut butter was virtually unheard of when I was growing up in England. I don't think I saw it until I came to America and so I didn't develop a taste for it. I mentioned this the other day when one of the children had a PB&J sandwich and my wife, Lori reminded me some British foods seem weird to Americans too. That set me thinking, so I thought I'd share a few traditional dishes with you.
The first one is a dessert that always causes much hilarity when it's mentioned, "Spotted Dick." Why it's called that is lost in the mists of time but it's simple and delicious, consisting of sponge cake with raisins in it, usually served hot and covered in what the British call custard, a thick sauce similar to your pudding.
Speaking of pudding it's time to add a little confusion to the mix by mentioning Yorkshire Pudding. The first thing you should know is it is not a pudding. It is very simple to make and is one of Lori's favorite British foods. It is a batter mix made of 1/3 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of milk and an egg. This is spooned into a smoking hot, pre-greased baking tray and placed in a hot oven. When it is done it is served with roast meat and vegetables, sometimes filled with gravy and is a classic British favorite.
Spotted Dick is a dessert so we need something for an entree. How about Toad in the Hole? I can imagine a few of you pulling a face at that but you needn't worry, it has nothing to do with amphibians, nor with holes. It is simply pork sausage links that are baked in Yorkshire Pudding batter and served with a delicious, thick onion gravy; Cheap, filling and simple to make.
A lot of people here have Scottish ancestry, so I'm sure many of you have heard of Haggis. But do you know what it is? Okay, brace yourselves. Haggis is heart, liver and lungs of a sheep that have been finely chopped and mixed with oatmeal, sheep fat and onions. Flavored with salt and pepper it was traditionally put into a cleaned sheep's stomach and boiled for a several hours. Today an artificial casing is used instead of the stomach, and the meat, which is like crumbly hamburger, is served with neeps and tatties, which is Scottish for mashed turnips and potatoes. This is a dish that goes back 1,000 years to Roman times. I first tried it at a Scottish University and I like it, especially as it is normally accompanied by scotch whiskey.
While we are talking about old recipes let's move on to one the Vikings spread through the whole of Northern Europe. This dish is called Black Pudding and it is made from a mixture of pigs blood, pig fat and oatmeal, seasoned with salt, pepper, cloves and onions. Usually it is served as a breakfast dish either sliced and fried or boiled and sprinkled with vinegar. Originally it was a cheap way to use every possible part of the animal but today some gourmet chefs use it in their recipes and it appears on the menus of some of the better restaurants.
Let's try something you may find a little more palatable. Bubble and Squeak may sound strange but the name describes just what happens to it. Again it is very simple, just left over potatoes and cabbage. Both have been boiled, hence the bubble. Now the potatoes are mashed into the cold cabbage, salt and plenty of pepper are added and the mixture is shallow fried, making a squeaking sound, a great accompaniment to hot or cold meats.
Do you like bread with your meal? Then don't ask for Laver Bread in Britain. It is a seaweed that looks like green, slimy, boiled cabbage. It grows wild, needs cooking for hours and is fried with bacon, made into oatmeal patties or served like spinach. It looks terrible but tastes fine and is supposed to be good for you.
I guess Faggots just underline the British liking for the insides of animals. These are a type of meatball made from the belly, liver and heart of a pig. The meat is chopped, combined with ground breadcrumbs, onions, herbs and spices and contained in a membrane. Usually served with thick, brown, onion gravy, millions are eaten annually in the United Kingdom.
If that is too much for you try a Scotch Egg or two. They are hard-boiled eggs, shelled and covered with sausage meat, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried; One of my Mom's favorites and quite delicious.
On to Wales now for Welsh Rarebit (often pronounced as rabbit). You may think this is just cheese on toast but it's more complex than that. The cheese is strong cheddar. It's grated and blended with cream, a little flour, a spot of beer, salt, pepper, mustard and paprika. This mixture is spread thickly on to bread and baked until the cheese melts and forms a golden crust on top. Serve with sliced tomatoes or a fried egg. Delicious!
We started with dessert, let's finish the same with the strangely named Eton Mess. Urban legend says this originated at Eton school and is simply chopped strawberries, pieces of meringue and whipped cream piled together in a dish and chilled. It was offered as a dessert choice at my daughter's wedding and proved to be very popular. Bon appetite!
Derek Coleman is a parttime writer who is a native of England and who now lives in Hurricane, W.Va. He can be reached at tallderek@ hotmail. com/.
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.