Thursday, December 15, 2005

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Just a bit of fun.

It’s hardly news, is it, to report that English food is unappetizing? The civilized world abounds with places where bland, uninteresting food is normative. But one does not expect this active badness, these midsentence pauses from each of one’s fellow diners as the food arrives, accompanied by the International Sign[1] for what-the-hell-is-this.

In Scandinavia they serve herring. Fine, then. I can look at the plate and think “That is a herring, and I don’t want it.” There is also a recent increase in unfamiliar but brightly colored vegetables on salads. This also can be easily dealt with. I may decide to nibble on the edge of this unknown vegetable, or not. The English black-and-white pudding, however, is thoroughly intimidating. It’s a dark oversized tootsie roll next to a miniature beige hockey puck. But it’s a pudding, I think, and therefore might be tasty. Fortunately, my lightning-quick mind remembers that British terms for things are notoriously unreliable, and abandon that line of reasoning. If I like it I will have one more choice when looking at an English menu. This is not an inconsiderable upside. And how much worse could it be than the sausages, which have enough fat in them to make a crow vomit?

And yet, I hesitate. I look at my Romanian sons, hoping they will identify the items and reassure me. They are busying themselves with other parts of the meal. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! This could mean that the item is quite far down on the food pyramid. Down below ground level to the foundation, the places which read “Let animals eat these foods, and then you eat them.

Tracy thinks the dark one may be a blood sausage, a possibility that makes three of us draw back with disdainful eye, and even John-Adrian show mild distaste. This should settle the matter then. There is no food which complements a blood sausage; it is preposterous to even consider it further. And yet the very mystery of it intrigues me.
What could it possibly be? I know it’s not good, but dear Lord, what food actually would traditionally accompany a blood sausage?
The beige color now strongly suggests lard with flavoring, and I begin to be haunted by this item. I move on to the rest of the standard English breakfast, which includes a half-tomato cooked to rejection, a mushroom – which I eat part of – plus the usual egg, bacon, and sausage (Spam, spam spam, spam…). I busy myself with the dry toast and jam for twenty minutes, but cannot get the white pudding out of my mind.

The thought of it still comes to me at night when I am unprepared and undefended. I take it as a reminder from God not to neglect my prayers.

With this as background, consider my amazement at a newspaper article by an Englishman in France, complaining about the food. And making a very good case that French food is overrated. He was utterly convincing, and I can assure you without having been there that the typical French restaurant —not the Michelin Guide star restaurants but the bistro -- likes to offer an egg mayonnaise to start. Great. Now I have two dishes to trouble me in the middle of the night. Furthermore, their meat is past prime and its preparation abominable, the vin ordinaire now barely adequate, the vegetables soggy, and only the bread worth consuming. Ben read the article and also found it convincing. So there you have it. The mask is off.

[1] A smile may be the same in any language, as is so often claimed, but it is also true that this slight curl of lip, brief cessation of inhalation, and brow that moves rapidly from raised to furrowed is recognized even by Maori tribesmen.


Solomon2 said...

No link to the article?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Sorry, it was in a London Sunday paper while we were there.