Friday, February 19, 2010

What to eat in England...

I believe English food gets a bad rap. I remember when my sister went there she went on and on about how awful the food was. When I tell people that I love English food they look at me with a perplexed look and say, "Really?" like I had just told them I was running for president. I truly believe it is all one big misunderstanding. Communication getting lost in translation. I would like to try my best to clear things up. 

I will start with the first meal of the day. This is simple because you really only need to order one thing, the English breakfast. This comes with English bacon (different than bacon in the US, similar to Canadian bacon but way better), Heinz baked beans (you can only get these at specialty stores in the US - I seek them out because they are so good), eggs, tomato and toast (or if you're lucky, fried bread). 

Ian enjoying a yummy English breakfast

If you're in the mood for cereal try Kellogg's Frosties. You would think they were the same as the Frosted Flakes here but they're not. They are better. Didn't think that was possible.

Eat scones with jam and clotted cream. The clotted cream is a must.

Try the HP Sauce.

It is imperative that you order food outside of your comfort zone. Order things that you've never heard of. Things like Toad in the Hole - it's Cumberland sausage and Yorkshire pudding and it's amazing. Faggots in gravy (no, I'm not kidding) they're just meatballs. Bangers (sausage) and mash, shepherd's pie, roast beef, pork pie, Cornish pasty (LOVE the Cornish pasty), prawn cocktail... they are all really good. It's what the Brits are best at making, so try it. 

 Cornish Pasty.

Do NOT go into a restaurant and order a cheeseburger or any other American dish and expect not to be disappointed. Also, I have to advice against ordering English dishes from pubs or restaurants offering them here in the US. A lot of ingredients that they use in the UK aren't available here or they are hard to find and without them it changes the taste of the dish. 

You will get some of the best Indian food in the UK, it's their national dish.

When it comes to fish & chips I beg of you, please do not order this in a pub - even in the UK. You must order them from a proper fish & chip shop. Seek it out, walk miles in the rain if you have to - just do not leave England without experiencing this wonderful treat. If it's done right, it won't be fancy. You tell them what fish you want fried (cod or haddock sometimes sole) at the counter, then they'll fry it up in a huge fryer right in front of you along with chips. When it's done they will serve it to you in paper. Be generous with the malt vinegar and order a side of mushy peas. It is unlike anything else. I also suggest ordering the battered sausage (SO good) and perhaps a chicken and mushroom Pukka Pie. Man, I got so hungry writing this... I need to take a break and eat before I can write any more.

 The first time I had fish & chips...absolutely stuffing our faces.

 Fish & chips (with mushy peas) can be a bit fancier if you order them to go.  This was at Ian's grandparent's house.

 It's so good that you can have a full plate of food to yourself and still want to grab food off the plate of the guy next to you.

Onto dessert. Order the treacle pudding or sticky toffee pudding, it's beautiful (I love it how Brits use adjectives like gorgeous and beautiful to describe their food). The spotted dick (again, with the names) is a also a decent dessert. If banoffee pie (banana and toffee = banoffee) is on the menu, order it. Don't ask any questions, just do it. If you aren't that hungry skip the main course and go straight to the banoffee pie (see story below). If you don't like things super sweet go for the apple crumble with custard.
 Banoffee Pie
I HIGHLY recommend getting toffee from Thorntons (the toffee biscuits with chocolate were so good I bought all the packages they had in the store). If you pass by a Thorntons that has ice cream, get some. You won't be disappointed. 

 Toffee from Thorntons

For cheap candy get Cadbury's Eclairs (toffees wrapped in chocolate), McVities Gold bars, Maltesers and Angel Delight (thanks Laura!) which is an instant pudding you add milk to. 

If you can, go into a Marks & Spencers grocery store (their food only chain is called M&S Simply Food other chains carry food on a different level of the department store). You cannot go wrong in there...their sandwiches, salads and desserts are amazing. They also have the prettiest little petit four cakes that you can buy in a cute little pink box, I must have eaten dozens of them. If you could only walk away with one thing from Marks & Spencer's you should walk away with their banoffee trifle.

Eating food from Marks & Spencer

{photos: Great British Food Poster via A Cup of Jo, the pastry chef at home, cornish culture, google images and Marks & Spencer}

A little side story - Ian chose to get the banoffee trifle from the Marks & Spencer's at Heathrow airport at the end of our trip. He was about to finish it off when I asked to try a bite - the last bite (I had never had banoffee pie before this). That first bite was pure heaven. I felt a moment of true bliss followed by bitter disappointment that there was none left. It seemed like a cruel joke. How was it that no one brought this yummy goodness to my attention the whole time we were in England? I wasn't ready to accept that one bite was all I was going to get.  I was off to get myself some banoffee trifle. There was one small problem, however, we had already gone through security and the Marks & Spencer's was outside. I wasn't going to let that stop me. I found a security guard, asked him to let me out and explained my situation. Amused at my shamelessness when it came to sweets he said he didn't think it would be possible but I could ask his supervisor, then he directed me to him. I pleaded my case to the security man in charge. He looked at me like I was crazy and said no. I wanted to whine, "But whhhhyy??" like a five year old but realized it would be useless, pulled myself together and walked away like the mature adult I am. On our next trip to England, I will be getting that banoffee trifle as soon as I get off the plane.

Some more photos from our trip...

The underground
 I've always loved Peter Pan so seeing this statue in Kensington Gardens was really great. The exact location of the statue was chosen by J.M. Barrie who lived near Kensington Gardens and used the park for inspiration. In Peter Pan, Peter flies out of his nursery and lands beside the Long Water lake - on the spot where the statue now stands.

Covent Garden

 Who is that handsome man? Let's zoom in...

Yeah, I think this was taken right after I had spent a couple hours in Topshop. No. More. Shopping.

Abbey Road Studios. I'm a huge Beatles fan so this was a must.

Of course I had to cross it.

I'm not the only one.

It was pouring rain when the wonderful Paul Clarke wanted us to take a look at his garden. I took a look from the kitchen window and said how beautiful it was. He said, "No, you have to go out in the garden." But it was RAINING - the few times it rains in Los Angeles I just stay inside mostly. I told him I was all dressed up to go to Ian's grandmother's birthday party so maybe when it stopped pouring we could go out. He replied with, "Nonsense, just put on a pair of wellies and a rain coat." Before I could say any more he had wellies in front of me and a rain coat around my shoulders. I have to say I think it was better seeing the garden in the rain after all. 

Stratford-upon-Avon (Anne Hathaway's house)

Shakespeare's house

St. Mary's - Ian's primary school. A church with a real steeple. 

I thought tombstones only looked like that at Disneyland.

So sad to leave.

So that is all I know so far about British food. Did I leave anything out? Do you have any favorites or suggestions? I'd love to hear what you think!

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