On eating in the UK

By Phil Plait | October 22, 2009 8:00 am

I travel a lot. Talks, meetings, family events… whatever the reason, I know the drive between my house and the airport as well as I know the walk from my office to the freezer where I keep ice cream sandwiches. That is to say, very well indeed.

I used to love flying, but of course the airline companies have crushed all the fun of flying into dust, so it’s more of a burden now. But while I don’t like going to other places, I like being in other places, if you see the difference.

And one of the reasons I love it so is because I love to eat. Love love love to eat. I have a suspicion that my hypernosmia superpower also lends itself to gustatory sensitivity, making eating an especially rich and sensual experience for me.

Or maybe I just love to eat. And I love trying new things when I eat, so travel is a perfect excuse. Sure, I love giving talks and spreading the joy and wonder of science blah blah blah, but I really enjoy going to different places and seeing what the local cuisine is. In St. Louis it’s definitely toasted ravioli. NYC? Pizza. New Orleans? Red beans and rice. Australia? Meat pies (and Minties! Mmmmm, Minties).

So I was excited to get to England for TAM London. I was in the UK last year on my way to visit the LHC, and I ate pretty well, so going back was making my tummy rumbly.

Man. I was right. Somehow, on my last visit, I missed getting bangers and mash. How did that happen? It’s the official Royal Food, like hamburgers here in the States. For those non-anglophiles out there, bangers are sausages, usually fried in pan, and mash is mashed potatoes. I do on occasion partake of sausages at home; we usually grill them. We also usually get a low fat version*. In England, though, the sausages are full-fat, full-figured cylinders of prolate goodness. The mash, too, was loaded with butter, making them a heavenly, um, mash. That first night in London at the pub I was stuffed myself by the time I was done eating.

Over the next few days I had bangers and mash perhaps five more times, including once in Avebury (a town outside Bristol about which I’ll write at a later date) where they were smothered in a brown onion sauce that took about three years off my life, but made my taste buds almost pass out in ecstasy.

And that brings me to two points about English food. One is that everything in it contains fat. Everything. The sausages, of course. The mash did too; at home we use a bit of butter but not a lot because we like the flavor of the potatoes themselves. But in the UK, it’s a butterrific butterama of buttertude. Even, I swear, the sodas had 15% of the RDA of fat.

Second, veg, what we in America take the time to spell out as "vegetables". Or I should say the lack of them. Finding anything green in our meals was as difficult as finding anything low fat. Veggies just aren’t served in England where we went. Oh, I did get something advertised as broccoli at a pub in London, but it was so overcooked I think it was partially ionized. And it was closer to yellow than green on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Some restaurants said they had salads, but these were generally a leaf or two of greens (arugula, which they charmingly refer to as "rocket") with meat piled on top, including bacon. Many had an accompanying mayonnaise dressing. Some just came with a stick of butter popping out the top, and a complimentary pair of defibrillation paddles.

Not that getting good veg is impossible, of course. Along with Mrs. BA and our friends Brian and Gia, we had a magnificent dinner at the house of friends of Gia’s, Jane and Jonathan. Jane is a fantastic cook (as well as engaging and, like her husband, hilarious), and made some sort of steamed broccoli that was a sight for sore tongues. Of course, she also served an out of this world trifle which counteracted the health benefits of the broccoli nicely… but both were absolutely delicious. I regret nothing.

Which brings me to another small problem of mine: my sweet tooth. We bought biscuits ("cookies") every day: McVitties, Maryland, and five or six other brands. They were all odd to my American taste, and all delicious. I also ate Galaxy chocolate, Welsh chocolate, Belgian chocolate, Cadbury chocolate, and probably other kinds by accident without even knowing it. I’m surprised I didn’t lose a finger in my haste to try every bit of chocolate I could find. Had we stayed any longer in England I suspect I would’ve single-handedly caused a nation-wide shortage of chocolate.

Oh, another thing: we spent a lovely though rainy day in Wales, visiting a ruined castle in Caerphilly (more about that at a later date as well). Afterwards, we wandered the small town adjacent looking for food. We found a great small restaurant, and I got a sub sandwich (or hero or grinder or whatever) that was ham, English mustard, and apple chutney along with a bag of roasted chicken flavor crisps. It was a very scrumptious meal indeed. My two complaints? They don’t have ice in the restaurant. Ever. They just don’t have it. I’ve been told it’s an American thing to want ice with drinks, and to be fair I generally drink my water warm. But Coke? My colonial tastes decree that Coke needs to be cold.

My other complaint is more of an observation. Local food is local food, and what you like is usually what you grew up with, or a variant thereof. And as much as I loved the time I spent in Wales, this sign for a local deli was, um, a bit of a shock:

And no, it’s not because of the use of a word that here in the States is a slur against homosexuals — though that turns out to be a mixture of onions, liver, and bread crumbs that did make me a little queasy to think about (and it apparently is a corruption of the word fegato, Italian for liver)– it’s just that I’m not used to seeing such an eclectic assortment of body parts on a menu. I am quite sure that much of the food I eat would make people from other countries uneasy as well (heated chicken ova placed on yeast-infected ground-up and cooked wheat tips with violently mixed squeezings from a bovine mammary gland — yum!), so if you want to color me provincial, feel free. Given my tastes, I’m sure that if I grew up with that food I’d love it. I bet I could still enjoy gefilte fish… if there was enough horseradish on it.

So anyway, as to the point I think I’ve made, eating in the UK was amazingly delicious, but liable to induce a coronary after a few meals. It’ll be some time before I can work off the extra kilos I put on. And it was worth every single chew, every heavenly swallow, and every single bloated fat cell lining my middle.

And the real issue is, I can still taste some of it in my brain. A part of me still senses the presence of bangers, somewhere to the east, just a nine-hour flight and 6000 kilometers away.

(burp)



* Although there is one brand of Italian sausage we get that are not only full fat, but basically crammed full of it. They are incredibly good, but eat up a week’s worth of my fat intake from candy bars for me. The first time we cooked them on the grill, the fat inside the sausage liquefied, and pressure built up. The skin of the sausage split open — note that this all happened inside the grill and out of sight while we were inside the house prepping the side dishes — and the fat must have shot out at high speed into the grill bottom. Fat, as it happens, is somewhat flammable. For my part, I looked out the kitchen window and saw flames erupting from every conceivable orifice of the grill, like the thermostat was set to "gamma-ray burst". I ran outside… and then stopped. When your grill looks like it’s the part of the superhero movie when the mild-mannered scientist undergoes some horrific accident, only to be transformed into Flaming Sausage Man, it gives you pause. Eventually I figured out how to open the lid without conflagrating myself, and doused the fire. I’ll note that the sausages were incredibly tasty.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Piece of mind

Comments (115)

  1. Gene Doctor

    Bangers and Mash are indeed a gustatory delight. Have you tried Cornish pasties? Delicious meat pies in a flaky crust. And the Indian food in England is almost as good as in India.

  2. You remind me of Pooh bear on his never ending search of honey :D

  3. Aww, you’re saying Grace. ^^

  4. Sarcastro

    Someone once told me that if Americans halved their consumption of ice the nation would then be energy independent. I know it takes some serious energy to force a phase change from water to ice, but I still wonder if that’s true.

  5. Stan9FOS

    After doing extensive touring some years ago while in the UK, playing trombone in an Air Force Band stationed in Germany, and wringing all the nutrition available out of the top of the food chain available in the traditional English menu, let me just say that England is a great place to become familiar with the joys of the many Chinese and Indian dining establishments that dot the landscape. Here’s to the remnants of the Empire! Huzzah!

  6. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Err… Phil, it’s McVitie’s with one “t” and an apostrophe, not “McVitties”.

  7. sophia8

    The first time we cooked them on the grill, the fat inside the sausage liquefied, and pressure built up.

    That’s why we Brits always jab a fork into our sausages before cooking. It’s not just an expression of an atavistic need to bloodily slay our food first…..

  8. Man, still a while until lunch, and now I am HUNGRY!

  9. bill

    How strange – lack of veg is one thing we moaned about on our holiday in the States.

    Last night, I had pork and leek sausages on a bed of mash, with a red onion gravy, it was scrumdiddlyumptious.

  10. KC

    Ah you’re making me hungry for some blood pudding!

  11. Been itching for my first try of bangers & mash for some time.
    Now it’s a major itch.
    I’ll bet the Welsh faggots are tasty too.
    I wonder if they do corned beef any differently than over here… Yum!

    Good grilling tip, Sophia! I’ll have to remember that one!
    Gotta go find a fattening snack now.
    Later!

  12. Akrael

    For a truly spectacular grill experience, try boerwors…

  13. wtlloyd

    Next time, while in London, there is a chain called “West Cornwall Pasty Co” that I HIGHLY recommend for a handfood while wandering the streets…

    http://www.westcornwallpasty.co.uk/

    - cute site w/ some animation, but click on “pasties” to get an idea. These little devils are served up hot as H*LL, be warned!

    English food has really improved since I was first there in ’86.

  14. Peter B

    The local football club I occasionally have lunch at with work colleagues here in Canberra does a nice bangers and mash meal, with onion gravy and peas. Very nice at $9.50.

    And you can get pretty good Cornish pasties here in Oz as well, as an alternative to your meat pie.

    Oh, and I’d been led to understand that faggots were brains (sheeps brains in particular). Did my friend lead me astray?

  15. evinfuilt

    drooool….

    Salads back in England I do agree aren’t the best, a Wedge salad is the most common pub veg. Its just a quartered iceberg covered in all sorts of fat.

    But if you went to one of the many Indian restaurants you would have had plenty of health veg. You also could look at some of the newer dining options beyond pubs where they’re actually trying to make English Cuisine a reality instead of an oxymoron.

    One thing is for certain, whole animal usage is everywhere in England, and worthwhile to enjoy (hope you got some nice blood pudding and maybe some spotted dick.)

    Oh, and I love that they still call rocket rocket instead of a fancy name like Arugula, its a common lettuce for the better salads there.

  16. Espi

    What? no Bubble & Squeak? Phil you missed out!

  17. Ginger Yellow

    “We bought biscuits (“cookies”) every day: McVitties, Maryland, and five or six other brands.”

    Did you have Jaffa Cakes?

  18. And no, it’s not because of the use of a word that here in the States is a slur

    Indeed not: it’s the spurious apostrophe in ” Chutney’s ” that should be giving you pause.

  19. Paul M

    There is a brand of faggots called “Mr Brains’” which is where Peter B’s confusion may be coming from.

    I’m surprised by the comment about the fat content of British food vs American – it’s when I’ve eaten in the US that the salad dressings and add-ons have seemed over the top. Mash is generally made with mainly milk, and only enough butter to give it flavour if you want it.

    Not to mention that even the dodgiest pub will give you ice and a slice of lemon as standard in your coke unless you ask otherwise.

  20. You don’t have to go all the way to the UK to get Galaxy chocolate, we canucks have it too. Most of the time it goes under the name Dove, but you can find some Galaxy around too. :)

  21. Sarg

    Ugh, ick, English food…

    English do many awesome things, but cooking certainly isn’t one of them!

  22. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Also, I just noticed a typical greengrocer’s apostrophe in that “Arnie’s Deli” sign:
    “CLARK’S PIE’S; it should be CLARK’S PIES.

    P.S. Yeah, Barry Leiba, “Chutney’s” is incorrect, too.

  23. Mike

    I have always enjoyed British food especially bangers and mash. I am sure that you have tried Putine? It is lovingly called, in Canada, heart attack in a bowl. Fries smothered with brown gravy with a good helping of cheddar cheese on top. Delicious but you can feel your arteries hardening as you are consuming it.

  24. Chris G

    Nowadays ice is available in pubs to add to drinks.
    However, I overheard the following in a Welsh pub about 20 years ago:

    “Can I have some ice in the gin and tonic?”

    “Where do you think you are, the f***ing Arctic!”

  25. StevoR

    Australia? Meat pies (and Minties! Mmmmm, Minties).

    Have you ever tried Adelaide’s special dish – the pie floater? :-)

    Or an SA Frog cake (don’t worry no amphibian meat involved! ;-) )

    Or most importantly, the Beery Trinity of Coopers Pale Ale, Coopers Sparkling Ale and Coopers Stout! ;-)

    Next time you wish to come to Australia – and South Australia – & pleasesay you’re coming -let me know & i’ll ebnsure you get thechance totry these if you haven’t already! :-D

    PS. You will come here again won’t you, please!?

    PPS. Some restaurants said they had salads, but these were generally a leaf or two of greens (arugula, which they charmingly refer to as “rocket”)

    That’s what we call it here in Oz too. :-)

    (Heads outside to check on Orionid meteors which are what I’ve been staying up for – any updates there BA?

  26. Ca n´Internet

    You can´t cook with lean meat. You need the fat to keep the meat tender. With no fat in your meat you´ll end up with cardboard. And the fat will frie/cook/grill off anyway.
    You don´t eat it. Unless you dip your bread in the fatty drippings.
    Which is also very nice…
    Anyway, “lean eaters” eat only lean so they can eat twice as much and still keep on pretending they eat in a kinda sane of way. You recognise them in supermarket. Baskets full of diet/lean/no fat chips etc. But in double quantities. Excuse dieting.

  27. Zucchi

    I gained five pounds during my trip to the UK, between lager and food. It’s hard to get blood pudding and tomatoes with your breakfast in the States.

  28. amstrad

    Not one mention of Yorkshire puddings? Next time you need to have bangers and mash with gravy all contained in a bowl made from Yorkshire pudding!

  29. Paul Clapham

    Yes, amstrad is right. You’ll find that on the pub menu as “Giant Yorkshire Pud”. Don’t miss it when you go back there.

    And by the way, thanks for the mention of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (one of your blog entries a few months ago). Was definitely worth the visit for lunch.

  30. andrew

    Probably worth noting that the UK is *huge* on frying with Lard and animal fats.

    This is probably very, very bad for you, but is also extremely delicious. If you didn’t take the time to seek out a good order of Fish & Chips, I strongly recommend doing so the next time you go back. There are a few good places in London, although my favorite is all the way up in Scotland, in Anstruther. Fortunately, thanks to the excellent British rail system, a day trip to Scotland from London is not only possible, but a pleasurable and inexpensive experience!

    Sodas are generally made with sugar cane instead of corn syrup, which makes them taste better (and actually healthier as well). It’s a weird sensation to feel ‘full’ from a soda. Also don’t forget to try Irn Bru at least once…

    Speaking of drinks, a British pint is 20 oz. Unsurprisingly, the macrobrews available in the UK are vastly superior to even most microbrews available in the US (even Budweiser uses a different formulation, which I much prefer to what they sell in the US). Tennents is often regarded as the ‘lowest of the low’ in terms of Lagers….and I quite like it — it’s better than pretty much any American Lager I’ve consumed.

    McVittes biscuits and cookies are indeed delicious, and I miss them greatly. Occasionally, I’ll see them in the US, and buy a whole bunch. Galaxy chocolate is branded as ‘Dove’ in the US, and Cadbury isn’t particularly hard to find either. I’m more of a Dark Chocolate fan myself, and don’t particularly fancy most of the ultra-sweet milk chocolate varieties sold in Britain. Mainland Europe definitely has the upper hand here.

    Now that I’m writing this post, I can’t begin to fathom why I ever returned to the US….

  31. Gareth

    “it’s just that I’m not used to seeing such an eclectic assortment of body parts on a menu.”

    Nothing strange about that. Let’s not forget that Hannibal Lector was played by a Welshman in Silence of the Lambs… ;o)

  32. When I was a kid in England, before we moved to Canada, we could get Fish and Chips wrapped in newspaper! They don’t do that any more because of the ink. Steak and Kidney pies are awesome as well. It sounds like Spotted Dick would be a nice follow up to the Welsh Faggots.

    And, there is no better pop than Dandelion and Burdock!

  33. Reading your account of British food, I can’t help but realize that here in Canada, we have the better of both worlds. Fat bangers and mash with a rocket salad and an iced drink. Also, when we cook these sausages on the grill, we know to pierce holes in them to relieve the pressure.

  34. Bigfoot

    Bad Gastronomy?

  35. MarkW

    …the fat inside the sausage liquefied, and pressure built up. The skin of the sausage split open…

    Which is why they’re called bangers.

  36. Trebuchet

    I’m eagerly awaiting the promised report on Caerphilly Castle, one of the top locations on my list of places I must visit in Europe, if I ever get there. Because of the siege engines, of course, although the castle itself is pretty cool.

    I’ve never seen such enthusiasm on English food before. Makes me want to try some!

  37. Messier Tidy-Upper

    @ everyone & anyone interested in the Orionids:

    Off topic but its worth visiting the Meteor showers online site:

    http://meteorshowersonline.com/orionids.html

    for some interesting info & useful sky-maps concerning the Orionids & other meteor showers. :-)

  38. Phil, the reason you love British chocolate so much is quite simple; apart from ours being the best in the world, that Hershey’s stuff you Americans eat is an abomination!!!! :-)
    Seriously, chocolate is one of the very few things in which the UK still leads the world. The EU once tried – I kid you not! – to ban our chocolate and force everyone to make it to the Belgian recipe instead. The official reason was some BS about “standardisation”; the real reason was sour grapes because ours is better than everyone else’s.
    I will, however, concede one thing to the US on the confectionery front… Baskin Robbins is the best ice cream on the planet, bar none! ( Yes, we have it here.)

  39. Tom

    Such an interesting read! Being a born and bred Brit, I often hear (or read) tales of British experiences of American cuisine, but rarely am I treated to a view of the food I am used to from over the pond.

    And what strikes me most when comparing these bidirectional pan-atlantic reviews?

    The fact that they’re so very similar! I have read British reviews of American food which, if the names of the dishes and some of the ingredients were changed, could easily be mistaken for this one! Looking at the comments highlights similarities as well: I’ve had friends and colleagues return from a holiday in the USA complaining that they’ve put on so much weight, telling stories of mountains of pancakes for breakfast and burgers as big as your head.

    It may be interesting to note that the food you might purchase over here in a pub or restaurant is not particularly representative of what many of us eat at home. In fact, many people’s view of many of our eateries (especially the chains) is that they are heavily Americanised.

    Thanks for an interesting read that opens my eyes to an alternative view of British food!

    One tip for future visits- steer clear of the lager. Most of it tastes like dishwater and is, on the whole, not British in any case (the nice ones are usually Belgian, the horrible ones American, French, Australian or Dutch, and the really rancid ones are usually British). Real ales are the way forward!

  40. Oh man, Phil, just reading this gave me wonderful flashbacks to being in England. I like teasing my British friends about their food, but I’m a total hypocrite when I do so. I love the stuff. By the way, next time you’re in England, say something if you’re going to be down near Brighton. There is an AMAZING all you can eat vegetarian Indian buffet not too far from Brighton Station.

    If you want to try for something banger-like here, I actually found some at the Whole Foods in Westminster, so presumably the ginormous stores up in Boulder will have something similar. (Just try not to look at the depressingly huge SCAM-themed sections in the stores.) I found them in the meat case where the packages of bratwurst and stuff are… they’re little half-sized sausages like Mike’s mum always makes when we visit his family, and the label on the package actually does call them bangers. (The kind I found have sourdough in them.) They’re not exactly right, but they’re close enough that Mike really likes them. :-) So I do a pan fry and some mash and it’s almost like being across the Atlantic. Whole Foods also claims to have “Irish Bangers” occasionally at the meat counter, but I don’t really care for them – they’re kind of spicy, for one, which seems weird to me.

  41. Asimov Fan

    @#26. amstrad Says:

    Not one mention of Yorkshire puddings? Next time you need to have bangers and mash with gravy all contained in a bowl made from Yorkshire pudding!

    Mmmmmm … Yum! But may I suggest something perhaps even better?

    Toad-in-the-Hole: Sausage(s) embedded in a cavity inside a Yorkshire pudding complete with mash & veg too! My fave dish. :-D

  42. Sticks

    You should have come up north, then you could have had stottie cakes, peas pudding and black pudding.

    Go a bit further North and you can try haggis, which is lovely and one of my favourite dishes.

    Now I need to find some bangers and mash.

  43. Would Jane and Jonathan be Jane Goldman and Jonathan Ross by any chance as I spotted both of them at TAM?

  44. Ken

    I first parsed your superpower as “hypersomnia” (same letters, different order). I thought “Gee, that’s an odd superpower for someone whose chosen career is staying up all night” …

  45. Veggies not served? Depends on where you look, I guess. There are many good Vegetarian restaurants where I live in Manchester: On the Eighth Day, the Earth Cafe, Greens… and many other restaurants have large veggie selections.

  46. Wundt

    I am a kindred spirit…

    I have had bangers and mash at a pub, and even though they looked disgusting, I ate every single little fat filled piece. And, having grown up in the British Commonwealth I love almost every English, and Australian, ‘sweet’, ‘bicky’, and ‘crisp’ out there (I still remember the prawn flavored crisps with great fondness).

    For healthier fair, you should have had the Plowman’s Lunch. This is usually a hunk of cheese, nice bread, and a selection of raw vegitables (tomatoes, onions, etc). That, with a pint of something nice is a wonderful way to spend a long summer evening in England.

    Your Italian sausage story made me laugh out loud. I have been in the identical situation and so could see this in my mind very clearly. Thank you, I needed a good laugh.

  47. Dave C

    What about Bubbles & Squeak? And yes, that’s where the name comes from.

    Have you ever had a Cadbury Mint Crisp? Seriously the best candy bar ever, and I haven’t been able to find them in years. Very sad.

  48. LBBP

    FYI, not sure how recently the RSS feed changed to full article, but thank you. I use RSS almost exclusively for blog reading, and sad to say, I had been skipping more of your posts than I would otherwise, because I didn’t want to follow the link into the blog itself.

    Keep up the good work.

  49. amstrad

    Mmmm yes. Bubble and squeak. The more you burn it, the better it tastes. Trust me.

    So right there is your veg. It any leftover veg but typically mashed potatoes, cabbage, carrots and brussels form the main ingredients.

  50. Ha! I understand you Yanks have something called “biscuits in gravy” which is actually dumplings in a roux made with dripping! And you call our culinary nomenclature perverse?

    Seriously, I don’t think you got a very broad picture of what British food is. Pub grub like we got in Doggett’s isn’t exactly haute cuisine – it’s fatty and generous so you feel like you’re getting value for money.

    Quaint little Arnie’s deli is the kind of place that trades on being a curiosity – perhaps with some local villagers dearly trying to prop it up. Nearly all meat is bought in supermarkets, where you will almost never see brawn or tongue.

  51. PhilB

    Mmmmmmm, black pudding

    I actually googled “black pudding nutrition” once, and ended up with a lot of articles about heart disease. ;)

    If you haven’t tried The Hungry Toad Pub in Boulder yet, drop in when you can. They do a pretty good bangers and mash as I recall.

  52. Plus they have brown sauce! It’s like ketchup with DELICIOUSNESS added! Seriously add some to meatloaf and never look back….

  53. @50

    Biscuits in gravy are not dumplings (well I suppose somebody has tried it), but biscuits, my wife uses a baking powder biscuit, and in our case in a sausage gravy, chicken or beef depending on what the roast was. I make the sausage.

    for the onions, liver and breadcrumb mixture, try scrapple. There are commercial scrapples, I think Swift, but a hand made Pennsylvania scrapple is far superior. I’ve tried to make it, but it just isn’t as good as the scrapple from Dietrich’s Meat. I’ve made scrapple but Dietrich is better.

    ‘Use more butter’ – Julia Child

  54. You also had Norwegian chocolate, albeit not much. And I would have been in one of the pictures, but it was apparently taken while I was in the bathroom. Which … is actually of no interest to anyone. Never mind me, carry on! :D

  55. Sundance

    A friend of mine who did a postdoc in Liverpool once declared that the only way the English know how to cook is by boiling. Place tea leaves in water. Boil. Place fish and sliced potatoes in oil. Boil. Place vegetables in water. Boil until they have the taste and consistency of a bar of soap.

    Next time you’re Down under, if you haven’t already, you must try Kangaroo. Less fat, more flavour, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions than beef. Makes excellent stir-fries and curries, too. And now you’ve activated my Minties-craving…

  56. John Ellis

    The next time you are in Britain you need to come to Bath because (a) William Herschel’s house is now a museum, (b) you can look into the history of quack health cures like carbonated water at the Roman Baths, and (c) there is a shop called ‘The Sausage Shop’ who make a range of bangers that explode in your mouth like supernovae of pleasure.

    And for FSM’s sake, don’t forget the mushy peas!

  57. DrFlimmer

    If you ever come to Germany and you want to try the local food, it really depends on where you are! Some examples:

    1) Westfalen (where I live): “Erbsensuppe” or “Sauerbraten mit Rotkohl”

    2) Pfalz: “Pfälzer Saumagen”

    and of course:

    3) Bayern: “Bratwurst und Sauerkraut” or “Weißwurst” (but the latter only until noon!)

    Drinks also depend on the region: In Prussia (northern part of Germany) you should try the many types of “Pils”. In Bavaria it is of course the famous (and, as I think, better) “Weißbier”.

    But, as I said, it really depends on where you are and the food will be quite different. On the other hand, there are meals that are served almost everywhere, like “Wiener Schnitzel mit Pommes”.

    So, “guten Appetit”.

    P.S.: I didn’t translate the meals, because I thought they belong to Germany, so I should call them german. At least some meals should be known out of Germany (said to be “typical geman”). And if you copy them into google, you should get a translation and/or the links should contain pictures which will give a hint.

  58. T.E.L.

    Chris G Said:

    Nowadays ice is available in pubs to add to drinks.
    However, I overheard the following in a Welsh pub about 20 years ago:

    “Can I have some ice in the gin and tonic?”

    “Where do you think you are, the f***ing Arctic!”

    I visited England with my middle school class about 35 years ago. I always like my soft drinks very cold, and asked for some ice in my Coke at a restaurant. When the waitress delivered the food and drinks mine had one paper-thin sliver of ice that was shriveling to nothing right before my eyes; so I asked her for some ice. She had a quick glance at my glass and said, “There’s ice in there, Love.”

  59. The Other Ian

    Phil,

    The Baker Street Pub on 28th Street has bangers and mash. Probably not as good as what you’d get in the UK, but there it is.

  60. Jon

    I have always enjoyed British food especially bangers and mash. I am sure that you have tried Putine?

    Mike, did you just imply French-Canadian cuisine is British!? (Spelled poutine, BTW, and in “pure” form is topped with cheese curd, not cheddar.)

  61. MarcusBailius

    Actually, you really need to visit the Pudding Club (www.puddingclub.com) next time you’re over here… You’ll grow to love sticky toffee and date pudding, with lashings of toffee sauce and (Bird’s!) custard…

    And if you like a good sausage, you need to have a go at a Cumberland Sausage. That’s proper, that is. None of the cheap rubbish you get in many establishments, you have to have a good sausage. And yes, to get rid of some of the excess fat content, I grill the things, too, and prick them with a fork to let the fat out in the process… Purists wouldn’t do that but I plan to live for a few more years yet.

    Vegetables: We’ve learned a lot over here in Britain, outside the cheaper eateries. Steaming the veg is the best way to cook them, stop just when there’s enough crunch. Adding additional butter is optional!

    My favourite English – well, British dish, I suppose – is steak and kidney pudding, steamed in a basin for five hours with suet pastry all around it… Don’t just use stock, I pour in a bottle of Wadworth’s 6X. And a lot of herbs (don’t forget to pronounce the ‘h’ if you’re over here) and black pepper gets added too.

    Mmm.

    Don’t know about you, but I could murder a curry… Tandoori chicken Jalfraizi, anyone?

  62. You, sir, should start looking for conferences in Austria or Sweden. There’s some terrific food here too… too much good stuff to list here. ;)

  63. Bangers and mash! All. Time. Favorite.

    I lived in England for a year in the early two thousands (aught three?) and bangers and mash was a biiiiig fave. They also have good pizza. And I loved the portions. As far as veg goes, I can recall while I was there a HUGE big deal news story that farmers had run out of brussels sprouts. It was a really big deal. I nearly died laughing!

    Ahh, were it not for the weather, my husband and I would live there. A wonderful place!

  64. Harvi

    Most of those various meat parts are also seen in the Southwest in real Mexican restaurants. (and in the South in real Southern cooking places)

  65. Maybrick

    If you haven’t sampled one already, then next time treat yourself to an authentic British delicacy…a Balti curry (contents to your taste…even vegetarian ones are available). Accompany that tasty food with a naan bread, and wash it down with a Cobra beer (thats a brand, not an ingredient). Follow that with a pistacio kulfi ice cream. And then enjoy the scorching hot microwaved hand towel. You cannot get more UK than that!

  66. JackC

    So. You mention food NOW. Two days after being in Poughkeepsie and almost directly across the street from the Culinary Institute of America? Not to mention that my son-in-law is a chef and has friends that work for the likes of Gordon Ramsey.

    Sigh. Next time.

    JC

  67. Gary

    Sadly Phil missed out on the TRUE British delicacy, what I’m gleefully tucking into right at this very moment – the holy trinity of Fish’n'Chips’n'Mushy peas, yum! :)

  68. Darth Robo

    No ice?
    :(

    Obviously not going to the right places!

  69. @ 32 MichaelL:

    It sounds like Spotted Dick would be a nice follow up to the Welsh Faggots.

    I dunno. Spotted Dick after Welsh Faggot would suggest a trip to the chemist’s was in order.

    Sorry I’m late. Been busy.

  70. When my husband and I travel, food is always where we tend to spend — we love sampling the local food and beverages. We love to eat. :-)

  71. There’s another interesting international use of the word faggot (which originally referred as far as I know to a bundle of fuel wood) — in much of Europe, cigarettes are referred to as “faggots” or “fags.” Thus if you interact with European smokers, you’ll occasionally catch them “going out for a fag.”

    Your discussion of English food I think managed to upset my stomache and harden my arteries at the same time. It’s a hard thing for a lifelong vegetarian to read about the kinds of things you folks eat.

    My then-girlfriend took a trip to England when I was in High School. Apparently the food there was so bad that she came back with an irresistable craving for Taco Bell or McDonalds or anything with some flavor, despite having never been a fan of fast food before.

  72. J Thomas

    Is it really sad that I’m all giddy about the fact that Wales is being talked about so much here? I think it is.

  73. Tod

    @71: I had to laugh at your last paragraph: In 1985 or so I did a three-month stint doing some telecom stuff in a few places in China (Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Jinan to name a few). Part of the deal was for my wife to travel with us. We returned to Hong Kong one afternoon and as our taxi dropped us off at our hotel, my wife instructed me to go check in, she was headed to the Burger King across the street!

    @ everyone: There’s an old joke about heaven & hell in Europe:

    Heaven is where the British were the policemen, the French were the cooks, the Italians were the lovers, the Swiss were the bankers and the Germans were the mechanics.

    Hell in Europe is where the British were the cooks, the French were the mechanics, the Italians were the bankers, the Swiss were the lovers and the Germans were the policemen.

    @ Phil: thanks for a great write-up about British cuisine. Been there, ate that. Please visit @71: I had to laugh at your last paragraph: In 1985 or so I did a three-month stint doing some telecom stuff in a few places in China (Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Jinan to name a few). Part of the deal was for my wife to travel with us. We returned to Hong Kong one afternoon and as our taxi dropped us off at our hotel, my wife instructed me to go check in, she was headed to the Burger King across the street!

    @ everyone: There’s an old joke about heaven & hell in Europe:

    Heaven is where the British were the policemen, the French were the cooks, the Italians were the lovers, the Swiss were the bankers and the Germans were the mechanics.

    Hell in Europe is where the British were the cooks, the French were the mechanics, the Italians were the bankers, the Swiss were the lovers and the Germans were the policemen.

    @ Phil: thanks for a great write-up about British cuisine. Been there, ate that. Please visit @71: I had to laugh at your last paragraph: In 1985 or so I did a three-month stint doing some telecom stuff in a few places in China (Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Jinan to name a few). Part of the deal was for my wife to travel with us. We returned to Hong Kong one afternoon and as our taxi dropped us off at our hotel, my wife instructed me to go check in, she was headed to the Burger King across the street!

    @ everyone: There’s an old joke about heaven & hell in Europe:

    Heaven is where the British were the policemen, the French were the cooks, the Italians were the lovers, the Swiss were the bankers and the Germans were the mechanics.

    Hell in Europe is where the British were the cooks, the French were the mechanics, the Italians were the bankers, the Swiss were the lovers and the Germans were the policemen.

    @ Phil: thanks for a great write-up about British cuisine. Been there, ate that. Please visit my link for another perspective: http://www.ecphorizer.com/EPS/site_page.php?page=266&issue=22

  74. JoeSmithCA

    EEEEEEEVVVVVVIIIILLLLLL!!!!
    I love Bangers and Mash. I’ve been tinkering on making a vegitarian version of Bangers. I know that’s the ultimate insult–but I would prefer to not have super hard geopolymer (unless Bangers contains high amounts of aluminum and silicon then I guess they would be…) strength arteries.

    So far success has been poor at best, but the creations are still tasty. Just no substitute for copious amounts of animal fats.

  75. Andrew: that isn’t the UK I know & live in!

    Most people in the UK are not big on frying with animal fats. Sunflower & olive oil are ubiquitous.

    The rail system in the UK cannot be relied upon to get you from London to Birmingham without having to transfer to a bus to take you part of the journey due to rail repairs, let alone London to Scotland.

    Look on the ingredients of most cans of pop (soda) & glucose-fructose syrup is usually the sweetner.

    I could overlook this though if it wasn’t for the beer slurs: Bud is the same relatively bland beer the world over – the way its served makes most difference (on tap or from a bottle). UK macrobeer is the same lowest common denominator muck as the US macrobeer mostly – it cannot beat almost all microbrews – UK or US. Try a Sam Adams lager (to pick a relatively common US lager with flavour available in the UK) or anything from Brooklyn Brewery or Sierra Nevada breweries & you will see that the US microbrew scene is every bit as good as ours in the UK.

    BA – pub food isn’t big on veg, it doesn’t sell as well as full fat, high sugar items. Unless you go to a restaurant, you will get garnish, not veg.

  76. I'd rather be fishin'

    Luved your comments about Brit food. I must agree that it is good. Combine it with the 1000′s of different beer and I’m in heaven. Steak and kidney pie is my favourite food with a pint of ‘best bitter’ as a side dish.

    Did you ever think of becoming a food critic? Your tag line could be something along the lines of a scientific review.

  77. Old Rockin' Dave

    All that and not one word about the grand British breakfasts? Not Weetabix (something like Shredded Wheat but less convenient), but lovely rashers of bacon, wonderful sausages, grilled tomatoes, even oatmeal which is done right, not the instant library paste so common here in the US.
    And then there is the crowning glory of British cuisine, the cheeses! Stilton, real Cheddar from the Cheddar Valley, Cheshire – I could go on…The French only THINK they know how to make cheese. Bah!
    As to brewing, while American brewers have come a long way, the one often imitated, never duplicated, glory is Irish, and I mean Guinness on draft (If I have to specify Guinness stout, you’re not a beer lover.).

  78. PeteC

    Without in any way doubting the authenticity of the data, it’s only a very small sample. My reaction to eating in the US has always been a mix of horror and delight in the amount of fat present… not to mention portion sizes beyond compare. Huge, enormous multi-half pound burgers stuffed into an enormous bun, slathered with bacon, fried onion rings and cheese, and then an enormous portion of fries… eek. Steaks bigger than my head. Breakfast being a huge stack of fatty pancakes covered in maple syrup and served with bacon and greasy eggs, fried on one side only and still semi-raw on the other. A hot dog that automatically came smothered in chili and molten cheese. Yummy, but what lot of fat!

    Of course, that’s restaurant food, especially tourist restaurant food. Pizza Hut is the stodgiest, fattiest pizza commonly available in the UK, then Dominos and the other US chains; chains like Pizza Express do exist, and serve the more Italian-style crispy bases with cheese as an ingredient rather than as a coating. I suspect tourists everywhere have the same problem though!

    Salad is the greatest failing of British food. We don’t do good salads – we do ok copies of European-style salads, meaning that they tend to be lettuce with some tomato and maybe a cucumber chopped in, splashed with a vinaigrette. The US style rich salads with multiple interesting ingredients – cheeses, bacon bits, etc etc are sadly uncommon. We’re not the best at vegetables, but we’re getting better, though really a pub lunch is not the place to find it. Pub meals are by default the older, fattier style of cooking.

    The greatest success of British food? Diversity. We have massive amounts of different types of food available. French, Italian, German, Ukranian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Indian – even chicken, from Kentucky. When you mix in the recent improvement of the traditional stuff it gives us a great many options.

    Finally, Britain deserved its reputation for poor food in the past. I believe the reason is World War 2. During the war, the UK was unable to import foodstuffs as it was used to doing; rationing was the norm, and was a serious problem. My father, as a child, suffered from rickets caused by malnutrition. Rationing continued for several years after the war ended. This meant that a whole generation grew up with a meagre view of food. The post-war generation felt that having beef for a sandwich was a luxury – so they would spread a single slice thinly across a slice of bread and think that that was fine. They cooked food that was better than that that they had grown up with, but never really realised that it was still poor. The generation after that grew up with it, and just accepted that British food wasn’t that good. It took the introduction of large amounts of restaurants opened by immigrants from the ex-Empire, along with increased competition from foreign sources (including many major US chains) to open people’s eyes to what they should have been doing. These days, the UK has pretty good food (though not everywhere’s perfect, anywhere in the world) and can definitely provide you with a really good meal – even if you are a vegetarian!

    oh, addendum: Yeah, we’re not big on animal fats. Even most Fish and Chip shops use vegetable oil these days. Animal fats are reserved for “special” occasions, when you want a meal to leave you feeling stuffed to the gills. I haven’t cooked in animal fat since – well, I haven’t cooked in animal fat; I’m only just approaching 40. Animal fat cooking at home is something from before my time, in this part of the UK.

  79. coolstar

    Personally, I rank English food (not the Commonwealth stuff, native stuff) right up there with the delights of English dentistry. I much prefer the native fare across the Irish Sea.

  80. Keith

    If I ever visit England, I’m eating McDonald’s the whole time I’m there, :lol:

  81. Brianimator

    What, no clotted cream? Maybe next time.

    There’s actually a salient common thread to your love of travel/food and your love of science: curiosity. I find that I always like people who share my joy of discovery – of seeing, tasting, or knowing about something new and wonderful.

    The universe is a place to be explored!

  82. KC

    Well the Brits have you there Phil. The fat content of bangers and mash is probably no worse than the super sized meals available at fast food restaurants here in the US.

    I’ve seen plenty of restaurant food that is heart attack on a plate…fries with gravy cheese AND chili on top! Another example: Cincinnati chili is served on top of a huge plate of pasta with copious amounts of cheese, onions and beans piled on top. Don’t even mention Philly Cheese steaks! A single Dairy Queen milkshake has 1300 calories – and a single Cinnabon cinnamon roll has 32 grams of fat!

  83. Mrs. BA

    Just to demonstrate how truly gastronomically incompatible the BA and I are, I’ll condense my opinions on traditional English food into 2 sentences. Entrees bad. Desserts good.

    The best meal I had in England was at a friend’s house in London. The second best meal was at a friend’s house in Bristol (it would have tied for first, but there was no trifle served in Bristol). The third best meal I had was Pizza Express. The Chinese food came in fourth (it wasn’t bad, just different and a bit blander than I’m used to) and all the pub grub tied for last place. Clearly traditional English fare is not for me since I’m not a big fan of sausage or fish. I’m sure there are many fine restaurants in London, we just didn’t happen to patronize any of them in the 6 days we were there.

    The sweets were fantastic though. I loved the bakeries on every block and 50 kinds of cookies in every shop. My greatest weakness is good shortbread and I spent a fair amount of time comparing different brands. I’ll think I’ll have to make it to Scotland next time just to see how it compares. Was the shortbread I bought in England really Scottish, or do they keep the primo stuff north of Hadrian’s Wall?

  84. Mrs. BA

    One last anecdote regarding the scarcity of veg (at least in the pubs). On our last day in London when my veg quest was still unfulfilled I asked one man working in a pub where I could get a nice big mixed salad. He suggested the TGI Fridays a couple blocks away. :(

    At the Red Lion Inn in Avebury there was one entree salad on the menu. Of course, it included chicken and bacon. Before ordering it I ask the barkeep if there was a good amount of salad underneath the meat. He assured me there was. When it was served I peeled back the pound of chicken and bacon to find a thin layer of plain green leaves that barely obscured the porcelain beneath.

    Avebury was awesome though – definitely worth seeing if you’re in the area. And nearby Long Barrow was fantastic, if you like that sort of thing, which I do.

  85. Dave H

    BA, is there a World Market(tm) store in your area?

    They carry lots of Brit treats including Mcvitie’s biscuits (Milk Chocolate Hob Nobs are great!); Cadbury chocolate; Heinz beans and curry; tins of Spotted Dick; and that all around general condiment, Branston Pickle.

    Mrs BA: Walker’s of Scotland is the best available in the States. They even have some special flavours. Try the shortbread with stem ginger. But, you have yet to have great shortbread until you make it to Scotland.

  86. Petrolonfire

    @46. Wundt: For healthier fair, you should have had the Plowman’s Lunch.

    I don’t know if the plowman would be very happy about that …

    “Oi! That’s *my*lunch you theiving @#@!!@@!” ;-)

  87. Simmo

    When I’m in the US I always think the food is just “fried stuff with cheese” and have to remember to ask for the dressing “on the side” otherwise every salad looks like coleslaw. Also, I like ice in my drink, not a drink somewhere in my ice.

    And if you make it to Scotland, look out for the Deep Fried Mars Bar.

  88. csrster

    I agree that US microbrew beer can be as good as microbrews anywhere else in the world. (We have some very good beers here in Denmark for instance.) But nothing I’ve tasted anywhere else in the world can compare to an English cask-conditioned draught ale. If you can get that taste from a bottle then I want to know about it.

    One more thing — Gefilte Fish? Is Phil an M.O.T. ?

  89. Al

    Ah the joys of the “High fat emulsified offal tube” ;-)

  90. England and food? You are joking. In England there are not food there are ration of energy which keep you live during extending the Empire. The Empire fell, but the attitude to food has stayed.

    Jeremy Paxman discuss it in very interesting book about English:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Portrait-People-Jeremy-Paxman/dp/0141032952/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256289435&sr=8-3

  91. Nigel Depledge

    Sarg (21) said:

    Ugh, ick, English food…

    English do many awesome things, but cooking certainly isn’t one of them!

    And yet we have many fine restaurants that are Michelin star-rated. Are you saying the French don’t know about food, or could it be that you had a bad experience that is atypical?

  92. Nigel Depledge

    Paul M (19) said:

    Not to mention that even the dodgiest pub will give you ice and a slice of lemon as standard in your coke unless you ask otherwise.

    And it is all too common to get a glassful of ice with some Coke splashed over it. I hate that. Especially in the colder half of the year.

    Dr BA, where did you go that the Coke was not automatically served at 0 °C?

  93. Nigel Depledge

    Zucchi (27) said:

    I gained five pounds during my trip to the UK, between lager and food.

    Lager? LAGER?????!!!

    Why did you drink lager in the UK? Compared with continental Europe, our lager is rubbish. (Although, to be fair, most of it is still better than the imported American beers we get.)

    And why did you come to the UK and drink lager? When we have the finest selection of ales in the world?

  94. bob

    In America, what the Welsh butcher is selling is shredded and sold as a burger or ground beef. You still eat it. It’s part of the whole, “I can’t eat it unless it’s wrapped in saran wrap and looks as though it’s never been near an animal” thing.

    We seem to use more fat and less sugar compared to the States in my experience. Americans seem to have an ability to put corn syrup in anything.

  95. Nigel Depledge

    Neil Haggath (38) said:

    Seriously, chocolate is one of the very few things in which the UK still leads the world. The EU once tried – I kid you not! – to ban our chocolate and force everyone to make it to the Belgian recipe instead. The official reason was some BS about “standardisation”; the real reason was sour grapes because ours is better than everyone else’s.

    I think this deserves some clarification:

    The EU tried to get Cadbury’s Dairy Milk rebranded as something other than chocolate. This is because it only contains 20% cocoa solids, and many of our neighbours believe that chocolate should contain more than a certain minimum quantity of cocoa solids. I am sure it is mere coincidence that this chosen level excluded CDM but included all of the widely-sold Beligian, Swiss and French brands.

    When I was in Florence a few years ago, I bought a bar of chocolate that was 100% cocoa solids. It had no sugar in it at all (and so was suitable for diabetics!!) and it was . . . a tad bitter (but very wonderful).

  96. MarcusBailius

    Someone mentioned McDonalds… Out, all of you! I used to enjoy that, about 20 years ago. I have eaten it more recently when there was no alternative. Tasteless is not the word…

    Among the great delights of British cooking:

    Puddings (see my comment 61 above)
    Pies: Steak and kidney (pie or pudding, preferably with ale or Guinness-based stock), or chicken and leek, for example. The Melton Mowbray pork pie is a special example of the breed… Eat in small amounts to avoid heart attacks.
    Roast chicken, stuffed, with all the trimmings – roast potatoes, steamed cauliflower/broccoli/sprouts/peas/carrots…
    Haggis – yes, really! McSweens are the best commonly available. Serve with bashed neeps and tatties. If you like a good sausage, you will definitely enjoy this treat. (But do get the right haggis…)
    Cornish pasties, of course… West Cornwall Pasty Shop offerings are the best commonly available around the UK. Avoid Ginsters unless you’re not feeling too choosy! Bears the same relationship to a good pasty as a Big Mac bears to a good burger. Er, actually somewhat better than that, the pasty actually has some flavour!
    Deep-fried fish and chips – best flavour comes from being cooked in beef dripping. There are good examples around – the best one I found was from Rick Stein’s place in Padstow, Cornwall. Most examples are fairly poor on the cooking quality, I must admit.
    A clotted cream tea – scones (preferably hand-made), strawberry jam and clotted cream. Serve with a proper pot of tea.
    Toad in the hole – sausages (good quality!) cooked in Yorkshire pudding, served with caramelised onion gravy.
    Cheeses – of course, the UK has excellent and often eccentric cheeses. Only the British could come up with something like Stinking Bishop – a real, and excellent, cheese, famous for a brief appearance in a Wallace and Gromit feature… Ah yes, blessed are the cheesemakers…

    Oh, and breakfasts: Yes, the full English. With good quality (grilled) sausage, black pudding (pretty much identical, I found, to the German Blutwurst), fried or scrambled eggs, a slice of fried bread, tomato, mushrooms, or a subset of these. Sometimes with beans. Eat only occasionally!

    Done right, British cooking is excellent. Don’t let the cheaper offerings put you off…

  97. Nigel Depledge

    Dr Flimmer (57) said:

    Drinks also depend on the region: In Prussia (northern part of Germany) you should try the many types of “Pils”. In Bavaria it is of course the famous (and, as I think, better) “Weißbier”.

    I must confess that I do like German pilsner, but it’s not always as good as the pilsner from Plzen (in the Czech Republic), which is where pilsner originated. Starobrno is another good pivo (very roughly, “standard beer”).

    But Weissbier (or Weizenbier, because it is almost always made from wheat instead of barley) is most excellent. And my fave Weizenbier has a wonderful name, too: Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen.

    However, if you’re discussing German beers you must at least mention altbier, which is scrumptious.

  98. Nigel Depledge

    Gillian (63) said:

    Ahh, were it not for the weather, my husband and I would live there. A wonderful place!

    Hey! What’s wrong with our weather?

    Where else can you get such a mild climate at 50 – 56 °N?

  99. Nigel Depledge

    JediBear (71) said:

    My then-girlfriend took a trip to England when I was in High School. Apparently the food there was so bad that she came back with an irresistable craving for Taco Bell or McDonalds or anything with some flavor, despite having never been a fan of fast food before.

    Wow! How utterly bizarre!

    We have McDonalds here (have since about 1980) and I can confidently state that I’ve had better food in about 19 out of every 20 pubs in which I have eaten.

    While it is true that eating out in the UK in the 1970s left one with a limited choice (“greasy spoon”-style caff where eveything is fried; or chicken-and-chips in a pub; or a pretntious restaurant), this has changed dramatically since then.

  100. Nigel Depledge

    Dave Morton (75) said:

    Most people in the UK are not big on frying with animal fats. Sunflower & olive oil are ubiquitous.

    True, but not as ubiquitous as rapeseed oil (most commonly sold as “vegetable oil”, and at one point was famously cheaper per unit volume than diesel and just as good for fuelling a diesel engine).

    The rail system in the UK cannot be relied upon to get you from London to Birmingham without having to transfer to a bus to take you part of the journey due to rail repairs, let alone London to Scotland.

    Quite right. I have used the “sleeper” from Scotland to London on a couple of occasions and it was not good, even if it wasn’t particularly late.

    I think earlier in the thread someone commented that you could do Scotland as a day trip from London. Well, this is technically possible, but it will be about 5 hours each way (sauf imprévu!) and you can only visit either Edinburgh or Glasgow this way and you won’t have much time for actually doing anything while you’re there.

    (I was jobhunting a few years ago and this involved a couple of train journeys from Gloucester to Glasgow or Edinburgh for interviews, and the train scheduling did not allow enough time in between arriving and having to depart to be able to do that in a day).

    Look on the ingredients of most cans of pop (soda) & glucose-fructose syrup is usually the sweetner.

    Er, no. First one after “carbonated water” is usually “sucrose”.

    I could overlook this though if it wasn’t for the beer slurs: Bud is the same relatively bland beer the world over – the way its served makes most difference (on tap or from a bottle). UK macrobeer is the same lowest common denominator muck as the US macrobeer mostly – it cannot beat almost all microbrews – UK or US. Try a Sam Adams lager (to pick a relatively common US lager with flavour available in the UK) or anything from Brooklyn Brewery or Sierra Nevada breweries & you will see that the US microbrew scene is every bit as good as ours in the UK.

    Well, I can’t comment on the US microbrewery stuff, but I disagree about the UK macro stuff. True, lager brewed in the UK is terrible, but there are other beers that are large-scale brewed and are perfectly acceptable. Boddingtons, Newcastle Brown Ale, Caledonian 80/ and Tetley bitter and all macro-brewery products that are better than the imported US beers.

    BA – pub food isn’t big on veg, it doesn’t sell as well as full fat, high sugar items. Unless you go to a restaurant, you will get garnish, not veg.

    Not universally so; it largely depends on the pub.

    At some “foody” pubs you actually do get a decent portion of vegetables or salad with your main meals (of which a fine example is The Green Tree in Tudhoe Village, which was briefly seen on the Kim Cattrall episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?”). At others, you are better off ordering a side salad or a side order of veg to get your greens, but they are available.

  101. Cheyenne

    I think Britian’s food has gotten a lot better in the last decade. Bit of a Gordon Ramsey/Naked Chef effect I think. And as somebody has pointed out above the Indian food there is just fantastic. I think it’s actually better than what you get in India (mostly because you don’t have that niggling worry that you are going to possibly get cholera with each bite).

    But that said it still doesn’t hold a candle to what you can get on the continent. It is close to impossible to get bad food in France or Italy. Even the Germans (not known as great chefs) I think have some great stuff.

    I like being an American but I wish we had a food culture like they do in Europe.

    BTW – England’s PG Tips is the best tea on the planet. Workman’s tea. Love it.

  102. DrFlimmer

    @ #97 Nigel Depledge

    I must confess that I do like German pilsner, but it’s not always as good as the pilsner from Plzen (in the Czech Republic), which is where pilsner originated. Starobrno is another good pivo (very roughly, “standard beer”).

    But Weissbier (or Weizenbier, because it is almost always made from wheat instead of barley) is most excellent. And my fave Weizenbier has a wonderful name, too: Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen.

    However, if you’re discussing German beers you must at least mention altbier, which is scrumptious.

    100% agree. Schöfferhofer is really good, although their ad-campaign is terrible. Erdinger Weißbier is also really, really good!
    If we mention Altbier, we should also mention “Kölsch” (which is, for obvious reasons, only made and selled in Cologne). The problem with this is, that it tastes like water with a small drop of pilsener.
    And for those adventure-holiday-fans: If you really want to get in trouble, then visit Cologne during the carnival-season (in February, normally), order an “Alt” and scream “Hellau” – you will be in SERIOUS trouble. The only thing you can do then is: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! :D

  103. Chip

    Phil’s gastronomic essay affords me the opportunity to boast that my girlfriend and I once had dinner with him and a faculty member in Davis California years ago. Phil came to speak at a Davis Astronomy Day. He gave a great talk and we met later, and Davis being a college town, the choices were either sports-bar burger joints, Chinese takeout and pizza, (which is very good there,) or on the pricier (for college kids) side, Spanish Tapas, Czech, Thai, Indian, or Vietnamese. We choose “Katmandu” which had Indian and “Himalayan” dishes and we all had lively conversation about science and space exploration within the aromas of tandoori chicken, masala dishes, palak paneer and fresh garlic naan . :D

  104. PMac

    For all lovers of bangers and maah everywhere – Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren. Enjoy:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGFpVN2xwXU

  105. Old Rockin' Dave

    Since Budweiser came up in a couple of posts, I’d like to point out that there are TWO completely separate brands of beer with the same name.
    One is the American brand, apparently brewed in horse kidneys.
    The other, reputedly far superior and less common, is brewed in the Czech Republic, actually in Budweis, but they have had to fight in the courts country by country over the name, so it is rarely seen outside its native country.
    BTW, if anyone knows what name it might be sold under in the US, do us all a favor and post it here.

  106. csrster

    Btw, don’t generalise about the continent. I’ve lived in Denmark for eight years and the food here is generally appaling, and if it weren’t for the immigrants it would be even worse. To be fair, when I lived here in the 1990s it was even worse. You couldn’t even get imported beer in those days.

  107. Ooh Clark’s Pies! Did you get to try them Phil ?

    Being from Cardiff and a gentle stroll from the Cowbridge Road shop I know them well. Probably the best pie I’ve ever had! Been going since the very early 1900′s and still family owned and run. Miss them since emigrating to Australia, though luckily in Melbourne there’s plenty of great food from all around the world to make up for it. :-)

  108. Old Rockin' Dave

    Re: my last post, real Budweiser from Budweis (now called Budejovice) is sold in the US as “Czechvar”. Now I will have to find it near me.

  109. Antiquated Tory

    @OldRockinDave,
    Budvar is actually quite a commonly found export, though maybe not so much in the States. You can get it in the UK easily enough (though I’m afraid the Brits mostly have no damn idea how to pour lager, which is one reason I only drink real ale or cloudy, dry cider when in the UK). It’s heavily exported to Germany. And I saw it once in a bar in Ch’unch’on, Republic of Korea.

  110. Let me suggest mushy peas (a specialty of the Northwest, often served with fish and chips).
    Like mashed potatoes, but mashed peas. There is some sort of chemical added to them
    (lye?), though, which transforms their colour to a fluorescent lime-green reminiscent of a
    1970s AMC Pacer.

    Someone once said that he who wishes to eat three meals a day in England should eat
    breakfast 3 times. There’s something to that, although I couldn’t eat a full English
    breakfast regularly (but do enjoy one occasionally).

    Vegetables are rare, true, but there are many vegetarians, and they know where to get
    them.

    I once knew an English vegetarian who ended up in a steakhouse in New Mexico. After
    explaining that he was a vegetarian, they brought him chicken! All a question of
    perspective.

  111. Nigel Depledge

    Phillip Helbig (110) said:

    Let me suggest mushy peas (a specialty of the Northwest, often served with fish and chips).

    Nay! Mushy peas are also ubiquitous in Yorkshire and the North-east.

    And, IIUC, they are a different species of pea from your normal garden peas. They naturally go colourless and mushy when cooked, and the final stage of the preparation (which I also cannot remember) changes their colour to that vivid green.

  112. Nigel Depledge

    Old Rockin’ Dave (77) said:

    And then there is the crowning glory of British cuisine, the cheeses! Stilton, real Cheddar from the Cheddar Valley, Cheshire – I could go on…The French only THINK they know how to make cheese. Bah!

    Sadly, there is very little recognition of British cheese, even within Britain. I blame the supermarkets – they stock a limited range of pre-packaged, processed cheeses that often aren’t as good as the proper fresh cheese that they are supposed to be.

    I find it hard to pinpoint a favourite English cheese, since there are so many and I have had the opportunity to try so few. All I can suggest is to refer the reader to the Monty Python cheese shop sketch for a mere hint of the diversity of cheese that is produced.

    As to brewing, while American brewers have come a long way, the one often imitated, never duplicated, glory is Irish, and I mean Guinness on draft (If I have to specify Guinness stout, you’re not a beer lover.).

    I take issue with you here. Point 1: Murphy’s. Point 2: Maclay’s Oatmeal Stout. I rest my case.

  113. It’s strange. We Brits think the same thing about US food as you now perceive ours. Full of fat and sugar. We see your food as supersized candy, supersized burgers, supersized steaks with huge starch balls (potatoes) loaded with sour cream and … so on.

    I think the problem is that as a visitor/tourist you just don’t know where the good places to eat are, and secondly you eat 90% of your meals in restaurants rather than cooking at home. So Brits come back from the US with a few extra pounds and Americans come back from the UK with a few extra pounds.

    The lesson? Most restaurant food is made to [make a profit and] taste nice, not necessarily to be good for you.

    And, Phil, the Bangers and Mash at the TAM Saturday evening event were really really poor quality. I hope you found some better ones in your other meals!

  114. Markle

    @103 Chip

    Davis being a college town, the choices were either sports-bar burger joints, Chinese takeout and pizza, (which is very good there,)

    This, I take it, was after Professor’s went out of business? Steve’s and Woodstock’s were fairly good but pricey for the average student. The Blue Mango was pub to go to. Excellent beer and salsa.

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