by guest blogger Dee L. Mason
With relatives over in Britain, we decided to take our Midlife Roadtrip a little bit further afield than anywhere we’d been so far and combined a family visit with a mini food tour of Her Majesty’s island. We asked our cousins what foods they most associated with England, and this is the list they came up with:Afternoon Tea Consisting of homemade scones with jam and cream and, of course, a pot of tea, this is a world-renowned English delight which really lived up to its reputation. Apparently if you walk into any English tea shop, they’re bound to serve it to you. We tried ours in Shelley’s Tea Room in a picturesque village called Chilham in Kent, near the historical town of Canterbury. The scones were fresh from the oven and still warm, and I couldn’t wait to try them again when I got home so I made my own. They weren’t quite as good, but it won’t be long before I try them again!
Bangers and Mash That’s sausages and mashed potato to the rest of the world. My cousin, Anne, cooked this for us at her home in her lovely country kitchen. All you need is some short, fat, meaty sausages, some potatoes to mash with a bit of butter or mayo and some onion gravy, either homemade or from gravy granules. Having experienced the gloomy, rainy days of England, I can understand why this one’s so popular – eating is like curling yourself up on the couch wrapped in a quilt with a mug of hot cocoa in your hand. It’s hot, tasty comfort food.
(Sunday) Roast Beef It’s not enough just to say ‘Roast Beef’, but explaining everything that goes into this meal would take up too much space for a subtitle! It involves roast beef (obviously), roast potatoes, roast parsnips, steamed carrots, peas, Yorkshire Puddings and yet more gravy. A classic meal that has been making sure generations of British families have got together each weekend for centuries, it’s another one that will warm you to the bone. Yorkshire puddings, for those of you not in the know, are bowl-shaped creations made from pancake batter. They were originally used to catch all the fat that dripped off from a roasting joint and are the perfect match for roast beef and a tasty gravy. We tried ours at a pub called The Smuggler’s Inn in Dorset – the sun was shining but there’s a chilly wind up on those cliffs so the roast went down a treat.
Apple Crumble Stewed apple with a small sprinkling of sugar, covered with a ‘crumbled’ mixture of flour, butter and sugar and a hint of cinnamon. Absolutely delicious, and another one to match English weather. We had ours at The Smuggler’s Inn again, to follow our roast beef with Yorkshire puddings.
Fish ‘n’ Chips While the roast beef and apple crumble serve to warm you on a cold day, cream tea and fish ‘n’ chips are the fuel of the British summer. Fortunately for us, the British summer is a susceptible to rapidly change to winter, so we got to try the best of the winter food and the summer food. Best tried in a seaside town, we headed to Cornwall for ours, right at the south western tip of England with the sun shining and a gentle breeze to ripple the waves. A fillet of cod deep fried in a generous coating of beery batter, served with fat fries and an assortment of condiments. The most popular combination is salt and vinegar, which they’ll offer to put on for you before wrapping your portion in brown paper and handing you a little wooden fork so you can take your lunch onto the beach with you. Just beware of passing seagulls – the vicious creature might try to nick the fry right out of your hand!
Cornish Ice Cream We followed our fish ‘n’ chips up with Cornish Vanilla Ice Cream in an ice cream cornet, which is apparently the proper way to do it. The ice cream was creamy and flavoursome, and not as smooth as the normal stuff we have at home. Pork Pie The last of the foods on their list, the pork pie seemed to be my cousins’ favourite, but when they described to us what it was, it was the one we were most wary to try. It’s pork sausage meat encased in a layer of jelly, a layer of lard-like fat which in turn is encased in a thick pastry. And it’s served cold. They bought us one to try from their local superstore and it was interesting, to put it one way! My husband really liked it, but I’m not so sure. I would definitely be willing to try it again though, seeing as these Brits rave about it so much!
On our travels around the south of England, we saw loads of other foods on various menus – particularly traditional pub menus – which seem to have been made in England since the beginning of time! I’m hoping we’ll soon have another excuse to go back there and visit more of the country, trying even more food along the way!
Dee L. Mason is a freelance travel writer who lives for road tripping, especially if it involves cross-country trips on the way to luxury ski holidays. She also drinks more cups of tea per day than is reasonable or healthy.