Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Forking Foreigner: 6 British Foods I Will Never Eat Again

A million years ago when it took days (if not weeks) to chase an animal down in your barefeet, kill it with your handmade bow and arrow, eviscerate and butcher it with the shard of shale that one of your six wives whittled, and then figure out a way to preserve the meat without the use of refrigeration or salt, it made sense to eat really gross foods—that is sort of all you had and you were lucky to get it.

But a while after World War II ended, after England got back on its battered feet and charged, stiff upper lip into the modern world (full of indoor pull-chain loos and cramped under-counter refrigerators), one would presume that eating the remnants of slaughtered animals, the stuff that should only be used in tinned dog food would have ended with a collective sigh of relief.

It’d be a safe assumption, right? Wrong. Call it a cultural thing, but the Brits still eat some questionable grub.

In the first eighteen months of living in their country, being a food writer, I thought it best to try some of the foods that foreigners make fun of. Here’s a list of those foods I tried that I will never put into my mouth again.

1) Rollmops Not originally British, but the fact that they have embraced them so, makes it all the worse. Herring, skin intact, soaked in a sweet and sour brine until awful, then wrapped around an olive or onion. Served cold or room temperature.  Tastes like low tide.

2) Tripe The lining of a cow, sheep, pig or deer’s stomach. Have you seen­ this stuff? Culinary tip number 342: Stop reading any recipe that begins with, ‘boil for 2-3 hours to tenderize and clean’.

3) Black Pudding Sounds like something Mrs. Doubtfire might set down in front of you after a nice English supper. It’s not. It is sausage made from the blood of pigs. The flavour isn’t all that bad, it’s just the idea that you are eating blood (and the iron taste that clings to the back of your teeth 30 minutes after finishing).

4) Jellied Eels At least no one is trying to sweeten up the name—this is what it purports to be. Fresh water eels cut into rounds (never mind about the skin and bones), then cooked in a fish stock and allowed to cool in the gelatin that results naturally from their bony serpentine bodies. It’s like eating a snotty snake.

5) Cockles in Vinegar Cockles are small clams that are cooked and chucked into a vat of vinegar. Cockles = Good. Cockles + Vinegar = Gag.

6) Brawn Also known as ‘head cheese’. This is a case of dressing up the name so that young children will eat the head on their plate. Made from a calf, cow, pig or sheep’s head, the brain is removed (these people aren’t Barbarians, after all) and it is boiled. As it cooks, the skull releases copious amounts of gelatin. The head is picked of its meat sometimes chunks of heart may be added, then the meat and skull gelatin are mixed together and set. Eaten by the slice usually as luncheon meat. Just the idea of this is a show-stopper. 

15 comments:

Melissa said...

this is the first time i have read your blog and lost my appetite. who thinks of these things?!?!?!

Kristin said...

The wonderful and dreamy English breakfast, all variations included, more than makes up for these little culinary oversights. I still have nightmares about the blood pudding!

Pete said...

It's rare (if unprecedented) you'll post an multiple recipe entry that I am not the slightest bit interested in consuming - Congrats. No wonder the Brits all cry "God save the Queen!" if she has to eat that stuff.

Ann Marie said...

Loved it, Jenny! As always, I love to hear your take on culinary delights (or lack thereof as the case may be here) from different cultures and countries. When I lived in London, I avoided all of those foods like the plague, for fear that if I even tried them I would be seeing them again in my lap or on my plate moments later. Congrats to you for having the guts and the stomach to give them all a go!! Hope all is well in merry old England! Ann Marie from Switzerland

Ann Marie said...

Loved it, Jenny! As always, I love to read your take on culinary delights (or lack thereof as the case may be here) from different cultures and countries. When I lived in London, I avoided all of those foods like the plague, for fear that if I did try them, they would end up on my lap or my plate moments later! Congrats to you for having the guts and the stomach to try them. Hope all is well in merry ole England! Ann Marie from Switzerland

writingal said...

I tried Hog Maw recently, which is tripe. I liked it!

writingal said...

I tried Hog Maw recently (tripe), and it was yummy!

JennyB said...

Writingal-- Can you post more details about Hog Maw? Which country is it from? Is the tripe left whole or diced up or what? Spices? Seasonings?
Thanks!

007 said...

This - from native of the USA - the country that spawned McD's. Jenny, I'm amazed. How could anybody not find: black pudding; cockles; roll-mops (not British by the way); and brawn, absolutely delectable!?! Ah yes, I know - it's because none of them come as a 22oz serving (with fries, sides and biscuits (which are NOT biscuits!)) covered in globular, tasteless, deep-fried, spray-on cheese! Oh yes, and what's more, now you've got me started ...... you call that freezing cold, tasteless, fizzy distilled water that's served across the pond - "beer"???

JennyB said...

007-- it's true no one in the UK ever asks if you want to 'super size' an order of Blood Pudding. It is also true what you say about the States have some horrible foods, too.Maybe my next story...?

007 said...

Hi again - how about this as a working title for that feature "Quantity over quality - the American Dream". Just a suggestion? Whatever you decide to write about - keep writing!!! It makes GREAT reading!

barb said...

you are tooo funny..... I know I will be educated and entertained every time I read your posts....thx

JennyB said...

007-- I can't dispute your comment about American's being wildly ambitious consumers. But I will keep writing. Thanks for the 'feed'back.

Look-out for an expose' on Rollmops

Meghan said...

I happen to like black pudding - the others not so much! But a real fry up in England or Ireland with a little black pudding - yum. Have you ever tried white pudding - something else to make your heart stop beating.

Andy and Barbara said...

thanks so much for the warnings Jenny! I have tried black pudding once and thought it wasn't too bad but now will think twice about trying some of these other British foodie "delicacies"! Please keep up the good work on behalf of we other US expats here in the UK.