Monday, April 16, 2007

Why English Food Is Good

I'm playing along. I don't know what I'm doing, because it's all about Google docs and spreadsheets, and thankgod I'm old enough not to have to know what that all means.
But Sam at Becks & Posh invited us all to blog about why English food isn't a joke.
We all know English food was a joke for decades, if not more. It took the careful archaeological uncoverings of Elizabeth David to prove that we were prejudiced and wrong — and even then, she was all about French food.
I will leave aside discussion of the Two Fat Ladies, and even (oy) Jamie Oliver. Also that guy who loves candy too much (Nigel somebody?). Oh, and the whole-pig blokes.
Anyway. I'm not English. I have no excuse and no excuses.
I don't even have any English food traditions. I will make a roast beef for Christmas, but Tiny Tim might cringe. I've done a few Yorkshire puddings that pleased me, but the Queen might disagree. I'm competent with shortbread, and I've stewed up oatmeal... Oh, wait. I do love Lyle's Golden Syrup.
Ummm. What else. I drink tea?
So. Huh.
One thing I know I can get right. And it suits me: Beans on toast.
Comfort food of the simplest (and therefore highest) degree. Open a can (Heinz vegetarian, of course). Toast up a few slices of bread. Shave some cheese (today it was Montgomery Farm Cheddar from Neal's Yard Dairy). Run it all under the broiler.
It was necessary because our kitchen is being dismantled. We are packing stuff into boxes for an anticipated move. The magical dual-fuel convection oven/range is being donated to the new owners, and we are out there in "where shall we move to" land, moiled in that real estate uncertainty that makes earthquakey California so — unsettling.


Leena said...

Good luck with your move! You managed to make beans on toast look so appetizing, I may actually try to make it. Do you use a special camera or lighting for your food porn? They always look so good, I can never get my pictures to look the same!

Anita (Married... with dinner) said...


Hey, wait, that's like 1/3 of an English breakfast. :D

Jamie said...

You're moving? Wow--to a place with more tomato space, maybe? :-)

I should really have gotten in on this English food blogging thing. I love English food and I make killer Cornish pasties. I even bake flapjacks. And someone has to represent for the whole-pig blokes!

Kevin said...

Moving? Poor baby. Are you staying in Marin or wherever it is?

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Being part English, I know that this country's bad reputation comes from the fact that you have to know where to eat when in England, otherwise you might have bad surprises! But, over there, there are many people who know how to cook good food and let me tell you that when it's good, then it's very very good (and when it's bad, then it's very bad ;-P). In fact it's a bit like everywhere else...
I love English food as it's more diversified and delicious than you might think!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, sounds like the perfect comfort food. Eagerly waiting the news of where you decide to land, and good luck to you and C as you start in on the often-harrowing moving process.

El said...

OOOoo. I hope you can still hoof it to a farmer's market, wherever it is you'll be going...

Beans + toast + cheese? Yums, even if you do think it's English! (The poor English.)

Monkey Wrangler said...




dual-fuel thingy........


You are MAD!

Kidding. At least you'll be able to make this with any ol' oven, wherever you land. Hey wait, that's another reason to call this good food.

Later mater'........I've still got a tomater plant for you and Cranksters when you land.

Beccy said...

Cookiecrumb, so simple and so delicious only you forgot the marmite!

cookiecrumb said...

Leena: Thank you! You are far too kind. My experience is that comfort food is terribly hard to make appealing-looking, so I think I just got lucky here. Oh, and it's slightly out of focus; that probably helped. Heh.

Anita: Aw, man... You caught me and my skimpy appetite. I shoulda put an egg on it.

Jamie: Well, not moving to a farm, doggone it. But. YES! If all goes well, it will be a place with more tomato space!
(BTW, you can still jump in on this English food thing; right up your alley. Deadline is Friday. Represent!)

Kevin: It's hard; always is (and I know you know). Yup, sticking with this Marin-thingie.

Rosa: Ooh! I'm an appreciator from afar of English food. I know there's a lot of innovation (and pigs' ears and stuff) going on these days. And trifle.

Jennifer: Spot on. Thanks.

El: If we "win" the place we're looking at, it will be a bit of a hoof to the market, but a fun bike ride! (And I must reprimand you: Beans on toast is way Brit.)

Monkey Wrangler: They asked for the oven in their contract. I think the last two houses we've sold were successes because of the ovens we've let go. So what! We'll just get a better one! Nyah.
Hey, I am SO delighted you are hanging on to a 'mater for us. Sweet! I hope we can hurry this deal along.

Beccy: I don't HAVE the marmite!! Boy, that sounds good. To tell you the truth, I didn't know you could do that to a bean sandwich. Sigh.

ChrisB said...

For the English this is the 'what can we have that takes no effort' and you described it beautifully. I bet most households in the UK keep beans in their store cupboards.

You're moving did your ' borrowed mom' miss this news or is this the first mention!!

cookiecrumb said...

Chris: First mention, luv!

Dagny said...

I knew of the move because Cranky mentioned it already. I must admit that I have never gotten into the beans on toast thing. Perhaps one day I'll give it a try.

Stacie said...

Come live in the Frozen Tundra!! I kid... My Grandma was from England, and her cooking was... how shall I say this without disrespecting the dead... mushy. Everything... mushy. I don't really know any "English" dishes myself... but I do think Jamie Oliver is a hottie! He can heat up my kithchen anyday!!

Ms Brown Mouse said...

oooh, Lyle's Golden Syrup, that's lovely, and can be used to make Bakewell Tart, yummy.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Moving? Looks like you might be eating a lot of beans on toast for a while. Of course, from the look of your photo, that's a good thing. A very good thing. ;)

Sam said...

so this was a local beans on toast???? Congratulations on your mention in the Chron today! And good luck with that meddlesome move.

Alice Q. Foodie said...

Wow, you made beans on toast look good! Congratulations and good luck with your move!

Anonymous said...

Beef Wellington is English, isn't it? We had it once at the Pelican Inn - that was also the one and only place my husband had a 1/2 pint of Guiness!

Good luck on the move, that's always such a hassle.

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: You're in the In Crowd! (Do give beans on toast a try. My dad introduced it to me with leftover baked beans on Boston brown bread. Candy!)

Stacie: Aw. "Mushy." That is, sadly, a perfect description. (One of my problems with Jamie Oliver is that he walks around knowing he's a hottie. Feh.)

DMM: Try this -- toast an English muffin, butter it, smear it with cream cheese, and spoon on the Lyle's. You will be in heaven.

Susan: Why are beans the very easiest comfort food? I know. Because they come from cans. I'm also huge on Rosarita refried beans.

Sam: English beans! Imported Heinz vegetarian beans. The real thing. (Thanks for noticing the Chron story.)

AliceQ: As with Doris Day and her "freckle problem," we found that soft focus does wonders. Thanks for the good wishes. Ooh, I should be downstairs wrapping plates in newspaper.

Cindy: Pelican Inn! What a great place. I can't honestly tell you if Beef Wellington is English, but I know Wellingtons are.

Sam said...

Beef wellington is English but it *may* have been invented originally by someone French in England for the Duke of Wellington - no one knows for sure - but that dish with the name Beef Wellington it is well and truly English and I am making it by the by this weekend.

Freya said...

It sounds good enough to be English if it's cheddar and heinz soup! Great post and wonderful blog by the way!
Good luck with your move!

Sam said...

you WILL have the marmite. I do believe it is on route to us via me fom mum. one each. guinness.

Catherine said...

Ah, beans on toast were definitely a childhood regular dinner for me. Seems very carbie to me now. My fav. way to eat Heinz Baked Beans (Brit & Veg) is cold with salad. They were part of the salad bar at the seaside hotel in Sussex we stayed in each summer for 4 years in a row. Great food all round. Most people seem to enjoy them this way (except Sam). Sweetpea loves them and, BTW, she's writing a book about Beansprout. Stay tuned!

cookiecrumb said...

Sam: I hope we get to hear how your Beef Wellington turns out! Way too ambitious for me.

Freya and Paul: Not soup! Baked beans. :P

Sam: Beccy tipped me off about the Marmite! Eeeee!

Catherine: That is a vast, vast cultural difference, I must say. Baked beans in salad. Wow.
(Bean Sprout and I are so tickled about the budding author!)

Anonymous said...

I'am English, living in the USA.I think English food is right for Americans wanting to save money.I see recipes for Shepherds Pie, they are all wrong the beef used should be from the left over roast beef ground up and the potatoes left over from the previous meal. The pie will taste quite different using precooked beef. Rissoles used the same ingredients. During the war we had to make do. I think a lot of English food originates from hard times and being poor.