Fish and Quips
April 21, 2007

Last month, Sam entreated interested parties to "prove that English food is not (always) a joke."

"Gladly!" I say. In fact, about three years ago, I went on at length about why I remain obsessed with British food and drink. In celebration of Sam's Fish and Quips, I updated those hungry thoughts of baps, buttys, and beers with illustrative photographs -- an act that made me miss my beloved English fare all the more.

I mean, seriously? How can you joke about a country that dreamed up and serves the above first thing in the morning? Not for the first time have I gazed through the cold panes of a chilly, wet world and longed to be embraced by a full English breakfast. What could be more comforting than got fried eggs, bangers, bacon, fried bread (FRIED BREAD!), grilled tomatoes, and mushrooms? I'm pretty sure it's what they serve in Heaven, where cholesterol and heart disease are no longer a worry. Taken separately, fried eggs, some sort of sausages, and bacon are fairly shruggable -- the kind of food you can get from any diner or brunch. But when you throw in the fried bread (FRIED BREAD!), mushrooms, and the grilled tomatoes that Gerald Durrell's mother sought with hysterically disastrous results on a Greek ship, it becomes so wonderfully, so deliciously, English.

It is one of my greatest gastronomic regrets that I have, as yet, never been able to indulge in that most comforting of British of meals: the Sunday Roast. During my stint in England, I certainly had ample opportunities to tottle down to one of several corner pubs and nosh through a lamb roast, a prime rib roast, or even a roast chicken, but I never did.

Of course, I may have been too replete with Tatties' enormous stuffed "jacket potatoes" to consider it. Faced with fillings that ranged from the basic (baked beans or plain cheese) to the elaborate (cheese and prawns with tomato and garlic), I found that I favored the cheese and hot garlic mushrooms, while Mathra's potato had Cambridge Sausages and Heinz beans spilling out of it. It's the most beautiful mess of food.

However it is just as likely that, not stuffed jacket potatoes, but Fitzbillies' world-famous Chelsea Buns made me too stickily full for a Sunday Roast.

Then there are hot buttered crumpets, teacakes, and paper-thin, crustless tea sandwiches of cucumber, Coronation Chicken, or cheese and pickle; elevenses at Little Bettys in York; Devon cream teas with scones and wild strawberry preserves; Cadbury chocolate, wine gums, and plain chocolate digestive biscuits; pizza from 7a Jesus Lane; sticky toffee pudding with poured cream; vinegar-soaked and fish and chips from Whitby's Magpie Cafe.

All which can be washed down with Earl Grey tea; Pimm's and lemonade on Trinity College backs; cream ale and real ales and scrumpy, cloudy cider; proper ginger beer; Tango soda; and port with After Eights and Stilton.

No, I'm not laughing at English food, I'm craving it.

Read and see more at Food I Have Known: Cambridge Chronicles and Food I have Known: Cambridge Chronicles, Part the Second.

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