Thursday, May 17, 2012

Carby old England

Next we move just a bit south to England.  Will and I traveled to England for the first time in June of 2003, right after we graduated from college.  That time we just went to London (then Paris for a bit...that'll come later), but about a year later in Spring 2004 when my family decided to take a trip to England we went along too and got to see more of the country, plus we saw Bombay Dreams in the West End.  I don't know what it was about this particular trip, but pretty much every year when we get a cold rainy day in spring I get nostalgic about it and want to listen to Bombay Dreams and eat British food.  I also want to go back to England, but that craving is harder to satisfy.

Our first night in London (on our second trip there) we landed late and went to get dinner in a Chinese restaurant because it was the only place we could find that was open.  We promptly horrified our server by eating the orchids that decorated our meals.  You know, these little guys:

They're edible, and are served on salads at a fancy restaurant near our house but the server said she was from Malaysia where they grow all over the place and she's never seen anyone eat them.  Why do they use them to garnish all the dinner plates in her restaurant then, I wonder? 

We've done most of the big touristy things in London....

I never rode the London Eye though....eep
Westminster Abbey

Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery and St. Martin-in-the-Fields (I think?) in the background

An already-weighty girl with an unfortunately placed "money belt" (oh, it was SO a fanny pack) and her awkward fiance at Tower of London

Buckingham Palace (and a bag of Lush goodies)

St. Pauls Cathedral

The British Museum

The ever-sturdy London Bridge
...and had the famous fish and chips eaten out of a greasy newspaper, but that didn't thrill me much.  Most of the meals we ate were from neat little pubs like this that serve you starch topped with starch with a side of starch.  My favorite kind of food (but if I eat like that too often, I look like I do in these pictures).

I regret that I didn't like beer yet when I traveled over there, because now that I DO like beer I really enjoy English-style beers.  Instead I mostly drank Bacardi Breezer-type drinks, which actually contained hard liquor over there vs. the "malt beverage" things that were allowed in America at the time.  I did go on a tour of a brewery in York though, which was probably my first brewery tour!  Awwww!

I remember being horrified to hear that they just scooped the yeast out of one batch of beer and slapped it into the new batch to keep working and that they had used the same yeast for years.  I now know this is pretty common but at the time I just used it as yet another reason to turn my nose up at beer.

We also got to see Shaun of the Dead on the day it opened while we were in York, which was, of course, awesome.  Especially because we could then go home and brag to our friends that we had seen a hilarious movie that wasn't even out over here yet and then enjoy going to see it on opening day again.  Also they have ASSIGNED SEATING at movies in England, which is bloody brilliant.  There's no stressful saving of seats for late friends, you just swing by early in the day to buy your tickets and you're set.  I'm still waiting for this practice to be instituted here in the states.

Some other highlights of our trip:

A stay in Broadway in the Cotswolds...cutest little town ever
The real-life "English Country Garden" at our B&B.  One day I will have an awesome walled garden like this
Hiking up to Broadway Tower
Will falling in the mud while climbing over a stile while hiking up to Broadway Tower


Windsor Castle
York Cathedral

Our awesome historic B&B outside Oxford
People used to be shorter back then

We were there over Easter on our second trip, and I remember hunting through this little town for some dinner on Easter evening.  For some reason we hadn't anticipated that it might be tough to find a restaurant that was open on Easter in a small place like this.  The one place we found that was open and sold food, strangely enough, was the post office.  I guess England has different ideas of when post offices should be open than we do.  We were grateful for the grub though!

So!  What food did I choose to make for dinner to represent our trip to England?

Bangers, bubble & squeak, and whole wheat Yorkshire pudding with gravy
 Mmmmm, carbs.  I discovered bubble & squeak at a pub in York when I decided to just go ahead and order it, whatever the heck it was, and see what came out on my plate.  I was a bit nervous after run-ins with blood pudding, whiskey porridge and marmite earlier in my trip so I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised to find nothing more alarming than potatoes and cabbage with some peas and onions.  I find now that it is usually used as a way to repurpose whatever leftover veggies are in the fridge, which is less comforting to know when you're ordering something from a restaurant (was I getting someone's leftovers from yesterday?) but it is tasty and different.  Yorkshire pudding is a favorite of mine, and if you use whole wheat flour and cut out the 1/2 cup of beef fat in this recipe (I've made it using a couple Tbsp of duck fat and just plain cooking spray instead, both turned out acceptably) you get a super-fast eggy tasty bread that even my kids will scarf down.  Yummy.

Sadly, we had no British beers in the house since my husband is the primary purchaser of beer and he favors American microbrews, but I did find this English-style ale that stood in nicely.

Strangely enough, I don't remember eating any traditional desserts while in England.  Scones with clotted cream and jelly at tea yes, but no typical puddings or tarts or cakes.  Maybe we were so stuffed with all the starch from our dinners that we didn't ever have room for dessert?  I do remember several mix-ups involving Cadbury chocolate.  To an American Cadbury kind of implies Cadbury creme egg, but in England it's kind of like saying Hershey's in that they are a big company that makes all kinds of chocolate products, all of which taste infinitely better than their American counterparts.  When I saw a Cadbury McFlurry at a McDonalds over there I rushed in and bought it thinking I would get a cup of ice cream filled with creme eggs, when in fact I got a cup of ice cream filled with something strange and unsettling called Cadbury flake chocolate.  On my second trip I was older and wiser, but when I saw a HUGE Cadbury egg in a drugstore I rushed in and bought that too, expecting to bust it open and find a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque motherload of creme inside.  It was actually just a chocolate shell filled with 3 tiny creme eggs on the inside.  Disappointed hardly begins to describe how I felt.

Rather than steaming myself up a pudding to follow my meal, I just abstained from dessert.  I was definitely too stuffed with carbs to eat any more after this meal!

I have to apologize for not being able to keep up with my daily posting.  I HAVE been making and documenting my dinners, the problem lies in getting the posts put together.  As you may know, Diablo 3 just came out so my husband monopolizes our main computer in the evenings, which is my prime blogging time.  He thoughtfully anticipated this issue and got me a new netbook for Mother's Day (now I can blog on trips!) but unfortunately all of my old trip pictures reside on the computer that is currently emitting battle sounds and corpse screams.  Oh well, I'll get all my posts up eventually!

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