Once when he supped alone, there being only one course, and that but moderately furnished, he called his steward and reproved him, who, professing to have supposed that there would be no need of any great entertainment, when nobody was invited, was answered, "What, did not you know, then, that to-day Lucullus dines with Lucullus?"
- Life of Lucullus, Plutarch
The phrase asarotos entered the Latin language from the Greek and means "unswept". It refers to a mosaic depicting refuse and scraps left over from a meal lying on the floor, and to a historian or archaeologist this is like a catalogue of foodstuffs available in those days. Likewise the following array of pictures will serve as a catalogue - albeit lamentably incomplete - of certain experiences with food I had in the course of my stay in England. Unlike an asarotos, however, I do not believe this will excite any historians at all.
This blogpost is something I have planned from the day I decided to chronicle my stay in Britain, and it is greatly inspired by a friend of mine, who explored American cuisine on his blog. My post is vastly inferior to his work, partly because I have not been as meticulous as he was, neither with regard to photographic documentation nor with regard to the variety of things recorded. In many cases I forgot to take pictures of my food due to mind taking a backseat to hunger, or due to the fact that I often had a meal on the go, which often didn't give me good opportunities for photographing.
English cuisine oftens finds itself subject to barrages of negative commentary, either due to its various substances or how those substances are treated, giving the phrase substance abuse a whole different meaning. I had been to England once before coming over in January this year, so I was not unaccustomed to British food and I had found it somewhat better than its reputation. However, last time was back in 2009 and I had been going to York as a tourist together with a friend of mine. I had, therefore, not been exposed to groceries, so navigating the available options for the everyday food consumption was an entirely new opportunity for me which would of course require experimentation.
Being from Norway I'm accustomed to good wholemeal bread, and I quite soon discovered that was not as easy to come by in England. After living on toasted ham and cheese for a while, I eventually found some buns that were adequate, but mostly I lived on fruit and yoghurt when eating in Constantine House. England has, however, a wide variety of condiments, some of which I tried on toast and buns. My favourite was the apple sauce, which fortunately was more apple than sauce, and it was lovely with chicken and cheese. The horseradish was very good on toast, although the first time around I nearly singed off the roof of my mouth, and the pear, onion and raisin chutney was surprisingly tasty when used with toasted cheese.
On the whole I'm very satisfied with various foodstuffs I tried, possibly owing quite a lot to the fact that York is one of England's greatest tourist cities and makes its food accordingly. This I experienced quite a lot because I constantly juggled my role as student and my role as tourist, so I ended up dining out very often. There are numerous good places to go for a nice meal and they are quite reasonable.
My first documented English foodstuff. This is a Richard III Wensleydale purchased at the ever-so-lovely Hairy Fig, a food shop located in Fossgate. Its texture is crumbly, its taste is stingy but not too stingy and it goes excellently well with sliced chicken on buns.
The sausages in England are somewhat less meaty than most Norwegian sausages and I prefer the latter option. However, Norwegian sausages do not come with relish, the red blob on the middle of the hot dog, nor do they come with sliced cheddar, which I didn't try this time around.
This is a turkey sandwich from the Yorkshire Hogroast shop in Stonegate. The various meats are displayed in the window and the slices are cut while you wait. The turkey also comes with sage and onion stuffing and cranberry sauce, a constellation of exceptional taste.
One of my favourite dining places in York.
This is Ye Olde Starre Inne's delicious meat pie with peas, the compulsory fries and an onion gravy. It was so wonderful I had to come back for a second try, although then I decided to do without the sauce, which is quite filling. You get fries to almost anything in England, and although they are, in my opinion, far better than the fries in Norway, they are in the long run a poor replacement for real potatoes.
Gooseberry fool is a kind of mousse, which is somewhat unfortunate since the fruity flavour of the gooseberry is really overshadowed by whatever else they have put into the product. I bought this at the local Sainsbury's in a case of mild curiosity, and in hindsight I believe I bought it more for the purpose of including it in this blog than anything else.
The writing-book shows that the picture is taken when I were reading up on the Summulae of the 13th century English bishop Walter Cantilupe.
Double cone with vanilla and strawberry, straight from Debbie's in Stonegate. Lovely. After a while they started to recognise me, which is always a very good sign in these matters.
I bought these pies at the international market in Parliament Street, and I have sadly lost track of what they contained. I'm pretty sure they all had pork meat in them, and at least one of them had a delicious onion relish underneath the sage-sprinkled cheese cap. In hindsight I believe this to be one of the best things I've ever eaten in England.
This is a cornish pasty from the Cornish Pasty Shop on Coney Street filled with chicken balti, a white sauce, the obligatory potatoes and various other vegetables. Balti means that it is prepared in emulation of North Pakistani cuisine, although balti food itself is probably a British invention. I discovered this pasty shop fairly early in my stay and I frequented it quite often. They have a wide range of fillings - ham, lamb and mint, chorizo and beef, just to mention a few - and it is an excellent meal on the go. It is no wonder I saw numerous people every day walking around with a pasty in their hands, nor is it any wonder how there can be at least four pasty shops and two competing pasty companies in York.
This is the epitome of English scrambled eggs, at least according to my experience: soggy, tasteless and accompanied with slices of toasted white bread. I ate this at a cafè situated in an old almshouse close to Durham university, making the venue far more interesting than the meal.
Now a Cafè.
Another double cone from Debbie's, this time with raspberry and banana.
This photo is taken at a restaurant belonging to the other pasty company found in York: the Cornwall Pasty Shop. To the right is a bucket of potato wedges which are somewhat inferior to ordinary fries, at least when it comes to texture.
Another sandwich from the Yorkshire Hogroast, this time with pork, apple sauce and the wonderful sage and onion stuffing.
The only emperor is the emperor of of ice-cream.
- The Emperor of Ice-Cream, Wallace Stevens
- The Emperor of Ice-Cream, Wallace Stevens
This ice cream comes from La Gelateria in High Petergate, a charming locale situated in a charming stretch of road. The chef had his own recipies and experimented with new ones from time to time. The flavours in question are raspberry and pistachio, but my favourite ones from this place were raspberry tart (an invention of the chef) and a delicious banana and pineapple ice cream.
Half-eaten pork burger with apple sauce and sage and onion stuffing, purchased at the unostentatious sandwich shop of Blake Street, a lovely little place not much bigger than my apartment where the burgers were remarkably tasty and, if you came at the right time, fresh from the grill. I discovered this place far too late, probably at some point in the last two weeks of my stay, but in recompense I frequented it so often that the lovely ladies behind the counter started to recognised me.
Beans, fries, eggs, a burger and a sausage, all put together in a classic constellation of protein and fat; could you imagine anything more stereotypically British than this? I have a hard time finding anything, but it was nonetheless a very pleasant meal. I dined at a little cafè in London close to Paddington station, somewhat shabby but with a pleasant chef. This is actually one of the meals I remember the most from my stay in England, and although it was a very satisfying meal I believe my overall experience owed more to the circumstances than to the food itself.
When I came across this cafè I had just installed myself in a little hotel in Sussex Place and had walked around London for hours without any food. I had spent the better part of the afternoon trying to locate Sussex Place in my city guide without knowing there are two locations in London called Sussex Place, a fact that seemingly had escaped the portners at the hotel I had booked. Naturally, as an infrequent but diligent adherent to Murphy's Law, I first went to the wrong location, which is situated at the end of Baker Street. This meant I had to walk up and down Baker Street while suffering from stiff musculature following a walkabout in Edinburgh only a few days earlier. The tube did of course save me a lot of mileage, but I was nonetheless rather exhausted when I finally, and thanks to a kind Englishman, found the hotel in question. It is therefore no wonder why I found this assortment of ordinary foodstuffs so very delicious.
I'm rather annoyed with myself for not having done a better job chronicling my meals, as there would have been many interesting things to tell you about, and also more variety than is presented above. There also ought to be pictures of other venues I explored, some of which were very pleasant, and I regret this. I trust, however, this will not have been my last trip to England and next time around I hope to do a better job.