And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

tirsdag 11. september 2012

Many sundry meats

And eet manye sondry metes, mortrews and puddynges,
Wombe cloutes and wilde brawen and egges [with grece yfryed].
- Piers Plowman, William Langland

He was deep in thoughts of bacon and eggs and toast and butter when he felt something touch him.
- The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

One of the recurring features of this blog is my exploration of British cuisine which I undertake partly to challenge the firmly rooted negative stereotypes it suffers from. The pith of the problem is indubitably that British hygiene is widely considered to be wanting and that this reflects on the food in unfortunate ways. Now there are issues to be had with hygiene in the British Isles - for instance the facts that they have separate taps for hot and cold water and like to carpet every inch of their floors - but the food deserves to be lauded far more often than it is. This August I returned once again to York and I made sure my diet consisted of things old and new, things salt and sweet and things with these common denominators: neither were particularly healthy, all of them were tasty.

Blackadder: Now; Baldrick, go to the kitchen and make me something quick and simple to eat, would you? Two slices of bread with something in between.
Baldrick: What, like Gerald, Lord Sandwich, had the other day?
Blackadder: Yes -- a few rounds of Geralders.
- Blackadder, S03E02


The sandwich is one of the greatest culinary concepts ever invented and it is a great shame it is not as ubiquitous in Norway as it is in the UK. When I studied in York in 2011 I made a habit of dropping by Sainsbury's on my way to class and pick up one of the many sandwiches displayed there for breakfast. The sandwich has many incarnations and there seems to be no consensus as to what type of bread to use, nor what they may contain. Some features are of course fairly universal such as lettuce while others are reserved for one particular combination.

This picture is taken on a southbound train from Aberdeen via Edinburgh. The sandwich consists of lettuce, tomato, cheese, ham and pickles, a combination I have grown very fond of. However, the main reason for picking this particular sandwich, I think, was the name, since it reminded me about the Middle English dream poem
Piers Plowman.

This pork sandwich with apple sauce and sage stuffing - one of my absolute favourite foodstuffs in York - was purchased at Uppercrust on Lendal Street, a very small, charming shop with a very amiable staff and a nice selection of fillings.

One of the sweet ladies behind the counter added this piece of crackling to my sandwich. That was very nice indeed.

Technically this is a ciabatta, but since ciabatta essentially is Italian for sandwich I find it safe to include it here. This tasty delight was also purchased on Lendal Street, but in a different sandwich shop whose name I sadly have forgotten. I was informed about this place by one of my former flatmates of York last year and this time I followed her preferences and purchased this nice white goat cheese and pepper ciabatta.

This is a mango chutney sandwich bought at Pret-a-manger, a British chain of sandwich shops. It was delicious and the chutney blended very well with the ham and cheese. If I ever had my doubts about mango chutney up to this point, this sandwich did away with all that.

And of course, being in Britain, I washed it all down with some Yorkshire tea at the Three Legged Mare, a pub on High Petergate that does not serve food and therefore allows you to bring your own.

For ye han harmed us two in that ye eten the puddyng,

Mortrews and oother mete - and we no morsel hadde.
- Piers Plowman, William Langland

Pub food

When visiting York I took great advantage of my friends who lived there and one of them, poor girl, had to endure my presence for a whole week (which she bore with great composure). To rectify this major imposition I treated her to pub food a couple of times, one of the things we are both major fans of.

This pork burger with bacon was purchased at The Old White Swan, a beautiful pub situated on Goodramgate in a building from the late Middle Ages. We ate there twice and I feel comfortable saying that this is one of my absolute favourite pubs. How can it not be, the pub has a Tudor room?

Another of my favourite pubs is The Hole in the Wall on High Petergate and it remains a favourite for two reasons. First of all its selection of food is delicious and very reasonable, secondly it was the first pub I ate at when I came to York as a student. This time around I tried a horseradish burger which was a pleasing experience. I have through the years established a certain liking for horseradish, which of course is necessary for a burger like this: the taste of horseradish was really dominating.

 (...) I don't know the recipe; but it is biscuitish, keeps good indefinitely, is supposed to be sustaining, and is certainly not entertaining, being in fact very uninteresting except as a chewing exercise.
- The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

The Brits like their carbohydrates. They like them very much, as illustrated by this plate of battered chicken with barbecue sauce, bacon and sides purchased at The Hornblower in Ripon. Fortunately I like them too and I could thoroughly enjoy this meal, although I have to admit chicken needs not be battered at all.

[Britain]has broad fields and hillsides which are suitable for the most intensive farming and in which, because of the richness of the soil, all kinds of crops are grown in their season. It also has open woodlands which are filled with every kind of game.
- The History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth


Rhubarb! Rhubarb! Rhubarb!
- Captain Rum, Blackadder S02E03

During my stay this August I suddenly became aware of one of the greatest differences between Norway and England when it comes to food: the English national culinary repertoire is simply much more varied than the Norwegian one. By this I mean that there is a greater number of fruits, meats and vegetables used in manufactured foodstuffs (i.e. food you can buy at the supermarket) than the case is in my home country. While Norwegian cordial, for instance, is based around a handful of fruits, English cordials cover a much wider range of tastes. This also reflects in ice cream, as illustrated by the two scoops above, one with blueberry, one with rhubarb.

 Cokes and hire knaves cryden, "Hote pies, hote"
Goode gees and grys! Go we dyne, go we!
- Piers Plowman, William Langland

Pies are perhaps even more emblematic of British cuisine than the sandwich and I am very enthusiastic about them. This particular specimen is a vegetable pie I was treated to while I lodged at a couple of friends for the last four days of my sojourn. I especially like this pie because it is decorated with a woodwose, and it was delicious.

I should of course not omit this risotto which, although not English in any way, was made by the friend I
first stayed with and was so tasty it deserves an effusive mentioning in this blogpost.

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