The two years I spent in England were enriching in many ways but gastronomically they were a bust. The English like to boil everything from their laundry to their brussel sprouts which, like their socks, come out of the pot blanched white enough to see through. What they don’t boil, they pickle or fry to the toughness of cheap leather. In contrast to their bland menus, the English adore smelly cheeses which are served at the end of the meal, presumably to awaken the sleeping taste buds.
If the English are guilty of meals most foul, their desserts take the cake. The wedding cake, for example. It’s a dry version of a fruit cake, light on the fruit and encased in icing brittle enough to crack teeth or to hurl at the French should they contemplate another an invasion. Far worse than the wedding cake, however, is blancmange, a dessert similar to library paste which is served cold, or there is semolina, a boiled breakfast cereal ornamented with a dollop of jam at the center.
Never mind Atkins, Pritikin, Jennie Craig or Weight Watchers. A week eating in England is like months of wandering through the Gobi dessert with a sack of boiled Brussel sprouts for sustenance.
Given my eating experiences on England’s green and pleasant land, it’s little wonder that I paused over an article on food in a recent edition of, The Week. (Don’t dare diss our candies,” by Tony Goss, The Week, August 15, 2014 pg. 13.) The story was about Jamie Oliver, a British chef who had immigrated to Brazil to open a restaurant. During a television interview, he was given a plate of popular Brazilian desserts and asked to comment. He did and with exceptional candor, declaring them all, “f—ing horrible.” (Ibid pg. 13.) Naturally a hue and cry went up among his new countrymen, many of them who shouted, “even God wants to be Brazilian.” (Ibid pg. 13)
Having a Costa Rican mother, I could have warned Oliver about the fury of Latin pride. Still, his ignorance can’t excuse his arrogance. As a chef, he had to be aware that food critic Bill Marsano once described the rise of the British Empire as the result of “generations of desperate Englishmen roaming the world in search of a decent meal.”