I decided to make a trip to England to find out more about typical English food and drink.
England would not be England without the traditional English Pub where working class gents down a pint of bitter and families eat a ploughmans lunch at midday consisting of bread, chunks of cheese with pickle, ham and salad with a variety of other stuff.
Pubs are everywhere, sometimes disguised as taverns or inns but a welcoming place where the Pub Landlord usually calls time at eleven o’clock.
As I experienced, modern Pubs are hives for young adults, especially at weekends, drawn like bees to honey where they readily consume large quantities of alcohol in the understanding that such voluntary intoxication is having a good time.
Sundays are very much a family day.
Familiies no longer gather at church to listen to the weekly sermon of the vicar but hang out at a car boot sale to buy second hand bargains and eat a sumpteous ‘bacon buttie’ stuffed with onions, garnish and enjoyed, of course, with a mug of tea.
Mugs are definitely the order of the day these days for drinking tea in England.
Sunday lunch, alas, is an altogether more formal affair at a buffet or carvery restaurant.
The English housewife, it seems, is no longer the gourmet mistress of her kitchen cooking the Sunday roast and opts to be treated by her spouse.
The traditional Sunday roast usually comprises sliced meat such as roast beef, turkey or pork with stuffing, yorkshire pudding and at least two vegetables all piled up on one overloaded plate.
Just for the record, Yorkshire Pudding is not a dessert and does not really come from Yorkshire but nobody cares and everybody eats it with dollops of brown gravy covering the plate load.
The English certainly like their ‘takeaways’, especially the Indian and Chinese ones, a development of asian migration to the British Isles during the sixties and seventies.
I was amazed to find an Indian takeaway in a remote island of the Outer Hebrides in Scottish territory.
Nowadays, the Indian and the Chinese Takeaway compete with the traditional Fish and Chip Shop which has long been a landmark on every high street in the country.
It is hard to get away from the ‘Chippie’ and the irresistible greasy serving of a big piece of fried fish with chunky chips.
It is the ‘salt and vinegar’ on the package wrapped in newspaper and a portion of mushy peas thrown in which seals the deal.
I forgot something about Sundays.
By six o’clock, it would be off for that once a week visit to Grannys where a cosied pot of tea awaits and homemade scones, something only Grannies seem capable of.
For those without a Granny, then a hang out in any place of cultural or tourist interest and you are bound to come across a Tea Shop (that is a Caff or Cafe to you and me) where you can enjoy much the same at the cost of a pretty penny.
The English do like their sarnies (that is Sandwiches to you and me). Some English Lord from Kent had something to do with that a couple of hundred years ago and the trend has not buckled.
Meat pies remain very much an English specialty and the Cornish Pastie is top of the list.
To taste a real Cornish pastie though, it meant a trip to the south-west corner of England and to Cornwall, taking on board some delicious cheese at Cheddar and an afternoon tea in Devon with clotted cream along the way.
Now that is something m’ dear Granny cannot match for all her wisely food offerings.
The Steak and Kidney, Chicken and Mushroom and even the Chicken Korma Pies are palatable for any appetite if hunger pains do not desist.
The English are somewhat weird on what they like to put on their bread.
All sorts of concuctions go on it from Marmite, Jam, Jelly, Pickle and Sandwich Spread to honey and cinammon.
I have not yet mentioned the English Fry Up which usually comes at breakfasttime.
The best time to try this is undoubtedly in the morning and at a weekend when you have nothing else to do because you are sure to be stuffed full.
The best place to try out a traditional English fry up is a small, family run Guest House offering Bed and Breakfast accommodation.
Apple Pie with thick creamy custard as a dessert certainly became one of my favourites during the visit and I was amazed by how Apple Pie could be cooked in so many different ways.
If the custard was not thick, then it was definitely not custard, just some creamy tripe dolloped on to fill up the dessert dish.
Staying with the custard theme, Rhubarb and Custard was something I had never experienced outside of England and it offered a curious and quite delicious alternative.
I was too early on my trip for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, so I had to make do in mid-March with a second-best choice of strawberries and cream at Cheltenham races.
The English are, of course, famous for their fruit orchards and Granny Smiths are supposedly the best that there can be.
My Granny always ‘keeps mum’ on that subject.
John Cadbury brought us chocolate, of course, and it would be criminal to say the least to not eat a dairy milk chocolate bar under the Cadbury label or drink before going to sleep at night a cup of cocoa.
The English really like their tea though and things do kind of grind to a halt for elevenses in the workplace while afternoon tea at five o’clock is a respected tradition.
I discovered too that the English are fond of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday at the time of Lent, Mince Pies for Christmas and Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday.
It was soon time to come home and my friends had sent me endless texts not to forget the custard creams, digestives, ginger nuts and the shortbread biscuits.
I am sure that there is something which I overlooked during this splendid trip to England.
I certainly found out what the English like to eat and drink.