Are the British Serious?

I mostly love British culture. Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Red Dwarf, dry wit, flower gardens… It’s great. It also feels somewhat like America’s grandmother culture.  We have a common ancestral past, so we can relate to you guys better than many other foreign countries. I am an avid Downton Abbey fan, for example, and have been fascinated by British history since childhood, especially since the American version contains a frustrating lack of kings, queens, broadswords, and castles.

I’ve had many British friends and have even dated Englishmen. All things considered, I think British culture is pretty damn cool, but one aspect that continues to baffle me is the British relationship with food.

Really? “Spotted dick?” You guys are just screwing with everyone, aren’t you? (or in Brit-speak, “taking the piss”?)

Not only do they have bizarre food names like “Spotted Dick,” “Pig’s Trotters” and “Toad in the Hole,” but they have dishes like “Stargazey Pie” with fish heads poking out of a pie crust. I once read an English recipe that entailed serving oat groats in the chambers of a halved pig’s heart. They suggested serving this to your loved one on Valentine’s Day… because, you know, hearts.

As an American, this looks and sounds like MONSTER food. Pig hearts are what OGRES and TROLLS would serve each other as a loving gesture. English recipes routinely include kidneys, brains, hearts, and eels–often boiled and seasoned with sage. This is the stuff of fairytale legends, people. When unsuspecting children sneak into the witch’s shack and yank the lid off a steaming cauldron, this is the kind of thing we Americans picture boiling in the water, surrounded by lizards and eyeballs.

What is this madness? This is a culture wherein “well-seasoned meat” is a euphemism for rotting. Is this traditionalism at the extreme? Because these are the kids of things I picture folks eating in the 11th century. Maybe the British just hold onto those traditions like they do obscure units of measurement and orders of knighthood.

They seem to really like it, though. Open a jar of Marmite and you can lure any United Kingdom expatriate within a quarter mile. To us, it smells of cat food.

Great ice cream though, I’ll give you guys that. And Cadbury 99’s, the chocolate wafer stick you put in ice cream? Genius.

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