U.K. Not OK in Cuisine


This summer brings the biggest British invasion to our shores since the Beatles, Twiggy, and The Kinks.

On the heels of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebration, broadcasts of the Olympics and Wimbledon will dominate stateside television screens.

How to get into a U.K. mood — culinarily speaking? We asked Hour Detroit’s chief restaurant critic, Chris Cook, who, as a young child, lived within earshot of the tennis courts, and owned, with his wife, a flat in South Kensington for a few years.

“Having lived there for much of my childhood, and having suffered through five years in British boarding school eating marmite sandwiches and the indelicacies of bangers and mash, I can say with assurance: The British are total epicurean clods,” he says.

Cook adds: “All edible or interesting food in London is from somewhere else. There are great British chefs and great London restaurants, but most of what they do did not originate in Her Majesty’s kingdom.

“The British are basically food-impaired, saved only from utter culinary despair by the imports of their Colonial era, as well as from Italian migrant workers, Brits who take summer vacations in Spain, and peace with France for more than 100 years now.”

For those planning an Olympic visit, Cook says there are a few things to know about London, including cost: It’s one of the most expensive cities in the world for everything, he says. Even a ride on The Underground (subway) can cost $6, and an espresso in coffeehouses is about the same. You can count on paying double for everything there from what we pay here in Detroit.

Given the financial wisdom of watching this season’s sporting events from the comfort — and affordability — of your own home, Cook offers these suggestions (comments and translations included) for wallowing in all things British — if you dare. If not, he says, do what most Brits do: Eat Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Spanish, Italian, or French.

*Potted Shrimps (brown shrimp in mace-flavored butter;
    the Rolling Stones recorded “Potted Shrimp,” an instrumental)

* Marmite (yeast-extract spread)

* Bovril (salty meat-extract spread)

* Bubble and Squeak (fried leftover vegetables)

* Bangers and Mash (sausages and mashed potatoes)

* Fish and Chips

* McVities’s Digestives (“cookies, the only thing I actually like”)

* Breakfast Kippers (smoked herring)

* Smoked Salmon (“the only thing I actually love”)

* Spotted Dick (steamed suet pudding, “Americans love the name”)

* Fried Tomatoes and Eggs

* Yorkshire Pudding (similar to a popover)

* Cadbury’s Chocolate

* Scones

* Crumpets

* Mint Jelly

* Stilton Cheese (“actually, they do cheese and butter
    exceptionally well”)

* Water Crackers

* Tea

* Pimm’s Cup cocktail

* Strawberries and Cream (the Wimbledon morning classic)


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