What I love about England, or travel in general, is the unexpected. Just when you think all the world is the same, everyone eats McDonald’s burgers and drinks Starbuck’s lattes, you find that McDonald’s sells beanburgers in rational countries and that Italy, the home of the espresso machine, regards lattes after breakfast as rather uncouth.


Then there are British picnic foods. Pork pies are standard, one meets them everywhere, sturdy pastry wrapped around very solid slabs of fatty pork with a thin layer of gelatin over the pork, eaten cold. And then there’s Scotch Eggs, where sausage is wrapped around eggs (sometimes around hunks of chopped eggs, so the thing isn’t too large) and deep fried. Health food, you know? But in the US of A, how often does one see Dandelion and Burdock soft drink? Much less Dandelion and Burdock diet? It’s an alternative form of our root beer, just different roots. And crisps (ie, potato chips—chips here are French Fries, the cause of much confusion for newcomers.) We’re beginning to see different flavors in the States, such as Salt and Vinegar and the ever-puzzling Cool Ranch, but how often have you seen Tikka Masala flavor potato chips, or (I kid you not) Roast Ox?


Ah, there’s a picnic for you, eaten in a water-soaked field of beaten-down nettles beside a fast-running river that’s taken a good hour to fight a half mile upstream: settle onto a blanket beneath a threatening sky with a slab of greasy pork pie and Roast Ox crisps, washed down with a plastic tumbler of diet Dandelion and Burdock soda.


And for pudding (pudding here is a generic for “dessert”, not gloppy blancmange) my granddaughter produced chocolate cupcakes made with condensed milk and mashed potatoes.Â


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  1. nkk1969 on June 2, 2008 at 8:36 am

    My dad used to make dandelion wine. I spent many a day in fields picking dandelion stems, so the dandelion beverage doesn’t seem that odd to me.

    As for the chip flavors, you should really get Caitlin to tell you her thoughts on potato chip and pickle flavors in Germany.

  2. Roxanne on June 2, 2008 at 8:44 am

    “Roast Ox crisps.” Well, I am happy to discover that these crisps do not actually have beef in them. Although I have not yet found out the origin of the name . . .

    I hope you are having a smashing time in the UK.

  3. Vicki Lane on June 2, 2008 at 9:39 am

    My idea of ultimate picnic food is the Baguette filled with Brie and Bacon (British bacon. of course) and Butter (wonderful wonderful butter). We got this as takeaway at a pub when we were walking in the Cotswolds a few years ago. With cider on the side, it’s a case of ‘Take me now, Lord, it doesn’t get any better than this.’

    I was also particularly fond of the Roast Chicken crisps.

  4. annie on June 3, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Laurie – on one of your criss-crossings of the country, please try to detour to Leicestershire, particularly Melton Mowbray. Failing that, ask in one of the Oxford or Cambridge delicatessens for a Melton Mowbray pork pie (they now have protected regional status). Savour the tender meat and herby gelatine, and the hot-water crust pastry. These are culinary triumphs (not “greasy pork”) and it is true that no “proper do” in the Midlands is complete without one in pride of place. Preferably eat with pickled shallots.
    I have heard of the mashed potato cake (and have a recipe for mashed potato fudge) but have so far abstained. My grandmother (whose hot-water crust pastry for pork pies was legendary would not have approved, I’m afraid).

  5. ladonna on June 3, 2008 at 9:00 am

    When you are in Edinburgh be sure to stop at the little cafe (pronounced caf) in the little close across the street from Deacon Brodie’s Pub (on the Royal Mile) — the soups are wonderful and the scones to die for. At least they were two years ago. My kids have been clamoring for Welsh cakes and I promised to make some when school was out — must get that done. We’ll have Welsh cakes and Victoria sponge some afternoon. And I still have a packet of Bourbon creams hidden away somewhere. And cups of tea (just strong enough to revive someone not actually dead). Lovely. And I think I have that chocolate cake (sponge?) recipe somewhere.

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