Although “Does it travel well?” is a question usually asked of wine, we think the same query should be demanded of food, and often.
Alice agrees with us.
Soup didn’t cross successfully from the sublime to Wonderland:
“There’s too much pepper in that soup!” Alice said to herself as well as she could for sneezing.
At least use the correct animal.
In his Telegraph article, “Elegy to English shepherd’s pie”, our Alice Award winner, Sebastian Doggart, bemoans American ineptitude when it comes to making this most English of lamb dishes.
Americans just don’t get it.
First problem, encountered even in supposedly English pubs here in New York, is that it’s usually made with beef.
Putting the wrong animal in a dish? For shame!
Perhaps food should follow the jet stream.
Bill Bryson, in his book The Lost Continent, describes an equally disappointing encounter with another dish that hadn’t traveled well from East to West: a Cornish pasty in Michigan:
It was awful. There wasn’t anything, wrong with it exactly—it was a genuine pasty, accurate in every detail—it was just that after more than a month of eating American junk food it tasted indescribably bland and insipid, like warmed cardboard.
Although he attributes its lackluster flavor to his tastebuds becoming accustomed to American cuisine, I beg to differ on this point. Some dishes simply don’t travel well, and the Cornish pasty is evidently one of them. No one should attempt to recreate it outside England’s borders.
Or perhaps direction doesn’t matter.
However, Mr. Bryson found that some foods didn’t travel successfully across the Atlantic in the opposite direction, either.
In Notes from a Small Island, he comments on British hamburger chain Wimpy in the 1970s, before McDonald’s ruled UK fast food :
“I confess a certain fondness for the old-style Wimpy’s with their odd sense of what constituted American food, as if they had compiled their recipes from a garbled telex.”
He has a point. You don’t find American McDonald’s serving Big Macs with a side of Heinz baked beans.
And lastly — if you can’t boil a kettle, don’t make the tea.
Here, I am going to jump up on my hobby horse and say emphatically, “If you don’t understand that tea must be made with boiling water –- that’s when the cooking thermometer reads 100 degrees Celsius, not Fahrenheit –- don’t even try.” Leave the tea to the British and Indian experts and stick to coffee instead.
I’ve lost count of the times when restaurants have served me “tea” by plonking down a cup of barely hot water with a teabag, still in its paper wrapper, at the side.
Why, for goodness’ sake? I also ordered a sandwich, but wasn’t handed two slices of stale bread and a packet of ham and told to get on with it.
Alice could have warned us of these perils, naturally. Her culinary adventures in Wonderland made her cautious before she jumped through the looking-glass:
“How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty? I wonder if they’d give you milk in there? Perhaps Looking-glass milk isn’t good to drink.”
Out of the mouth of babes and Victorian child-heroines, indeed.
So tell us: What’s the worst-traveled food you’ve encountered?
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