Category Archives: Food and Drink

Two pieces of bread and a whole load of turkey

I’m proud to say that I come from the home of the sandwich. You can’t beat a simple sandwich, freshly made with great bread and quality ingredients, and preferably accompanied by a bag of crisps. Admittedly the Earl of Sandwich probably didn’t go for cheese and Branston Pickle butties with an accompanying pile of cheese’n’onion flavour potato-based snacks, but I’m pretty sure that he would approve. If he hadn’t been dead for 200 years, that is.

Here in the States, the sandwich is equally revered, but over-complicated. It’s like comparing a 70s prog rock double headed guitar solo with the beautiful simplicity of an acoustic guitar track. By law, every US sandwich must have 73 ingredients, of which 18 are legally required to be cheese. Lettuce and salad can be included if absolutely necessary, but this can sometimes result in only a two inch thickness of turkey being added rather than the statutory four. The Subway chain gets around this by making sure every sandwich filling is actually made of turkey. Including the tomatoes. The only exception is the lettuce, which has to be cut at least six days before being used to ensure that it develops their patented Brown & Unappealing™ look.

Americans make a big play of the fact that they don’t put butter on sandwiches, while neglecting to mention that they smear so much mayonnaise on everything that Brooklyn alone ensures that senior Hellman executives have earned their annual bonus every year since 1934. The inhabitants of some small villages in the Cotswolds have a lower collective calorific intake than the consumers of certain New York sandwiches.

Most egregious of all, as I have indicated before, is the American obsession with putting peanut butter on sandwiches. Peanut butter is neither big nor clever. It is the devil’s food, and its combination with jelly (or ‘poor man’s jam’ as I like to call it) is simply wrong.

In fact, the only good thing about peanut butter is that it ensures that I never drink too much on a weeknight. The Young Ones love peanut butter on the sandwiches they take to school, and even the thought of making them while nursing a large hangover is enough to make me nauseous.

The great New York breakfast robbery

After about fifteen years of not eating breakfast (unless consuming my own body weight in sausage and bacon on the morning after the night before), I’ve recently taken up cereal. It’s hardly a lifestyle choice, more a doctor-enforced measure to counteract years of eating Iceland’s CJD Burgers, but actually it’s been nowhere near as painful as I’d imagined.

To be honest, even when I ate breakfast, I was never much of a fan of cereal. When we were kids, Little Sis and I used to get excited about the occasional appearance of a variety pack of cereals, but I think that was largely due to our fascination with the tiny boxes that looked exactly like scaled down versions of the real thing. We probably used to fight over who had the Sugar Puffs, although I must admit that my preoccupation was always with ensuring that I never had to eat the Coco Pops. I never did understand why ‘turning the milk brown’ was given as a unique selling point of that stuff. I don’t like milk at the best of times, but at least let it be white if I’ve got to drink it.

The cereal section of most grocery stores in America seems to be bigger than most supermarkets back home. As in ‘bigger than the supermarkets themselves’. It can take a good twenty minutes just to take in all the choices. But after your first visit to the cereal aisle, you quickly realise that the choice is illusory. Because when it comes down to it, all you have to decide is whether you want your cereal to taste of sugar or cardboard. Whether it’s made by familiar names like Kelloggs or Nestle, or the slightly more exotic Kashi or Peace Valley, there’s simply a straight selection between sickly sweet cinnamony frosted weird-coloured honey glazed crunchy stuff, or recycled cereal boxes that have ironically been turned into cereal themselves. With occasinal raisins thrown in to break up the paper-based monotony.

Once you’ve realised that, it’s just a matter of choosing between the two styles, and then picking the box with the nicest design on it.

I’ve taken to buying my cereal from a corner deli across the road from where I work, but I’ve finally decided that this has to stop. In part it’s because I don’t like the designs on their slightly more limited range cardboard cereals, and partly because their cereals are about $2 more expensive than the same thing in a normal grocery store.

But mainly it’s because they keep stealing a penny from me.

My personal cardboard selection costs $4.99 at this store. Every single time I go there, they tell me that the cereal costs $4.99 and I hand over a $5 note. And then I wait for the change. The change never comes. They just look at me blankly, and then call on the next customer to step forward.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need the single cent, and I’m not trying to be some kind of latter day Scrooge. I’ve never even asked that they hand it over. But there’s a principle at stake – why don’t they just label the box with a $5 price tag, instead of making me feel like I’ve been duped every time?

Or maybe it’s just that the dollar is so worthless these days that they think the penny has no use to anyone?

Especially to a namby pamby cardboard cereal muncher like me.

Take me to the river

One thing that I really do miss about being in the UK in the summer is the ability to sit having one-for-the-road in a riverside drinking establishment. Obviously this Brit Out Of Water is a complete tee-totaller (ahem), but the opportunity to drink a nice pint of, erm, ginger ale in a pub garden overlooking rowers and marine life as the sun gently sets is one that should never be turned down.

Britain’s river banks are littered with boozers, and the river has played a key part in my social upbringing as a result. My earliest days of boozing with The Beancounter et al saw us frequent places like The Boathouse in Chester, although we were admittedly in part attracted by their flexible approach to the legal requirement that you be 18 years old to get a drink. At university, lost afternoons might be spent at The Mill or The Anchor watching punts sail by as we collectively and conveniently overlooked the fact that we should probably be sat in the library. And then to London, where I never looked back after a first job that saw the nearest boozer located next to the water. Sadly it’s been demolished now. Rumours that its revenues never recovered after I moved on have yet to be confirmed.

I’ve already talked at length about the great difficulty in drinking outside in the US. But the fact is that it’s difficult getting a meal or a drink even in sight of the river(s) in New York. Sure, there is the occasional exception to prove the rule, but it’s almost as if the health and safety police have decided that anybody drinking (heavily or otherwise) near a river will automatically feel duty bound to leap into the water at the end of the evening. And just to make sure, New York has put some its major roadways next to the water, in the shape of the FDR Drive and the West Side Highway, making sure that anyone tempted to build a temple to hedonism anywhere near the Hudson or the East River is put off by the fumes and incessant car horns.

Desperate for some waterside relaxation this Friday, The Special One and I made our way down to South Street Seaport at the base of Manhattan, and one of the few areas of the city to combine the words ‘river’ and ‘food and drink’. I had images of the gentle breeze coming in off the water as we quaffed a deliciously dry Pouilly Fume and ate mountains of impossibly fresh seafood. I was, quite literally, in my element.

When we got there, it was like a cross between Covent Garden and Blackpool, with thousands of tourists combining with local office workers to create an atmosphere more redolent of an overcrowded amusement park than a peaceful riverside paradise. We walked straight past the chain restaurants, had a lukewarm glass of chardonnay in a plastic glass as we looked at the New York waterfalls, and quickly hightailed it out of there.

Next time I get the urge for waterside drinking, I’m buying a paddling pool and putting it in the back yard.

The sweetest thing

Sweetness is something towards which your attitude changes the older you get. When I was a kid, I loved being regarded as sweet by my grandparents, especially if it resulted in getting a toffee or a twenty pence piece as a result. Most kids quickly learn to perfect their ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ look, and I was no different in that regard. Although, fortunately, butter actually wouldn’t melt in my mouth. Ahem.

Of course, when you get to the point at which you’re spending half an hour in the bathroom in an attempt to look good enough to impress girls, sweetness is the last thing that you want to be associated with. “You’re very sweet” has always been one of the ultimate female-to-male putdowns, after all. There are two things that you can categorically say about the statement “you’re very sweet” when hearing it from an attractive member of the opposite sex:

1. It will always be followed by a ‘but’ (ie. “you’re very sweet…but I’ve just this second remembered that I am leaving the country for three years. Tomorrow.”)
2. The implicit meaning is “I find our school’s one legged alcoholic caretakerjanitor more attractive than you. And he’s been dead for five years.”

Now I’m a bit older and – erm – more mature, I’m better able to cope with the sweetness tag. The Special One calls me sweet whenever she wants somethingall the time, and I have to say I quite like it. Don’t get me wrong, I still assume that she finds her dead peg-legged alcoholic janitor more attractive than me, but maybe I’ve just come to terms with my position in life.

Sweetness is something you have to get used to very quickly when you move from the UK to America. Largely because you have to accept that all your favourite foodstuffs come with 50% more sugar in them.

I love bread. If bread could have worn a dress and walked up the aisle, I’d be married to a nice piece of focaccia right now. If you told me tomorrow that I could eat nothing but bread (and bread-related products) for the rest of my life, I’d probably be happy. It doesn’t even have to be great bread either. Sure, I love an artisan-produced baguette as much as the next man, but if thick sliced white bread is all you’ve got then it’ll do for me.

But here in America, bread should come with a dental warning, such is the amount of sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) that goes into it. I’ve had doughnuts that taste less sweet than the vast majority of pre-packaged bread that you can buy in supermarkets. I’ve resorted to rye bread to make sure I get my savoury hit, although even that doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to a cheese’n’onion crisp sandwich, it has to be said.

It’s baked beans that upset me most though. While you can buy British Heinz baked beans in certain shops, you’ll generally have to part company with a week’s wages to do so. Fortunately, most supermarkets carry baked beans made by Heinz for the domestic market. Called ‘Vegetarian Beans’ (presumably because tins of baked beans often contain sausagesfranks, rather than because Americans assume that everything is a meat product unless otherwise labelled), the beans are the closest thing you can get to their British equivalent. They’re not bad, it has to be said, but it takes a while to get used to what seems to be a whole bottle of maple syrup that’s been added to the ingredients. Sure, the beans are cholesterol-free, but do they really have to be flavoured with treacle toffee?

I wanted beans on toast for lunch – the ultimate student meal-cum-comfort food, as all Brits will readily confirm. But here at Brit Out Of Water Towers, The Youngest and The Eldest stare at me with a look somewhere between pity and quizzical disgust.

After all, in America, beans on toast is practically dessert.

When the moon hits your eye

If there’s one thing that New Yorkers are particularly proud of, it’s their pizza. Now, given the staunch support of the British for their curries, I’m in no position to draw attention to the irony of the city having an Italian product as the foodstuff that most sums up their cuisine. Like the UK with its relatively large Indian population, New York has a high density of Italians, so it’s perhaps not surprising that there seems to be at least one pizza place for every ten heads of population in Manhattan.

Now, despite my love of the curry (and my upset about the inability to get a good curry in America) I am reluctantly prepared to accept that there are places in the world that make a better Indian curry than Britain. Like India, to pick a random example. But as far as a New Yorker is concerned, nobody makes pizza as well as this city. In fact, as soon as most New Yorkers get about ten miles outside the city limits, they start breaking out in a mozzarella sweat, for fear that they’re never going to eat good pizza again. As Joe Brown writes in this month’s Wired magazine, “it costs $482.79 to get a decent pizza in San Francisco – $17 for the pie, $85 for cab fare, and $378.80 for the flight to New York. Throw in $1.99 for tinfoil.”

I’m still getting used to the conventions around pizza purchase in the city. Firstly, it seems that plain cheese and tomato pizza is the only real choice of the genuine New Yorker. Sure, there may be the option of pepperoni or vegetarian, but I’m pretty sure that they’re for decorative purposes only, and that ordering one will lead to a trapdoor opening to plunge you directly into a wood-fired pizza oven. Secondly, cheese and tomato pizza is ‘plain’, and never margarita. That’s reserved for pizzas that have a bit of basil on them apparently. In this city, such flagrant flamboyance in pizza is to be discouraged. Finally, never ever ask for a cheese and tomato pizza, or even a piece of pizza. It’s a slice. And only a slice. Asking for anything else may well result in your snack having a third, less edible, topping…

In Britain, of course, having a slice of pizza from a takeaway place is pretty much the last resort of the desperately drunk (and even then only when they can’t find a doner kebab or a KFC). When I worked for a TV company in Camden, a place on the corner of the street on which we used to work sold slices of pizza that looked like they had been festering there since the early 60s. The fact that the establishment called itself “Tasty Corner” was in itself not a good sign. But after a few pints, you’d still see people taking their life into their own hands, eating pizza topped with meat so dubious that even those involved in the high pressure jet mechanical recovery of meat from animal bones would have turned their noses up at it.

Now, given my desire to blend in effortlessly with the locals, I’ve sampled New York pizza from a number of different places, and you can’t deny that it’s pretty damn good. Plenty of stringy cheese, good tomato sauce and a nice chewy base – what’s not to like?

No, the problem’s not with the taste. It’s the fact that almost without exception, these pizzas are hotter than molten lava on triangular slabs of furnace-blasted cast iron. One bite of pizza can be enough to remove most of the skin from the inside of your mouth. Having molten mozzarella clinging to your gums produces an excruciating pain that mimics what I’d imagine it’s like to have liquid candle wax splashed on your testicles. After one such nuclear pizza experience last night, my taste receptors went on immediate strike and are refusing to return unless I pay them danger money.

Interestingly, the guy who served me the aforementioned slice asked me if I wanted him to heat the pizza up, or whether I was happy with it the way it was.

The first person to invent a Hot Pizza Tongue Guard would make a fortune in this city, I swear.

Gardening leave

Back in the days when I was merely a fledgling Brit Out Of Water barely out of short trousers, I always knew it was summer when I was sitting at a wooden table in a pub garden holding a bottle of Coke with a straw in it. One or other of my parents was always with me, before you start to panic. If they hadn’t been there, obviously I’d have had a vodka in it too.

For some it might be the flowering of blossom or the smell of meat being gently yet irretrievably incinerated on a rusty barbecue, but for me the summer just didn’t get going until I could feel that heady mix of carbonated water, caramel, sugarhigh fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid and caffeine rushing through my veins. Preferably with a packet of ready salted crisps to chase it down.

Since those days, pub gardens have formed an essential part of my summer experience. I’ve spent memorable nights lapping up the late evening sun in pubs the length and breadth of Britain. I once lost the ability to walk after an afternoon on the grassland outside The Mill in Cambridge (although that was less to do with muscular injury and more the result of the debilitating effects of scrumpy on a person’s physical coordination). And is there really anybody who isn’t capable of enjoying him or herself in a riverside pub garden along the banks of the Thames as the sun slowly sets? If there is, I don’t want to meet him.

For The Special One, the whole pub garden concept has come as a bit of a shock to the system. Most Americans believe that the world will implode if a single alcoholic drink is exposed to light or the outside world. As such, the idea of having an area outside a bar where adults can have a casual drink (and where kids can run around or play on climbing framesjungle jims) is about as socially acceptable as casually plucking hairs from warts on your great-aunt’s chin in public.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, such as the Gowanus Yacht Club in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. But given that the GYC is not on the Gowanus River, does not enable yacht mooring, is not a club, and is actually just a back yard selling beer and wine in plastic cups, it can’t actually be held to be a prime example of outdoor quaffing at its best.

New York’s in the grip of an early summer at the moment, with temperatures in the high 70s. You know something unusual Is happening when you see New Yorkers walking around with smiles on their faces. Shorts are becoming de rigeur, while women are shedding clothes in a manner that suggests they’re heading for a girl’s night out in the North of England. It’s like Britain for those ten days in July when everybody’s happy. And it’s only April.

If only there was a pub garden I could go sit in with The Special One, for a quick post-work drink, all would be well with the world.

A bottle of beer furtively wrapped in a brown paper bag just doesn’t have the same cachet, let’s face it.

How to get a red in advertising

There’s a health food store down at the end of the block from us, offering anything from frozen dinners to seaweed extract. To be honest, the ‘health food’ tag is a complete misnomer, given that the price of organic fruit and vegetables is enough to give anyone a cardiac arrest. Only Russian oil oligarchs are likely to walk out of there with any sense that they haven’t just been robbed blind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for avoiding pesticides on my courgetteszucchini, but do I really need to seek out a sub-prime mortgage in an attempt to buy them? Given the relative strength of the pound, I could probably get a short city break in Amsterdam for the price of a Granny Smith or two.

Last week, The Special One called me as I made my way back to Brooklyn from the office, asking me to pick up a few tomatoes for a salsa she was making. A reluctance to deviate particularly far from my direct path home from the subway meant a trip to the health food store was the only option. And sure enough, when the woman at the counter weighed my chosen selection, I discovered I had to pay twenty five cents short of ten dollars for five medium sized tomatoes.

Biting my tongue to prevent an involuntary attack of Tourette’s Syndrome, I tromped home with my booty (for the avoidance of doubt, that’s a reference to the tomatoes, not my arseass). Once back in the apartment, I took the tomatoes from their plastic bag, and put them on the chopping board in order to cut them up.

And then I noticed it. A small black sticker on the outside of each of my tomatoes. Not your usual sticker giving the shop assistant the necessary code to type into the cash register, no sir. Sure, it had the code on it – 4664 actually, if you must know. But this was a fruit and veg sticker with a difference.

In this day and age, it would appear, nothing is sacred when it comes to advertising. At least, not if you work for Disney. Because there on the side of the tomato was a tiny oval advert for the DVD and Blu-Ray release of animated movie Ratatouille.

In America, billboards, TV commercials and print advertising are no longer enough in a bid to capture our dollars, it would appear. Now they’ve launched an all-out attack on our greengrocers too. I can just imagine the Pixar marketing meeting now:

“Right, how are we going to get people to buy this movie.”

“Well, I’ve had an idea. The film’s called Ratatouille, and one of the main ingredients of an actual ratatouille is a tomato. So why don’t we advertise on every tomato we can lay our hands on? It’s the ultimate call-to-action!”

“You’re a genius! Only over-priced organic ones though – this is a classy movie, after all.”

I thought I’d seen everything when it came to advertising, but clearly not. It’ll be potatoes shaped like Daniel Craig for the next Bond movie, I tell you.

Mixing isn’t matching

After successive posts about religion, politics and sex, I figured it was probably time to return to the usual rubbish. I don’t want you to think I’ve got all highbrow on you, after all.

When it comes to food, I’ve never been one for strange concoctions. I don’t put tomato ketchup on macaroni cheese, or eat curried chicken with pasta. I loathe putting sweet and savoury things together, and don’t even think about including fruit in anything that’s not a puddingdessert.

Given such an attitude, Britain was probably the perfect place to be brought up. After all, this is the land of the cucumber sandwich with the crusts cut off that we’re talking about here. The food in the UK – as even The Special One will reluctantly attest – is far better than the typical stereotype, but Britain is still generally a place in which tradition plays a huge part in great food. That’s not to say that menus don’t have innovative dishes, but on the whole you shouldn’t expect to see squid in chocolate sauce.

In America, however, eating exactly what your heart desires is central to the country’s way of life. Unless you’re eating in a particularly high-end restaurant, the menu is merely a guide to what you can eat there. Substitutions are largely tolerated, and waiters barely bat an eyelid for even the weirdest suggestion. Fads are practically encouraged, while fly-by-night diets are happily catered for at the lowliest diner. Sure, some places take a Marco Pierre White-esque approach if restaurant guests ask for French fries, but apart from that, if a place has got an ingredient, they’ll probably cook it for you.

Sometimes though, eating establishments need to take a stand for all that is good and right in the world.

Chomping lunch in a relatively upscale diner today, the woman a couple of seats away from me ate her breakfast with merry abandon. As I’ve said before, I hate eggs, but even to me her eggs, bacon and toast looked pretty damn good. Even her willingness to put jamjelly on her toast (a crime punishable by life imprisonment in some countries) didn’t put me off.

The fact that she had a great big dollop of mash on the same plate as her eggs and bacon, though, was utterly inexplicable. She’d have been run out of town or burnt at the stake in the UK.

You can mess with our hearts or our minds, but don’t ever mess with our breakfasts, OK?

Chopbusters

In a bid to put a long working week behind us, The Special One and I have a regular Friday night date. We even take it in turns to pick a dinner venue, which is a little difficult for me on occasion given that my knowledge of New York restaurants extends from hot dogs at Papaya King, to “that place that we thought gave me food poisoning from the chicken, but then we realised it was probably the three bottles of Sancerre that I washed it down with”.

Last week’s venue of choice was Dennis Foy in Tribeca, a restaurant that I can (now) heartily recommend. Especially if you plump for the gnocchi with mushrooms and sage – I’m not a particular gnocchi fan (it always seems like a waste of a good spud to me), but these were almost enough to swear me off chips and gravy for life.

Of course, it wouldn’t be New York without a little bit of drama, and sure enough, half way through the main course, the head waiter flounced out of the restaurant with a flourish, quickly followed by another (clearly anxious) member of staff. You couldn’t help but hear the raised voices, no matter how deeply you buried yourself in your parsnip puree. Thankfully after a thorough talking-to, the flouncee returned with his smarm and uncanny over-familiarity firmly intact.

Content after a good meal, The Special One and I got up to leave. Well, she got up to leave, and I scurried off to the bathroom. I have to call it a bathroom these days, despite the fact that there’s no bath and not even a toothbrush in sight. Apparently I break Newton’s First Law of Politeness In Marriage when I refer to the ‘facilities’ as a toilet. Next she’ll be telling me that I should be calling the cat’s litter box a feline waste disposal unit.

By the time I returned to her side, she was talking to a man dressed in a white jacket. Presuming it was neither Simon Le Bon from the video for ‘Rio’ or indeed the local butcher, I rapidly (and correctly) surmised that it was Dennis Foy himself, checking on the happiness of his customers at the end of the evening. As well as helping himself to something refreshing from the bar, obviously.

Foy quickly settled into a standard pattern of behaviour for ‘Americans that are introduced to a Brit that they don’t know, by an American that they also don’t know’. It’s a small subset of the human race, I appreciate, but large enough that a pattern of behaviour can be established. And sure enough, within 2.35 seconds, Foy was doing what can only be described as ‘taking the piss out of the Englishman’.

To be fair to him, he was very funny and extremely charming. Although if I’ve heard once that my fellow countrymen would be singing ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’ at the FA Cup Final if it wasn’t for America, I’ve heard it a thousand times. What made it all worthwhile though was Foy’s laughing insistence that he was just ‘busting my chops’.

I love the phrase ‘busting my chops’, largely because it’s as American as an economic recession. If a Brit ever uttered the phrase, he’d be carted off to the loony bin, but for an American it somehow seems strangely quaint. Better than popping a proverbial cap in my metaphorical ass, at least.

As it was, I wasn’t even vaguely aware that I had chops, let alone that a chef of some distinction would consider busting them. But after five minutes of banter, my chops were well and truly busted, and I beat a hasty retreat muttering something about him using less orange-flavoured olive oil on his fish in future.

Next Friday we’re going to Taco Bell, I can tell you.

Pancake day

If there’s one foodstuff that Americans always have a tendency to ask me about, it’s black pudding. Few people can actually comprehend that the British eat it, for a start. As I’ve said before, The Special One hates the idea of the stuff although if you ask me, it’s difficult to understand what problem people could possibly have with a tasty product made out of oats, fat and congealed pig blood.

Chatting with friends this evening, I was asked whether I missed any other foods from the UK. To be honest, it’s hard to miss anything that much when there’s really very little from Britain that you can’t lay your hands on over here. Admittedly you have to be prepared to pay three times as much for it, but when your cravings for ‘spotted dick in a tin’ get to be too much, $6.95 seems to be a price that’s well worth paying.

There were five foods that I could identify as being particularly British, and that are particularly missed by me during my American adventure. Sure, I always long for fish’n’chips or a good curry, but there are five things that my day-to-day life just wouldn’t be the same without:

1. Baked beans. Heinz baked beans, to be accurate. And don’t fob me off with the Heinz vegetarian beans that you can get over here – they’re a sickly sweet alternative that just doesn’t taste the same slathered on toast, let me tell you. And don’t even think of putting them alongside your sausage and chips.
2. HP Sauce. Or brown sauce to its friends, of which I am a particularly close member. What’s not to like about a liquid made out of malt vinegar, molasses, tamarinds and dates?
3. Walker’s crisps. Yeah yeah, you can get Frito Lays, and the packaging looks broadly the same and the taste isn’t completely different. But you can’t get cheese and onion crisps in most shops, and if you’re looking for a crisp buttypotato chip sandwich, then you need to look no further.
4. PG Tips. Don’t bother with Lipton tea bags. You may as well drink dust suspended in water.
5. Branston pickle. These are the two words most used in more than 200 days of A Brit Out Of Water. Enough said.

The strange thing is though, the longer you’re away from the UK, the more you long for products that you never thought you would miss. I’ve been having cravings all day today for Findus Crispy Pancakes (minced beef and onion flavour, obviously), despite the fact that the last time I had them, Thatcher was in power and I was suffering from a brief but embarrassing crush on Carol Decker from T’Pau. I can only assume that it’s yesterday’s talk of Mad Cow Disease.

Pot Noodles, Fruit Salad chews and Vimto all fall under the ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ category when it comes to British food. But if ever I become gripped by a latent desire to eat tripe, rest assured that you have my permission to shoot on sight.