Tag Archives: baked beans

The restorative powers of fat

While I am obviously a man of restraint and fine moral vigour, occasionally the desire to celebrate with a glass of two of chilled sherry can become a little too much for me. Unlike certain other of my friends, I’ve never been reduced to begging for cash in public or been forced to leave a family member’s birthday party and subsequently fallen fast asleep on a cold hard kitchen floor. But that doesn’t mean I’ve never woken up with a head seemingly pounding out its own vibrant African rhythms, and a clear yet somehow elusive feeling of regret and momentary self-loathing.

On such self-induced occasions, the body really has no choice but to accept emergency aid. Yet like a foreign power helping out in a region so that it can later lay its filthy hands on all its natural resources, that aid seems to provide initial relief before you later realise that it’s probably done as much damage as the original problem itself. With more grease than the elaborately coiffed hair of a 50s throwback, the hangover breakfast tastes like the greatest meal on earth while you’re eating it, but 37 minutes and 23 seconds later leads indirectly to the familiar pained cry of “I’m never ever drinking again.” And an afternoon on the sofa watching fourteen episodes of Murder She Wrote on some obscure cable channel.

Nevertheless, there are some times when only fried food will do. And for me, the meal of choice on the morning-after-the-night-before can only be the bacon sandwich. Crisped to within an inch of their lives, each rasher must carry a powerful payload of HP Sauce, and preferably be sitting on thickly sliced highly processed white bread. Artisan-made organic multi-grain loaves have their place, but that place is not the morning after, say, showing off your breakdancing skills to a rapt-yet-terrified crowd.

Sadly bacon in the United States is 98% fat, 2% pig testicle, and as a result, the bacon sandwich doesn’t quite have the same appeal. Instead, the hangover breakfast American-style comes either with eggs, or at least 87% more cheese than an Abba-themed fancy dress party. The everything bagel with ham and cheese is a welcome addition to the campaign to fight over-consumption, but it’s not the universal panacea that the body requires.

On Sunday morning, I woke up with a slight sore head and jokingly remarked to The Special One that she would be my hero forever if she brought me a bacon butty in bed, safe in the knowledge that the house was a resolutely rasher-free zone. Fifteen minutes later, she stepped into the bedroom with a toasted sandwich containing two split open and grilled smokey hot dogsbrats. American ingenuity and innovation at its best, I say. And you know something, it actually tasted remarkably good.

Didn’t stop me from having sausage, chips and beans for lunch at the local chipshop, obviously. But pretty damn good nonetheless.

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.

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.