Tag Archives: HP Sauce

Ticking all the boxes

As you’ll have gathered from my last post, The Special One and I are currently filing various papers to prove that our marriage is bona fide, and not an ill-disguised sham in which I’m using her to gain access to a country with no universal healthcare and no ready access to HP Sauce. I feel like writing on the forms “do you really think I would be associated with such a lifelong duvet hog if it wasn’t for the fact that I love her” but somehow my better instincts kick in, and I dot i’s and cross t’s appropriately.

What I object to is not necessarily the amount of information that the immigration authorities want, or even the pictures, bank statements and lease agreements. It’s the fact that they want to charge me more than $1000 just for the privilege of putting my metaphorical hand in the air and asking “please Miss, can I stay here a bit longer?” And that’s not even taking into account various other forms that have to be filed, or attorney bills that have to be paid.

Bear in mind that this is a process that can take anything from 4-12 months to be completed. And that’s if you’re lucky. While falling in love may have been a whirlwind affair that involved all the speed of Usain Bolt, visas through marriage are very much handled by asthmatic marathon runners with a penchant for chipsfrench fries.

See, if I’m paying a four figure sum for anything, I kind of expect a certain level of service. For $1300, that should include having your tears wiped away by a nubile model, and your forms collected by the sports or musical hero of your choice.

When I am running my own republic, I’ll be offering drive-‘thru’ immigration services, and naturalization tests that include pop quizzes. You won’t necessarily get a higher class of citizen, but anyone who can name three members of New Order is fine by me.

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.

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.

29 days to go

So, the countdown has begun. After 33 years, I’m leaving the UK in just over four weeks, to start a new adventure in the United States. At least, I should be leaving, if I ever pack up all my belongings, book a flight and generally get my arse in gear. Leaving behind bourbon biscuits, Match Of The Day, HP sauce, Sky+ and The Guardian in my wake. Not to mention friends, family and Manchester United. All to head to a place where herbs have no ‘h’, fish and chips have no mushy peas, and presidents have no guilt at pardoning the crimes of their closest confidantes.

Still, there are some consolations, not least of which is the woman sitting by her door, eagerly waiting for me to get through the lengthy immigration queue line so that we can start a new life together. However far it is from Sir Matt Busby Way, New York is the land of opportunity – and in a few short days, opportunity will be knocking for me.

In the meantime, I’m off to stock up on Branston Pickle…