Friday 24 May 2013

Mushy Peas, Ginger Beer and Notorious Haggis; Culinary Adventures in the UK

Note the almost divine glow, ginger beer is one of the best things about the UK.

Relaxation in Crete came to an end after a nasty series of flights that saw Becca, Russ and I touch down in the UK at some ungodly hour. After experiencing the joys of dodgy budget accommodations such as a sofa bed which was really just a yellow stained mattress under a couch, as well as London traffic I was reunited with Shannon, beginning our UK adventure in earnest!

After being awed by the splendid luxury of Windsor and Eton, we visited London. We were able to enjoy some tasty paella served from a gigantic pan street food style, after the greasy meaty food of the UK it was quite refreshing!

Mmmmmm semi-street food

Although the city was not my favorite it was definitely a great experience, one which allowed me to peek my head into the Twinings store. As the oldest tea shop and retailer in Britain, Twinings was a special treat, tucked into a little cranny on the Strand it was narrower than imagined and swimming with tourists.

A hop a skip and a jump had Shannon and I leaving Russ, Becca and Russ' very hospitable roomies behind for the lovely lushness of Scotland as we headed up the island by train. The countryside was breathtaking with rolling green hills, age-old castles and oodles of sheep dotting the majority of the landscape, if ever you head up to Scotland, I absolutely recommend the train!

The historical city of Edinburgh was truly beautiful. With a population of under half a million people the city is relatively small, a factor which plays to its favor keeping the city contained to original buildings with relatively few modern atrocities dotting the city and no actual skyscrapers disfiguring its panorama. Our hostel was gorgeous and equipped with a very functional kitchen which saw us dining on fresh shrimp from the fish shop nearby and disturbing golden syrup soaked pre-packaged pancakes from the grocery store, an anomaly which we found to be truly curious.

Although we had some delicious Indian and Mexican food, the latter being shown to us by some friends, food in the UK was otherwise rather bland. While fish and chips were of course good, if artery clogging, it was quite refreshing to be surprised with a side of peas (Something healthy on my plate!? Sacrilege!) once the fish and chips quota was met I encountered what I considered something of a culinary wasteland. Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure that there is good food in Scotland, and certainly in the UK as a whole! However, the traditional grease-soaked food whipped together everywhere seemed more apt as a late night accompaniment to a drink then as an actual meal consumed on a regular basis.

Authentic British food (not).

Grease is its own food group right?

The infamous Haggis fit into this stereotype being fatty and quite decent tasting, somewhat like the strange lovechild of thanksgiving stuffing, hotdogs and oatmeal. Its ok taste was matched by its lackluster appearance which did little to encourage its consumption. Haggis is served with neeps and tatties ie turnips and potatoes as well as with rock hard oatcakes altogether it was pretty ok but it violated what I refer to as the yummy to calorie ratio. This led to me classifying it as not tasty enough to be consumed considering how unhealthy it, unlike'll have to wait for the Paris post for that!

Nothing says appetizing like mush with a side of mush and mush

Ok, ok I think I've ripped into the UK enough, here are some positives. Although I got sick of the fish and chips they were very good! And as aforementioned, the peas were a nice addition. However, I must state that what I enjoyed most in this bastion of grease-filled processed food were the beverages. Much as I love the atmosphere of pubs, I am not a beer person, repeat, not. Somehow, I am of the school of people that likes to eat my bread instead of drinking it. Now, as one might guess, this puts me in a bit of a pickle considering that no one wants to be the person who orders wine in a pub, you just don't do it. But then BAM! Cider and (alcoholic) ginger beer come to the rescue! Looking almost like beer and being served from a brown bottle, these lovely beverages allow the non-beer drinker to integrate himself almost seamlessly into a pack of otherwise oblivious beer swigging peers while drinking what is (in my opinion of course!) a vastly superior beverage.

While we're on the high notes of culinary ventures in the UK I must absolutely return to my earlier statement about Indian food, it was fantastic! Following a recommendation from 'the Guardian' we headed over to the Mother India Cafe and Indian tapas bar located near the heart of Edinburgh. Dishes were small, allowing us to try a bit of everything and it was quite delectable and very affordable for the UK. A highlight was the huge homemade garlic butter soaked naan which was truly to die for!

Oh and on a final note? Rhubarb yogurt...the UK sells rhubarb yogurt! It's awesome, really. I'm serious.

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