The Queen's Message and Other Christmas News
New Year's Day 2012

Further English Food Update

Cooper's Oxford Marmalade: Excellent. Doesn't look like the orange marmalade we have here, which is, like, orange, probably with chemical assistance. This is brown. It has a bitter edge of orange peel, which I like and doesn't seem to be present in American marmalade anymore. I thought maybe that was just an effect of my aging taste buds.

Branston pickle: Odd at first bite, but quite tasty. When I opened the jar I thought the smell was very familiar, but I couldn't place it. Then someone else recognized it: it's very much like some steak sauces, such as A-1 and Heinz 57. It went very nicely with the leftover Christmas turkey we had for dinner last night.

I haven't been back to the Marmite jar. I do plan to finish it, but I probably won't replace it.


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Cooper's Marmalade is excellent. I have never tried American jam or marmalade. It doesn't look tempting. I brought back three jars of marmalade made by my stepmother, plus c. 20 packets of loose tea.

Careful, Mac. Before you know it you're going to be eating steak and kidney pie and watching reruns of the Two Fat Ladies.

Not that there's anything wrong with that....

I'm pretty sure I'm not ever going to like anything that includes kidney, liver, brains, and other yucky stuff. There's a passage in Ulysses where Bloom (I think I'm remembering the right book) fries himself a couple of kidneys for breakfast, and I recall a sort of cognitive dissonance: the description and his anticipation made it sound attractive, but yet...kidneys. I don't know about Two Fat Ladies, but I know I've been pretty disappointed in what I've seen of the past couple of decades of British humor.

Try apple butter, ex pat. Especially if you can find some that has a lower level of corn syrup--I seem to recall there are a couple of brands that advertise themselves as being more "natural" and have less extra sweetening.

OK. Sounds good to me.

Marmite was an austerity food. I don't know when it was invented but people spread it on bread and butter in lieu of having something like say ham or salami or roast beef to put on the bread and butter.

Try it with lettuce. If you don't love it with lettuce, give up!

Okay, it’s official, the Brits are nuts: “Devilled kidneys for breakfast, quite possibly with some black pudding, are one of the culinary wonders of the world,” in “Liver, brains, kidneys—it's offal, but I like it” here

Afraid to ask, but what’s black pudding?

The link isn't working for me, but I think the text of it is clear enough. In fact, maybe it's better that the link doesn't work.:-)

I passed up a can of spotted dick in Publix when I was selecting English foods. I really don't think I or most Americans could ever eat anything with that name. And anyway I expect it isn't supposed to be canned.

However: I just had an English muffin (should that be "English", I wonder?) with Marmite was sorta good.

I think the text of it is clear enough.

I might have to get a T-shirt with that on it.


Black pudding!!! So yummy!!!! I think it's blood sausage. I really should have some soon. Haven't had any since I was a kid.

Kidneys also quite nice, from memory, but I've not ever been game to try other offal.

Yes the -mites on English muffins are tasty!

We used to eat black pudding with tomato sauce (ketchup). Nom nom nom...

What I meant was that it would have, "liver, brains, kidney, etc." on it.


I expect it isn't supposed to be canned

Quite so, indeed. Whatever next? Tinned toast?

Black pudding is delicious and nutritious, and certainly has less offal in it than any run-of-the-mill supermarket sausage or burger.

No doubt, but...I'll pass.

I'm glad you explained that, Janet. I was baffled.

I think that link to the “liver, brains, kidneys” article didn’t work because I inserted a period at the end of the sentence and it got itself stuck in the link. Try it now:

The full article is interesting, and you’ll learn that the French are really into offal: “In France, offal is celebrated, not least because the cheapness of the raw materials allows restaurants who serve it to make a huge mark-up. A few years ago, when the trade was on hard times, a marketing stunt even designated November le mois des abats – offal month – with what I believe are now called ‘signature dishes’ of various organs in restaurants all over the country.”

Of course, they like horse meat, too. Don’t think the English can abide that, can they?

"it may also be squeamishness that puts people off, as well as the imagined association with some sort of shameful poverty." Yeah, it may. I think he has it backwards. If you're hungry enough, you get over your disgust. I can't account for those who aren't half-starved and actually like some of these things. Of course I haven't tried any of them, but I'm not about to.

re Marmite again: my dog Lucy does not seem to care for it. I have to give her a pill every night, and she won't eat the pill by itself, so I put it in with her food. Sometimes I just hide it inside a dollop of cream cheese. I tried coating it with Marmite tonight, and she spat it out. However, she did eventually eat it, when I put some of her regular food in her bowl and dropped the Marmite-covered pill in.

It certainly isn't an austerity food now--or at least not here. Five dollars for 4.4 oz.


Craig, I bought apple butter in Martins this morning. It is scrumptious.

I love apple butter, but I don't keep it in the house as a rule because it leads to the consumption of way too much bread and butter.


I guess that's one good thing about Marmite. It's not going to tempt me to the bread and butter. :-)


Just the very words "apple butter" sound delicious.

Janet, I can see I am going to have to exercise a lot of self control. The bread and butter is a problem, but I could eat that stuff right out of the jar.

It is a minor problem not being able to get kidneys to make steak and kidney pies and puddings, and I also slightly miss black pudding. Chicken liver I only buy to give to my cats, and I can do that here.

Happy New YEar, y'all!

May 2012 be full of Black Pudding!

I resolved the 'eating too much bread and butter' with the apple butter problem this morning by putting the apple butter on my porridge.

A perfectly sound use for it. Happy New Year to all.

I would strongly advise against the tinned spotted dick, for three reasons.

1) Tinned spotted dick will be revolting.

2) Spotted Dick is a suet pudding and if suet puddings had any appeal to even to a tiny minority of Americans, one could buy suet in some supermarkets or at least from American amazon. One cannot, so far as I can tell in South Bend Indiana, buy suet in the USA.

3) One of my favourite suet puddings is called Sussex Pond Pudding. I have made it for dinner parties, where it is invariably a smash hit. The only American cookbook I own so far is Laurie Cowan's 'Home Cooking'. She includes her effort to make Sussex Pond Pudding in the chapter entitled 'Kitchen Horrors'. The frightful thing is, however, that the pudding she describes as a disaster, which her guests refused to eat, sounds identical to my own, piece de resistance Sussex Pond Pudding, down to being shaped like a slightly squashed hat. This chapter has thus far put me off giving a dinner party in the USA, though I have had a couple of individuals to dinner.

Point 3 is my strongest reason: it gives me the impression that there are strong differences in taste between the British and Americans. One perhaps has to have eaten suet puddings in childhood to enjoy them through the rest of one's life.

I have bought beef suet here to make plum pudding. I usually have to ask the butcher for it. There are probably things available in the South that you can't find in South Bend. I looked up a recipe (with pictures) for Sussex Plum Pudding and it doesn't look repugnant to me at all. I would probably like it.


I noticed it was available in the bird food section of a pet store recently.:-)

That's true! I've used it to make little bird treats too. I was a Girl Scout leader.


I'm not only at work but in a rather intensive programming class. On a 10-minute break at the moment. More about plum pudding etc. later. But one thing: Americans recoil instantly from "spotted dick". I don't want to get too gross and explicit, but it's like having a food named "staph infection" or something.

American men, anyway. Don't know about women.

People probably wonder why I'm sitting alone in my office laughing out loud. You don't give us credit for being very discerning. 8-)

In a few minutes, I have to go to a prayer service for a student who is gravely ill and if I giggle during the prayers, you will have to pay somehow.


It's more disgusting than funny to me. Better to giggle during prayers than make retching noises.

I wasn't laughing at the condition; I was laughing at you.


I realized while reading your conversation about suet pudding that I didn’t know the difference between suet and lard, or whether there even was a difference. Well, now I know. Webster’s says that lard is “a soft white solid or semisolid fat obtained by rendering fatty pork,” and that suet is “the hard fat about the kidneys and loins in beef and mutton that yields tallow.”

Those dang kidneys again. But it may explain how the English came up with that pudding -- had to do something with all that suet left over from all those steak and kidney pies.

I didn't know exactly what it was, either, beyond that it was some sort of fat. The comments on that Telegraph (?) story you linked to a week or so were full of some alarming enthusiasms that make kidneys seem not so bad.

"Sussex Pond Pudding is a traditional English suet pudding, believed to have originated in the county of Sussex. A rich suet pastry encases a delicious filling of brown sugar and butter, with a whole lemon situated in the centre. As the pudding steams, the lemon softens and flavours the butter and brown sugar, the whole mixture amalgamating to form a deliciously rich sauce, which oozes out onto the plate when the pudding is cut open to serve."

That doesn't sound bad at all!

Plum pudding is made with suet, I think. I've seen purportedly authentic plum pudding served at Christmas, and people didn't hate it, but they didn't much like it either. I think, though, that it wasn't so much the suet-ness but the candied fruits, raisins, etc. Americans tend to be unenthused by those, especially cooked raisins. More so now than in the past, maybe, as witness the widespread hostility to fruit cake, which I like a lot.

I was so inspired by all this talk that I bought a little jar of Marmite at my last grocery shop. About to try it now...

Well, I can't recall ever having any plum pudding left over. The suet doesn't taste meaty or anything like that.


Actually I shouldn't say "people" didn't much like it. That was the aggregate--I think it was more that some people definitely liked it, some didn't much care for it. I don't remember anyone just saying "ewww, gross".

I think maybe there's a connection between English cooking and Southern cooking. I mean, we (Southerners) are well known for using lard and bacon grease in all sorts of things. There's the joke for people who are moving to the South: "start saving your bacon grease now, you'll be given instructions later."

I have been restraining myself from making an overly stereotypical remark about Midwesterners, but I will say that the blandest meant-to-be-spicy food I've ever eaten was in Cincinnati. But then they also have that onion-covered chili (yum).

Verdict on Marmite: more bitter than Vegemite and Promite, therefore not as pleasant to my palate.

Interesting. I think I may have seen Vegemite in the store along with Marmite, so I'll have to try it, too. Vegemite actually might be better known here, because of that song from the early '80s by Men At Work, something about "a land down under", that refers to it.

I'm a little disconcerted by the fact that I'm developing a bit of a taste for Marmite. A few mornings ago we were having boiled eggs and English muffins for breakfast, and I actually *wanted* Marmite on my muffin in preference to honey or something. Very tasty with the egg.

No, no, not a hankering for Marmite -- say it isn’t so. Next thing you know you’ll be signing off your posts here with “Cheers!”.

Heh. I know several Americans who sign off with "Cheers!", so if I should do it, don't give up on me. "Cheerio!", on the other hand, would be a bad sign, to be met with a stern reprimand. I rather doubt that English people even say it any more.

Marmite on toast for lunch. It needs the right bread--this was Pepperidge Farm whole wheat, which isn't really very good. I'm looking forward to trying it on rye.

Mac: Americans tend to be unenthused by those, especially cooked raisins. More so now than in the past, maybe, as witness the widespread hostility to fruit cake, which I like a lot.

I learned shortly before the end of last term that a colleague *did not know what a mince pie was*. I brought back a box from England, which happened to be 'mini-mince pies', ie about 2/3 of the normal size. I took them into work and told him he could expect to eat them at lunch time. He was confused. He thought a 'mince pie' would be a whole lunch, 12 inches across. I explained a mince pie is about half the size of a cupcake. He tasted it, and didn't look disgusted. He didn't look delighted either, but he didn't demur when I urged him to eat a 2nd one and take one home for his wife. I can only think that either he is exceptionally polite (very possible) or that Maclins comments don't apply to him.

He asked me what was in them, and I read off the back of the box, raisins, sultanas, orange peel, lemon peel, spices, coriander etc. He said all those things came from the colonies. He then held up the mini mince pie and said 'this is the essence of the British empire.'

Glad to hear you are taking to Marmite, Mac. I would be surprised if it was anyone's favourite food, but I am also surprised by Janet being physically revolted by it, unless she inadvertently spread it too thick. It would be horrible spread heavily. It would be good on Rye bread, especially with a slice of lettuce.

I don't know about the lettuce, but then I'm not especially partial to lettuce as a flavor.

Mince pie! I knew there was something I was forgetting in this general class of foods. It was a standard part of Christmas dinners when I was growing up, though it was called "mincemeat". I never saw the word written, but that was what people seemed to be saying. And I was always puzzled because as far as I could tell it had no meat in it. I always liked it, although it wasn't my favorite thing. But if I remember correctly most of my siblings and cousins (i.e. my generation) didn't much care for it. But I haven't seen or heard of it for many years now. I guess it passed out of favor at least in my family somewhere between the mid-'60s and the mid-'70s.

I think a pretty strong unconscious cultural connection must have existed for a long time between old southern families of British extraction, like mine, and the mother country. Watching Upstairs Downstairs I kept thinking that there was some sort of resemblance of manner between the Bellamys and a lot of people I knew growing up, the women especially. It's interesting that it was sustained, because as far as I know no one in my family tree came over here after 1800 or so. The Horton from whom I'm directly descended was born ca 1790 in Virginia. Not sure what went on before that.

That's interesting! I really hope he wasn't pretending to like the mince pie - the poor guy, who is the most affable person on earth, ate two of them, the second one pressed on him by me - totally unaware of American taste in this area! He is from St. Louis, which might count as the South.

The Southerners in the sense of 'the South' versus the Yankee'North' were Episcopalian in tendency. It didn't occur to me that their attitudes and ideas extended into culinary tastes.

We were a step removed from Anglicanism, being Methodist, but I think basically in that tradition. I don't think there was any conscious intention to preserve certain things, but they persisted. I wonder if more was preserved in the truly upper class of the upper South--Virginia, the Carolinas.

I've had occasion in recent years to become aware that a not-affluent (at best) rural southern culture (aka redneck or just country) extends up into what we normally think of as the midwest, for instance Indiana.

I remember that we had mincemeat pies when I was young, but that I never ate a piece because I never thought a pie with meat could be as good as pumpkin pie with a bunch of whipped cream.


Why not both?!? with a decent interval, of course.

I'm leaving for the hospital to see the new grandbaby who arrived a couple of hours ago.

Who could dislike mince pies?

The ingredients are pre-imperial (except in so far as Gibraltar and Malta might be involved): oranges, lemons, currants and sultanas all come from the Mediterranean trade.

The "-mites" are delicious with egg! My Nan used to cook bubble n squeak and then put butter, promite and fried egg on top. Yum! I know what I'd like for brunch...

"bubble n squeak"...I could google that but I think I'll just let it remain mysterious for the moment.

I tried to get bangers and mash at a tea room one time, but they were out.


I do know what that (they?) is (are?). Never had it, but I expect there are few Americans who would dislike it. Sounds like exactly our kind of thing.

Yes. There is actually some sausage sitting in the Great Hall, smelling wonderful, and waiting for someone to come eat it; but I'm going to resist.


Apparently everyone missed the grandbaby comment. Congratulations!


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