The first thing I put in my travel journal is the food. There probably aren’t going to be any great one-liners or profound truths laid out for you here, but you can see some of where my mind went:
July 24, 2007
In the airport “World Club” we had brownies which were way better than some of the crappy brownies I’ve had in my day. I would give them a B+. The plus being because they were both Frosted and Free with business class tickets. As they were pretty good, I was sure to eat 2 or 3 of them. They were very, very tiny. About an inch squared. Fer real.
I ate some of those gardetto’s crunchy things which were too, too salty but also free and better than pretzles. My dad had brownies, string cheese and a capuccino.
On the plane we had an appetizer after the OJ and champagne. Did you hear that? We had OJ, champagne and newspapers before the plane even left the ground. It was real weird flying business class. Ever see that Eddie Murphy SNL skit that was “White like Me”? Where he puts on white-face and gets on the bus, and as soon as the last black guy gets off the bus, out pop some ladies with trays and drinks wandering the aisles and smiling. It was like being in another world. Funny. And clever. For an extra hundred bucks they make you feel like royalty.
Not so much by being so nice to you. But by reminding everyone else that you are special. “The world perks lounge is only for world-perks members and business class passengers” and “Coach class passengers, Please do not use the restrooms in business class. There are 4 perfectly fine horrible and smelly, average and plain lower class lavatories for your convenience in coach class.”
Back to the appetizer. It was a canape of sorts. It seemed to be a fold of lox with a squish of some cheesy herb mixture pastry-squeezed onto it. The lox and cheese-stuff had the world’s smallest slice of lemon, not just a zest of lemon. A tiny-teeny slice of lemon with peel and a caper. All of that business was was riding on top of some round base that may or may not have been a bread product.
Really there are few places I have been where I had to think long and hard about what I was eating. Very few. And none of them good. For the most part, food should be pretty much recognizable, don’t you think? If nothing else, at least once you taste it, you should know what it is. This was one of those times for me. And I never did figure out what all that prettiness was.
It had a texture that made it hard to identify, but leaned towards either bread or some meat-based thing. Like a blood sausage. It was heavy and dense for being bread, but awfully dry and flavorless for meat. I find the inability to discern between bread and meat deeply troubling.
They also served nut cups and feta with sun-dried tomatoes. Before dinner. It was a long flight. For dinner I ordered the beef dinner. It was pretty bad. Charred and supposedly with a horseradish crust (what was I thinking?). The guy who put the horseradish crust on maybe had seen a horseradish, but he definitely didn’t put any into the crust which was not a crust, but more of a sludge. Yuck.
Breakfast in first class was a fruit cup consisting of blueberries (which are a superfood), apple and some sort of green melon that had been magically converted into styrofoam. There was also a warm scone with jelly and something that was at least partially made of butter. Fruit juice and tea.
Lunch was fish and chips with mushy peas in London. My first fish and chips was OK, not great. Heavy on the grease, skin on. Mushy peas are a British thing. Take peas and mush them up. Serve them with fish and chips. These particular peas had microwave accident written all over them.
do you know of what I speak here? Where the outer edges are bubbly and weird enough to make you not want to use the microwave for a while?
Tip for later trips? Lemonade in London is Sprite or 7-Up with a slice of lemon in it. Not Lemonade. Whacked if you ask me.
Walking down the street, we were handed a free smoothie. It was free, pink and smooth.
Dinner was stellar. Pub food of the highest order. Call me crazy, but I ordered the bangers and mash with onion gravy. The sausages were juicy, but not greasy. They had been browned on the tops and bottoms until those parts were mahogany colored, but not burnt. The potatoes were real and buttery.
The onion gravy c was rich, not heavy, with only cursory nods to some bits of caramelized onion. That and the sausage, sitting on the potatoes was a marvelous combination. The gravy soaked some of the carmelization off the sausages and it soaked into the potatoes, like some kind of comfort food massage with a happy ending. Dang, that was good stuff.
English Breakfast. Yum. We ate in the Thistle Victoria Hotel.
The Thistle Victoria is attached to the train station. So you can pretty much get off the plane, do something which drugs have made unavailable to me*, and land in a train station where you walk 20 yards and check into your hotel.
You check in and go through this fabulous Victorian lobby and up to the world’s smallest hotel rooms. To me, it’s just perfectly ideal. Room for your bed, a closet, the dresser, upon which rests your TV and a chair. There is a small bathroom, which adds about 50% to the size of the room. It’s cozy and quiet and just about perfect.
After a lovely night’s sleep, we had a full English breakfast buffet. It was great. It had food that I recognized and food that I didn’t. But when I asked the staff they were able to tell me that the blackish round slices of stuff was “Black Pudding”. The waiter was disconcerted, but polite when I asked what is in black pudding. In case you want to know, black pudding is made of blood and other stuff. It’s very delicious, says he. Says I, it’s not as awful as it sounds, but not good enough to make me forget that it’s coagulated blood inside a sausage casing.
I did try some, two little discs. It wasn’t delicious, it wasn’t terrible. It was kind of dry and kind of icky, but not horrible. There was so much more to try that I didn’t go hungry. Broiled tomatoes, scrambled or sunny-side eggs, baked beans (not sweet like our baked beans), mushrooms, good sausage, English bacon, scones, toast, jam, juice and tea.
Let me just wax poetic a bit about English bacon. It’s like a cross between Canadian Bacon and American Bacon. It’s mostly meat, salty and smoky, but with enough fat that it isn’t dry, and it fries up nice. It is really, really good with baked beans, mushrooms and broiled tomatoes. I never thought I’d be writing any sentence that said anything good about broiled tomatoes where garlic and cheese were not involved.
Dinner at our final destination was a strange conglomeration. Our bed and breakfast usually only does, um, breakfast. So they hired out to have dinners catered for our group. The caterer brought the following and laid it before us.
There was: cold pizza (frozen, cooked and refrigerated), cold chicken drumsticks, olives, pasta salad, falafel balls with onions in them, garlic bread, cold little sausages which looked like nothing as much as the dismembered fingers of naughty, dirty, pudgy british children, olives, carrot sticks, salad, tiny tuna sandwiches on little hamburger buns, and an onion and cheese quiche (cold). It was really weird. We tried to figure out the connection or theme (other than the obvious cleaning out the fridge) . Drew a blank, but bonded as a group.
*I take Ativan when I fly. It makes me stupid and makes chunks of time just disappear from my memory banks. It’s cool and scary at the same time. But I’m starting to be less scared to fly, because I can’t remember how scary it was. Genius.
Breakfast of horrible wheat-flake cracker-cereal-biscuit stuff that looked and tasted like particle board, cereal in tiny boxes (Shreddies! that’s what they call Chex cereals), yogurt, fruit, croissants with and without chocolate, tea and juice.
Lunch was horror of pressed lunch meat, buns, crisps (new English word for potato chips), cheese, mustard. It was aptly described by my dad as cheap picnic food. That pretty well nails it. The only fun part was that English mustard is loaded with horseradish, which makes your nose burn and eyes water and makes me laugh every time I eat it. If you ever wonder if you’re dead or not, eat horse-raddish. You’ll know if you’re alive.
Dinner on my husband’s birthday was like revenge of the birthday karma from hell. I missed Andy’s 40th birthday and so I had to eat bangers and mash again. But this time it was so, so very bad. Floppy, mealy sausages in a viscous gravy that could stretch like no other food product I’ve ever seen or eaten, or imagined. The veggies were melt in your mouth tender, cooked so that the broccoli, cauliflower corn and green beens all had pretty much the same taste and texture.
There’s more, but you’ll just have to wait until I hit another manic phase and type it in.