Wednesday, August 3, 2011

We Are British, Innit?/30 Foodie Things We Love About Britain(Epicure June 2012)

Though this book/section in the magazine is strictly for British readers, I can identify with some elements of being British too. After all, I have been to England 4 times and have an overflowing passion for all things English. Therefore, here is a PERSONAL encyclopedia of what being British/eating British food is about, inspired by this book/magazine.

Apologising: The British apologise even when it is not their fault in the first place. I am glad I am a British in this sense as well.

Baked Beans: Eating them with toast will be rather substantial for my stomach, while eating them with crisps sounds rather appealing to me :) I guess the latter is somewhat like hummus.

Bangers and Mash: It is really sausages and mashed potato on a plate. I can imagine dipping the sausages into the potato and eating them like that. Delicious!

Blyton, Enid: I have always wondered why readers like Noddy. I love looking at the pictures on the hard covers but the series itself does not seem appealing. I love the Famous Five books though. I adore the descriptions of the picnic food the children pack for themselves and of course, Timmy is an absolute darling. The Secret Seven series have stayed in my past. Another favourite is the Enchanted Woods series. The stories of the different lands up the Faraway Tree are so delightful.

Bond, James: I had a fondness for the movies on this secret agent in the past.

Burberry: I love the design of the checks amidst the beige background. I imagine how wearing the trench coat will make me look stylish. When my dad bought a pink umbrella with a similar Burberry design, I was ecstatic. I had a fake Burberry umbrella!

Chips: Eating them with thickened mushroom gravy, curry gravy or mushy peas sounds yummy!

Class: It seems that a liking for olives makes me middle-class, which I am, while a knowledge of cutlery etiquette makes me upper-class :)

Custard: The most famous custard powder is of the Birds brand. I distinctly remember the tin with red, yellow and blue colours on its outside, though I have a vague image of the tin having a checks design too.

Deep frying/Fried Chicken: Deep-fried food is my weakness and it is heartening to find out that the British love it too. I love fried chicken, Japanese tempura, fish and chips, and anything battered and fried. Chicken Maryland comes to mind and I love Fish and Chips that has a smooth batter rather than one made from breadcrumbs.
Cue in Southern Fried Chicken, Popeyes's Louisana Chicken, McDonald's Chicken McNuggets and Chipotle French Fries, and what KFC has to offer too. Scotland has come up with Deep-fried Mars Bar but it is really too sinful for me to stomach it. Despite that, I decided to try it in mini balls form. It is indeed delicious but too many balls can be saccharine-sweet. Squirting Hershey's Chocolate Syrup over them really spoils their texture too, as they become soggy. Thank goodness I rejected the free scoop of ice-cream that came with them!
Deep-frying kebabs when they are usually grilled is also something bizarre to me, with salad(!) being the ultimate repulsion.

Diamond Jubilee: I had an English picnic with a fellow British lover. We dressed up like the English in dresses and fascinators/hats. Then, we went to the park to have British food like Fish and Chips, Mini Jaffa Cakes, biscuits and lemonade among others. I even gave her a door gift of a lollipop in a Union Jack carrier. I also pored through magazines on the actual celebrations in England and everything British.

Dogs: I really really love dogs. I guess I would feel at home in Britain as a result :P Each time I see one, I make funny exclamations at it, thinking that it understands me. Unfortunately, it always looks away or even gives me funny looks :P
I buy gifts for my friends' pets at times too. I have only a stuffed toy beagle which I have named Duffy. When I can, I play with my friends' pets Astro and Trixie. I once fed Astro banana slices and grapes. I also carried him onto my lap. Trixie seems to recognise me when she sees me. She asks me to scratch/pat her at times. She also wags her tail at me when she has not seen me on a regular basis and she once sensed I was unhappy too. I love it when she puts her head on my lap :)

Flasks: I associate them with the smell of coffee because I remember getting the smell whenever I opened the cover of my previous flask to get hot water. I guess it had been used to brew a cup of coffee and the smell lingered on its rim. I also link them to keeping soups and porridge hot, courtesy of watching television serials where hospital visitors bring flasks with such contents to the patients.

Fruitcake: I remember my mum making it a few times for Christmas. She used to soak the dried fruits first before using them for the cake. I also remember getting it as wedding favours but it would have a top layer of hard icing during such occasions. I preferred the icing rather than the cake itself, sad to say.

Fudge: I love hot fudge as a topping on my sundaes at Swensens. Somehow, I can't say the same for cold fudge. Hot fudge is a perfect complement to the cold ice-cream. I made it for my friends as Christmas gifts last year by adopting Nigella Lawson's recipe. However, it is probably more appealing to those with a sweet tooth :P

Golf: I played miniature golf at the most recent cruise I went on and I rather enjoyed the game. I pretended I was a professional golfer then :P

Gossip: This makes me British then! :P

Grammar: It is a definite must for countries with English as their first language. However, this need does not seem to resound with people in my country.

Harrods: This department store is a must for tourists. It supposedly sells everything under the sun. I love its food hall where food from all over the world is sold. They are packaged and presented so prettily as well. Of course, the prices are high since it is in the Knightsbridge area and is a 'branded' store. Most people are crazy over its store accessories range, especially the bags. The trademark icon on them is the Harrods bear. The mint tea at its in-house cafeteria packs a punch and is good for those who have caught a cold. My dad felt a lot better upon drinking it. I had the good fortune to visit it during its Christmas promotional period. The trees and their various themes of decoration were up, which are always a source of childhood magic for me. There were also Christmas stationery and food products. I bought pudding biscuits as a gift :) I could not resist taking photos in the food hall. I never get tired of looking at them again and again.

Heinz ketchup: There is a distinctive taste from that of the other brands of ketchup. It is more sour.

Heston Blumenthal: I first got to know about him from the cooking programmes on cable television. He loves to take on food challenges like reinventing food for nutritional purposes and recreating historical banquets with contemporary techniques. I saw his outrageous dishes for the first time on Masterchef Australia 2, where the contestants were to reproduce his Sound of the Sea dish. He seems genuinely nice and I like him better than Gordon Ramsay in Hell's Kitchen.

Jamie Oliver: I watched his television programmes Naked Chef and Oliver's Twist. He makes cooking look really easy peasy in them. I like the different occasions he presents as settings to the dishes he cooks in the latter. From them, I have also learnt that it is fine eating pasta the Chinese way, instead of twirling the pasta around the fork. After all, he eats pasta the Chinese way too!

Jumble sales: They can be interpreted in two ways: full of unwanted junk or treasure troves. I take the latter. I love the fact that the products are priced cheaply. I have managed to get prized books from my childhood at low prices when scouring through such sales. There is the possibility of getting items for decorating one's house too. That would be a steal for me. The thing I am not comfortable with about such sales is wearing second-hand clothes. I will change my mind however, if I find something vintage which I really like.

Lea and Perrins: I encountered this sauce for the first time when I was making Roti Babi. It is an accompaniment to the dish. It is an acquired taste though. 

Marks and Spencers: I was first exposed to this brand through my mum's clothes label. Then my first purchase from this store was Cocoa Butter Hand and Nail Cream. It smelled food-ishly yummy. I have purchased more items with time. Candles especially for the Christmas period, Jaffa Cakes, Bacon Rashers, Honey Baked Ham flavoured Crisps, Dark Chocolate Digestives, Christmas Puddings and Log Cakes, Christmas wrapping paper, Easter eggs, and sweets like Lemon Sherbets, Gummy Worms and Wine Gums are the purchases. My latest purchases are BBQ Wholegrain crackers, and Apple and Cinnamon Popcorn Cakes. Actually, the clothes range is appealing to me, if not for its price. Oh well, I guess it is a high-end store.
I had a bit of time at the Covent Garden branch in London and saw that the biggest difference there is the huge food section where there are ready-made meals. I remember having seen a Singaporean meal there too! Its Mint Humbugs have a special significance to me. My best friend bought a whole packet for me after having noted that I like them. I seldom get presents from him and so it was a sweet surprise for me. I distinctly remember how he gave it to me. He asked me to open the glove compartment in his car where he had stashed it :D

Marmalade: My family eats it with bread at times. We buy Orange or Raspberry, though I prefer the former. I also associate it with Paddington Bear's favourite food :)

Marmite: I remember being coaxed to take it as a child. It was another version of Brovil in those days. I hated the taste and so when my dad wanted to order it in a dish with chicken, I was apprehensive. I tried a little of the dish and like it more as part of a dish rather than on its own. Some people eat it with toast or take it as a drink. That is not for me.

Mini: This is not the skirt but the car. It is my dream car. I love the different colours it comes in. I would love to own a pastel mini due to its compact and petite size :)
Mini skirt: This is the skirt. I remember wearing a silver tight one for the purpose of attracting someone's attention, but he instead saw me for my inner side :)

Mushy peas: I think eating it with mint tastes delicious. However, most people I know don't like peas. I wonder why. I love it in cream pasta, Thai green curry and pies.

National Trust: It is another name for National Heritage Board in Singapore. It is a stamp of recognition on the value of literary and historical architecture. It means the particular place or building is a must-see for visitors to England like me.

Nigella Lawson: she has many different cooking shows on cable television. My favourite are Nigella Bites and Nigella Express. The dishes she shares with the viewers are quick and easy to make, and yet presentable enough not to be categorized as fast food. I have tried two recipes They are Chocolate Caramel Crispy Cakes and a fudge recipe. The former was more well-received.

Nighties: I still wear such nightdresses to sleep. I especially love the frilly ones.

Ovaltine: It is similar to Milo and comes in a big orange tin. These two drinks, together with Horlicks, were my childhood beverages.

Peas: Not many people like peas but I love them. Mushy or whole, they are still appealing to me. I can imagine eating them with Fish and Chips. Mmmm......

Pies: Chicken and Cottage Pies come to mind. I don't really like the former with a flaky crust. I prefer the ones with a smooth and sweet crust, much like a tart, from an outlet that sell Soya Bean along Serangoon Avenue 3. My brother loves the ones with a flaky crust though. It was his childhood snack. I love making the latter. It is just a matter of topping the minced beef and peas filling with mashed potato. I had a good review for it :)

Poor service: Singapore is supposedly known for this in the retail industry but sometimes, the customer is not always right. I am not saying that we have exemplary service though. If the customer is unreasonable, he cannot blame the retail staff for reacting in the way they do.
I did encounter this in London's Chinatown. The elderly staff members of traditional Chinese restaurants usually place more focus on the quality of their food rather than the service they provide. They believe the food should speak for itself and that is all that matters. Hence they can be rather rude to customers. On the same level, the hawkers in Singapore have this same perception.

Pork scratchings: They are really the skin of Chinese Roast Pork to me. Guan Hoe Soon and Crystal Jade's versions are especially crispy. They can also be bought together with Chinese Barbecued Pork Slices from chicken rice stalls in Singapore.

Pot noodle: It is really cup noodles to me. My favourite brand is Nissin. I remember asking for it on my flight back from Rome last year and it was delicious! It must have been my yearning for local food that kicked in. I remember my mum asking for it on SQ flights when she didn't want to eat the menu offerings :)

Pubs: these have different definitions in both Singapore, where I live, and England. It is more sleazy in my country, where vices tend to occur. In England however, there is a family atmosphere with quizzes and even craft classes being held there. I especially like pubs in the suburbs, where the villagers gather to socialise. These public houses have creative names like The Eagle and The Red Lion. Nowadays, gastro-pubs have sprouted in England. They are famous for their food like steaks and roasts.

Puddings: My favourites are Mango Pudding from any Chinese restaurant and Chocolate Pudding from Rise at Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Though Bread and Butter Pudding is quintessentially English, I don't fancy the soggy bread in egg. I know the mixture will be baked but this does not lessen my dislike.

Queen Elizabeth II: I love her dressing! Her hats and outfits always match and the colours are so feminine!

Queen's English: I have always loved its accent. It sounds so proper! I have a thing for the English accent, really :)

Queen Victoria: She was famous for having the Great Exhibition during her reign in 1851. Some of the things are truly extraordinary. I was blessed to have viewed them at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The museum per se is a must-go! It is named after her and her consort. Her consort was famous for starting the tradition of having Christmas trees indoors.

Queues: This is a Singaporean activity. Some people queue out of social consideration and lawfulness, but some others do so for freebies or new product launches. I remember the queue for Hello Kitty freebies offered by McDonalds some years back. Unfortunately, mayhem broke out despite the initial orderliness. Nowadays, it is for new products or shops like Apple gadgets and H&M.

Rhubard Crumble: Nigella Lawson's version comes to mind :)

Rich Tea Biscuits: McVities comes to mind. I remember my parents dunking them in coffee to soften it before eating them. I can't stand the sogginess of it. The intact version tastes somewhat like Marie Biscuits :)

Roast Beef: I love the one from Rise at Marina Bay Sands Hotel. I usually eat it with mint jelly and/or Yorkshire Pudding :) As a young girl, when I ordered it as a main course from Western restaurants, I would usually ask for it to be done medium-rare. It sounded so classy when I said this. However, now that I am older, I try not to eat it so often due to health reasons :S It seems like a Sunday dish to me, courtesy of cookery shows by Nigella Lawson. I remember the one cooked by Claire of Masterchef Australia Season 2. It came out so succulent and perfect! An alternative is Roast Chicken and the best one for me will always be the one done by my mum. She told me she was merely trying it for the first time. It was delicious! She never made it again but I still remember it :)

Scones: The ones at Popeyes' are really fragrant and delicious, though they are known as "biscuits". However, my first and best experience of eating them was at a hotel in Cameron Highlands. It was rather cold that day and eating the warm dainties with butter and strawberry jam was a paradise-like experience!

Scotch Eggs: I made these for the first time while doing Food and Nutrition in secondary school. They are not too difficult to make. They are hard-boiled eggs surrounded by sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried.

Tea: I love tea as a drink in itself. Some of my favourite flavours are Earl Grey, Jasmine, Osmanthus, Chamomile and Peppermint. As a meal, it is a luxury to behold. I used to have high tea buffets and they would cause me to skip dinner. I would have a mixture of Western and Asian delicacies during the buffets. In England, the Ritz at Green Park is the most famous place for afternoon teas. A typical afternoon tea is made up of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and tea.

The Ledbury: I went for a wedding lunch at this restaurant, and the decor is indeed elegant and classy. It made me see black in a new light. It is in the Notting Hill area. I got to try unusual food like boar meat, celeriac, truffle, gnocchi and souffle. I loved it! It is a 2-star Michelin restaurant and I am honoured to have dined in one :)

Waitrose: it is an upmarket supermarket chain but one that  my dad and I like to go to while in London. It is very close to our favourite Millennium Gloucester Hotel. It was there that I fell in love with English Women Weekly magazines. A packet of biscuits that I bought there was also well-liked. There is also Salisbury behind my hotel but it is further. It has more of a family atmosphere than Waitrose with its exclusive feel.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I am really like Mary Bennet!

Having read A Match For Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward, I am filled with fantasies as to what my life would be like if I were to remain single. First though, let me present the comparisons between her and me.

She is contented travelling back and forth to visit Jane and Lizzy. She learns to create samplers. She goes to church and ends up serving the Lord in ministries. She indulges in books, music and religion. She has high aspirations towards marriage,associating it with God's divine will. She begins to wonder about motherhood. I possess all these inclinations too.

However, there are differences between us too. She does not like to dress up for balls and while there, buries her nose in a book. She tends to quote from the religious writings she has read in her conversations with people. She does see marriage as unnecessary in attaining a state of contentment.

I, on the other hand, love to read about clothes and makeup. I have a weakness for floral dresses and never fail to buy a new dress for Christmas each year. I am a girly girl where fashion is concerned. At a social function, especially a formal one, I am tempted to indulge in my books but I do not. It is rude to do so. I try to make conversation with the people around me. I do not quote from my spiritual readings in my personal interaction with others. It merely turns them off. I am very open to marriage and believe in its ability to grant me happiness, just as singlehood can do so.

Now, I will go back to expounding on my dream life in being a single. I will get more tuition students from further areas to teach. I will experiment with new dishes to cook and entertain friends at home. I will continue to visit the library and bookshops. I will resume my hobby of visiting museums and attending music concerts. I will meet up with my friends at meals and outings. I will manifest my thought into action of producing cross-stitch samplers. I will go back to attending weekday mass and Charismatic sessions. I will work on improving my vocal gift through voice training sessions, and perhaps fulfill my secret aspiration to sing on stage like Lea Salonga or sing with the Singapore Lyric Opera. I may write more poetry books other than the one I hope to publish in 4 years' time.

A great passion is to travel to England where history and literature are most appealing to me. I would love to embark on historical/literary walks/tours and go for literary retreats. My favourite literary author is Austen, and it would be magical to travel to the places she and her charcters went to. Having read about these in books like Me and Mr Darcy, A Weekend with Mr Darcy and Austenland, I am excited to experience the same adventures the protaganists did. The countryside and suburbs are equally enthralling. I would also join the Jane Austen Society and attend its events. It would be so ecstatic wearing empire-waist dresses to balls.

Bath is my favourite town in England, and I would like to explore it further and for a longer time. There is so much more of Austen's worlds in Bath that I have yet to visit. From a modern perspective, the town has a lot to offer as well. The vintage boutiques, craft shops and bookstores are alluring. Vintage Magic the book, Mollie Makes the magazine and brands like Cath Kidston have introduced me to these delights. Even the public houses are the types that define the true sense of the term, with their food and activities like knitting groups and trivia quizzes. No sleazy vices that degrade women are present. The Christmas fair would be within walking distance.

I would not mind staying there for a long period of time. I could start a small business of my own. I could open a little diner offering the dishes I love to cook, both Asian and Western. Of course, I would keep it cosy and comfy with its smaller size as compared to typical eateries. Ahh... such is my 'alternate reality' :)