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April 28 2005

James Marsters visits Stonehenge and comments on his visit to Britain so far. He seems to be enjoying the food. And the fertility symbols...

Love him. Love these photos and notes.

But calling all to us Yanks about the banger and mash situation. Please help us understand. Seriously.
Sausages and creamed potatoes? It's all in the picture, surely.
Yes, yes. We know what it is. The (gentle) question is why?
No offense my English friends, but as a Southern gal from the States I'm sorry to say that the Brits do not know how to do sausage - why is everything so bland across the pond? I had some awesome Indian food in England though. Nice to see James looking at ease.
He forgot to mention the pint sitting next to him at the table...mmmm. I could really go for one myself!

"This really is actually James and no lackey." well, the writing certainly DOESN'T sound like a publicist, if anything I figured it was one of the JML crew if not James himself.

I like this sort of "Tour Diary" take on it, makes it quite personal and fun. Sounds like he's having a great time and I'm glad the folks at JML are able to share this with everyone. (so whomever is stealing/posting those pics without authorization better damn well stop it) I'm enjoying this! I'd hate for them to have to pull their photos.

[ edited by Grace on 2005-04-28 21:47 ]
Why bangers n' mash? Because it's there. One may as well ask, why chicken and waffles? why rice and peas? why indeed.

killinj: the "Brits," whoever that vaguely-defined entity might be, do a pretty good sausage in places. As an Englishman (won't presume to speak for our many Scottish and Irish members) I can assure you that I've eaten many a fine local sausage in the west country, and in Yorkshire, and Cheshire, and even from specialty shops in London. Nout wrong with it.

And London, to name but one hometown of mine, has a plethora of great eateries, as recognized by Michelin stars and international magazines, while I've eaten quite bland food on occasion in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, and Florence. So, you just have to know where to go to get the "good stuff," as Whistler might have said.
People eat rice and peas? Together? Or should I say, side by side? Yuck. Peas are evil.
Wow Sodding, didn't know you were so Cosmopolitan, hehe. Every culture has their cuisine, and if others don't like it..well, too bad. And yes, you can find good and bad food everywhere; however, that's mostly due to the restaurants.
Ohh, I love that site.
The British sausage, in all its different formats, is an institution. Go to a real butcher and you'll find so many different kinds of tasty sausages... the pink little thingies they serve for breakfast really aren't all there is. I had a fab bangers (1x blue cheese and 1x sage) and mash pub lunch the last time I was over. Off Bond street.

In fact, all over Europe you'll find amazing sausage variety. Except in my own country where blandness in food has been perfected. Protestantism is a wonderful thang. Sigh.
Well, I'll just say that in my visits to London and elsewhere in England I haven't been fortunate enough to find any tasty sausages, nor unfortunately much English cuisine that wasn't bland. However, if ever I find myself on that side of the pond again I'd be thrilled if a fellow Whedonesquer could show me the spots where the "good stuff" can be found. ;)
Killinj, In my one visit to Britian (we were all over England, Scotland and Wales, except London) I found a lot of good food by doing what I normally do when traveling. Asking working folks where they go when they want good local style food, then asking things like what is best at that restaurant and what we should make sure we try while we are in the area. Sometimes people look at you funny at first, but once they get the idea, watch out. People love to tell strangers good things about their home towns/regions. We found some great pubs and tea shops in the middle of nowhere by asking police, security guards, sales help, etc...and they are usually reasonably priced.

I'm trying to remember how much of my time was spent sampling sausage, however. It isn't a clear memory. It seems to be overshadowed by the comparison tasting of the various local ciders with which I was pleased to make the acquaintance. ;-)
Ah now, I found plenty of very good cider during my travels! ;) I'll need a more leisurely trip to sample better food. I tended to eat at whatever was nearby and looked "native" as I was busy taking in the sites. Not sure how I managed upon the good drink. I suspect it was a matter of priorities. *grin*
Ooh, Stone Henge. I've been there.

Huh. *crickets*
I was in London last fall and had some great food -- traditionally English as well as Greek, Indian, etc. I had a lovely time. I've also a pub nearby my house here in the states that's run by a couple who lived in Ireland for around 15 years before returning to the US (its a chain now, but hasn't so far lost its charm/quality... here's hoping). Outstanding bangers and mash, Guinness stew, etc and they know how to pour an Imperial Pint correctly :) Newcj is 100% correct, people love to tell you good things about where they are/are from.
Except in my own country where blandness in food has been perfected.

But you guys have rockin' patat oorlog!(sp?) and...pofferjes(i know I can't spell that)

Other than that, the good food in Holland is Asian!
True, true, Caroline -- we protestants are not often famous for our brilliant cooking. :)

And just teasing re: the bangers and mash, y'all. Us Yanks just get a little nervous around food made of bits and parts we're not used to -- that's all. Spent a shiny two weeks wandering through Yorkshire last autumn, and while I couldn't make the bangers & mash or beans on toast work for me, i had some brilliant savory pies, curries & sinful sticky toffee puddings. Best of all, were the pounds and pounds of cheeses and fresh bacon smuggled home in my wellies from the Wensleydale Creamery. Heaven.
bangers & mash or beans on toast work for me, i had some brilliant savory pies, curries & sinful sticky toffee puddings

I have chime in and stick up for our sausages (and other food as well). As Caroline says it's an institution over here and there is a ridiculous amount of variety for a good example check out this site

Nice to see newcj mention Wales since SNT seems to have forgetten the Welsh are also Brits ;)
Thanks for the link, Paul_Rocks. I was all set to place an order for these prize-winning tube steaks, as penance for my bangers teasing, but alas, I'm outside the delivery area. Still, that might be my Favorite. Mascot. Ever. :)
Nice to see newcj mention Wales since SNT seems to have forgetten the Welsh are also Brits ;)

Indeed they are, and my bad if I suggested otherwise. :) Although, in my defense, no Whedonesque members from Wales sprang to mind as I was typing that last post. For some reason I thought you were a Mancunian, Paul_Rocks?
Ulster Fry. Best thing ever.
Wife and I leisurely made our way from Heathrow to Aberdeen for a rugby old boys festival some years ago. Had a magnificent meal at India House in Cambridge. While driving to Yorkshire (Skipton, actually), stopped at a small-town pub for lunch...2 items on the chalkboard: chicken curry and chili. My wife was dubious, but I assured her the curry would be good, and it was. The only decent meal in Aberdeen an Indian restaurant.

A few days after our return, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal (front page!) about how curry had replaced fish and chips as the most popular meal in Britain.

(Been doing quite a bit of authentic Indian cooking myself as of late. Probably my favorite cuisine.)

In London, we were unhappy that we didn't have time to have dinner at Vong, sister restaurant to the NY City restaurant of the same Knightsbridge, if I remember correctly...we had theater tickets (to see Diana Rigg as Phaedre!), and there just wasn't time.
Bangers and Mash are always one of the first things I order when I get to England. Along with a pint of ale. Good English sausage is like no other. Glad to see James enjoying the finer things in life!
Edited to add that this is one of the stranger discussions on this site!

[ edited by Lioness on 2005-04-29 02:29 ]
Two words: clotted cream

When my mom said I had to try it I must have looked at her as though she had forgotten her brain that morning. But Lordy, was that stuff good!!

We spent a lovely afternoon in Cornwall at a little place run by an older Englishman married to a woman from Naples having clotted cream and cups of tea. They were very stand-offish with these inappropriatly friendly American women at first. Things started to change though, when I told them that at home I had worked for a while with some second-generation Italian-American women who would constantly curse people in a Naples dialect. They were very young and I always suspected that they did not actually know what they were saying, because when I asked what it meant they would not tell me. They said it so often, however, it is engraved in my memory to this day.

The wife was looking at me very suspiciously, as though she thought I was making it all up and asked me what they would say. I told her and she burst out with a full, throwing her head back, laugh. She had her husband go do something as she explained that it had to do with the wish that a certain male appendage fall off. From then on she was the friendliest most outgoing person ever and commiserated with my mother about being married to reserved Englishmen, whether born in England or as a 4th to 5th generation American. This continued even after her husband returned to sit with us. It was cute and a really nice memory...with clotted cream...mmmmmmm.

This is off subject of food, but later in a pub, somewhere, a young fellow made the mistake of calling my mother a "Yank." OMG!!! Trying to point out to her that being called a "Yank" is not the same as being called a "Yankee" was totally useless as she transformed into the Grand and Formitable Southern Lady she had been raised to be, intent on bringing the wrath of the Old South down upon their heads with a vengence. I ended up just sanding there and was pretty funny actually.

As I recall, they did the only logical thing, under the circumstances. They bought us some cider and asked how...uh...Americans refer to them. It was roundly decided that "Brit" was ok and we all ended up fast friends discussing the surrounding area and hearing about how my mom's (who knows what generation) Irish-American, hillbilly, moonshiner's daughter, Grandmother would boil all food to the point of not being recognizable but no one complained because she was not someone you wanted to get on the wrong side of. They all seemed to believe her without question for some reason. ;-) Nice memory...with cider...mmmmmm.

Can you tell I miss that kind of traveling? (sigh)
James' site is kinda fun.

Love visiting England. Hate English food. I should visit anytime I wanna lose a few pounds (as in weight, not money, though that too - because I like to shop for stuff. But not to eat the food). I didn't understand what I was supposed to do with clotted cream, and when I did understand, I didn't want to do it. Grew up around the food of the Mediterranean - I mean, Greek, Lebanese and the like. Hummus. Garlic. Spicy. Olive oil. Wine. Hardly any dairy in cooking. My completely culturally-colored, narrow-minded gut reaction to English food: Bewildering. Wrong. Why? Where is the McDonalds?
"Where is the McDonalds?"

Over there. And there. And around the corner, next to the Starbucks. And there...
I’m an ocean away from hearing James in concert, so I’m comforting myself by listening non-stop to his CD “Civilized Man”. However, I’m totally curious about the last line in the CD label - “Special thanks to Greg Gorman for his patience and good heart, Steve Himber always a good boswain, and Cloromira Trevino, who keeps my treasure safe.” WHO is Cloromira Trevino? And what is his treasure? Okay, I have many answers to that last one, but what is the REAL answer?
KillinJ, pah! ;) At least we don't put maple syrup on our sausages and have them with pancakes! Treacle and sausage? It's madness, I tell you! Madness! I tried it in New England. Urgh. :)

I'm vegetarian now

Seriously, KillinJ, if you get quality sausage such as Cumberland sausage, they are really good but a lot of the stuff in the UK is just muck, it's true.

I reckon this photo was taken in a Wetherspoon's pub -- any Brits agree? It's that generic carpet that's the clue.
Have to weigh in on the sausage debate, sorry but has to be done. Coming from Bavaria we have sausage and beer for breakfast (no I am not making this up, it is completely true). Not only are we the undisputed experts in the whole wide world on the topic, but obviously also slightly sloshed by 10am.
German sausage = 100% meat. German beer = 100% purity

Love Britain, love living here, but British sausage –no, no, no! You put stuff in there like bread and sawdust and apples and leeks and other green things. Yikes! And don’t get me started on your beer.

Stop hitting me. No need to start World war 3. We lost ok. You won. Still can’t make a decent sausage though. Or beer. Or bread.

Other than that, the food in Britain is actually really good. I put that down to an openness to try all sorts of different culinary influences. Britain is a very open society anyhow. One of the many reasons to live here. Plus my relatives smuggle German sausages and bread for me into the country when they come to visit.
Bizzare thread indeed but I do have to agree with you about the beer Miranda - I went to the Oktoberfest last year and was very impressed with the quality of Bavarian beer and the fact that its purity seems to prevent hangovers as well! Terrific people too.
We'll have to agree to differ on the sausages thing though :-) the 'green bits' like apples and leeks are an integral part of the experience in my mind. For some of the UK's finest examples see here
For SNT's benefit I will put my hand up as a 100% genuine Welsh Whedonesquer (albeit exiled just across the border) - Joss's influence has even penetrated the notoriously thick Welsh cranium!
Miranda, don't get me started on German breakfasts! ;) My German penfriend's mum tried to get me to eat Danish pastries for breakfast, and my doctor while I was studying in Germany told me I should drink sparkling wine for breakfast for my low blood pressure.
I'll stick to my muesli and tea, thanks. :)
KillinJ, pah! ;) At least we don't put maple syrup on our sausages and have them with pancakes! Treacle and sausage? It's madness, I tell you! Madness! I tried it in New England.

I'm from the South, we eat sausages with grits, not maple syrup. LOL! I'm sure to get a few ewwww comments from that one. The sausages I had in England tasted like they were full of fillers of somekind. I'm used to lots of meat and spices.
SoddingNancyTribe said:

Indeed they are, and my bad if I suggested otherwise. :) Although, in my defense, no Whedonesque members from Wales sprang to mind as I was typing that last post. For some reason I thought you were a Mancunian, Paul_Rocks?

Well you're partly correct :) I live in Manchester now (and have done for all but 2 of the last 8 years) but I'm actually Welsh and lived there all my life before the move to Manchester (university).
Of course I was only joking with you and certainly took no offense in your omission, hell if the EU reference book can leave us off the map then I can't complain about you ;)
Ok the great banger debate rumbles on. James looks so happy in those photos and it has been great catching up on the tour notes. I see he wasn't trying the black pudding ;) All visitors to the UK should try sausages from proper butchers. The supermarket stuff isn't close.

Miranda, don't get me started on beer and ale (I think we have excellent ales in Britain, and according to my husband it is not the same as european beer. Rather have a bottle of wine personally.)

Killinj - next time you are over here pop in for a real english meal. Heck, you are all invited :D
@JudithS - looks like a Wetherspoons to me, not the best places but depends if he had any choice.
"I have Red Bull" - I think JM can copyright that sentence. He really seems to be on something all the time.

Sorry, I can't get into the bangers and mash discussion. Just thinking about bangers and mash turns my stomach.
The sausages I've eaten came from restaurants. As a visitor to the UK I don't shop in supermarkets or have access to a kitchen to cook sausage purchased from a butcher. I'm a tourist living out of my suitcase.
I, like killinj, am from the southern states and love me some spicy sausage. However, I lived in Ireland for a while and my favorite breakfast was black and white pudding with a 3 minute egg. I would eat it 3 or 4 times a week...mmmmmm. Man I miss that...ooooh and I miss my Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale too. I know, I know it is blasphemy not to like Guiness more, but I just prefer reds.
Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale

Yummy! I also love Guinness and fancy the occasional Newcastle. Some Brit friends tease me for that, but they were drinking Budweiser when they said it so what do they know? :P Anyone else like Gosser? That's some pretty good stuff.
Where to start? I’ll try not to make this too long…

JM’s comment about Southern England’s fertility symbols: I should have said something about that right away. He is right. They are...uh...amazing. On a selfish note, I want to compliment and thank the English for taking care of those fertility symbols. As crazy as it may sound, a part of me gives credit to the Cerne Giant and whatever Goddess(es) are supposed to hang out at the spring in Bath for the conception of my son. Well, his dad and I did have something to do with it too.

No filthy story connected with it, unfortunately. I had just been trying to get pregnant for a long time and was very worried. The day after I visited the Cerne Giant, a local guy asked if I had walked on it. When I answered with a shocked “Of course not.” He said, ”Good thing, cause in 9 months you’d have had a little present if you did.” Since the other half required for that to happen was in the States, my mom and I just laughed. A year later I was telling the story and a thought occurred to me. I checked the calendar and realized that my son was born 1 day short of 9 months after our visit to the Cerne Giant…and delivery had been induced. The due date was actually 9 months and 1 day after the trip to the Cerne Giant. (We had also later visited Bath and made a wish at the spring there, so that gets credit too. Fair is fair.)

So thanks guys, for keeping those fertility symbols in good shape, though JM should probably be extra careful in the next few weeks. ;-)

Wales not on the EU map: I’ll bet there were a bunch of dead Englishmen wishing from their graves they had been able to make Wales disappear that easily in their day.

Things disappear in the States too. One year Rand McNally did not include Oklahoma in their US travel atlas ON PURPOSE because they said they did not have room. My mom figured it was a plot by a bunch of Texans. Hmmm, I wonder if any of the Bush clan ever worked for Rand McNally? ;-)

Mediterranean food and German sausage: Count me in. I’m an equal opportunity eater. One of the good things about being a Middle-American mongrel raised in the NYC Metro area is the diversity of food you can be exposed to growing up. My mom somehow finds the best German butcher shops and does know what to do with what she finds there. Meanwhile my son’s dad and most of Northern New Jersey has the whole Mediterranean thing going.

Also, grits good. Maple syrup also good in moderation. Just depends on the kind of sausage and the circumstances. Can be yummy all around if done right.

Oh, and weisswurst is really good in a stir-fry, by the way. My Taiwanese cousin was really surprised, and wanted to know where she could get those funny white sausages when I wasn’t around.

Beer, Ale and any other type of that stuff, on the other hand, is just nasty no matter what the country. You all are welcome to my share. I’ll happily stick with the cider…and the wine, now that you mention it.

Edited to try to add a link to the Cerne Giant. Let's see if it works.

[SNT adds: it does now. newcj: you need to add the href=" " part after the a. Thus, the entire script, using square instead of pointy brackets would look like this: [a href=""]the Cerne Giant.[/a].
Mmm...grits! One of the world's best foods! I grew up in Mississippi and had them for breakfast as a hot cereal and for dinner as a sidedish.
Mmm...grits! One of the world's best foods!

With lotsa butter and salt....soooo good!
I’ll happily stick with the cider…and the wine, now that you mention it.

When I was at the gig on Tuesday, James was commenting about the unique atomosphere in Bristol, (which I took with a pinch of salt, guessing it was something he said no matter which city he was in, but having read his blog, I'm not so sure now) and comparing it to Seattle. He wondered aloud why that was.

An audience member shouted out, "It's the cider!"
Thanks, SNT. I see what I did wrong the first (few) time(s) before giving up. I just had where the address was supposed to go mixed up with where the name was supposed to go. In otherwords I had it totally bass aackwords...that's all.
Mmm...grits! One of the world's best foods!

Each to their own I suppose - I'll stick with sausages!
miranda: "Coming from Bavaria we have sausage and beer for breakfast.:

Don't I know it. I lived nearly 8 years in Munich...worked for a while at the Paulaner started at 6:30, with the first break coming at 8:30...I'd trudge over to the Kantine and get Knackwurst or Depreziner or just plain Wienerwurstchen, some hot potato salad, and a half liter of lager...followed by another half liter of lager. At 11:30 came the big meal, also with 2 half liters of lager.

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