Monday, May 10, 2004

Big in Britain

So I checked eXTReMe Tracking (great features, awful name) this morning to find that Britons had gone from about 10% of my readers to over 40%, within 5% of exceeding my American readership. I feel like the Strokes circa early 2001!

And I owe it all to Laban Tall who, with a link and a good word, effectively became the one-man NME of the blogosphere! Thanks Laban!

Speaking of Britain, Harry has responded to a Guardian paean to working-class British cuisine and its grassroots multiculturalism.

One of the saddest conversations I have with foreigners who have visited Britain is about fish and chips. So many times I am told that they tried our national dish but that the experience was disappointing to say the least. 95% of the time the explanation for this is simple - they ate in London or somewhere else in the south.
I may well alienate all of my newfound British readers with the following remarks but if I were going to censor myself, I should have started a long time ago, so here goes, For most of the three years I lived in southern England, the best chips in town could be found in, of all places, a Chinese take-away. There was a "proper" chippie in the center of town but, not only did they never seem to change the oil, but they never bothered to raise it to a sufficient temperature. Result: oil-sodden chips as flaccid as an old man's d*ck. (I've had better fish & chips in New York and even in what appeared to be a transport caff transplanted to a suburban New Jersey railway station. Owned and operated by a British expat family, the place also served a sublime treacle pudding which its menu called "sticky toffee pudding" for the benefit of its American clientele.) Mercifully, a few months before I left, the town saw the opening of another chip shop, this one belonging to (and the remainder of this paragraph is what I expect will most offend British readers) *sigh* a chain that I shall leave unnamed. (Its initials were "HR".) Also, if you're in London, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Sea Shell.
Now you can't avoid the wonders of Doner Pizzas (which I am not a great fan of) or that speciality of Asian Lancashire the Naan Doner. As opposed to the usual dainty pita bread offering with the slices of gunk, slither of salad and dash of chilli sauce, the Naan Doner is as as big as a calzone pizza and is stuffed with every varient of grilled meat, loads of salad and all the sauces.
Can't speak from experience about döner pizzas, but given that pizza, pita and naan all share a very prolific, very ancient ancestor whose offspring can be found everywhere from the Mediterranean to south Asia, it doesn't sound so crazy. (However, tuna & sweetcorn pizza is just wrong.)

I must agree with Harry that the naan kebab is, to put it simply, f*cking genius, especially when filled with tandoori chicken: juicy grilled chicken (as opposed to a cylinder of unnaturally reconstituted mutton that's been sitting there for heaven only knows how long) on a soft, baked-that-day, buttery naan (as opposed to a dry-ass pita from a plastic bag that's been sitting there for heaven only knows how long).

Having been raised in the metropolitan New York area, I must confess a certain chauvinism when it comes to pizza and bagels. And having been raised by men and women who were culinarily exacting, even by Chinese standards, instilled in me a prejudice against bastardized Chinese food. (Jews and Muslims, please note, Pork and chicken? Not interchangeable. Not in Chinese cooking anyway.)
[H]alf-rice half-chips in a curry sauce...Pineapple Fritters, Chips and gravy
None of which is to say that I am against "fusion cuisine" if done right. I often wonder fantasize about what professional Cantonese chefs would do with the Italian larder. Also, the Indian bastardization of Chinese food deserves to be warmly welcomed into the family fold.

UPDATE: My British readership now exceeds my total North American - that includes all seven ten unique Canadian visitors, people - readership.