(Question: Why is English food not a joke?)
Fellow British blogger at “Becks & Posh” has put out a challenge: to show that English food is not a laughing matter and I intend to do my bit. Granted, I’m only half British– the half that enjoys Marmite (on white bread with butter), scones (one of the few words, another being basil, that I pronounce with a British accent), a good cuppa tea, Jelly Babies, Refreshers, Ribena, and Turkish delights (the rose kind, I’ve even made an approximation at home). Oh, and this is also the half of me that giggles at food names such as “bangers and mash” and (ha-ha) “bubble and squeak.” I hardly even know what the latter is but it still makes me laugh. The non-Brit in me thinks that split pea soup might as well be lumpy, green, celing plaster.
That said, one of the most foolproof, guaranteed dishes anywhere has got to be the English-at-Wimbledon favorite, strawberries and cream. Have you ever noticed that even if you mess up the biscuits (which is something I did twice this week– third time’s the charm) in the American favorite strawberry shortcake, the filling is still wonderful? That’s the strawberries and cream! All you need is strawberries tossed in a little sugar– I add some orange zest too– and sweetened whipped cream. Granted, usually strawberries and cream in its homeland means clotted cream instead…
The combination of strawberries and cream has been around the British Isles since at least the 1200s, and at Wimbledon tennis matches from the late 1800s. While I was taking classes for my Masters in Gastronomy I even wrote a whole paper on this very topic. One of my favorite parts is something the author John McPhee (in his book Wimbledon: A Celebration) wrote on the link between this dish and those foods eaten at American baseball parks: “in just the way that hot dogs are sold at American sporting events—strawberries and thick Devonshire cream are sold for five shillings the dish from stalls on the Tea Lawn and in the Court Buffet.” How terribly classy! It’s the British equivalent of ballpark food and there’s nothing I don’t like about that. Let’s raise a cuppa (and keep those pinkies up) to strawberries-and-cream!