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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Baked Beans for Breakfast is Balls and Other UK Food Observations

Let Spicy Food Guy begin by saying the highlight of his trip to the UK had to be when Esteemed Colleague of Spicy Food Guy (ECSFG) complimented a particularly flavorful curry by stating:

"Oh that's Balls."

Spicy Food Guy delights in this succinct and apt descriptor.  In fact, SFG earnestly awaits the evening, sometime in the near future, when a snooty wine sommelier pours a sliver of some fine merlot so that SFG can perform the ritualistic taste test.

"It's Balls," Spicy Food Guy will state authoritatively to the sommelier, "we'll all take some."  And then Spicy Food Guy will whirl back to the table and re-start the dinner conversation before the sommelier can manage a stuttered response.  And in his head, Spicy Food Guy will chuckle deeply.

But Spicy Food Guy digresses.

As usual, for reasons best left unknown to the American public, Spicy Food Guy was out and about in the world; this time London, England.  Specifically, SFG was rather trapped in a hotel close to terminal 4 of Heathrow airport.

Now SFG has been to London perhaps a dozen times, and as the tourist lore goes, the food is nothing to write a blog post about.  The exceptions are curry houses and baked beans for breakfast.

The English have a thing for baked beans, and beans are officially a part of a "full English breakfast".  SFG thinks the English are on to something here.  Baked beans mixed in with some fried eggs and pieces of bacon is a great combination of flavor and texture.  It's balls.  When you think about it, beans and bacon and eggs is a better combo than grilled burgers and beans.  It's not better than pulled pork and beans, but the egg combo is right up there in terms of a natural fit.

But this whole baked bean thing is not what SFG is here to discuss.  Spicy Food Guy is here to discuss curry houses and steering wheels.

So the story begins when SFG and about six Esteemed Colleagues of Spicy Food Guy (ECSSFG, because it's plural) decided to go out for some curry one evening so as to have at least one decent dinner during our stay in London.  Some of the ECSSFG also decided that a few pints at the pub would be an excellent precursor to the Indian dinner.

Needless to say, spirits were high and the mood light when the van showed up to cart SFG and ECSSFG to the restaurant.  Much to the delight of the rest of us, one ECSSFG decided to use this van ride to vent in a typical American style:

"Look," half looped ECSSFG postured to the driver, "the automobile was invented in America, right?  The automobile was first manufactured in America, right?"  

The driver did not respond.

"So," ECSSFG continued, ignoring the driver's silence, "what on earth possessed you to move the steering wheel to the other side of the car?"  

You could tell ECSSFG was genuine in his inquiry, and the driver let a small smile escape (which is the British equivalent of a hearty laugh).

In any case, SFG and ECSSFG made it safely to "Achari, Flavour of India", the locally recommended curry house.

And the curry was fabulous, as it always is in London.  SFG and ECSSFG decided to order a half dozen or so appetizers and a half dozen entrees and just split them all up.  SFG loved the fried onion bhajees as an appetizer (as wiki says, think potato fritters).  Additionally, SFG forcefully argued that one of the entrees should be a spicy lamb vindaloo, despite the hesitant misgivings of ECSSFG.  The lamb vindaloo ultimately inspired the "that's balls" comment, so Spicy Food Guy felt extremely vindicated.

The curry sauces were packed with flavor, with tastes of tumeric, garlic, ginger, and mustard.  The meats were tender, the beer cold, the staff proud, the company fine.  All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable UK evening.

Next morning, Spicy Food Guy had baked beans for breakfast.  Sometimes everything goes right.

PS, "Baked Beans for Breakfast", by Ruth Chew, was one of SFG's favorite childhood books.  Coincidence, or a higher level of order that sustains balance in the universe?  SFG thinks its all just one big mystery. 

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