Oddly, I found myself at a the Pit and Pendulum again. We were walking by and Lynne thought it looked interesting, Greg had it recommended to him and I had actually been there and thus didn't feel too out of place. The decor is as cheesy as cheesy can get -- think of the worst sci-fi set you've ever seen and make it goth -- but it's fun. It's also quite daunting if you have to go to the toilet and don't realize that you have to push open a section of bookcase to get there. And, of course, once behind the bookcase, if you don't notice the markings on the floor, you'll likely walk to the wrong bathroom. Fortunately, I had been warned.
We had lots of fun that evening. Greg and I briefly convinced Lynne that the word "gullible" had been removed from the dictionary in 1984 and I managed to get Greg to go on at length about the virtues of the Stella Artois he was drinking -- despite the fact that the bar didn't have Stella and we managed to quietly order a different beer for him while he was in the bathroom.
So tonight I'm sitting here at my computer, after a "charming" meal of "Pot Noodle" having a few milk chocolate digestives for dessert. Frankly, I have no idea what a digestive is and I fear it's something offered to the elderly to help them stay regular so they have one less thing to worry about, aside from changing their diapers and wondering where they put their teeth.
As anyone who's had the joy of discovering that "head cheese" is actually "head meat" can attest, food is no laughing matter. In fact, anything which is going to come close to my mouth makes me feel decidedly uncomfortable unless I know what it is. Fortunately, most of the labels are in English so, unlike Amsterdam, I'm reasonably confident that I'm not doing something silly like buying hemorrhoid cream instead of toothpaste.
Some things are fairly safe. On a menu, "vegetables" are synonymous with "peas." So far I have not ordered a single thing in a restaurant where the vegetable wasn't peas. I'm sure if I asked for cauliflower they'd chop it up and reform it into little green balls.
Speaking of "reformed," I found my travel journal from my first trip to Europe. I recorded an incident where my brother and I were in a pub and I was trying to order dinner when I stumbled across an item named "reformed scampi."
Ovid: what's reformed scampi?
Waitress: why it's, it's ... reformed.
Ovid: you mean it's found God or something?
Though I was genuinely confused, the waitress failed to see any humor in my question. Now I know reformed actually means "scrape up all of the crap left over after processing and see if you can sell it." Do not buy "reformed" of either the religious or culinary variety. They're the same thing.
Now despite my general disdain for British cooking, I don't think that's entirely fair because there are a few things they could teach Americans.
Thing #1: if you're going to make fish and chips, leave the skin on the fish!
I tell you, fish and chips over here are heavenly, though just as fattening as the US variety. In fact, it's possibly even more fattening because the delicious flavor is from the skin being left on the fish -- which in turn traps the layer of fat between the skin and the meat. Yum!
Thing #2: french fries (er, chips) the width of a pencil lead suck. Hard.
You want thick, meaty fries, not those skinny little things which look like they've been on a binge and purge diet. In the US, we call 'em "steak fries", though I have no idea why.
Thing #3: many companies let their employees drink beer on their lunch break.
OK, so that has nothing to do with cooking, but it does wonders for offsetting the blandness of much of the food (though the steak and ale pie I had was scrumptious!)
I've also had my first Yorkshire pudding today. Hint: it's not pudding. It was kind of a tasteless bread mass with gravy on it. The gravy was OK, the pudding was OK. The meal was, eh, OK. So far much of British food leaves me scratching my head, nonplussed. I can't figure out why the British eat it.
And on a closing note, tomorrow night I shall be headed to Leeds for business. I doubt I'll get to see much of the city, but it will be nice to travel a bit more and see what's out there.