gall and gumption

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I bought some Stilton at Trader Joe's a week or two ago and it was rather ripe when I unwrapped it yesterday evening. And this is what I cannot understand: how is it that something that smells like that and looks like that tastes so good? With fruit? Why does Stilton cheese on the side make pears taste less boring? If you told anyone this they wouldn't believe you. But there it is.

You know, there is that old joke about English cooking, how it's supposed to be so awful. Well, I went to an English boarding school and some of the food was awful -- but it was generally better than fast food and better than stuff I have had in American chain restaurants, and some of it, well, if I could come home on a winter evening to the rhubarb crumble served with a pitcher of freshly made hot plain vanilla custard to pour over it -- talk about comfort food! (It was powdered custard, worse yet!) But really, no one who eats frozen food or who eats in most "chain" restaurants in the U.S. can have a thing to say about British cooking. If you go to certain types of places in England the food is horrible, just like here. Only here the horrible is masked under salt, grease, and high fructose corn syrup.

I think I've mentioned before that my stepdad, who is English, knows how to cook good English food. He is a genius at dessert. And it is good, especially all the fruit-based desserts. Years ago we even had to go pick the berries and currants ourselves, at some U-pick farm out in the country, for him to make desserts and jam with. And what is even more amazing is that if you even go to Marks and Spencer's you can get delicious desserts like Bramley apple pies (the best apple pie in the entire universe) and a trifle that is almost as good as homemade. Even my stepdad gets these and he was a fanatical food purist when being a fanatical food purist wasn't cool.

But Stilton.

I learned something new about it tonight. When I unwrapped it, it had an effect on the dogs that was like getting religion. Both of them, in their distinct ways, were having some kind of intense olfactory experience, a glorious mystery. This would be for them, smellwise, as if I had opened the fridge and unwrapped the sort of delicacy that I am always shooing them away from when we're out on walks: the flattened squirrel, the cat turd, the rotting half burrito or container of beans. I mean, they were immediately convinced that anything that smelled like that had to be for them. So they got very serious and thoughtful and kept their eyes (and noses) very close to the cheese, and Sweetie even started to get that slightly cross-eyed, demented look she gets when she decides something needs to be guarded from Misha. All far beyond their usual method of scrounging when I'm eating, which they don't do much with me because it doesn't pay.

I only gave them lentil-sized pieces: I'm not sure it's good for them, and I was very sure that I did not want to find out about stinky-cheese-powered dog flatulence in the middle of the night.


At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like a lot of English food. Not all, of course, but a lot of it. I have fond memories of the foods I ate when I was living there. After all, these are the folks that gave us Devonshire Cream and you can't get much closer to heaven than that.

Also, if you are staying in a B&B always go to one that serves a real English breakfast and not one that only has those stingy continental ones.

I make trifles too.

At 4:21 AM, Anonymous caroline said...

Because I like the smell of my dogs' farts so much, I think I'd give them big chunks of Stilton. They'd be happy and I'd get to see what it smelled like coming out the other end.

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Kia said...

Shadow51: You are absolutely correct about the real English breakfast. And cream teas. And--I never thought I'd say this, but--grilled kidneys.

Caroline: You have chihuahuas. If you had spent the last couple nights as I have, with a 75-lb fattie of a German shepherd lying under the bed, suffering from insomnia as (or perhaps because) I do, but whereas I blog or read she grooms herself, mostly around the hindquarters, noisily. Smack smack smack slurp slurp smack snorflsnorflsnorflsnorfl toot big reeking wet fart smack smack smack smack smack smack smack etc. for about four years at a time I think, you would sing another tune. I understand that this is quality time for a dog, so I try to be nice, though the past couple of nights I've thought of offering to trade her for the screaming baby upstairs.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay, now you've got me going out for Cotswold


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