Saturday, June 16, 2018

Blogging Our Europe Trip: Day Seven, Part Two

On Saturday, early evening, my wife and I came back to the hub of our public transportation, Shepherd's Bush station, with our two youngest daughters, and left them at a very big British mall.  I've noticed that malls are still making it in Europe.  From my vantage point, malls are a thing of the past in the United States, but for reasons I can't decipher, Europeans like them.  For instance, the next Friday, my wife and I walked from our flat in the Leif neighborhood of Edinburgh, Scotland to look at the Britannia, which was in harbor there, and found that an entire enormous three story mall was blocking it from view.  The mall was themed to an ocean liner in all of its design.  The Westfield mall at Shepherd's Bush was of that nature as well.

In general in society, I don't think it is a good practice for single women to roam around freely without protection.  One component to our trip here in Europe has been to purchase European cell phone sim cards from a local London company that are good through Europe at least to text and phone between our four phones, and include 5gb of data.  This was very helpful for using the phone for the gps, which made life exponentially better.  I'll talk more about this, but you don't have to know the language so much if you can make it around without finding an English speaker, when none is available.  We could stay in constant contact with them, and they live in a very diverse metropolitan area, where the oldest of the two has ridden public transportation all three years of university.  She knows how to handle herself. Actually both of them do.

My wife and I went downtown into London again on the underground, and rode first to the British library.  The British museum was closed.  While we rode, we wrote postcards to people back home, and were so caught up, that we missed our stop.  We exited one too late and walked to the other track, but that packed-out train wouldn't move.  The engineer announced that the train couldn't go to the next stop, because of a security issue.  A security issue had occurred at the station where we would have disembarked, and then we couldn't go back there.  An hour later, we saw it in the news, and it was a knife wielding man, who was subdued by the police before he could do damage.  Because we couldn't get back there, we decided to use a taxi, which is unique in London, because the taxi drivers are so well trained and driving usually in distinctive styled cars.

Our taxi driver lived in Kent.  Kent, my name, comes from that region of England, ancestors of my paternal grandmother.  He was very talkative with a lot of opinions, one of which is that he liked our president.  He liked Trump.  It was a short drive to the library.  With so much of England being old and traditional in appearance, the British library is modern and ugly.  It's sad that it shelters in such a modernistic or even postmodern structure the very old books it does.

There is an exhibition in a large, guarded, secure side room of some of the most important books in history and especially English history.  They are displayed under glass, but you look at in no necessary order, all original, first edition:  Gutenberg Bible, Wycliffe Bible, Tyndale NT, King James Version, apparently Sinaiticus, and the Magna Carta. There are many other hand written originals there in English literature of well-known English authors.  The library also had displays of original scores:  the original of Handel's Messiah, Bach, Mozart, etc.  There was as we viewed the exhibition, a special large display of original Karl Marx, which included his library card at the British library.

After our short visit to the library, my wife and I went to mail our postcards and then find someplace to eat an English breakfast (for Supper) and we traced a place on our phone called The Breakfast Club with good ratings as a kind of small chain that offers the English breakfast.  However, we didn't really know London well enough to understand how bad Piccadilly Circus was.  The Breakfast Club was at that station, so when we arose from the underground and saw it, we knew it was akin to Broadway or Times Square in New York City.  It's very lascivious territory with wickedness all around.  It's as bad or worse in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.  We found the breakfast place and ordered the first of two of these breakfasts that we ate while in the UK.

My assessment of the traditional English breakfast is that it isn't the same as the American in quality or content.  You get eggs, but they really don't do them the same. At this place, our waiter, a grungy yet talkative character, asked if we wanted our eggs fried on both sides.  We said, yes, and this was a bad move.  The yokes were not intact and the egg took on the nature of a bit of a crispy, rubbery hockey puck.  They fry the bread in oil.  It's not like something toasted.  The meat is a banger.  I ate bangers at least three times on the trip, this the first, and it is a very plump sausage, which at face value looks very good, but the taste is something of the nature of our bologna, extremely bland.  No banger has the spicy sausage taste of American sausage.  Our sausage, my friend, is much better than the banger.  The American sausage link, Jimmy Dean style, stands alone.

Then we come to the odd items of the English breakfast:  baked beans, warm tomatoe, and black pudding.  Baked beans are baked beans.  They even eat Heinz brand, our brand, but they were both times baked beans.  I imagined the tomatoe as salsa, which is nice with eggs, especially in an omelet in the U. S., but this is a slice of tomato or what we call stewed tomatoes, also warm, if you want those instead.  I like beans and tomatoes, but they both seem incongruous with breakfast to an American. The oddity here is black pudding, which is also called blood pudding.

Blood pudding is an item of food that would seem to be included only as a tradition for a culture.  I can't surmise it to be something worthy of invention as food.  Who would think of blood pudding?  It looks the color of dark blood with clots in it, which are, I guess pieces of organ meat.  Pudding then isn't pudding, which in this case one can be thankful.  Pudding is never pudding, so if you order it, expect some kind of crispy bread with a softer interior.  This is the size of an English muffin, except almost black and tastes like no other food I've ever tasted.  I ate both of my blood puddings, both the same color, size, and shape.  I could eat them.  No gag reflex ensued, but it was curious as to its place in this ensemble.  There's got to be a story here that I do not know or it's something like mom making you eat your castor oil, and your chest sticks up a little over having done it again, having eaten this food item.  Did it again!  But why?


Jon Gleason said...

Kent, Kent, Kent. You have now offended entire GENERATIONS of blood pudding lovers.

You will say that there is no evidence that such people exist, and I will answer that we are talking about Britain here, and that is enough evidence. And only those who have been bred to it for generations could like the stuff, so there must be entire generations of them. QED.

Your problem, my friend, is that you suffer from the grievous American malady of Why?ism. You ask, "But why?" That, indeed, is a question an American might ask, but a Brit would simply answer, "Because that's the way it's done."

Why is an English breakfast served with blood pudding? Because that's the way it's done. Why drive on THAT side of the road? That's the way it's done. Why can you not have a light switch inside the bathroom? An electrician might say for safety, to prevent electric shock, but everyone knows that millions of Americans turn their bathroom lights on and off from inside their bathrooms every day without electrocuting themselves. The real reason is "That's the way it's done."

Why have Brits historically had a hot water tap and a cold water tap, instead of a mixer tap (so you can regulate the temperature)? They've been corrupted by American influence and you see mixer taps EVERYWHERE now, it's horrible. But when we moved here, that was not the case, and I asked why. I said it's silly, you either A) freeze your hands washing them in cold water or B) scald them in hot. Why not a mixer? The answer, you guessed it, was "That's the way it's done."

An English breakfast has baked beans, warm tomatoes, oil-fried bread, and blood pudding because that's the way it's done. Don't ask why. Just eat your castor oil or your blood pudding (whichever takes your fancy), stick your chest out, and say, "Did it again! The way it's done!"

Anonymous said...

Ha, ha, ha, ha. I'm laughing out loud! Why "ha, ha"? That's the way it's done.

Mr. Brandenburg, I'm vicariously enjoying every word of your blog on England. (Along with the comments) It's the next best thing to "Escape to the Country".

Chris L