Thursday, 12 November 2015

Dicks, sausages and holes

Brits were horrified by news earlier this week that Americans have never heard of the meaty treat known as the sausage roll. And it made us worry about what else you could be missing out on on the other side of the Pond. So here are some tips and recommendations...

We begin with a warning – just as we Brits do not always say what we mean or mean what we say, the names of our foodstuffs can be confusing to the initiated. Take, as exhibit one, the Scotch egg. These have nothing to do with Scotland. The fantastic idea of encasing a hard boiled egg in sausage meat and then covering it with breadcrumbs came from Fortnum & Mason, one of our top London food stores, some 300 years. The creators decided this would be a perfect pocket-sized snack for aristocrats travelling by horse-drawn carriage.

Another great British food that originated as a convenient meal-on-the-go (long before America introduced us to fast-food restaurants) is the Cornish pasty. This features seasoned meat and veg inside a shortcrust pastry semicircle with a crimped edge. Pasties were popular with Cornish tin miners who loved their ability to keep warm for hours and be eaten without cutlery. Cutlery, you will note, is a minefield when it comes to etiquette in our country (thanks to our young people adopting some American ways) so anything that avoids using it makes good sense. You do have versions of pasties in American mining towns, but they are not real Cornish pasties, which have a protected status under EU law and must not be imitated.

Perhaps our least appetisingly named meal, Toad in the Hole, a dish of sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter, is said to have gained its unusual moniker because it looks like toads popping their heads from a hole. Along with our other weirdly named dishes, it tastes better than it sounds.

Following on the topic of confusingly named dishes, we turn next to the Spotted Dick. This has nothing to do with men named Richard, or any kind of unfortunate medical condition. It is in fact an old-fashioned steamed pudding filled with dried fruit, usually served with custard. Many Brits have happy childhood memories of eating them as part of their school dinners.

The Yorkshire pudding is a baked batter dish that accompanies another great British dish, the roast dinner, which we eat at lunchtime on Sundays. Yes, we have a habit of referring to lunch as dinner, especially in the North of England (just to confuse you further). The Yorkshire pud was first invented in the 18th century as something to fill up those who could not afford much meat. It was baked under the meat so as to soak up the dripping, and in Yorkshire is traditionally served as a starter covered in gravy, with the meat and veg to follow.

Crumpets are fluffy and light griddle cakes, served dripping with butter for breakfast and at tea time. Since anything served dripping with butter is a Very Good Thing you can see why we love them. They are our equivalent of your pancakes and maple syrup. They are also delicious with (proper) cheese. Please be careful how you ask for them though, as “crumpet” is also old-fashioned slang for an attractive woman. You have been warned.

For the full list, including such esoterica as Bovril, Bubble'n'Squeak and the "Full English" Breakfast, visit The Telegraph.


  1. I didn't see faggots or pork scratchings on the list so I'd add those. Although you'll never get me near another bag of pork scratchings.

    I can't recall if they mentioned trifle?

    Not to be rude, well maybe a little, but most Americans haven't a clue about British cuisine. Or anything else British for that matter. Sadly, I might add.

    Recently, I was watching a programme about British coal miners and mentioned to a friend the history of the Cornish pasty and its connection to miners. He had no idea. And to be fair to the Americans, he's Canadian.

    Great post title, by the way.

    1. Pork scratchings are fabulous - but not for the faint-hearted or those with weak teeth. As for what the majority of Americans understand about Britain, it probably extends as far as red telephone boxes, The Queen and fish and chips. And Mr bloody Bean. Jx

  2. some of us know a thing or two.....

    i used to buy crumpets at the supermarket, what's not to like!
    yorkshire pudding is divine. we have that as well as popovers, which are the same thing.
    i bought some spotted dick & faggots in rich sauce years ago on vacay. those 2 items won't lure me back to britain.
    i make knishes all the time. ground meat & vegetables encased in pastry. (fyi-knish is a marvelous euphemism for a cunt).
    this past summer, i went to the enormous state fair here. we walked by a scotch egg concession & my friend got one. since i try not to eat pork, i didn't try it, but wanted to. (they say pigs are as smart as dogs & my dogs look like pigs so i abstain. i miss ham & bacon tremendously).

    and yes, great post title. have it copywritten or someone may use it as her calling card.

    1. Norma, I should have added that the Americans who don't have a clue about Brits or the rest of the world, for that matter, are the type who will vote for Trump.

    2. If I ever start a Tumblr site, I''m calling it Dicks, Sausages and Holes .

    3. Norma - glad to know you've chomped on a bit of crumpet and a faggot in your day. I had never thought of a Corgi as looking much like a pig, but it begs the question: how do you cope with Hot Dogs? Jx

    4. Both - hands off my dick, my sausage, and my hole. Jx

    5. la mistressa, don't think for a moment that i felt your comment(s) in any way had anything to do with me or that i took offense. you could never offend or hurt me....
      unless you neglected to give me one of your calling cards.

      and jon, do they have hebrew national hot dogs by you? all beef.

    6. I'd often heard the phrase "hung like a Hebrew national" and was tempted to book a holiday in Tel Aviv. Now I know it's just a frankfurter. We have a massive Orthodox neighbourhood not far from us, but I've never shopped there to find out if they sell them... Jx


Please leave a message - I value your comments!