And I thought the English spoke English!!
And I thought the English spoke English!! I’m doing a good bit of translation to put morsels in me mouth and to find my way round London Town.
Here’s some British foods:
STEAK and DOOM PIE–one of the most potent of craft ales cooked into a beef stew-like savory pie. PIE over here of course refers to crusty covered stew if any sort from beef to gizzards
PROPER MESS– not a distinguished heap of dirty dishes or a trustifarian’s dorm room…a proper mess is a luscious scramble of whipped cream, fresh berries and crumbled bits of crispy merengue–very yum
SCOTCH EGG–hard boiled egg covered in sausage meat, battered, breadcrumbed, baked and fried…said to either be a poor shepherd’s wife’s solution to her husbands’s lunch on the heath or an 18th century chef from Fortnum and Mason’s invention based on an ancient Indian Mughwai delicacy
TOAD IN A HOLE–sausages cooked into a fluffy batch of Yorkshire Pudding which of course isn’t a pudding at all but a croissant-like pastry baked in roast beef au jus. Said to have been the creation of a Northumberland golf course chef to celebrate the frequent arrival of Natterjack toads
In Edinburgh I had HAGGIS, NEEPS and TATTIES–“neeps” are sweet boiled turnips; “TATTIES” are mashed potatoes and “haggis” you’ve no doubt heard of. Tasting a bit like a nutty meatball, haggis is made of sheep’s “pluck” (heart, liver and lungs), lard, onion, spices and oatmeal boiled for three hours in a sheep’s belly–sort of like a sausage but truly yummier.
Best served with whiskey gravy.
And of course “chips” are French fries; “crisps” are potato chips; “biscuits” are cookies and “jackets” are potatoes stuffed with cheese, tuna, egg salad, pulled pork, any filling you might fancy.
Meanwhile place names are filled with history:
CHEAPSIDE, a street in central London for instance, doesn’t refer to your basic K-Mart. “Cheap” means “market” in Old English and Cheapside is right in the heart of London’s financial district.
It’s no more than a couple of blocks long with cross streets named Wood, Bread and Milk before it changes names to Poultry so obviously it was once a market site. Cow cross Street, not surprisingly, abuts on the slaughterhouse Smithfield Market. What leads to Cheapside is Threadneedle, a name that always makes me chuckle, and it too is about commerce, whether it referred to the three needles on the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Tailors or whether it made crude reference to the ladies of the night who used to sell their wares there. I was astonished to learn, by the way, that there’s a Threadneedle store …..you won’t believe the coincidence–in Issaquah, Washington, USA!
Church names thrill me as well: St James Garlickhythe (from Old English “hythe= wharf); St Ethelburga; St. Botolph without Bishopsgate; All Hallows’ by the Tower; St Andrew by the Wardrobe.
Oxford Circus, Piccadilly (named for the fashionable stiff scallop-edged collars circa 1611) Circus, any circus here is a roundabout–a word no doubt originating in the Roman circus which was a long racetrack stadium wherein chariots careened madly around tight turns at each end, often with bloodcurdling crashes and heaps of dead charioteers, a spectacle that brought hilarious chuckles to the Romans of Londinium.
Somewhat less amusing is the way all wheeled vehicles here careen around circuses and down streets the width of cow paths with the seeming intent of clearing the world of all walking beings. Seriously — double decker buses are the worst, gunning around corners as if out of nowhere and aiming straight at you as you cower on the curb, the red monsters leaving no more than an inch between you and it’s shiny red paint. Bicycles compete for right of way and are as menacing as the black beetle-like taxis. And to encourage bike transport the city has bike lanes everywhere–today just outside the British Museum a young girl was almost killed by a cyclist going about 20 mph between cafe tables–there really is a bike lane right between outdoor chairs and tables on Bedford Avenue. And a girl on a bike ran right into me, literally knocking me flat on my back a block from home yesterday. I bounced a bit but am fine.
But back to language…Trains “call at” a station; a given train is “for” a destination and one gets one’s problems “sorted” like the arrangement of puzzle pieces. Only in London would a reviewer of the Chemical Brothers’ new album describe the music as “twee jangling and grungy fuzz.”
Having managed to take the milk train to Cambridge the other day I was blown away by all the towns we called at so to end this word game I’ll share a few: Whittlesford Parkway; Audley End; Broxbourne; Tottenham Hale; Harlow Mill; Stansted Mountfichet.
Strangest of all is the way Londoners nickname their new buildings: there’s the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater; the Walkie Talkie and the Shard while at Old Street Circus near where I live there’s a couple of monstrosities I called the Twin Hand Grenades and a few glass presences that could be The Waves…but I digress and its late so I’ll post these words and stories for your listening pleasure