Wednesday, February 22, 2006

You eat what on toast?

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We here at Americans Amuck don't want to be accused of being
obsessed with food. But we may be leaving the impression that we are obsessed with food. So be it. If we're trying to understand a culture, understanding its cuisine is an important part of that. Could you understand the Italians without understanding pasta? The French without wine and gastropods? The Germans without ... uh, German potato salad? Oh, yeah, sausage is a German food. Anyway, all this leads me to the next conclusion: Understanding beans on toast may be an important part of understanding England.

Beans on toast has already made an appearance here (in the comments of this post). But in the most recent Time Out London (sorry, but the article is behind a pay-per-view wall), writers plunge into a growing controversy over beans on toast: How much should an eating establishment be able to charge for beans on toast, and is it allowable to "dress up" beans on toast?

For a dish that can be had for a few pence (or cents) worth of groceries, the notion that a restaurant in Shoreditch put beans on toast on its menu for four pounds 75 pence ($8.29, to you American readers) seems a little absurd. When Time Out questions him about it, one of the partners in the restaurant says, "If we can be bothered to make our own baked beans with our own tomato sauce--rather than opening up a can--we should be able to charge for it. If we were serving tinned baked beans we'd charge a lot less." Another restauranteur (at a different restaurant) chimes in, "If a restaurant is serving Heinz beans on toast and charging a fiver, that's wrong. But if they're own-made beans, then why not?"

As far as dressing up beans on toast is concerned, "comfort food expert" and published author Tom Norrington-Davies offers this thought to Time Out: "People only start jazzing things up when they've lost respect for them."

Evidently expressing its contempt, Time Out publishes suggestions from five chefs and food writers on their suggestions. One of them: "Bake the beans in the oven with a couple of eggs cracked over them and the lot covered in double cream."

It's gonna take me awhile to get into this dish. But anybody who can eat haggis ...
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... and live to tell about it can probably handle beans on toast.


Blogger cornhuskerblogger said...

So Mrs. CHB decides last week that she wants to eat some ethnic food...``I want some British ethnic food: toast and beans.''...I thought she was kidding, and i laughed and laughed and laughed. and then i saw what was on the plate she handed me. and yes, of course i ate it: it's all mixed up together in the end.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous pseudonymous in nc said...

Restaurant beans-on-toast makes no sense. It's home food or greasy-spoon food, and all the better for it.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Middle Kid said...

That haggis is just obscene. I'm not big on beans on toast but I would never eat haggis. I would die first.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

Haggis isn't nearly as obscene as the words "Merkin Muffley."

8:53 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I heard Scottish children had passed American children in being the most overweight... do you think it is the haggis?

10:27 PM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

I think it's the crushing hopelessness of being Scottish, but what do I know?

It is true that Scotland comes up low on all those public health measures that have to do with diet and substance abuse, so you undoubtedly heard right.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Schmutz said...

Did you know it is illegal to import haggis from Scotland to the US? Sheep innards, you know. The Scots in Chicago have had to invent their own version in order to celebrate Robert Burns' birthday in January. I don't think I'll eat either version!

3:52 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I hope it is illegal to import to Oz, too! I might rest easier...

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Fatslug the Impetuous said...

The haggis looks like some failed anatomical experiment by Dr. Frankenstein (played in this instance by Peter Cushing). As for Mr. Tom Norrington-Davies, tell him that the beans on toast would be greatly improved by a couple of Hebrew Nationals and a daub of Gulden's.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

I thought Peter Cushing was Grand Moff Tarkin, not Dr. Frankenstein.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Fatslug the Impetuous said...

He was both. He was Grand Moff Tarkin, Dr. Frankenstein, Count Dracula (but NOT Count Chocula), Sherlock Holmes and even Osric to Olivier's Hamlet.

2:39 PM  
Blogger oldest kid said...

What is Merkin Muffley, or don't I want to know? Am I too old to know all the cool words?

5:53 PM  

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