Of egg cups and kettles: British vs American cooking

Here’s a tweet from moth dad via Matthew Cobb. moth dad is deeply affronted by the lack of egg cups (and also electric kettles) in America.

Matthew explains:

It’s about Brits being amazed that US folk don’t have electric kettles and don’t eat soft-boiled eggs. Oh and you don’t eat custard. So mutual trans-atlantic incomprehension. The guy’s outrage is quite amusing. People are genuinely baffled by each other’s (others’ ??? – which is it?) habits.

Now I’m sure moth dad’s harangue is mostly in jest, but the laws of physics have compelled me to respond (I even tweeted at moth dad!).

Yes, egg cups are rare in America, though I have two. It’s because Americans don’t often eat soft-boiled eggs. That alone accounts for the absence of their proper receptacle. As for electric kettles, the absence of those is indeed a flaw in American kitchens, as they boil water very quickly and you don’t have to put a kettle on the stove, which takes longer.

As for British cuisine, I’ve written about it extensively (Matthew suggests this link, which compares British and American food).  As Orwell said in his famous essay “In Defence of English Cooking“, there are many glories in the cuisine of Old Blighty. I won’t reread that essay, but I’ll list some of my favorites: scones, crumpets, good British cheese like Stilton and farmhouse cheddar, fresh fish and chips, Sunday roast with Yorkshire pud, the enormous variety of biscuits (“cookies” in America), including fly biscuits, Boasters, fig rolls, cow biscuits, and the King of Biscuits: the dark chocolate McVitie’s Digestive. There’s also the wonderful panoply of jams, a great variety of sausages, the fantastic sticky puddings (toffee is my favorite), and we mustn’t forget real ale served at proper (cellar) temperature. There are few things I’d rather have before me than a well kept pint of Tim Taylor’s Landlord. And one of my favorite hard candies (“boiled sweets”): licorice and blackcurrant drops.  Blackcurrant, a great fruit and flavor, is almost completely absent in America.

But, as I tweeted at moth dad, not all of British cuisine is good. (I realize that every food I’m about to list will have its defenders.) Black pudding is dire. Baked beans, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms simply do NOT belong in a cooked breakfast. Sandwiches with “sweetcorn” on them are an abomination (and is there such a thing as “sour corn”?). Overcooked vegetables are common, and execrable. For a nation that runs on tea, tea bags are distressingly common; in fact, I rarely get a proper cup of tea made with leaves. (By the way, milk should always be added second, after the tea has steeped, so as not to dilute the steeping with a tea bag, but mainly because you can add the right amount of milk!). And there are no free refills of coffee in British cafes: when they say, “would you like a coffee?”, they mean just that: ONE CUP! If you want more, you have to pay for it. Matthew ascribes this to the superiority of British coffee over American, so that one strong cup is enough, but he’s dead wrong; I’ve had awful watery coffee throughout Britain.

But yes, America needs to adopt the English kettle, and I do like my soft boiled eggs, preferably with toast soldiers.


  1. Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    How can one have a whole rant like this without even one mention of Marmite? 🙂

    (Which, to rile those Down Under, is vastly superior to Vegemite! 🙂 )

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Oy! I forgot that odious product. I did try it, but couldn’t stand it.

      • Tris Stock
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        You either love it or hate it.

        • Frank Bath
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

          I am a great fan of Marmite. I bought a big one years ago and it tastes as good now as it did then. What’s more it only cost me one shilling and thruppence..

          • docbill1351
            Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

            Not to brag but I have a sterling silver Marmite lid that replaces the plastic yellow one.

      • David Coxill
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        What about Bovril ,have you ever had that?.

  2. Griff
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    “(By the way, milk should always be added second, after the tea has steeped, so as not to dilute the steeping with a tea bag, but mainly because you can add the right amount of milk!)”

    Well, if you made it properly IN A POT, that wouldn’t be a problem 😉

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      No, because you could still choose between putting the milk in a cup first, or adding it later. Orwell talks about this dilemma in his essay “A nice cup of tea” and, as I recall, agrees with me.

      • Richard Bond
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        If the milk goes in first, then there is no need to stir (for those of us who prefer tea without sugar and the consequent use of a spoon). And tea must be made in a pot with loose leaves. Many British supermarkets have stopped stocking loose tea, so I now buy it online from the supplier.

        Years ago I read the account, by her daughter, of an elderly women detained in hospital because she was judged non compos mentis by a nurse. She had tipped boiling water from her kettle into the teapot, swirled it about, poured it out, added tea leaves, added more boiling water, left it to steep, then poured some of it away before filling her cup. This, of course, is exactly how tea should be made.

        • Merilee
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          What’s with the final pouring some of it away?

          • jimroberts
            Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

            I think the point is that there will be water inthe spout which has not been adequately exposed to the tealeaves.

            • Richard Bond
              Posted July 11, 2017 at 6:15 am | Permalink


              • Merilee
                Posted July 11, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

                Now THAT is anal…

      • David Coxill
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Just had a look at ebay USA and there are electric kettles for sale .
        Same goes for Egg cups.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      The milk should go in first. If you put it in second the hot tea scalds the milk and ruins the flavour. The tea should brew separately in a tea pot so I don’t see the issue with brewing.

      However, I understand that many people prefer their milk in second and always give people a choice. It annoys me when I’m (frequently) given a cuppa with the milk in second. I invariably can’t drink it.

      I did not know USians don’t have electric kettles (we call them electric jugs in NZ). I am shocked by this. I can’t believe you people don’t have this most basic and inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment. They’re safer (they turn off when the water boils), quieter, and save electricity.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        Part of the reason is that many Americans don’t have a regular need for hot water on a regular basis because we don’t drink tea regularly in the first place! We’re extreme barbarians!

        I have no kettle, electric or otherwise, never have. I don’t drink hot tea or coffee on a regular basis. I must admit that I do enjoy visiting an Irish friend who simply can not have a chat without first serving tea.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          Sounds like every member of my family, except the Irish bit. I’m the only one who doesn’t drink copious quantities of tea, though I used to.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

            The normal daily drink is coffee here, not tea. So they make these things called coffee makers of all sizes and prices. You plug them in. Some are even programmable. We also have this thing called a Microwave. It will heat your water, cook food, pop corn and so on.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted July 10, 2017 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

              I have a microwave, but not a coffee maker. I’m thinking I should get one. They’re not that common here. I suppose about 30% have coffee makers. Probably less actually.

              • Mike
                Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

                Black Tea sans milk ,is the best way to drink Tea,but my son has a couple of tea cups he bought in China,which apart from being beautiful,have an inner ceramic sieve for the tea leaves which you remove once the tea is brewed, Green Tea in this instance.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted July 11, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

                I have cups and tea pots like that, though probably not as beautiful as yours.

      • Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        You are absolutely correct. Milk in first, tea in second, although JAC is correct that you have to compromise if you are making the tea without the aid of a teapot, you can’t put the milk in before the water because then the water won’t be hot enough for the tea to brew properly.

  3. Danny Kodicek
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I have had many points of disagreement with you over politics, but with the statement “the King of Biscuits: the dark chocolate McVitie’s Digestive” you have demonstrated that in matters of true importance you are indeed a man of taste and quality.

    • Danny Kodicek
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      (Although I’m not quite sure what you have against mushrooms with a cooked breakfast. I understand that grilled tomatoes are not for everyone – rather like the pickle in a hamburger or anchovies on a pizza the tomatoes in particular seem to be one of those things that are added out of tradition but few people actually admit to liking them. I’m one, though)

      • darrelle
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Broiled tomatoes, nicely seasoned, some fresh herb, mozzarella, some Parmesan-Reggiano. That can be delicious. Not sure what grilled tomatoes with a traditional English breakfast are like though. I’ve had breakfasts in England that certainly seemed traditional, but never come across a tomato with one before.

        • Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          Grilled tomatoes are common on English breakfasts but rarely edible. They’re usually unripe and not so much grilled as burnt on top and cold underneath, the result of being cut in half and shoved under the grill as an afterthought. Given the choice I will usually opt for mushrooms.

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Nay — chocolate Hobnobs!


  4. Joseph McClain
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    1. My grandfather would eat a soft-boiled egg every morning. When no egg cup was available, he would press a shot glass into service.

    2. Mushy peas. What the hell?

    • Danny Kodicek
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      Mushy peas fall into the category of ‘delicacy’ – things that no one in their right mind would eat but have somehow become integral to people’s personal identity.

      • David Coxill
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Is it true that when Peter Mandelson (British Labour Politician ) was shown some mushy peas he thought it was Guacamole ?.

        • Danny Kodicek
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha – yes, I’d forgotten that incident. I’m pretty sure it’s a true story.

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted July 11, 2017 at 3:22 am | Permalink

        In the indoor market in Nottingham (UK) you used to be able to buy tiny plates of cooked peeled shrimps or *mushy peas* to eat as you stood at the stall.

        In my youth my mother always prepared mushy peas (by soaking dried peas overnight) to accompany Sunday dinner. I guess dried peas were one way of storing seasonal vegetables out of season although by then frozen peas were available (but we didn’t have a freezer back then).

        Mushy peas with mint sauce – awesome.

        • Nobody Special
          Posted July 11, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

          The Victoria Centre? I used go there whenever I was in Nottingham, largely to marvel at the Victorian water clock.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      Mushy peas are much preferable over the tw**ter thread’s “pushy me”.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Mushy peas (or as I call them “smashed peas”) are awesome with fish and chips, which is the only time I’ve ever had them. Frankly, they are a lot easy to eat that way.

      • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        I agree. I quite fancy mushy peas with fish and chips

        • Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          They’re also fantastic with pork pie and potato waffles, with a bit of piccalilli on the side.

        • Terry Sheldon
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

          Or with bangers and mash!

      • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink


      • Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

        I’ve never understood why you would want to eat peas that have clearly been chewed and spat out once already.

  5. darrelle
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    What’s wrong with a nice easy-over fried egg? On top of buttered toast? The yummy yoke oozes all over the buttered toast as you eat and nary a drop is wasted. Who needs egg cups?

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      I completely agree. Another good variant is to put the egg on top of hash browns.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Oh yeah. That’s very good.

        Years ago I knew of a little Irish breakfast and lunch place that made fabulous corned beef. Naturally they made hash with it. It was reaallly good. I would ask them to put the hash, which was about 85% corned beef, on top of the hash browns and then put two sunny-side-up eggs on top of the hash. I’m feeling full just thinking about it.

        • Merilee
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          Fried eggs on hash browns + bacon. Yum!!

          • Jeff Lewis
            Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

            Frankly, fried eggs on anything is good. I really like steak and eggs that way on weekend mornings when we have leftover steak from the night before.

            But more often than not, it’s simply fried eggs that I dip my toast into. I suppose a soft boiled egg would give you the runny yolk, but it would be missing all the greasy goodness and the crispy whites you get from frying.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      I’m with you on this, Darrell, though I prefer mine sunny side up. Much easier than soft-boiled ( though I do enjoy these served the same way on toast ( no need for soldiers)) and really do not like hard-boiled, especially the hard, gummy, yolks!
      I DO own and love my electric kettle, but have never liked any milk in my tea: it makes it like dishwater, imho. But what’s with those crazy toast racks, Brits?? They guarantee thst your toast is both cold and hard. Mushy peas – yuck! Dark chocolate McVitie’s Digestives – yum! And Ginger Nuts!!

      • darrelle
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        I think my preference for over-easy vs sunny side up is due to laziness + an aversion to snotty uncooked egg white. Being a lazy male I try to keep the amount of dishes to wash to a minimum and the only way I can make sure there is no snot left on the top of the egg is to flip it over or cover the pan with a lid, which means another dirty dish to wash!

        But I’m fine with a properly done sunny side up egg, and they are prettier.

        On the milk in tea issue, it always reminds me of the old Asterix & Obelisk comics in which they were always drinking “hot water with a spot of milk.”

        • Merilee
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          TMI on the snotty egg whites🙀

        • Jeff Lewis
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          I go with the lid method – actually a glass lid so I can keep an eye on it and pull it off the heat the instant the uncooked white glazes over on top of the yolk. One extra, easily cleaned dish is a small price to pay to avoid snotty eggs.

      • Colin McLachlan
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Dark chocolate digestives (Lidl ones are much cheaper) and ginger nuts are my two staple biscuits. I have to allocate two days a week free from them to keep my weight under control. Sadly, today is one of those days 😦

  6. Janet
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    This is kinda fun, folks. I will go and get my electric kettle out of the top shelf and use it!
    Just for the record, table corn is called sweet corn to distinguish it from field corn – the starchy plant grown for livestock.

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      ” table corn is called sweet corn to distinguish it from field corn”

      I am now more confused.

      • BobTerrace
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        What I call sweet corn is what I can get from the local farms in Massachusetts during 2 weeks in the deep summer or 3 weeks from local farms in Florida in the winter. I have bought them as inexpensive as 5/$1.00 (MA) or 10/$1.00 (FL). They are so good that I sometimes eat them raw.

      • Griff
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink


      • grasshopper
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        You are cornfused, but I am amaized.

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Sweet corn is the corn people eat as a vegetable. It contains sugar.

      Field corn is the corn people feed to livestock. Or I suppose you can grind it to flour. It contains starch that is not broken down to sugar. Nearly all those thousands of acres of corn in Iowa are field corn.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        So true but let’s not forget the field corn uses, mostly feed for the animals but now replaces sugar in nearly everything they make, including Soda. They have sweet corn in small patches everywhere because it becomes ready suddenly and then goes past ready very quickly. Always plant enough for the raccoons and deer. And there is always lots of popcorn as well.

      • Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        So do the Brits also offer “field corn” sandwiches? I doubt it, in which case why not just say “corn”? Better yet, leave it off the sandwich!

        • Steve Pollard
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          I think the answer might be that when corn first came to these shores, it was in the form of Jolly Green Giant tinned corn, which has always had “sweetcorn” on the label. I have actually never heard the term “field corn” used in the UK (maybe I should get out more). The stuff that is grown for animal fodder etc is often just called “maize”.

          • Colin McLachlan
            Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

            My UK understanding is that what we call sweetcorn is also called maize. “Corn” in the UK is a generic term for any grass-type cereal (wheat, barley, oats, etc) (cue Dr Johnson’s defintion of oats. I agree that the Jolly Green Giant is probably responsible for the term “sweetcorn” in the UK. I suspect these tins had added sugar. Nowadays is is more commonly bought as packs of frozen sweetcorn, or raw as “corn on the cob”, delicious boiled, and served with melted butter and black pepper.

            I personally have never come across sweetcorn in a sandwich on its own, but am fond of tuna and sweetcorn mayonnaise sandwiches.

            • Danny Kodicek
              Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

              You might be right historically but I don’t think I’ve ever heard any other grain referred to as ‘corn’ in current usage. In them olden times, for sure (and indeed non-grains, like ‘peppercorn’)

              I think the main distinction is between ‘sweetcorn’, which to me at least suggests individual kernels, and ‘corn-on-the-cob’, served boiled and covered in butter, and preferably eaten typewriter-style like Bugs Bunny.

              These days there’s also the commonly available ‘baby corn’ – I don’t remember seeing it commonly in shops for more than a decade or so.

              • Steve Pollard
                Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

                Got some at Sainsbury’s last Friday (but now I can’t remember why).

              • Merilee
                Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

                “…preferably eaten typewriter-style like Bugs Bunny”..The only way to eat corn. Ding!
                I think Bugs also knitted his spaghetti so that he could eat it in one piece, with both hands, iirc.

              • Richard Bond
                Posted July 10, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                I am old enough to have taken part (at five years old) with my younger sisters in traditional gleaning: scouring the wheat field after harvesting for grain that escaped the then rather inefficient farming methods. IIRC we used to collect a couple of kilograms, which were then fed to our chickens. With everybody else in our neighbourhood we always called this “corn”.

            • Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

              Then there’s supersweet sweet corn, which is a product of nuclear farming, iirc.


        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

          I’ve never had a sweetcorn sandwich and it doesn’t appeal. I good corn fritter, however, is delicious. Or several. With tomato sauce, of course.

          • Randy schenck
            Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know where this corn sandwich idea comes from. It makes no sense. Corn is carbohydrates. Why would you want to surround carbohydrates with more carbohydrates. Maybe a potato sandwich.

            • Nobody Special
              Posted July 10, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

              We call a potato sandwich a chip butty.
              I have never seen or even heard of a corn sandwich; cornbread sandwich maybe. In all fairness though, PCC(E) only referred to sweetcorn in sandwiches, so presumably alongside other ingredients rather than as a stand-alone filling.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted July 10, 2017 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

              I’d never heard of a sweetcorn sandwich either. But, like the British, we do put just about anything in a sandwich, so I’m not surprised. And though I wouldn’t have a potato sandwich, chip butties are delish!

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Want an interesting topic to read about? Try the Strix company founder, John Taylor :


    I never knew electric kettles were so big a deal as to merit OBE, FREng,….

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink


    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      The reason I made this comment is :

      Hamilton Beach, Chef’s Choice (that I know of), and possibly other EK’s in the US use the exact same electrical heating components in the kettle base, designed by Strix.

      The bio of the inventor is very interesting.

  8. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink


  9. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    “cow biscuits” — I guess you mean the malted milk biscuits that are decorated with pictures of cows …

    “fly bisuuits” – Garibaldis?

    … or fruit shortcakes?

    Even better, flies graveyards – Eccles cakes:


    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      * bisuuits → biscuits, flies’ graveyards

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Garibaldis! And yes, those are the cow biscuits I meant.

      • Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        You can also get them with chocolate on one side. But for me the best biscuit is the chocolate chip digestive – Sainsbury’s was the only brand for some years but I think Tesco make them now, as well.

  10. Martin
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Interesting, I have egg cups and an electric kettle but that’s because my wife is Russian and demanded these things, and also I’m from Wisconsin.

  11. bric
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    This is why Americans don’t (often) have kettles

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Is it beyond the wit of some inventor to make up for that somehow? Not saying, asking…

      • bric
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        American kitchens usually have a ~240v supply to the cooker/oven, I have heard of an imported UK 13amp 3-pin socket (which has a built-in fuse) being wired to that supply and used with a UK kettle. The kettle is nominally 220v but should have enough latitude – don’t buy a cheap one.

        • bric
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

          I should add don’t use a travel adapter

          • Colin McLachlan
            Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

            When I ran a guest house in Oban, Argyll, we would frequently have USian guests blow the fuse and destroy their electrical gadgets (usually hair dryers) by plugging them in using a travel adaptor.

            • darrelle
              Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

              I still remember a similar incident that happened within minutes of entering the first house we lived in when we moved to Germany back in the ’70s. My sister had this little portable, red cassette tape player, rather new contraptions at the time. I think the tape was the Jackson 5 Skywriter album. Lots of smoke, the smell of burning plastic.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      The author of that article notes that he assumes 100% efficiency for an electric kettle. And this is pretty much true, because the heating element is completely surrounded by the water being heated, so all the heat produced is being used to heat the water directly. This is in contrast to a stove top where a lot of the energy goes to heating up the surroundings.


  12. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Fish and chips is great, but it is, of course, cultural appropriation as it was brought to England by Jews who’d been expelled from Portugal during the Inquisition. Japanese tempura also came from the Portuguese.

  13. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Kettles are sadly lacking in Norway as well. It is always amusing to regard the primitive habits of our fellow humans! 😉

    • boggy
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      It is only fairly recently say 20 years that the French have adopted elrctric kettles (bouilloires) and they think that maize is for anilmal feed though they will buy it in tins. Even buying seeds of Mais douce (sweet coen( is difficult.

  14. DrBrydon
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    We have both an electric kettle (we go through about one a year), and egg cups, although I haven’t had a soft-boiled egg since I was a kid. I prefer poached, which is much the same thing, except for how you serve it.

    We also don’t have tea making kits in our hotel rooms, which caused an English friend of mine no end of confusion the first time he came over. He looked all around for it. Then he called reception, and they told him to ask in the restaurant. They finally brought him one of those dribble-pitchers of hot water and a tea bag.

  15. Geoff Toscano
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Our local delicacy, here in the northeast, is ‘stottie’ bread, essentially a flat bun. And one of my favourite fillings is ham and pease pudding. All accompanied by a MUG of tea.

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Eggie bread – fried! 🙂

    • Nobody Special
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      My wife hails from Ashington and has supplies of pease pudding sent down to her by her sister. She cannot for the life of her understand why trying to eat that poor imitation of too-thick wallpaper paste interspersed with woeful-looking pellets of (allegedly) ham sets my gag reflex off. Strangely, it’s the only ‘food’ that has this effect on me.
      Stottie, on the other hand, is a delight when filled with thick rashers of bacon, a good sausage or three, a couple of fried eggs (runny yolk) and a dollop of HP Sauce.

      • Merilee
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        Where did the word rasher come from that you Brits use for a slice of bacon?

  16. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Oh, and a cooked breakfast is simply not a cooked breakfast without black pudding, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms … and fried bread.


    • Graham Martin-Royle
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Full english, Bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms, black pudding, tomato, fried egg, hash brown, toast, yumyum 🙂

      • Richard
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Also kidnies – preferably both lambs’ and pigs’…

    • Colin McLachlan
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Heart attack on a plate.

  17. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I have never understood the attraction of a soft-boiled egg. I prefer them poached.

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Me, too. Easier to judge the doneness, for one thing.

      • Frank Bath
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        Then you have never known the pleasure of dipping ‘soldiers’ – every child’s delight.

        • Charles Phillips
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

          ↑↑↑ What he said ↑↑↑
          Weekend breakfast for my boys – boiled eggs and soldiers (with proper butter), bit of salt and pepper.

  18. Nicholas K.
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I’m a huge fan of English cuisine. Done properly, it is great. I think the problem is that it is often done badly.

    • Richard
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 3:03 am | Permalink

      Well, we have come a long way since the days of “meat and two veg”. Now chefs are celebrities.

      A few years ago, whilst on holiday, I spoke to a German who puzzled me with the remark “Of course in England, where everything is mint sauce…”. I subsequently learned from a German colleague that they are taught that the British have mint sauce with everything!

  19. Terry Sheldon
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I can’t be bothered to deal with the shells of soft boiled eggs, so I poach mine. Same ultimate result with less bother IMHO.

  20. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Americans certainly do have egg cups. Some people even collect them. As Jerry says, however, Americans generally prefer their eggs scrambled, fried, poached, or hard-boiled. Many Americans have kettles, too. I use ours every day.

  21. Danny Kodicek
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    One of the weirdest things about British cooking is the traditional Christmas meal, which always includes Brussels sprouts that almost the entire country professes to hate, to the point of it being a standard joke. And traditional Brussels sprouts genuinely are horrible, overboiled and tasteless things. But lightly boiled or steamed sprouts are delicious, so it’s a mystery to me why people insist on cooking them badly at the same time as saying how disgusting they are.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      I used to despise Brussels sprouts. More recently I discovered that if you take fresh ones, prep them properly, cut in half, toss in a bowl with good olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, fresh garlic, then spread out on a sheet pan and roast at high temperature, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, even a little char here and there (not too much though!), and they are delicious. Reducing some balsamic vinegar down till it is syrupy and drizzling over top of them is a nice finish.

      • Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Yes, B. sprouts roasted in olive oil with 8 or 10 cloves of garlic are superb.

        • BobTerrace
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          I also prefer roasted, but they can be lightly steamed. Careful to not over steam them into harsh tasting mush.

        • Merilee
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink


      • Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        Yes. And some cayenne pepper makes it even better if you like spice.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          Love spicy, that sounds good, should have thought of it myself. Unfortunately certain parts of my anatomy can’t handle the heat like they used to, so these days I have to be “moderate.”

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Parboiled, then finished off in butter with chestnuts and crumbled crisp bacon is a good way of complementing the Christmas turkey (and even better with roast goose).

      • dabertini
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Or try them a la gordon ramsey sauteed with rosemary, chestnuts, pancetta, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Delish!

        • darrelle
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          Damn that sounds good.

      • nicky
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        They are also very nice fried with bacon. I guess that if the bacon is unsalted, kosher salt is kind of useless here 🙂 , just some ordinary sea salt should do, methinks.
        (btw, is there a difference in taste between kosher and treif salt?)

        • darrelle
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          I doubt it. I think the only difference in taste between salts would be those that contain some sort of “impurity” that adds a different taste.

          Kosher salt is my go to for ordinary cooking / eating. The main reason is that it is very good for “pinching” and seasoning due to the size and shape of the crystals. Other larger grain salts are better than regular table salt, which is way too fine for pinching and seasoning, but Kosher is cheap, available everywhere and has about the best texture for pinching.

    • Graham Martin-Royle
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Best way to cook brussels, boil until mushy, drain off the water & throw away, then tip the rest into the rubbish bin & get something else to eat.

      • Danny Kodicek
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        See what I mean??? It’s actually possible to cook them so they taste great (see above for many excellent suggestions) but for many Brits this is the first thing they think of.

      • dabertini
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink


    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Or, if chopped fine enough, they can be stirfried / pseudopoached, too.

    • Richard
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 3:05 am | Permalink

      Satan’s sprouts – the devil’s own vegetable!

  22. claudia baker
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Mmmm…love fly biscuits.

  23. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I think I read somewhere that Canadians own more electric kettles per capita than any other nation. I also grew up with egg cups. Now I’m thinking that these two traits are part of our British heritage!

  24. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Of course we have egg cups. And very tasteful ones, I might add. Here are my favorites.


  25. David Harper
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I hesitate to disagree with PCC(E), but on the matter of black pudding, I must make an exception. I’m from Lancashire, which is a county in northern England, and black pudding is part of our cultural heritage. A good black pudding is a delicious and essential part of a full English breakfast. It is flavoured with herbs and spices and has visible chunks of fat embedded in it.

    Alas, it’s difficult to get really good black pudding any longer, especially in southern England where it has never been as popular as it is in the north, and I wonder whether PCC(E)’s views on the matter have been shaped by being served one of the many bad examples of the product outside its native counties.

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry, but only Scottish black pudding (= without the added lumps of fat) is in any way palatable.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        I’m with you both: proper Lancashire BP, and Scottish BP, are equally delicious.

        Serving panfried scallops on top of slices of grilled BP is almost a culinary cliche these days, but wonderful nonetheless.

        • kieran
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          Clonakilty still pudding has taken over here in Ireland, but you can get real deal in some butchers. We’ve got black and white pudding as well

  26. busterggi
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    One does not use an egg cup for sunny side up, over easy or scramble eggs anymore than one needs a bacon cup for that digestible.

    Custard – my late mother made fantastic custard which I miss greatly. She was Polish btw.

    I do have an electric kettle, we also have one at the office I work at. They’re good but its hard to get a microwave large enough to put them in.

  27. BobTerrace
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    The quickest way to boil water (1 or 2 cups) is in the microwave.

    • nicky
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      The quickest way to boil an egg (+/- 30-40 seconds) is also in the microwave, however, you should remove if from it’s shell and put it in a small bowl or a cup to avoid unpleasant surprises.

  28. scaryreasoner
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    We don’t have electric kettles in the US because our circuits are typically 110V and 15A, instead of 230V and 13A in the UK. Power = volts * amps. 1650 VA in the US vs. 2990VA in the UK. An electric kettle in the US just wouldn’t work very well.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      My electric kettle works perfectly quickly in 110 Canada.

  29. Hempenstein
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Yep to yr take on their coffee, all coffee I’ve ever had in Limeyland has been drek.

    But re. regional variants on eggs, I remember from 50+ yrs ago, there was a kid younger than me & from Syria (IIRC) in our Boy Scout troop. We had a campout at Patuxent Naval Station, and got to eat breakfast in their mess. I’d never seen such big trays of food! But you could get your eggs however you wanted them. The Syrian kid wanted to know if they had any that, near as I could tell, had been sitting out, cracked open, for a day or two. Naturally they didn’t, so I don’t know what the next step would have been. Anyone know anything about what they do with eggs in the Middle East?

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of regional egg variants, I had a century egg when I visited China. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been led to suspect. In fact, I think I could learn to like them if I ate them more regularly.

    • bric
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 4:22 am | Permalink

      I’ve had brik in Tunisia – slightly cooked egg in a filo parcel deep fried and served with harissa. The egg is almost raw, but fresh.

  30. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing sacrosanct about soft boiled eggs. Fried eggs properly cooked with the whites congealed and the yolks soft are excellent, especially with toast made of good bread with real butter. Poached eggs are also a treat and easier to do either the old-fashioned way or using a device for cooking them in the microwave. Hard boiled eggs are best served in one of the many versions of Deviled Eggs.

    Egg cups are available in the U.S.for those who prefer soft boiled eggs. I happen to have some that I never use.

    If one has a microwave, there is no need to also have an electric kettle also.

  31. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    If you DO have boiled eggs, be sure to make holes in the bottom of the eggshells after, least witches use them for boats.

    • bric
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Actually, make a tiny hole in the blunt end before you boil them so they don’t crack (one can buy a special tool for doing this)

      • Mark R.
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        I use a pushpin.

  32. Kevin
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I have three electric kettles (2, home; 1 work). Though I would debate whether microwaves are more efficient for single cups.

    Orwell/Hitchens rules apply to most teas, save my whites, some oolongs, and my Japanese greens.

  33. Fernando Peregrin
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Do not forget Jerry the Steak and Kidney Pie, my favorite British dish that I cook very well with the most traditional recipe you can imagine. Bon appétit a tutti quanti!… And remember, in Spain we cook much, much better than anywhere else!

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Oh, I forgot the savory pies! I prefer my steak and kidney pie without the kidney (I am not Leopold Bloom), but I LOVE Melton Mowbury Pork Pies!

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        Jerry, you may not be aware that the pork pie factory at Melton Mowbray is at one end of the town, and the Defence Animal Centre, which trains horses etc for Army ceremonial duties, is at the other.

        There is said to be a connection between these two enterprises….

  34. Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  35. Randy schenck
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Possibly the electric kettle in Britain is like the rice cooker in Japan. Rice is usually served with all meals in Japan so it is a must in every home. In the U.S. it could be we have replaced kettles with microwave ovens for heating water.

  36. Redlivingblue
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    “Sweet corn” is also used by people of a certain age here in Alabama. Along with “sweet milk” referring to just plain old milk. Butter milk is the alternative to sweet milk. Corn that isn’t sweet is used to feed livestock (mostly chickens) and make whisky (wildcat).

    • Merilee
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Not to mention sweet tea in ‘bama.

  37. nay
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    On kettles: America does have electric kettles (you have to specify “electric”; otherwise, you get the stove top variety). We got one years ago so that our Dad wouldn’t walk away from the stove and let the regular one boil dry & burn. This is also why they invented whistling kettles, but he got hard of hearing and sometimes didn’t hear it shrieking. The electric kettle would turn itself off when it got too hot. We now have a Keurig machine which we use as an “instant” kettle to make teabag tea, instant cocoa, hot lemonade or Cup Noodle (largest setting), as well as for k-cup coffee. The popularity of the Keurig-type machine may be the reason fewer places now sell the electric kettles.

    On eggs: We used to have soft-boiled when we were kids (cuisine gurus used to demand we call them “soft cooked” not “boiled”). We didn’t have egg cups because they cost money; we held them on the plate and turned while carefully tapping around the top and tried to peel off the top shell to get a whole egg – never worked. Nowadays, just like the instant kettle, no one takes the time to make a proper breakfast, so the faster ways of cooking – frying, hard-boiled-to-go – are preferred. (Does anyone make pancakes for breakfast, except on weekends and holidays?)(I go to McDonalds).

    Sorry for the length of this and thank you, PCC(E)!

  38. Blue
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    bangers ? as in bangers and mash ?


    • darrelle
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      I love bangers & mash. I can make a very good plate of bangers & mash. Not that hard really. Mostly you just have to find some good fresh made bangers.

      I have to admit that I do eschew the packet gravy that many Irish-folk seem to think is good, or at least traditional. I make my own from scratch. Much better.

      • Blue
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Oooo, Mr Darrelle: that gravy of yours
        with bookoo o n i o n, not ?

        Pronounced Frenchy – / Cajun – like as of
        this dude’s lexicon
        even though ’tis upon one’s English mash, not?

        I’ll be over real darn soon:
        ’tis lunchtime !

        Voilà —

        • darrelle
          Posted July 11, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

          I don’t think I’ve ever made the gravy the same way twice. I have made it with much onions on occasion though and that is good. Also at least once with much shallot because that’s what was in the pantry at the time. That was good too.

          Some decent stock (I’ve used beef, chicken & pork) and a medium roux (made with butter not oil) are always the base, but the rest is whatever I might find in the pantry & fridge. A fresh herb is always nice. Brandy or whiskey are a nice touch too. Some for the gravy, some for me.

  39. Gareth
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I’ve been told that its because of the lower voltage (110 as opposed to 220-240 in Europe). This makes kettles less efficient/quick/whatever.
    However, they do still work, so it seems a somewhat unsatisfying explanation. So the other obvious point is that the UK has one of the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, and overwhelmingly black tea for which a kettle is perfect. Having bought one for that it naturally finds other uses in cooking and what not.

    However water boilers, (that heat water to a hottish temperature and keep it there, and can be set to boil quickly when needed, as well as produce water to a precise temp like say 85C for green teas), or so I’ve been told, are more common in N America, not quite Japanese levels of common, but certainly much more so than in Europe where they are rarely seen outside of the catering industry.

  40. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    There are at least four English-style pubs in the Bay Area. Most of them do not serve breakfast (including the most popular one, Cameron Inn, in spite of its three motel-style overnight rooms).

    The one with a high reputation for Brit-authenticity, the Pelican Inn, does. I have to check if it has egg-cups now. However, since its breakfast is a buffet, I suspect not.

    • Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      If it’s truly an English style pub, it won’t serve real ale at refrigerator temperature. I’ve found only a handful of craft-beer places in the US that serve their beer at the right (warmer) temperature.

      • Terry Sheldon
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        There is a great pub where I live in south central PA that brews their own stuff and serves it at the proper temperature. They also always have one of their beers “on cask” which is cask conditioned and served with a proper pull-handle tap.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        You have given me an excellent excuse for a road trip.

  41. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    One thing that gets me about North America is cheese. First is the obsession with putting in on everything, espec. meat, second is the poor quality. We have more & better variety of cheese just in the UK. Why, with a whole continent to play with, can you not come up with decent cheese?

    • darrelle
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      I am sure you are not correct about the 2nd part of that. In just about any regular grocery store in the US these days you have a huge variety of cheeses both domestic and foreign. Heck, the local supermarket I shop at, a Publix, has a very serviceable “cheddar” with their own label on it (Publix Brand). It is a product of the Isle Of Man. I can get real buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan-Reggiano from Italy, aged gouda from Holland, Camabert from France, Sartori, Stilton, etc., etc., right at my local supermarket.

      And there is a huge variety of domestic cheeses that are very good. It seems cheese has become analogous to the craft beer market in the US.

      I’ll give you one thing, American cheese is absolutely worthless. I mean, if you are going to have some cheese why the heck would you use American?

      And don’t even get me started on cheese food. What the fuck is that? Something that cheese eats?

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        Isle of Man Cheddar…? (Backs away slowly).

        But I agree with Graham M-R about the current English cheese scene. My local farmer’s market has three cheese stalls (cows’, goats’ and sheep’s, all from different farms), with about 15 different ones between them. And this is just a medium-sized town in SE England.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 11, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          “Isle of Man Cheddar…? (Backs away slowly).”

          I cringed a bit when I wrote that. I’m surprised there wasn’t more backlash. Most people probably didn’t read this far.

  42. Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I was surprised by the electric kettle comment, as they are readily available at every department store I’ve been to in Canada, eg. Wal-Mart, etc.

    However I have yet to see the following problem rectified. Kettles that you put on the stove generally have a good whistle, but have a circular spout and don’t pour very well. Conversely, electric kettles have an angled spout and pour better, but generally lack a whistle. So when is someone going to invent a kettle that whistles and pours well???

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink


      Alessi supply the “Michael Graves electric whistling kettle” if you have money to burn. Heavily overpriced because the modernist turned postmodernist, architect/designer Michael Graves’ name. Can’t recommend! 🙂

      Don’t need a whistle here though – only 72 seconds to boil 2 cups with British electricity – just right for getting the biscuits & cups out [double that time on that N. American ‘lecky]

      2.2kW, 240v kettle
      2 cups = 0.5 L

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Just realised the iKettle exists! A bluetooth app on the smartphone to turn on the kettle while still in bed.

      Daft. You have to remember to have water in the kettle!

  43. Stephen Barnard
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Spotted dick. I’ve never tried it, but it sounds awful.

    • bric
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Spotted dick made with suet (made from the fat that grows around the kidneys in cows and sheep) and served with custard (see above) is delicious

  44. Merilee
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always found the combo of cheese and (sweet) pickle sandwiches weird.

    • Colin McLachlan
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Have you tried it? Cheddar and Branston is a good combination.

      • bric
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Any hard cheese with a quince or gooseberry preserve is great

  45. bric
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    AS there has been no mention of confectionery yet I thought a little sampling of a very famous (amongst Pynchon enthusiasts) passe age from Gravity’s Rainbow, when our hero the American G I Tyrone Slothrop is treated to some English candy
    …he wrote home to Nalline: “The English are kind of weird when it comes to the way things taste, Mom. They aren’t like us. It might be the climate. They go for things we would never dream of. Sometimes it is enough to turn your stomach, boy. . . He reaches in the candy bowl, comes up with a black, ribbed licorice drop. It looks safe. But just as he’s biting in, Darlene gives him, and it, a peculiar look, great timing this girl, sez, “Oh, I thought we got rid of all those—” a blithe, Gilbert & Sullivan ingenue’s thewse — “years ago,” at which point Slothrop is encountering this dribbling liquid center, which tastes like mayonnaise and orange peels.
    “You’ve taken the last of my Marmalade Surprises!” cries Mrs. Quoad, having now with conjuror’s speed produced an egg-shaped confection of pastel green, studded all over with lavender nonpareils. “Just for that I shan’t let you have any of these marvelous rhubarb creams.” Into her mouth it goes, the whole thing . . . Darlene, pure Nightingale compassion, is handing him a hard red candy, molded like a stylized raspberry… mm, which oddly enough even tastes like a raspberry, though it can’t begin to take away that bitterness. Impatiently, he bites into it, and in the act knows, fucking idiot, he’s been had once more, there comes pouring out onto his tongue the most godawful crystalline concentration of Jeez it must be pure nitric acid, “Oh mercy that’s really sour,” . . . Under its tamarind glaze, the Mills bomb turns out to be luscious pepsin-flavored nougat, chock-full of tangy candied cubeb berries, and a chewy camphor-gum center. It is unspeakably awful. Slothrop’s head begins to reel with camphor fumes, his eyes are running, his tongue’s a hopeless holocaust. Cubeb? He used to smoke that stuff. “Poisoned…” he is able to croak.
    “Show a little backbone,” advises Mrs. Quoad.
    “Yes,” Darlene through tongue-softened sheets of caramel, “don’t you know there’s a war on? Here now love, open your mouth.”
    Through the tears he can’t see it too well, but he can hear Mrs. Quoad across the table going “Yum, yum, yum,” and Darlene giggling. It is enormous and soft, like a marshmallow, but somehow—unless something is now going seriously wrong with his brain—it tastes like gin. “Wha’s ’is,” he inquires thickly.
    “A gin marshmallow,” sez Mrs. Quoad.
    “Oh that’s nothing, have one of these—” his teeth, in some perverse reflex, crunching now through a hard sour gooseberry shell into a wet spurting unpleasantness of, he hopes it’s tapioca, little glutinous chunks of something all saturated with powdered cloves.
    “More tea?” Darlene suggests. Slothrop is coughing violently, having inhaled some of that clove filling.
    “Nasty cough,” Mrs. Quoad offering a tin of that least believable of English coughdrops, the Meggezone. “Darlene, the tea is lovely, I can feel my scurvy going away, really I can.”
    The Meggezone is like being belted in the head with a Swiss Alp. Menthol icicles immediately begin to grow from the roof of Slothrop’s mouth. Polar bears seek toenail-holds up the freezing frosty-grape alveolar clusters in his lungs. It hurts his teeth too much to breathe, even through his nose, even, necktie loosened, with his nose down inside the neck of his olive-drab T-shirt. Benzoin vapors seep into his brain. His head floats in a halo of ice.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Pynchon nails it!!

  46. Gareth Price
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m a Brit living in the US and I fancied a soft-boiled egg last week but, not owning an eggcup, I had to improvise with the egg box. I think I never saw an eggcup for sale when I first moved here. IMO you also need an eggspoon because teaspoons are too large and slightly the wrong shape.

  47. Perluigi Ballabeni
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    British food has the reputation of being by far the worst of the Holarctic but this might be just a prejudice. Haggis for instance is yummy.

  48. Posted July 10, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never really like soft-boiled eggs, but my mother used to use a egg cup for *hard* boiled eggs.

  49. rickflick
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    My grandmother(moved from England to Canada in 1917) used to make tea in a large pot. I remember as a small boy tasting it with extra milk and sugar. My mother used to say it was so strong you could stand a spoon up in it.

    Christopher Hitchens recorded the proper way to make a decent cup of tea.


  50. Posted July 10, 2017 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I gonna take this to the dark side of electric jugs, kettles, somewhat violent and a serendipitous change.

    In the, possibly 50’s but certainly the 60’s, 70’s & early 80’s these appliances came with a 3 foot cord, longer and shorter, I’ve seen home made ones. This was (in NZ) to facilitate having to plug it in from the stove and place it on the kitchen bench.
    It just so happened that this was the ideal length to grab the 2 ends and beat your kids with. It was a defacto strap and handy, i don’t have any figures (sorry Mr Pinker) but it was common according to my memory… these days you would find yourself in court for this behaviour.

    However, young children 2-4 yr olds, were scolding themselves very badly (hospitalised) by also grabbing the power cord by playing or trying to get attention (that worked) and pouring hot boiling water on themselves usually the head and this was also reasonably common.
    So, along came innovation and now the cords basically do not exist anymore, no more beatings and scolding from electric jug cords to make tea or yuk, instant coffee… ok some are passable if desperate.

    Inovation, law and the civilizing process came to the common ol electric jug.
    Tea certainly has had it share of violence and human degradation linked to it.
    It’s still going on by all accounts but that’s another story.
    Now back to my tea, bacon and sunny side up eggs with fried tomato, ground pepper and sea salt.

  51. Nobody Special
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    A brief note to Marmite haters; I love the stuff, either spread on hot, buttered toast or in a Cheddar cheese sandwich, but I can understand why others don’t like it. The very strong, savoury flavour can be as overpowering for many as extremes of sweet or sour and so-on.
    However, if you have only tasted Marmite ‘neat’ I would recommend you give it another chance as an ingredient in other dishes. Adding half a teaspoonful to a meat gravy gives a real depth of flavour without tasting of Marmite. Similarly, a small amount added to a stew, casserole, or broth enhances the flavour no end.
    Full disclosure: my wife and a couple of our offspring hate even the smell of Marmite. For over thirty years I have secretly added it to various dishes and not once have I been rumbled. In fact, they all enjoy the enhanced versions of the dishes far more than the ‘plain’ versions, and Marmite is the only difference.
    So, please, give Marmite a chance as a flavouring rather than a spread. You just might be surprised.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      I’ve never had it, but the way you describe it, using it as a umami backdrop reminds me of how I use Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce. I use it often in non-Asian foods.

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        A classic case of cultural appropriation. 🙂

        By the way, this “cultural appropriation” nonsense is ridiculous, unintentional self-parody by the regressive left.

        • Merilee
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

          I made an amazing Mexican beef fajita kind of dish recently which called for that Korean chili paste called something like gochuchang(sp?). Wonderful fusion of flavors. Fish sauce smells awful but is really tasty.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

          Where’d you get that frum Stephen? 😉

          • Stephen Barnard
            Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:27 pm | Permalink


            • rickflick
              Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

              Your appropriating WEIT? OK.

              • Stephen Barnard
                Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

                The “cultural appropriation” meme, for some reason, really pisses me off.

              • rickflick
                Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

                Me 2.

        • Mark R.
          Posted July 11, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          Cultural appropriation is one of the dumbest ideas/complaints I’ve ever heard.

  52. rickflick
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Based on my 8 day visit a year ago, I’d say the English reputation for awful food was probably true at one time, but since European Union, everyplace we ate seemed to be influenced by the Polish, Czech, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, immigrants. Delightful food across the board. Br-exit, if nothing else, is a culinary tragedy.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Not to forget Indian!!

      • rickflick
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:15 pm | Permalink


  53. Mark R.
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Electric kettles are good, but I don’t know if they boil water faster than a commercial gas stove, which I have. I don’t want to buy one to test it, but I can boil water pretty fast over the Wolf’s 4″ propane burners.

    I actually love Heinz beans (with that hideous turquoise label) with eggs and bacon and such; it lends a sweetness and nice texture in-between eggs and pork. Almost every breakfast-buffet I’ve eaten at in Europe (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) have offered this side. That’s where I learned I liked it. Even though in America, I never did (or do) eat Heinz baked beans at any meal.

    Yorkshire pudding is an English gift to the culinary world.

    • John Ottaway
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 5:20 am | Permalink

      I think baked beans in N. America are different and have a slight bbq tang to them. Certainly the ones I tried have

      • chrism
        Posted July 11, 2017 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        Baked beans in Canada often have pork added to them, but ‘English style’ can be found in the green Heinz tin thse days.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink

        I used to see beans labeled “Pork and Beans” years ago. Then, under the influence of truth in advertising legislation, they changed that to “Beans and Pork”, since pork was less than 1% of the product. Now pork and beans(I use the old name) can’t be found. All we have is the spicier “Baked Beans”. I miss the nice relaxed taste of Pork and Beans.

      • Posted July 11, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        Some baked beans contain tomato, which is also increased in quantity for the pork-free varieties.

  54. Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    In our household, anything goes for breakfast!

  55. Rhonda
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    I’m Canadian and we use egg cups; I have ancient ones gifted down to me from my grandmother. I had no idea Americans don’t use them.

    I had an American friend a few years back who had no idea what Coronation Street was. No idea at all. How is this possible?

    • chrism
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      Yet if you stay in many a hotel at the breakfast buffet you’ll find stacks of hot hard boiled eggs in their shells, but nary an egg cup. Having an egg rolling around in its shell on your plate with a couple of tiny sausages is a sad sight.

  56. bric
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    This one just goes on giving

    • Merilee
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Lol – And she must mean the cart-ON

  57. John Ottaway
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Whenever I have visited N. America I am always shocked by the amount of sugar in everything, even things like bread. Almost anything that was available for breakfast, left me buzzing off my tits on a sugar rush

    And don’t get me started on the bacon…

    • rickflick
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Some Americans are also fed up with what we find in the grocery store, much of it full to the point of saturation with sugar and salt. We’ve resorted to making our own bread and soups. We don’t eat out much either since local chefs respond to the public demand for more sugar and salt in almost everything.

  58. Phil Garnock-Jones
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    A few folks have mentioned sausages, and others Yorkshire pudding, but I don’t think anyone has written about toad-in-the-hole. All my life I’ve known the name, but only recently learned how it’s made. I roast the sausages first in a ceramic dish, add some chopped spring onion, and then cover with the Yorkshire pudding batter and cook. Several good recipes on line. Not sure if it’s very good for you, but I’m with Jerry on not caring too much about that for the odd treat.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      A Yorkshire pudding with sausage in it? That can’t be a bad thing.

    • Charles Phillips
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      I know exactly what’s for dinner tonight now, thanks.
      Toad in the hole is a family favourite.

  59. chrism
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    So now I’ll up the ante, and introduce the egg coddler! Perhaps I shall coddle an egg for lunch, perhaps with some chives, cheese, black pepper and bacon bits. I’ll send Jerry a photo to get his mouth watering.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 11, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      I have two egg coddlers- somewhere…Some fancy English pattern, too.

  60. Posted July 11, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Matthew ascribes this to the superiority of British coffee over American

    Really? Traditionally, British coffee was made with instant coffee powder in all but the more high class establishments and coffee in somebody’s house often still means instant.

    I am morally opposed to Starbucks for various reasons, but they certainly have triggered an improvement in the quality of coffee you can buy in coffee shops and other food establishments.

  61. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 11, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Is it really true that Americans don’t have electric kettles ( /electric jugs, or the same thing under some other name) ?

    I find that almost unbelievable. Given that Americans are popularly supposed to have every gadget under the sun.

    How on earth do you make hot water when a cooking stove isn’t available? I’m sitting in a Welsh hotel room right now (it’s a one-star local pub) and in the corner is an electric jug, tea bags, instant coffee, sugar and little milk containers. Virtually standard issue in any hotel/motel in Britain, Europe and New Zealand.


  62. barn owl
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    American here, with an electric kettle at work and one at home as well; I’ve had the one at work since I was a grad student (it was sold as a “hot pot” rather than a kettle). I lived and worked in London for 3 years as a postdoc, and learned to make and drink tea like a native, but nowadays I’m more likely to use the electric kettle to make herbal tea or tea for brewing kombucha. In the winter months I’ll occasionally have a fit of nostalgia and make a thermos of builder’s tea to take to work. I get a lot of crap about this from students and colleagues, who wonder why I don’t just buy a fancy tea latte or similar from Starbucks.

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