There was a big argument in Britain a while back about what constituted a ‘National Dish’ and, given there are many worthy of the accolade, which dish it should be. Should it be the traditional English Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding Sunday Dinner (eaten at lunchtime)? Should it be Steak and Kidney Pie? Roast Gammon? Roast Leg of Lamb? Fish and Chips served in newspaper? Bangers-n-Mash with Mushy Peas? The humble but ever so enjoyable Bacon Sarnie? Or perhaps the unarguably world famous heart-attack-on-a-plate, the traditional English Breakfast with all the trimmings?
The discussion became heated, tempers flared and feathers flew. The scots banged on about their beef and salmon. The Welsh reminded everyone of their close affinity to sheep and rarebits. It all became rather distasteful until one, hitherto silent participant suggested, quite reasonably, that a ‘national dish’ was surely the most often eaten, most popular dish within any given country. You cannot argue with the logic of that, after all things do change. When Homer penned his Odyssey, he was surviving on acorns which can hardly be considered the national dish of Greece pre austerity. In America, apple pie is out, shrimp and grits are in.
A national survey was conducted and the results came in. Nothing, apparently, better satisfied the British palate than a damn good curry.
Marcia had just left to take Alex to school this morning when I received a phone call from Manny. She manages Rico’s place, the lodge next door to where I am building mine. She has, bless her, a distinctive South African accent, all the more remarkable because it is wholly incomprehensible to all but her fellow Boers. Before my morning cup of tea, I stood no chance. All I understood were the words ‘rubbish’ and ‘impotent’. Now this confused me as, to the best of my admittedly shaky recollection, I had never slept with her. Still, I thought it wise to climb into the truck and drive down there.
‘Ah! Tank gudnis u ev aroived,’ she guttered, ‘de impotent visitah is to aroive any minit an oi needs to get rid a all de sheet and ar trrike iz bust!’ The way her lads thrash that little three wheeled motorcycle pick up, I wasn’t surprised it was tits up.
‘You said something about rubbish, Manny,’ I said relieved that her visitor was important and I presumably normal.
‘Yah! I call da boy nar,’ and she hurried off.
I hauled two truckloads of rubbish and kicked it all off at the dump with the help of da boy. Stinking, foetid rubbish, well stewed in overstuffed and torn plastic bags heaving with maggots. Even trying to bounce beer bottles off snuffling feral pigs at twenty paces did little to raise my spirits. I was in the middle of an African rubbish tip under a hot African sun, birth place of every bloated fly in the universe scooping up the putrefying remains of countless meals with my bare hands. Instead of a full nuclear, biological and chemical suit complete with respirator, I was dressed in shorts, T-shirt and sandals. Some people find the sensation of maggots squirming between toes interesting. This was a shit job and it got even worse when the head of my broom fell off and refused to screw back onto the handle, so I had to get down on my hands and knees to sweep the truck bed clean of the last of this biomass. Still, I thought as I jumped out of the back of the truck, I was lucky not to have cut my finger on a piece of broken glass, that really could cause a nasty infection. I landed on a broken wine bottle and gashed my foot instead.
Rico has a special cottage for VVIP’s. It’s a house really, with its own separate kitchen so that meals can be prepared exclusively for the guest staying there. Clearly Manny had left giving that a good root out to the last minute as well because as I drove into the lodge to drop the boy off, I was treated to the sight of cases of empty drinks bottles and dozens of fat black bin liners stacked up outside it. The boy was knackered. I was knackered. Neither of us had eaten, it was now nearly three in the afternoon and if I looked as disgusting as he did, it was reasonable to assume that he was as pissed off as I was. I’ll give him that though. Having loaded on another truck load, he made to climb into the cab. ‘Forget it,’ I said, ‘I’ll do this one by myself.’ He was very grateful but I wasn’t being charitable. If he went with me, I would have to bring him back. God knows what I smelt like but I could not stand the smell of him so I reckon we were both happy to part company. Besides, this was fresh rubbish, nicely crated up or bagged. This run would be easy.
As I left Rico’s and turned onto the road, four local fishermen flagged me down and asked for a lift to the main road. I told them I was going via the dump and then onwards only as far as my place. No problems, they said, I could drop them off at the turn to the dump. As I drove, I realized that with four healthy blokes in the back, they’d have the rubbish tossed off in seconds. As I pulled up at the turn, I offered to take them all the way to the main road if they helped me dump the rubbish. ‘No thanks’, they said, ‘we’ll walk’.
Bastards. They’ll happily scrounge a lift but if they have to do something in return, they’re not interested. I flew down the track to the dump and had the last bag off before the first had even landed. I caught up with them still two clicks short of the main road. I drove very sedately up behind them.
‘Oh!’ they said when they saw me, ‘can we have a lift?’
‘Vai te fuder.’ I replied.
When I got home, I saw that Marcia had a house full of Angolans who were to stay the night. This meant Marcia had been cooking and the nice clean kitchen I had left in the morning now resembled the rubbish tip of recent acquaintance. Misinterpreting my expression, Marcia hurried to explain that although she was cooking Angola fare, she was preparing English food for me. Now I like some Angolan food. Not all by any means but quite a few dishes appeal to me so I was strangely irritated that she would lump all Angolan food into a category disliked by Europeans. Her motive became clear to my cynical mind when she translated this for her guests in a manner which called attention to her Goddess-like preoccupation with her husband’s wellbeing. I was like a child, unwilling to try anything new or unusual so she had to prepare me a ‘special’ meal.
As I had climbed the steps to the veranda, I had every intention of stripping off my vile garments and striding naked through the lounge to the shower to douse myself with oven cleaner. I had instead remained clothed and was now paused in the lounge so that I could exercise the last remnants of civility still within my gift and now Marcia, having humiliated me now addressed me as if I were a child returning home after playing on a dung heap. ‘Thomas! Go and have a shower!’ Thus dismissed, I entered the bathroom and found my towel had disappeared. I checked the bedroom. No clean towels. Now this was annoying, hadn’t I just put them all through the washing machine yesterday? Had I not used my clean towel this morning and hung it on MY rail? I chased Marcia down.
‘I need a towel.’
‘They are in the bedroom.’
‘No they’re not.’
‘Yes they are.’
‘You go and look then .’
‘I am busy Darling.’
‘I am dirty.’
‘Yes I know, go and have a shower, dinner is nearly ready.’
Marcia turned to her companions, ‘He wants a towel. Honestly, men! Unless they fall over whatever it is they are looking for, they cannot find it!’ Everyone tittered except me. I was reminded of scenes from Reggie Perrin. I went into the spare bedroom and found it unusually tidy with all the towels neatly folded on freshly made beds. Clearly Marcia’s visitors were impotent as well.
I came out of our bedroom stripped with a towel around my waist.
‘Your food is ready,’ said Marcia.
‘Just stick it on the table,’ I replied, ‘I’ll be right out after my shower.’
Clean, I dragged on some fresh clobber and reappeared. There was no one in sight. Lonely on the dining table was a covered plate flanked by a knife and fork. The TV channel had been switched from incessant bloody soaps to the Winter Olympics. Typical! Only when they have something else to do that interests them more, do they switch the channel to something I might like. I stuck my head out of the veranda door. At a beautifully laid table sat my family and our guests. Was I expected to eat alone at the dining table? Was it a case of foreign food inside, Angolan food outside in the fresh breeze and setting sun? I had a look at what they were eating. Moamba da Galinha. I love Moamba da Galinha. It is chicken casseroled in a peanut cream sauce, it is divine. I went back to the dining table and peeled the cover off my food. Two pieces of filet the size and shape of testicles, three chunks of a quartered boiled potato, and two thin slivers of fried aubergine. I checked under the aubergine but my first impression had been correct, there was no sauce.
Well bollocks to that, I’d show these bastards what strange food foreigners like to eat! I went to the fridge and took out a carton of fresh cream. Pouring some into a bowl I added salt and pepper and some chopped dill. I took out a can of peach halves and opened it. Rooting among the pans on the stove I found there were more testicles in the frying pan. I heaped them onto my plate. I then arranged a peach half on each, poured cream over them and then drizzled the beef tea from the pan over the potatoes and aubergine.
‘Room for one more?’ I asked as I strode out onto the verandah.
‘Don’t you want to watch the Olympics?’ Marcia asked me, ‘the channel changed automatically so I knew you had saved a reminder. We came outside to eat so as not to disturb you.’
‘Oh,’ I said.
‘There’s more steak in the pan,’ Marcia went on, ‘it’s just that I know you like Moamba da Galinha so I only put a bit of steak on your plate to leave room.’
‘Righto,’ I said making my way down the table to sit next to Alex, ‘that was very kind of you.’
‘What have you got there!’ Marcia asked in astonishment as the plate descended below the level of her eyes on its way to land on the table, ‘are they peaches?’
Naturally everyone at the table had to have a look. No Moamba for me, I was going to have to finish what was on my plate or really lose face.
‘I don’t want this!’ said Alex pushing his plate of Moamba away, ‘I want what Daddy is eating!’ confirming in the minds of the Angolans present that we Europeans eat some odd stuff.
Alex and I proceeded to polish off the plate.
‘What is it?’ the visitors asked having been persuaded to try some.
‘This,’ I said, good humour fully restored, ‘is England’s National Dish,' I paused long enough to allow them to swallow, 'Testículos de boy com pêssegos e molho de natas com endro.’
The English National Dish was actually made at the Wedgwood factory and shows various beautiful hand-painted scenes of Yorkshire. It is kept in a glass display cabinet in the Queen's private apartment in Buckingham Palace. Prince Philip once drank some broth from it using the English National Spoon.ReplyDelete
In the seventies, the national dish was Samantha Fox...Delete
Cor blimey! That filly was a corker!Delete
"I was in the middle of an African rubbish tip under a hot African sun, birth place of every bloated fly in the universe scooping up the putrefying remains of countless meals with my bare hands."ReplyDelete
and next time you might make fewer assumptions ;)
Icky sticky gold!Delete
Well, at least I now know which paper you get your information from.ReplyDelete
Other than that: In rubbish united we stand (and smell).
The Mumbai Telegraph (Leicester edition)Delete
Chicken Jalfrezi (sp?) is England's favourite dish, but not National Dish. Surely that honour must go to Roast Beef Roly Poly and Custard, with Mushy Pea and Bacon Crumble.ReplyDelete
Mmm! They sound nice. Any chance of the recipes so I can include them on the restaurant menu?Delete
I don't know as I'll ever get the chance, but I would love to spend a weekend at your place.ReplyDelete
I just bought a Moto Guzzi - is this in your realm of knowledge? I doubt I can ride it straight there, but one never knows...
Norman aka normzone
So long as it is a California, you are welcome to stay. If a crazy German can make it here on a bicycle, I am sure you could on a Moto Guzzi! Start off in SA or Namibia, the roads are all good to here now. It would make for a hell of a ride!Delete
Funny you should mention that - 1999 V11 Bassa, which is a "trim package" variant of the California (read that as has lots of bling) in pearl white. Blingiest bike I've ever owned. Rides like a cruiser except when you remind it that its a race bike underneath all that and it does anything you ask of it in any gear.Delete
I had never heard of the Bassa before but it does look good! It was the California Vintage that rekindled my desire.Delete
Ah yes, if I had about twice what I spent I could have gotten one of those. Have you thought about becoming a Guzzi dealer?Delete
I was grateful that you did not supply pictures because i would have fixated on the peaches and white sauce...we are in the middle of winter here though, so you did lose me at chopped dill...sigh...ReplyDelete
We get dill only very rarely and I use it normally to make cucumber salad, one of my favourites! I have dill seeds no so intend to grow my own.Delete
I'm at a loss to know why you have to take on dustmen duties with your neighbour, but maybe there's quid pro quo you are not disclosing. Your feet seem to attract all sorts of violent assault, and I hope the cuts are not too severe and do not put you through the same trouble as your toe. (Pictures not required in any event.)ReplyDelete
Or for the bizarre lunch you created either!
With neighbours one never knows when we might need each other's help so it pays to be nice!Delete
You should have seen some of the concoctions we consumed in the Army!
That dinner would have been rounded off nicely with some coffee ice cream.:) We do have lots of lovely choices as favorite meals. I agree that you can't go wrong with a good full fry up. Not sure if I could follow that with ice cream though.ReplyDelete
Bloody hell, you and ice cream!Delete
I could talk about beautiful young ladies instead. You haven't mentioned them for ages.Delete
I have retired, sorry!Delete
Nothing beats a trip to the dump! It wasn't until I had my own place that I made my first ever trip to the tip. Before then, living on a farm, everything got burnt, buried or composted so no need to go anywhere.ReplyDelete
Your tea sounds nice but I can't eat cream so I'd have to pass!
Oh I don't know. Being staked out on an anthill comes pretty close...Delete
that neighbor owes you big time!ReplyDelete
Manny gave me some pot plants and cuttings so I was pretty pleased!Delete
This is a very cleverly crafted post having started off about the English National Dish and then deviated away from it thus causing the reader to wonder why on earth you were talking about it in the first place and then brought us right back to it. I think Chicken Tikka Masala is the Brits favourite national dish. I thought Africans chucked all rubbish on the side of the road, in the street or outside the front door.ReplyDelete
Oh I wasn't being clever. I suffer from ADD which stands for Attention... erm,,, I like Tikka Masala. There was an Indian restaurant on the Ilha but by 'eck was it expensive! and no where near as good as the real Indian restaurants in UK.ReplyDelete
Africans do chuck rubbish on the ground and around the countryside. Some of us who generate rubbish, though, like to take it to the tip. Rico's place and mine are the only rubbish free plots of human habitation for miles around.
Oh, so tips do exist in Africa.Delete
Bollocks. I nearly didn't read this in case it put me off my lunch. What was going through the fishermen's heads? Are they stupid or lazy or both? Hope you've been watching the ski cross. The best and maddest snow sport known to mankind...brilliant!ReplyDelete
No idea about the fishermen!ReplyDelete
I don't get to see much TV. I watched the biathlon, women's skeleton and a bit of bobsleigh. I'll look out for the ski cross if it isn't already decided.
I was eating my lunch while reading this - I came close to wishing your writing skills did not evoke images so clearly. I managed to keep lunch down and finish the tale. Funny you and Rachel should talk about "Africans chucking rubbish". I was talking to someone about that on the weekend. We, in 1st world countries, talk about that a bit but ... all I do is put it in a bin and place the bin on the side of the road. Someone else does all the work. In "those African countries" they do not have the regular and sufficient services to collect and transport the rubbish. We do because we can afford to pay taxes to pay and service the rubbish collection. A lot of 3rd world countries do not have enough tax base to cater for it. If you go inside an Africa's house/shack and you will see it is as clean as can possibly be and I woudl like to know how many of us would carry our rubbish on our backs to the local tip - so I recon most africans are about as "clean" as anyone else is. (stepping off my soap box) - back to food - I cooked picanha and bbq chicken on the coals this weekend. I am always terrified of burning the outside to buggery and the inside being raw - but this time it was perfect - the chicken was deliciously moist.ReplyDelete
My eyes were as moist as your chicken reading this!Delete
Tears of amusement? At least when I stepped off my soapbox I did not damage my arm ;-)Delete
Just found your blog , are you sure you arent from Yorkshire you have the right outlook on life. Here in deepest North Yorkshire I can report that the national dish of North Yorkshire is the full English breakfast. Sausages , Black pudding or Polony if your feeling Posh. , bacon, fried eggs, tinned tomatoes and fried bread . With Tea ( Yorkshire tea) none of that Darjeeling muck...ReplyDelete
I have just downloaded iStripper, so I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.ReplyDelete