A friend of ours has her British feller here for the holidays. We met up a few days before Christmas and he spent a fair amount of time complaining about American food. He said burger in roughly the same tone you might use to describe the contents of a used handkerchief. And his description of Taco Bell was…well rather accurate, honestly.
So as we sat there in an American pizza joint fattening up on breadsticks stuffed with cheese, I invited the two of them over for a classic English meal: bangers and mash.
For those of you on this side of the pond, bangers & mash is just pork sausages and mashed potatoes, usually served with onions and gravy. Though don’t feel bad if you assumed it was some type of sexual trick and/or position you hadn’t heard of yet. I thought that too.
The problem was that I didn’t exactly know what I was talking about. I knew just enough to know it’s basically the English version of fried chicken and corn and that an English fellow complaining of American food would probably love a little taste of home. But I’d never made it before and had never eaten it. I’m sure the only reason I knew about it was buried somewhere in the volume of English and Irish novelists I’ve read. I couldn’t have told you what makes for good bangers, though I did think about messaging an English couple I know for a few pointers. In the end, however, I decided to accept the challenge on my own if they decided to take up my offer.
So I was delighted when they did just that. And yes, I’m pretty sure it’s a law that when you’re talking about cooking for someone you have to be delighted as opposed to excited, thrilled and especially pumped.
A good culinary challenge is certainly not something a 300-pound man passes up, but let’s face it: bangers & mash isn’t precisely tricky. You fry up some sausages. You make mashed potatoes. You make a little gravy and sauté some onions. Big deal.
So I took it a step further and used our friend’s recent birthday – and her allergy to chocolate – as an excuse to bake a cake. And then, I guess because I just wanted one more challenge…but also maybe because I hadn’t really done anything in the last few days…I decided to top the cake with real buttercream frosting. All of which was made from scratch.
And it was good. The cake, the frosting. The bangers & mash. The varieties of English beer we drank. But what made my day – even though it was the easiest thing I made – what made my day was listening to our English guest sit back and moan just a bit with pleasure at his first bite of banger. He even went back for seconds, though I recall him complaining about the size of American food-portions.
It’s one thing to concoct some buttercream frosting for the first time. It’s another to make another culture’s food and have it vocally approved. To that I say: CHALLENGE, ACCEPTED!