Friday, February 13, 2009

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: locate comfort food

You may recall a certain post of mine regarding pancakes. I was on a mission to get pancakes - whether I made them or had them in a restaurant. Like so many other things here, the word breakfast has a specific meaning that is not as inclusive as the American definition of breakfast.

Breakfast in the states can be many things...cereal, toast, fruit, waffles, pancakes, French toast, eggs, bacon, sausage....just to name the few that immediately come to mind. Well, there are no Denny's here, so I had to go look at other places that served breakfast, and I discovered that there is a specific set of items that defines breakfast in the UK. Here is what Wikipedia says about it:
The full breakfast traditionally comprises several fried foods, usually including bacon and eggs, (vegetarian alternatives exist) and is popular throughout the British Isles and other parts of the English-speaking world. Depending on where it is served, it is called bacon and eggs,[2] a fry, a fry up,[3] The Great British breakfast,[4][5] a full English breakfast, a full Irish breakfast, a full Scottish breakfast, a full Welsh breakfast[6] or an Ulster fry.[7] The complement of the breakfast varies depending on the location and which of these descriptions is used.

So looking among breakfast places was not going to be the answer. The more illusive the pancakes became, the more I wanted them. I started to feel like the boys' happiness hinged on whether they or not they got to have pancakes in this new home of ours. Like everything would be okay if we just had a pancake. As you can see, I was being very rational.

I discovered that pancakes are not easy to come by. I went to at least five places. One particular cafe had their menu posted outside, and on it I saw 'flapjacks.' The light bulb above my head went on. "Of course!" I thought to myself. "They aren't called pancakes here! That's the problem...I've been looking for the wrong thing!" It was like one of those bop-yourself-in-the-head-coulda-had-a-V8-moments. Maybe hitting myself about the head and neck region as I entered the cafe would have provided an excuse for my stupidity when speaking to the girl who worked there.

So I go bopping in the cafe, thrilled to have solved the pancake puzzle. NOW we would be able to live contently in England! I went up to the counter and started with the the flapjacks are served? Do you have maple syrup? Are there kid-size orders? Double orders? Are they available to-go? The girl behind the counter stared at me for just the slightest bit longer than is comfortable. She turned her head to her left, raised her hand and pointed to a glass cake plate with a know, the kind that has the cake up on a platform, under glass.

Instead of seeing a pile of pancakes, however, I was facing something that resembled a darker, healthier and not so tasty-looking rice crispy treat. You know, the kind of fiber-prune-carob-grainy thing your kids see at Whole Foods and then beg you to get it for them and then they take one bite and you've wasted $1.25 because they HATE it. The kind of thing that makes them feel tricked into eating healthy snacks. But I digress.

Apparently flapjacks are rectangular-shaped bars made of oats and other stuff like bran or raisins and honey. They are SO not pancakes. And they TOTALLY are not "served" in any particular way, and they especially do not have syrup or kid sizes. Take a look for yourself. And here's a link to a recipe if you are so inclined.

I felt like crying. I wish I could say that I rallied and continued on my way to the next place, confident that I'd be successful in finding pancakes. I made it such a big deal in my was like I was going from shop to shop, seeking the antidote my children needed to survive. I wanted to clutch the sides of my head and scream, "I am living in a country devoid of pancakes!" (I should add a disclaimer here that I use the term "country" in the loosest sense, as I have searched for said pancakes inside about a 50 mile radius, at best. But saying "I am living in a country devoid of pancakes" sounds SO much more interesting than "I am living in a 50-mile-wide pancake-less area.")

The pancake mission wasn't without its rewards. I learned a few things about other foods as well. For example, I discovered the British version of 'pigs in a blanket.' It should be called 'Brits under a blanket' ...referring to the blanket that is pulled over your head when you die. Eating their version of pigs in a blanket has to be the fast track to heart failure. A more accurate description is 'pigs in more pig'. When you order 'pigs in a blanket' in the UK you will get a sausage wrapped in bacon. Seriously. So you can imagine look I got from the waiter when I saw 'pigs in a blanket' on a menu and I asked if I could just get the blanket, hold the pig, and the syrup on the side.

I can only imagine what the people who wait on me have to say about the dumb yankee that came into their shop today. I should Google that phrase and take a look at THEIR blogs.

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