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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Special Relationship

I just spent a couple of minutes trying to find a picture to illustrate this post, because that's what you're supposed to do on blogs - make it more multimedia and all that. But as soon as I started scanning potential pics, I realised this was one of those posts that's best appreciated if we let your imagination do the work, so here goes...

Had a fantastic afternoon today in a Euston pub with Mitch Steele and Steve Wagner from California's legendary Stone brewery. They're over in the UK researching a book on IPA, and having a once in a lifetime type of trip (note to self: pretend you only have ten days left in Britain, but three months to plan what you do in those ten days. What would you do?)

We had a good chat and traded notes, and even drank some IPA. After an hour or so, it emerged that Mitch and Steve hadn't eaten lunch. It was Steve's round, so he volunteered to order some food when he went up to the bar.

Ten minutes later, the food arrived. Both Steve and Mitch looked perturbed - the classic look we all get when we're in a foreign country and we're almost certain something is wrong, but we don't want to kick up the same stink we would at home for fear of offending someone or being shown up as a clueless tourist who just doesn't get it.

Eventually Steve said "Um... this is not what I ordered. I ordered a vegetable platter."

I looked at the sharing platter between us, and felt the slow, cold-water-creeping embarrassment we all feel when we're in our own country and we realise something is wrong, but only because we're seeing it through a foreigner's eyes, and we don't want to kick up a stink because we don't want our guests to think of us as some clueless hick who just doesn't get it.

Eventually I said, "Um... yes, this is what you ordered. It is the vegetable platter. Look, these are deep-fried onion rings in batter. Onions are a vegetable. These triangular things are deep-fried vegetable samosas. They've got vegetables in. These nobbly things are... they're deep-fried mushrooms in breadcrumbs. Mushrooms are a vegetable. And so is bread. These things here are curly fries. They're made from potato, which is a vegetable. You recognise taco chips of course - made of corn, and corn is another vegetable. And this last one here, this grey cylindrical thing... I'm not sure.... hang on, I'll taste it... oh. These are onion bhajis. Deep-fried onion and potato. So you see, it is a vegetable platter."

Steve and Mitch were both silent for a while. Then, eventually, Steve said, "I keep forgetting we're not in Southern California any more."

"Look," I replied, "If I turn the plate around there's a bit of garnish on this side, and there's a little bit of that that's green."

Gingerly, Steve reached for a deep-fried breaded mushroom.

But even though I'd already had lunch, I was the only one of the three of us who went anywhere near the bhajis or the curly fries.

16 comments:

Joel Morris said...

Ha! Great story Pete. Being from the West Coast (US) myself I can relate to the situation... the good news is, good beer is good beer where ever you go. :)

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I'm from Oregon. It shares a border with California, and on this much preferred side of it, at my pub, we occasionally deep fry bangers wrapped in bacon and coated with spicy beer-slop batter. We even deep fried a reuben sandwich one day - the fun part was keeping it submerged in the oil. I really need to get back to England some day for some vegetables.

Ed said...

Sound's like you'd be better off in Scotland!

Sid Boggle said...

I can see why the lads from Stone were troubled.

It sounds like the pub left off the Jaffa Cakes, an important part of our 5-a-Day as any fule kno

Knut Albert said...

A lovely piece of writing!

DJ said...

Jesus! the muck we serve up in this country.

Velky Al said...

What a great pub!

Oh and BUL 180 - looking forward to trying the grub at our place when I persuade the wife that driving to Oregon from Virginia is not a waste of holiday time or, more likely, she persuades me on to a plane again.

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

It's a very worthwhile exercise to take a step back sometimes, the eyes of a visitor can often see much more!

THOMAS 'Tom' CIZAUSKAS said...

Rried onions (onion rings), fried potatoes (French fries), chips (processed fried corn) are ubiquitous in US pubs and brewpubs. Fried green vegetables are rarer.

Bryce said...

Sounds like a good lunch to me.

Eddie said...

Bahjis and samosas for lunch - us Brits have cracked the cuisine thing.

Mario (Brewed for Thought) said...

This makes me laugh. I had Young Dredge here in CA a few weeks back and I got a similar look when I suggested he try Chicken Fried Steak for a real American breakfast. He wanted fruit and cereal. I guess he didn't realize he wasn't in Southern California either.

Greg Koch said...

Too funny. It happens here in SoCal too...go to a taco shop and order a "veggie burrito" and you get one with rice, beans and cheese. Heck, I got a bit of indigestion just reading about the experience. I think it may be a bit my fault as I'm the one that's made sure our menu here at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens features many 'actual' vegetables, complete with a "Daily Vegetarian Special." Today's is: Warm Three-Bean Salad. Garbanzos, Black Beans and Green Beans, with Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onions in a warm and creamy Spinach-Cilantro dressing, served over Basmati Rice. I'll order one up for myself as a form of sympathetic solidarity. Of sorts.

Thanks for taking Steve and Mitch out for beers. We'll definitely return the favor next time you're out here in SoCal!

Cheers,

Greg
-----
Greg Koch, CEO (aka, guy holding down the fort while Steve & Mitch are off gallivanting about)
Stone Brewing Co.

Anonymous said...

Nice post Pete.

Melissa Cole said...

Hey, spicy curly fries are one of the major food groups - take it back! : )

It is horrific though isn't it - I'd rather some pubs didn't have the neck to say they do food than slop out some of the crap they do.

@Greg - it must be such a nightmare being the stay-at-home guy all the time, never getting to go anywhere or do anything, you're a martyr, you really are! (he he he!)

brewguru said...

Pete: Thanks for a wonderful account of a great afternoon! And despite the dish not being what Steve thought he had ordered, I enjoyed it (but perhaps not as much as the story that came from it).
-Mitch