---- — Helen Matthes Library patrons got a taste of culture — and tea — from England native Catherine Bailey, who explained the United Kingdom's iconic delicacies and their origins Thursday night.
Attendants nibbled English cookies with black tea during the presentation that was part of the “Have Book, Will Travel” theme of the library's summer reading program.
The Marketing and Adult Programming coordinator shared her favorite dishes, and ones she wouldn't touch, while breaking down the foods by region — jellied eels, whitebait and stargazy pie, three fish dishes, come from the south of England. While Bailey has had eels, jellied eels is “something I have not tried and don't intend to try,” although she is a fan of whitebait, which are tiny fish, deep-fried and eaten whole. Stargazy pie is an entree with eggs, potatoes and fish heads, pointed up, baked in a pastry crust.
Scrumpy, a type of cider, is also popular in the area. Bailey said the beverage is always alcoholic in England, and the name comes from “scrimping,” slang for stealing apples.
The British very much enjoy savory pies and gravies, classic dishes that allowed laborers to pack their lunch in a handkerchief and enjoy their meal without a mess.
“Our sausages are very different from your sausages,” Bailey said, adding she believes it's the spices.
A type of sausage called “bangers” were so named during wartime, when meat rationing went into effect. Water was added to sausages to stretch them out, causing them to explode or “bang” when cooked.
The British also have several dishes that make use of less popular organs, such as faggots, which are made from offal, or the innards of an animal. While the popularity of the dish has decreased in recent years, Bailey said it's low cost and nutrition were what made it an attractive meal.
Haggis is another example.
“It's not sold in the United States,” Bailey said of Scotland's national dish containing animal organs, vegetables and spices stuffed in a sheep's stomach. “It can't get USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) approval.”
It's still still popular across the pond, though, and may be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and even has a vegetarian option that is pretty close to the real thing.
As for desserts, or puddings, many start with bread and cream, and don't have a long list of ingredients.
“(Puddings) are dense,” Bailey said. “They're heavy, gooey and sweet.”
Scotland, especially, enjoys sweet and fatty foods, which have gotten them the reputation for the worst diet in the United Kingdom, and even Europe at one point.
Bailey enjoys clotted cream, a heated cream that forms a crust and is generally served on scones or other baked goods.
While pie signals dessert in America, a “pie” dish in the U.K. is generally not a dessert, except for in the case of Banoffee pie, a treat Bailey said she was certain was American until she left the United Kingdom.
“Everything about this dessert says American to me,” she said. “I didn't know it wasn't American until I moved here.”
Banoffee pie consists of bananas, cream, toffee, and boiled condensed milk.
The once commonplace tea time is making a comeback in the country, with several acceptable times of the day in which to enjoy the beverage.
Elevenses is the term for tea and a snack shortly before noon, which will tide one over until lunch. Tea time is generally about 5 p.m. when some families feed their children while the parents wait until at least 6 p.m. to eat alone, sometimes even eating a completely different menu.
“I never sat down with my father,” Bailey said, remembering that her father got home from work after the children had eaten. “Quite often (the adults) will have something completely different.”
The most popular time to go out for an evening meal is at 8 p.m., and Indian food has had quite an impact on the United Kindom.
“Supper” is another term with a few meanings. It can be the evening meal or a snack before bed, and a supper party tends to be a less-formal dinner party where guests eat less but enjoy comfort foods, Bailey said.
Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at email@example.com.