Friday, December 21, 2007

British Food

I had a Real Christmas Dinner once.

Picture this. Austin Texas. 1984.

I was working full time at a bank making a paltry salary. Needing some extra money, I decided to get a part time job. Somehow, I found a really cool little job as a chef’s assistant at a British restaurant called the Auld Alliance.

The Auld Alliance was a unique place. It was owned by a Scottish fellow and they served your standard English fare: Steak & kidney pie, fish pie, beef & oyster pie, lamb & apricot pie. I do believe the British would put a leather shoe inside a pie and call it 'dinner' if you let them.

However, each night, they also featured four or five French entrees that were really pretty impressive. Lamb with artichokes, steak au poivre, sole with rich butter sauces. As the assistant, I always got to make the patés, both chicken liver and de lapin (rabbit).

By the way, they say rabbit tastes just like chicken.
SO not true.
It tastes like a furry bunny rabbit.

Anyway, I really enjoyed working there and learned a lot from the head chef. Plus, the kitchen staff got to drink as much Guinness as we wanted while at work, so there’s that.

For Christmas, the owner made a traditional English Christmas dinner for the staff. Honestly, it was one of the more memorable meals I’ve had in my lifetime.

The meal began with beluga caviar, the good stuff imported from Russia. It was the first time I'd ever had caviar and I loved it, for it was served with thimble-sized glasses of ice-cold Stolichnaya. Wow.

Then, there was the traditional roast goose with sage and onion stuffing. For those who didn’t prefer goosey things, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding was also supplied. It was cooked just the way it should be: Almost blackened on the outside and quiveringly rare on the inside along with creamy horseradish.

Brussels sprouts, and roast potatoes (roasted in goose fat) accompanied the meats.

Then, came the plum pudding. A real, live plum pudding, made the previous year that had been stored in the back of the cooler for a twelve-month-and-a-day. Set alight and served with a creamy hard sauce, you wanted to break out into a rousing verse of God Save the Queen with one spoonful.

Say what you will about British food. I’ll admit, I’ve had some pretty bad British food that justifies its reputation.

I’ve seen them boil the hell out of cabbage and carrots. God forbid there should be any flavor or texture remaining in their veggies. I’ve eaten those cold, suet-laden pies on the run; the ones filled with jellied veal and ham. And don’t EVEN get me started on the horrors of steak & kidney pudding.

But this traditional Christmas dinner at the Auld Alliance made up for all that.

It went out business soon after than and became a gay bar.

. . . hardly a huge leap for a British restaurant.

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At 11:50 PM , Blogger Lorraine said...

Sounds pretty superfantastic...I made a plum pudding once. Nasty, horrid thing. Thank God for the hard sauce.


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