Having lived in England for the past nine months, I think I’ve become more British-ish in many ways. I drink tea with milk at least 6 times a day, I get irrationally over-annoyed when someone jumps the checkout line at the grocery store, and I’m somehow O.K. with the fact that it’s already May but the weather is more like what would happen if there were a monsoon season in the Arctic. And although my spelling remains devoutedly American, I have changed in one other, major way: taking on a more literal outlook to the world around me.
Here, I’ve found, if you ask for a little bit of wine at the dinner table, the server will literally give you two drops worth of liquid. If you ask for a big portion of fries, they will stare blankly at you until you point at what you mean or say “chips”, after which they will give you a plate full of fries with no room for anything else, such as vegetables or something not fried. And if a British friend asks you what you want to drink at a bar, be sure not to ask for a pint of whatever he’s having, because if he’s on hard liquor, he will bring you back a pint of Zubrowka vodka. Literally.
So, faced with the task of coming up with a fusion dish, I put on the only piece of clothing I own that is somewhat representative of England (a sweatshirt of Mickey Mouse waving a British flag) and started thinking like a British person.
Step 1: My, what pleasant weather we have today.
Step 2: Ooh! A fusion dish. What an idea. Revolutionary, I might daresay.
Step 3: I must fetch my brollie — it looks like it might rain.
Step 4: Oh dear. You mean I must mix ideas from one culinary tradition with another? That seems imprudent.
Step 5: I really dislike change.
Step 6: Did you know that the local pub down the street is older than America itself? Hah! Those silly Americans with their inchoate ideas…when will they stop?
Step 7: I mean, really, if I must mash up British food with another kind, then I should probably just add mash to whatever else it is I want to make since we Brits love mash in everything.
Step 8: Where’s my tea? I think I’m going to step outside and have a fag. [That's British for cigarette.]
Seriously, though — mash with beans, mash with sausages, mash with chili con carne, mash with curry, mash by itself, mash for breakfast, lunch and dinner: mash is definitely a British thing. And I confirmed that fact with my classmate and dear friend, Dominic John Stockbridge.
He’s a real British person from Hitchin, a town about an hour north of London, and it’s his verbal instructions for mash that I’ve included below.
As for the main part of my literal, two-part fusion dish, I’ve made kimchi jigae, a traditional Korean spicy soup that my mom told me was the easiest thing to make in the roster of Korean food (and thus the one I would be least likely to screw up). Grocery shopping for this dish took over a week while I searched around Oxford for various “Asian” bits and bobs that, for some reason, are not allowed to be in stock at the same moment in time.
My favorite part of the cooking process was standing over the stove while the kimchi jigae was simmering. Steam wafted out of the pot, allowing me to bask in the hybrid smell of kimchi, jalapeno pepper bits and ginger, an acrid and spicy combination that signaled nothing but comfort to me and my watering eyes (if only because Oxford plays host to exactly zero Korean restaurants of its own). If I had done all of the required reading for my freshman year literature course, this is where I would make an erudite reference to Proust and how he intimately describes the eating of a madeleine to illustrate the power of taste to evoke memory. But since I didn’t read that book in its entirety, I’ll refrain.
Cook away! (Click here for the recipes.) And hopefully you too will come to appreciate the versatility of mash as an acceptable side dish for anything. Literally.
Peruse more Let’s Lunch holiday offerings below; if you’d like to join, Tweet a message with the hashtag #Letslunch — or submit a comment on any of the posts below!
Anastasia‘s Miso Salmon with Mango Salsa at In Foodie Fashion
Cathy‘s Bacon-Studded Polenta With Tomato Gravy at ShowFood Chef
Charissa‘s Gluten-Free Azuki Bean Bundt Cake at Zest Bakery
Cheryl‘s Goan Pork Curry Tacos at Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Eleanor‘s Wok Picadillo at Wok Star
Ellise‘s Salty Lime Sablés (Margarita Cookies) at Cowgirl Chef
Emma‘s Kimchi Bulgogi Nachos at Dreaming of Pots And Pans
Felicia‘s Mexican-Lebanese Hummus at Burnt-Out Baker
Grace‘s Taiwanese Fried Chicken at HapaMama
Jill‘s Southern Pimento-Stuffed Knishes at Eating My Words
Joe‘s Grilled KimCheese Sandwich at Joe Yonan
Juliana‘s Fusion Chicken Casserole at Food, Fun & Life
Karen‘s Ukrainian-German Cabbage Rolls at GeoFooding
Leigh‘s Venezuelan-Italian Cachapas Con Queso at Leigh Nannini
Linda‘s Project Runway Pelau: Rice & Beans Trinidad-Style at Spicebox Travels
Linda‘s Edible Salad Totes at Free Range Cookies
Lisa‘s Sunday Night Jewish-Chinese Brisket at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy‘s Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango at A Cook And Her Books
Maria‘s Spanish Shrimp with Bacon, Cheddar & Chive Grits at Maria’s Good Things
Nancie‘s Chili-Cheese Biscuits with Avocado Butter at Nancie McDermott
Patricia‘s Buttery Tofu, Pasta & Peas at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook
Rashda‘s Mango Cobbler at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Renee‘s Asian-Spiced Quick Pickles at My Kitchen And I
Steff‘s Chicken Fried Steak at The Kitchen Trials
Vivian‘s Funky Fusion Linguini at Vivian Pei