Live like a local.
Today is my Birthday. Old enough to drag out a story that could be said in 2 sentences, but I won’t let you off the hook that easily.
David took me out to the best breakfast I’ve had in the UK!! Delicious!! shout out to “Beam” and to David! Our waiter was cute, when he realized it was my birthday he brought over two kinder eggs. I had never seen one before. Why? Because, evidently, US parents can’t be expected to watch their children and consequently, they are illegal in the United States of America.
Yes, you read that right. We are a country that protects our citizens from doing unintentional harm to one another, and so justifiably made opening a chocolate egg with a rather large plastic “yolk” encompassing a small toy, illegal.
But it is all about me today… My fun egg was a sign, it must be!! My toy had a baby. A shout out to Katherine and Josh and hopes that their beautiful baby girl shares my birthday.
For those of you, like me, who did not know anything about the illegal Kinder egg, here are some fun facts.
“It all goes back to the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the law, food cannot be sold if it contains a "non-nutritive object." In the case of Kinder eggs - - the plastic toy at the treat's center is pretty obviously not nutritious. However, non-edible items can be sold with food if they have a purpose related to consuming the food, such as the stick of a lollipop.” Oddly, we do not make lollipops illegal even though there are numerous Oro-pharyngeal injuries every year to toddlers that hurt themselves with the sticks.
You have likely heard of “those kind of undesirable people” who smuggle firearms or contraband into the United States, well look no further, an underground market has developed, with people bringing the eggs into the United States. Beware, if a person is caught by customs, they can face a hefty fine of up to $2,500 per egg.
And for all you zealous religious folks out there, you may agree when you read about the resurrection of Jesus in the Bible, you'll find little mention of chocolate, bunnies, or eggs. Despite this, a large bunny that hides eggs (which are often made of chocolate, or worse yet = plastic eggs with hidden money, small toys or tiny chocolates) is a central figure during the American Easter celebration.
In Italy, there seems to be a tradition associated with the Christian holiday as well. Italian children receive large chocolate eggs that contain toys. Now you see why the tradition of the Kinder Egg came about creating the kinder surprise.
Side note. 10 children worldwide have died from choking on parts of the kinder toy surprises over a 47 year period. And yet, 300 children in the United States were shot with a firearm and killed in 1 year and yet, we make no headway regarding gun control. I realize the USA has not done a very good job of educating our population in math or statistics, but maybe that is where we should start? Unfortunately, the very people supporting the gun laws will soon be in control of our education system. Think about that. Frightening. If, we the people, cannot see what is going on, then we deserve what is coming… it’s not pretty.
After so many years of being denied a Kinder Egg, I am delighted I was able to experience one. I plan to give them to my grandchildren, under adult supervision – of course!! I might even have to smuggle a few in. I can see the headlines now, Grandmother arrested over egg controversy. Sentenced to maximum years in prison because she refused to pay the fine.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”― Virginia Woolf
The staple of the Sunday roast, the humble Yorkshire pudding is loved all over the United Kingdom. So it was easy to see our disappointment when we ordered our first Sunday roast. Unlike the name, there is nothing pudding like in the carbohydrate at all. In fact, I thought that I must be missing something. Why would anyone choose to eat carb calories with no immediate, obvious gratification? If it doesn’t rise more than 4” it isn’t even considered an authentic Yorkshire pudding! Let's start with a food that is being judged not on its flavor, but instead, its rise.
So, for those of you who have never had proper Yorkshire Pudding, I would describe it as an utterly flavorless, hollow, puff pastry. Using the word PUFF is “giving it unintended interest”. I suppose some would say it is a vessel for one to eat gravy. AKA brown sauce. But that argument doesn’t hold mustard for me because you can put the brown sauce on the vegetables or the meat (or veggie nut loaf in my case) … and once again, there is no need for a flavorless calorie hog like Yorkshire pudding when you might want to try your luck at an Eton Mess after the meal!
What might gain the most entertaining observation is the reaction we get when we ask a server or a British person if they “like” Yorkshire pudding. Unanimously, their face lights up, as if we had asked them something more intimate like: “Tell me about a special family memory that gives makes you happy”. If we had asked that question, we would understand the body language relaxing, the bright smile forming on their faces, even their eagerness to tell us all about their memory. But instead, all those body changes happen, and they say with crazy enthusiasm something so unfathomable such as: “Oh, yes, Yorkshire pudding is one of my favorites! There is something about it that everyone loves.” Then usually it is followed by some, giddy, innocent, OMG, eye roll, and then they tell us, we "just need to try it". And again, we order it. I do not want to give the impression that we didn’t give it a fair shot. We have ordered it on multiple occasions just to make sure we were eating it from an establishment that is known to have good Yorkshire pudding. The conclusion is the same. Please, do not take my word for it, you MUST order it, just to see why it’s so anticlimactic.
Spontaneity is a thing of the past
4 special places to try! We arrived in Whitstable, after being locked down for 4 months. We realized as things slowly start up, and as the new normal emerges, things will be different. Often awkward. i.e. servers leaning over with a tray handing things to you to keep their distance. You order a bottle of wine and they hand it to you, to pour your own. Where once you felt like you were the Queen of England being served, now you’re no more special than a toddler that can pour his own cool aid. Avoiding the servers and other patrons is now more of a dance where both parties are wearing wide imaginary tutus, just trying not to touch the other person’s tulle. Apologies are not needed, we all understand the reasons for this new cold, formal stance. It’s like overnight, everyone got a case of cooties. It’s not the only change. You can no longer “wing it” and hope to find a great dinner place to eat. Just think about that. 50% of the places are still closed, possibly permanently. The remaining 50% that are open, quite a few are not what we would want (cigarette smoke everywhere, food choices not speaking to us etc) so that leaves us with few restaurants with which to choose. Restaurants can seat 25% of the available seating, limiting the ability to seat you even more. Reservations are no longer recommended; reservations are a must. Spontaneity is a thing of the past.
A friend recommended a local restaurant called Samphire. I didn’t realize Samphire is a type of seagrass that people can eat. It was compared to asparagus. We bought some from a farm stand but didn’t know we were supposed to soak off all the salt, needless to say, it was SO salty I am not a good judge if it is something I'd recommend eating willingly. For dinner, I ordered Skate fish. I’ve never heard of Skate and other than saying it was a simple, fresh, white fish the oddest thing about it was the strips it naturally came in. You’d softly curl off the meat from the delicate bones (Both sides had meat), but they weren’t the kind of bones that would become troublesome, it was just, well it was good, try it. David had fish pie topped with your traditional mashed potatoes. I think he was brought to a warm fuzzy place. For me to highly rate a restaurant, I need the food and the service to equally be impressive. We really enjoyed our waitress… She had energy that would bring people out of themselves and the restaurant was full of life. Regulars were there with almost an heir of a reunion. It was a casual beachy vibe, a bit pricier than expected, but we had a wonderful night.
In the morning we stumbled upon a true treasure. It’s called Tea & Time. We were the first customers of the day and a cheerful woman greeted us. We were vocalizing, to one another, what we wanted to eat, searching for it on the menu, realizing we haven’t become true brits because we didn’t want the English breakfast. She overheard our conversation and jumped in enthusiastically, “just tell me what you want, and how you want it, and I’ll make it” We couldn’t believe, or wouldn’t believe we were hearing this correctly but she was so insistent we told her what we had a hunkering for, and out came the most delicious breakfast sandwich. Actually. It was better than we were describing because the bread was so fresh and tasty, the eggs were clearly farm fresh and perfectly cooked, and it was all deliciously messy. We then topped it off with 2 coffees and we couldn’t have been happier. The entire restaurant has a vibe that you want to somehow bottle and take home. It’s homey, in a good way. It’s casual, in a good way. It’s large enough that during covid you can keep your distance (And yes she took names /#’s for track n trace). As we were leaving we were chatting it up with the amazingly friendly woman that took our order. Come to find out, for the last 22 years, she is the owner of this wonderful establishment. If looking for a home feel where you want to eat a delicious meal and curl up with a book, your stay would be incomplete if you didn’t visit for a nibble before leaving Whitstable.
Our second morning we found Farm & Harper, a more traditional restaurant of sorts. We had to catch a train and so we were on a tight time schedule. We showed up at the restaurant with our eyes bugged out at the closed sign, but thankfully the waiter popped his head outside, recognizing our non-caffeinated state, and offered to make us coffee’s for take away and suggested we return in 15 mins. We were grateful and enjoyed our coffee as we walked up and down the charming town streets.
We found the café small and intimate, recognizing proper social distancing and taking our name/number for track n trace protocols. I would describe this restaurant as a Gastro Café in every sense of the definition… the menu wasn’t large, but it didn’t need to be because it covered a range of unique flavors and we were WOWED by the explosion of taste. Very upscale in its concoction and I’d recommend this for anyone that might consider themselves a foodie. Price was well within acceptable. Food couldn’t be fresher, i.e. egg yolks were dark yellow and rich, avocado was perfectly ripe, and the beans were homemade with bold flavor, etc.
Ship Centurion was recommended to us by a couple we met on our bike ride. It's a truly authentic village pub. Roland's parents had bought it some 30 years ago and he took it over when they passed. I hadn't had anything to eat and that fact was creeping up on me. We walk in, ask for Roland, and he smiled and asked what we wanted to drink. The place was "full" by covid standards with locals laughing and telling stories. I ask for a food menu and he says they were only serving drinks. He must have read my mind because he quickly came back with, "I'm sure we can come up with something". Out came the best Ploughman's lunch ever, and of course, a beer with which to wash it down.
My husband and I enjoy similar venues, in terms of quality and fresh ingredients, but he prefers more of a kick and I prefer more subtle flavors, so finding a restaurant that nails both our expectations, is really a wonderful, unexpected thing. Whitstable had this covered. We weren’t so fortunate in Dover.
Timing is everything...
We decided to go to a little hole in the wall this morning. Beppe’s Café, Smithfield,
The place itself resembles a small old U.S. diner in the Midwest with less space. We were immediately greeted and asked if we were staying or taking away. We looked on to see if there was even space for us to sit, we did find a spot in the back = Staying.
I was surprised to find an interesting hulloumi sandwich with avocado so I ordered it – “please add an egg”. He laughed and replied, “American’s are quite particular about your eggs, and how exactly do you want it?” He followed up with the fact that Brits have “runny or hard” – period. Of course, we ordered “over medium”.
The meal came and it was flavorful, fresh, and delicious! Everything was home cooked and clearly family owned, charmingly old school… and then to top it off… we looked around and saw some seriously private unique and personal memorabilia… we struck up a conversation and the rest is history, so they say.
We were served by the founder’s grandson, he was conscientious and delightful. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the owner and his daughter were also there. Suddenly, the FAMILY run place came alive. The owner, no other than Giuseppe's son, began to talk about the history of the restaurant. (Restaurant opened in 1932). Who knew it would soon turn into the best audio to which one could listen. I sat memorized hearing his memories of WWII. The stories were vivid, then the emotions ran deep, tears came, and we his audience, were on the edge of our seats. He spoke about his father getting sent away to The Isle of Man because Mussolini entered the war. After that Churchill ordered all Germans, Austrians and Italians to be rounded up and placed in camps. We don’t understand exactly why his mother and sister were allowed to stay in London and run the restaurant but this wasn’t the time to interrupt. He and his brother were sent away to families, in the countryside, willing to house and feed them. They lined them up and families would pick whom they wanted. They were the last to be picked and he was separated from his brother until he made such a fuss they relented and sent him to live with his brother’s family. Not sure that was a good choice since the mother of the house was an alcoholic. As he tells his story you could feel the emotions rising, as if they happened yesterday, the memories were so clear. It wasn’t in a book I read for book club, now it seemed so personal. He told of how the “doodlebug’s” descended down around them… how he and his brother would hear the spitting of the flying bombs as they ran and hid – then the extended silence until the delayed… BOOM – and they were so grateful it hadn’t exploded on THEM. They were safe, this time.
I wish I could have anticipated what we were about to witness because I would have done a better job of capturing the story on video… how is one to know, preemptively, when a special moment would occur? More importantly, how is one to video without disrupting the moment, and how long can you video from a phone? We felt quite honored to be privy of being at the right place at the right time. If you are interested in listening for a few minutes, I’ve included snippets of my history lesson, unfortunately, you won’t get the full experience unless you come yourself and introduce yourself to him. He’s the kind of man who would love to meet you.
I have chosen to put this, restaurant, in the section of what I recommend. You can reference it there, if you are ever in London yourself and want to go.
talking about the evacuation of the Italians...
Video describing how the children would play in the bombed out areas and his memory of them filling them with water so they could better fight fires but children would drown, so they had to stop doing that.
This is a longer video .... various topics: The flying bombs, the Smithfield market, the rooftop playgrounds, Old Ballie, etc....
The telling of the family that took he and his brother, and it brought back emotional memories.
Don't take life so seriously.
I'm Jody. I love to travel. I love to take pictures. I love to meet people and find interesting places. I also love to write about and post pix of what I've found. But, I've been told that I write like I talk - in streams of consciousness. So, if proper grammar and well composed sentences are a must for you - my posts will make you crazy. If you want to follow my journey as I learn about really cool places and offer some great tips about living abroad, read on!
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