the truth about uk-us food relations: baked beans and hot pockets are well bum.

besides all the drunken revelry and go game shenanigans at sxsw, the best thing about the week has been all the smart and fascinating people i’ve met from all around the world. chris and i have been hitting up all the uk events to network and make connections to prepare for our london office opening mid-april and we were lucky enough to meet an incredible array of welcoming, knowledgeable and helpful people. we set up meetings and exchanged information with people from the british government, matched wits with some game designers and other creative peeps, and did some work and some rickrolling with some brilliant folks from the bbc.

after several days of improving international relations and solving world peace, i have taken away two important factoids regarding food and drink consumption in the uk.

  1. flat out, these brits can drink me under the freaking table. after countless bottles of beer and endles shots of sambuca, jager, and tequila, i was a blathering mess of incomprehensibility and the brits could probably have made a rather convincing and well-crafted speech at parliament. i am a bit frightened for my liver when i touch down on british soil.
  1. i have discovered the ultimate dividing line, the unbreachable gulf of understanding between british and american culture, and no, it has nothing to do with football vs. soccer or whose pop stars can more spectacularly combust in embarrassing public breakdowns. no, my friends, the answer is in fact, wtf is up with the baked beans!?

regard, if you will, the flyer for the great british breakfast I went to at the end of sxsw:

british-breakfast-baked-beans

since i’m kind of a food porn addict, the choice of image raised a few questions for me. did the organizers purposefully put a picture of rehydrated hamster turds to entice people to a meal? are they trying to poison us? didn’t they realize that these baked beans more closely resembled a mass of insect larvae or pigmented red fish eggs? compare for yourself.

beans-as-eggs

eww. sorry. photos like that are totally inappropriate for a food blog. anyway.

upon arrival at the old pecan street café on 6th street for the breakfast, this minor confusion turned to utter mystification when I overheard a few brits chatting by the coffee. here’s my attempt at recreating their conversation:

brit dude: blimey! did you see the brilliant flyer with the baked beans? those looked really top bananas.

brit lady: yes, those baked beans do look absolutely cracking and the bee’s knees. jolly well bum.

ok, so i took some liberties with their vocabulary (i’ve been trying to learn some british slang this past week and just threw them all into one sentence). but the crux of their conversation remained the same – they were crazy excited about the baked beans.

when i turned to the two brits and politely expressed my skepticism regarding the attractiveness of the flyer, the guy actually said, ‘baked beans? it’s like catnip to us brits.

seriously? yes, seriously. i raised the subject to a number of people in an attempt to verify the truth of this matter, and every single person i spoke to fell squarely in their national camp. the british people spoke about eating baked beans their whole life, buying lots of baked beans as poor students, hiding baked beans in your room at university so other people can’t steal your food, enhancing the baked bean experience with tabasco sauce, reminiscing about baked beans as a child, putting beans on toast, and so on and so forth.

on the other hand, every single american agreed with me that the baked beans on the fyer looked odd at best, and utterly revolting at worst. i believe it was leah, our new friend at the amazingly informative UKTI, who recounted that during flyer production, she and all the americans in the office vetoed the use of the beans, but the brits in the office insisted the dish would draw people to the breakfast and their wisdom finally prevailed.

and you know what? after all the debate, i tried the baked beans. and…they were pretty freaking good. a little sweetness and texture to add to all the mess of random shit like tomatoes and mushrooms on the plate. i didn’t have a camera, but the breakfast looked pretty much like this:

british-breakfast-with-baked-beans

(via british breakfast, an entire website dedicated to extolling the virtues of the nation’s morning repast)

since arriving home from sxsw, i have learned another hilariously entertaining food fact about the uk – they don’t have hot pockets. i happen to find hot pockets particularly amusing in general, and much more so thanks to jim gaffigan‘s hot pocket standup, which i’ve linked to several times and will continue to do so indiscriminately. i included a link to the video in a recent tweet about making cheddar bacon chipotle scallion cilantro hot pockets from scratch for today’s bacon camp (post coming soon). the following twitter conversation made me erupt in laughter, courtesy of my new sxsw friend, michelle.

hot-pocket-twitter-conversation-part-1

the above link goes to the hot pocket standup. and michelle responds…hot-pocket-twitter-conversation-2

and then…

hot-pocket-twitter-conversation-3

who doesn’t know what a hot pocket is? oh, you brits. super excited to see what kind of exciting food adventures i’ll find overseas, but i know that this dish is the one i’m most looking forward to…

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7 thoughts on “the truth about uk-us food relations: baked beans and hot pockets are well bum.

  1. Laura EHall says:

    When you’re over there, I will totally mail you Hot Pockets (they may be a bit soggy by the time they arrive…) if you mail me chocolate HobNobs. It’s one thing I really miss that I can’t get in the import section of the grocery store!

    • mei says:

      yes! brilliant! we shall have an overseas random food mailing partnership. i’ll look them up when i get back there and be in touch…

  2. braveandkind says:

    Speaking of how YOU ARE MOVING TO LON-DON, if I keep up my 3.9 GPA and you don’t go totally broke, I will come to Cambridge University to keep you company. Just so you know.

  3. HyggeAlli says:

    We had the british version of Cranium while I was living in DK and I once attempted to make “beans and toast” out of playdough. Not one of my American friends had any clue what I was sculpting, but all the Brits got it. SO HILARIOUS, and totally backs up your story.

  4. Chris says:

    I demand a BBQ post! Stop wasting your time with this British adventure.

  5. she says:

    lol, mei, you need to work on your British slang. You sound like you’re in a jolly-good World War II movie. Tally Ho! Love your blog, by the way.

    Laura, I don’t know if you’re in the nay area, but if you are, you can get chocolate HobNobs in Berkeley Bowl. Just above the baked beans 🙂

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