Oh bloody hell! It’s back! We figured with the Covid epidemic raging this last year, we’d be offered a reprieve from its annual addictive pull but apparently not! Somehow they managed to find a socially distanced workaround so now we’re faced with another ten weeks of anguish and despair as we try to convince ourselves we miss family more than Bakewell tarts, sausage rolls and cornish pasties. Every year, the biggest pangs of homesickness always come from watching that damn Great British Baking Show.
We moved here nearly six years ago and have fully embraced the foodie culture here. Living in Houston, we’re blessed with such a diverse range of cultural offerings. Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, French, Brazilian, South African, Japanese, Mexican, Tex-Mex, Turkish, Indian, Korean, Chinese, American and (apparently) English and Irish cuisines are all readily available. I have never seen such an amazing array of restaurants from your cheap as chips street vendors and takeaways, cafes, family restaurants, pub grub and then establishments that are a bit posher and I don’t consider myself grown up enough to visit. I remember one wonderful night with a friend when we decided to treat ourselves to trying this popular and “cool” restaurant as it had pretty lights, rave reviews and looked quite fun. But when we opened up the menu, I was a bit put out at the prices so we had a starter each and made it last as we spent the rest of the night in giggles.
Whenever we travel, I usually have grand plans for the meals we’ll eat. I wanted Chinese in San Francisco, enchiladas in New Mexico, fancy seafood in Monterey, cheesecake in New York…I instead got Burger King, Subway and “English style” fish ‘n chips in that order but I did get the cheesecake naturally! It’s sometimes easier to enjoy the dream than the plate. I’m sure I’d enjoy the plate but travelling to new and exciting places is not the same for all of us in our family. If an old faithful order of the Golden Arches’ finest chicken nuggets is going to give one of us a sense of familiarity and ease our anxiety, you know for sure, I’m gonna know exactly where the nearest establishment of fine boxed offres de poulet avec deux sachets de sauce barbecue can be found. In fairness, the San Francisco Chinese turned Burger King was more my fault. I found a hotel with an amazing rate for its location. It was beautiful inside with high ceilings and ornate coving. It looked very decadent and I was most chuffed with my bargain hunting prowess. I was somewhat curious about its excellent security though. As we set off on our adventure to realize my long awaited dream of Chinese food in the City by the Bay, it became apparent that it was a cheap hotel for a reason. Sadly I didn’t read the reviews properly and having walked two blocks, it was obvious that the area was a draw for daytime drinking out of brown paper bags. When the delightfully inebriated old fella whipped out his tackle to p*$s into the bin next to us, we decided the BK we saw across the road would be a more than suitable alternative dinner arrangement rather than head further into the unknown delights and smells that particular area of San Francisco had to offer. Always read the reviews peeps!
Anyway, back to the point! There’s something about living away from England that whilst most of the time I have adapted my pantry to the local options, there are some things that just don’t meet the gustatory mark. Heinz beans are available here and expensive but the hubster insists on them. The home grown variety are apparently too sweet. The bread here is sweeter too. I think that’s part of the reason I love that Joshie enjoys baking bread as the recipe is just how we remember bread back in England. Oh how we miss Warburton’s! And everything sweet seems to have cinnamon added. They love that stuff over here! Took me a while to get used to it but I almost don’t notice it now. They do have kolaches tho! Why on earth, we don’t have them in England is beyond me. Little bread rolls stuffed with all manner of delectables, sweet or savory. If we move back to England, I guess we’ll just switch Joshie to making kolaches instead.
But back to The Great British Baking Show. Every year we sit down to watch it and it’s like a warm comforting blanket for an hour. We coo and we “awwww” at the offerings the contestants put forward. We celebrate their awesome showstoppers and offer our unheard condolences to their soggy bottoms and burnt buns. Then, we start to reminisce about the greatest bakery ever, Birds. Why has that not achieved global domination?! They should be over here! Oh what we wouldn’t give for a sausage roll, Rich would have an elephant’s foot, Josh a caramel doughnut, Alex a white chocolate mouse and I’d love a simple egg custard! Heaven on a plate, well… in a paper bag more likely.
You know you can’t get sausage rolls over here?! It’s a tragedy. Luckily, Houston has a large number of Brits living here and soon enough someone shared a recipe so Christmas wasn’t ruined anymore. In fact, I made some last Christmas in Colorado for the road trip home. The youngest has always made us question his DNA when it comes to sausage rolls as he isn’t a fan. He’d begrudingly eat the sausage meat but brutally discard the delightful pastry. As the wonderful mother that I am, I made him a sandwich so he didn’t starve on the long trek home. As the more typical mother that I am, I forgot it on the side of the Air BnB’s kitchen counter and only realized when we opened the lunch bags. I explained he could either starve as he felt he was destined to do, till we reached some sort of civilization again or try a sausage roll. I think it was mainly hunger that made him take that first bite but boy, he devoured it. I also think that may be I abuse that he fell in love with Colorado so much, because if we ever fancy sausage rolls, I call them Coloradan sausage rolls now and he is excited because for him, a sausage roll brings back memories of that trip. Whatever works eh?
But The Great British Bake Off: Every episode we watch of the show has at least one recipe that will make Rich look at me with pleading eyes. I try to act like I am above salivating over a TV show but inside I’m arguing with myself about running to the store to buy lashings and lashings of butter and cream and strawberries and chocolate and whatever else is necessary to recreate the contestants offerings. I dread pastry and cake week. Sometimes, I hold firm to the fact I can’t. Sometimes, the call of the kitchen whispering delightful promises of sweet long forgotten English flavors of indulgence becomes too loud and I find myself at the store with a list. We even bought Mary’s and Prue’s books so we can indulge all year round (in between diets of course). I’ve had varying degrees of success but it’s always fun to try. I made pasties yesterday that went down a treat.
We love living here, politics and covid aside. It’s our home. I’m so excited for Thanksgiving coming up and all the taste delights that’s going to bring with Yorkshire puddings high on that list. We may not have access to all our childhood favourites but it’s a fun way to reminisce and be reminded of our loved ones across the miles. I know I’m sad we didn’t manage to make it over the pond this year for a hug and to be honest, we’re not entirely sure when we’ll be able to visit and that hurts so we have to make do with facetimes and much appreciated care packages full of some of favorite goodies. So, whilst unfortunately, the Great British Bake Off seems to magically make my jeans’ waistline feel closer, it also somehow makes me feel closer to family even if they’re unaware of our Netflix viewing antics and with current events being the way they are, that’s much very much appreciated.
Andy William’s baring his soul to his beloved has never felt more like an appropriate blog title than this: It sums up entirely our emotional attachment to this show: You’re just tooo good to be true, can’t take my eyes off you. You’d be like Heaven to touch, I wanna hold you so much…pardon the way that I stare, there’s nothing else to compare. The sight of you leaves me weak, there are no words left to speak….I love you baby, and if it’s quite alright I need you baby….let me love you baby. Jeez, look at me: I’m singing to an egg custard!