I went to one of the most popular and well reviewed cafes in Liverpool and I ordered an English breakfast.
It was shit and I was shattered. Then I remembered that I’ve never had a good English breakfast in my life. Usually the only vaguely positive about them is massiveness. There’s nothing preventing them from being good, they just haven’t been.
I thought about it all day. Why are they always shit? Why do I order them? How does it relate to English food?
I thought about the terrible reputation England has for food. Everywhere I go people keep telling me how shit it is. I can’t remember how many arguments I’ve had with people who’ve never been to England – they say ‘it’s bland and dry’ and I say ‘England is more than just fish and chips you ignoramus’. I talk about England’s long and relatively untold history of food, about all the interesting shit people ate pre industrialisation and I tell them about the huge influence of immigrant communities on the national cuisine.
But now I’m in England and looking back at what I’ve eaten I feel like a total hypocrite. I haven’t been able to find any restaurant serving traditional historic English food, none of the Anglicised-ethnic food has been any good and I’ve had several pies, stodgy breakfasts and fish and chips, most of which have been shite. Why do I keep keep doing that?
Maybe I’m trying too hard to find English food. England has a very long history of multiculturalism and defining its national cuisine is very complicated. Maybe I should look for the best food regardless of where it’s from. But that hasn’t been particularly easy either. Maybe, very simply, England doesn’t have a good food culture. Shit fish and chips, pies and stodgy breakfasts are a good example of that. Neither of those things are inherently poor quality, they’re just peps red and cooked poorly. It’s easy to conceive of a good serving of fish and chips – chunks of king fish battered with bits of fish fat, lemon zest and dill served with hand cut chips double fried in duck fat and sprinkled with cinnamon. But as far as I know that doesn’t exist, nor does anything like it. The shite kind, the flakey shark defrosted and deep fried, is the one that’s become the icon of English cuisine.
I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. I was in the google offices in Paris and I was drinking an espresso I’d made myself with the office grinder. It was amazing. I’m not trying to throw myself flowers, I’m no gun barista by any means but this was a damn good espresso. It was so good I suddenly realised all the coffees I’d been drinking for months had been awful. I went back to the grinder to check where the beans were from – Australia. They’d been grown and roasted by a boutique coffee producer in Queensland.
The only other time I’ve felt the same way about a coffee was a few days ago in Liverpool. Oh man it was fucking good. Deep, velvety, chocolately and all those other farty descriptors I feel awkward using. When the waitress came to clear my cup I told her what I thought.
“Thanks, where are you from anyway?” She asked.
“Australia? Did you recognise my accent?”
“Yeah the barista is Australian.”
I had no idea how good Australia’s coffee was until I left. I’d never realised about how serious our coffee culture is. It’s not uncommon for cafes to measure every method of the coffee production with ruthless scientific precision – how thin the beans are ground, the time spent . It’s not just the top though, the average is incredibly. Italy and France are way behind, they’re average. Most of the ‘best’ coffees I had in Italy would be average at home. If you want good coffee go to Australia or New Zealand.
Liverpool fashion is hilarious and scary.
1. The other day I was sitting in pub happily watching Manchester United play badly when I was joined by three women in their late fifties or early sixties. They were the three most ornamented human beings I’ve ever seen. They’re fingers were covered in massive gaudy rings with fat jewels and golden frames, their ears were adorned with canopies of flashy dangly things and their clothes had more flashy bits and bobs than an airplane cockpit. All three had dyed straightened hair, a stratigraphy of fake tan and so much make up you’d need a chisel to remove it all.
2. Near where I was staying and in the city centre and anywhere really, all the guys wear matching tracksuits, have shaved heads, bum bags and sneakers. I don’t know about anywhere else but people in Australia who wear that like stabbing people.
3. There was a music festival on the weekend. Almost all the girls attending were wearing some combination of boob tubes, crop tops, short shorts, mini skirts, heels, platforms and singlets. My favourite outfit of which included platform white high heels with diamanté edges, a denim nappy shaped piece of cloth covering only her vagina with cowboy like tassels hanging down over her thighs, a loose fitting cropped singlet which exhibited stomach, side boob, under boob and nipple creases, a lacy white see through cape which came down over her arms and back, a floral headdress, an outback dessert-sand shade of fake tan and enough make up to make her age swing ten years in either way. It was 12C and raining that day.