Category Archives: emetic

The secret of the British economic problem

English cuisine

Emetic: English cuisine

A service economy without the service

The British no longer have the faintest idea how to prepare or serve food, either in establishments they are pleased to call restaurants or in their own homes. According to W. Somerset Maugham, the only solution when in England is to eat breakfast three times a day. But the English can no longer manage with minimal competence even to prepare a halfway-decent breakfast.

British eating houses, bar-grills, cafés and other places where dining (of a kind) goes on, from the humblest truck-stop to the most exalted, starred restaurant, are easily the worst in Europe. It is better, for example, to go to bed hungry than to risk an evening meal at, say, an English public house.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 09.59.02

Suburban Tudor

The Moon Under Water it isn’t

Dalrymple is reminded of this when, hungry one evening and with no other dining establishment in the vicinity, he enters a pub (which, like many from the 1920s and 1930s, is built rather pleasingly in the suburban Tudor style), and is greeted by

the flashing lights of fruit machines

and

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.45.20numerous large flat screens disposed in such a way that it was impossible to escape them. It was as if one had a duty to watch.

Drivelscreens

At least, he says, they

were all showing the same thing — a football match, football being a 24-hour activity.

Dalrymple dare not complain. British popular culture is

crude, unpleasant and inescapable; if you criticise it, you are taken for an enemy of the people.

The Codfather. Bon appétit!

The Codfather. Bon appétit!

The smell in the pub

was of stale beer and even staler fat in which standard British prolefood had been fried.

He peruses

the grubby menu, a triumph of quantity over quality. The fish dish was called The Codfather, size trumping taste. Everything came with chips, of the frozen variety.

Soupe à l'oignon

Soupe à l’oignon à l’anglaise

The table is

sticky and long unwiped.

Dalrymple orders soup. It is

packet soup which had not been properly dissolved, so that it had little balls in it that if bitten exploded into a kind of salty dust.

He orders steak, and asks for it to be rare. When it comes, it

would have been regarded as incinerated in any other country.

Fried mushrooms: at least their own weight in fat

Fried mushrooms: at least their own weight in fat

The fried mushrooms

contained at least their own weight in fat of some type.

The next morning

I woke with a strange and unpleasant taste in my mouth.

The meal

The flashing lights of fruit machines

The flashing lights of fruit machines

wasn’t even cheap.

This is the vital point. British food is not just atrocious — it is execrable value.

During the meal,

the man who had taken my order came over to my table.

Everything all right?‘ he asked.

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 11.02.01‘Yes, very good,’ I replied.

Dalrymple concludes:

The slovenliness, the bad quality, my pusillanimity: voilà the secret of the British economic problem.

Enjoy your meal

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 12.25.18Emetic post-war English architecture

Dalrymple perambulates with a companion through a graceful square in a once-charming English market town. The town is besmirched by a ‘sub-Mies van der Rohe building’. His companion asks why Dalrymple still cannot enjoy the square, since the other buildings are still — possibly owing to some oversight of the council — undemolished. Dalrymple patiently explains:

Suppose you are in a restaurant and the meal is delicious. Suppose that someone at the next table suddenly vomits copiously. Would it be reasonable of me to say to you, ‘Why do you not continue to enjoy your meal?’

Of clysters and leeches

Dalrymple quotes, more or less at random, from Select Observations on English Bodies, or Cures Both Empericall and Historicall Performed upon Very Eminent Persons in Desperate Diseases by Shakespeare‘s son-in-law John Hall (from 5:40 in the video below, of a 2005 talk):

Mr Kempson, aged 60, oppressed with melancholy and a fever with extraordinary heat, very sleepy, so that he had no sense of his sickness, was cured as followeth. Leaves and mallows, beets, violets, mercury, hops, borage, epithymum, pennyroyal, wormroot, camomile, seeds of anis, caraway, cumin, fennel, nettles, bayberries, polypod, senna, bark of black hellebore. Boil them all in whey until half be wasted. Of this strain take an ounce. Confect, salt and mix them, and make a clyster.

This brought away two stools of a great deal of wind. It was given in the morning, and again at night. And after these were applied to the soles of his feet, radishes sliced, besprinkled with vinegar and salt, renewed every third hour. This hindered the recourse of vapours and drew them back, and so he slept far more quietly without starting and fear.

The following was prepared for his ordinary drink. Spring water, syrup of lemons, julep of roses, burnt and powdered finely, spirit of vitriol. After, the leeches being applied to the anus, there was drawn eight ounces of blood, after which was exhibited this: lapis bezoar, tincture of coral, mixed, given in drink. After this, the urine was very frothy, with a great sediment, and he was much better.

The clyster, drink and powder were repeated, with desired event. To remove sleepiness, he used to sneeze only with tobacco, and then he was given the restorative, and that was used.

But yet his stomach being very ill, I gave him this: emetic infusion, violets, oxymel of squirrels. This gave four vomits and nine stools, after which he was well for five days, and then relapsing into a shaking ague, a clyster being injected, he became well, bidding farewell to physick, and so was cured beyond all expectation and lived many years.